Executed August, 1818 for the atrocious murder of Chennel's father and his Housekeeper, at Godalming
EARLY On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 10, 1817, a man who had ordered some shoes to be made at Mr Chennel's, shoemaker, at Godalming, called for the purpose of ascertaining if they were done. On opening the door, the first object that caught his eye was the body of Mr Chennel's housekeeper stretched on the floor, with her throat cut in a shocking manner. He was terrified at the sight, and called in some of the neighbours; they found the floor covered with blood, and the old woman quite dead and cold. They proceeded upstairs, and were horror-struck at the sight of Mr Chennel lying on the ground, with his head nearly severed from the body. His body was bruised in various parts, as if very recently done, from which it was inferred that he must have had a very severe struggle with the murderers; and he was quite cold, which circumstance led the parties to suppose that the diabolical attack and inhuman murders were committed on the preceding night.
Upon a farther examination of the body of the housekeeper, it was found that her skull was fractured; and a hammer which Mr Chennel used in his business, that was found on the ground, appeared to have been the instrument with which the blow was given, as the face of it exactly corresponded with the mark upon the skull.
Immediate information was given to the magistrates in the neighbourhood of the dreadful transaction, and they caused an immediate investigation for the purpose of discovering the perpetrator or perpetrators of the murders; and every person was summoned, whose evidence could afford the least clue to the discovery of the offenders.
The son of Mr Chennel, who lived at some distance from his father, was apprehended on suspicion of being concerned, and underwent an examination; when it appeared by the evidence, that on the Monday night previous to the murder he was drinking at a public-house a short distance from his father's, and that between nine and ten o'clock be left the public-house for a short time, and returned, and remained there drinking a considerable time. He solemnly denied all knowledge of the affair, and no other evidence then transpired to implicate him than the circumstance of his being absent from the public-house on the evening when the murders were committed, although it appeared that his habits of living had been dissolute, and had occasioned great uneasiness to his parent, who was well known to possess considerable property. On the following day, a coroner's inquest was held on the bodies; and the evidence elicited on that occasion tended to fix more strongly the violent suspicion already existing of George Chennel, the son, having been concerned in the murders, although the crime was not sufficiently brought home to him to induce the Jury to implicate him by their verdict; they accordingly returned a verdict of "Wilful Murder against some person or persons unknown," in full confidence that another Jury would decide upon the guilt or innocence of the accused.
Chennel had undergone one or two examinations before the magistrates at the Town Hall, before any suspicion was excited as to his having had an accomplice in the horrid deed; hut circumstances at length transpired, which involved in the same suspicion of guilt his late father's carman, J. CHALCRAFT, a man of universal bad character, and the constant associate of the accused parricide. The zeal and activity of the magistrates, succeeded in producing a chain of evidence which converted the floating suspicions against both prisoners into almost absolute certainties; and Chennel and Chalcraft were ultimately committed to take their trials for the parricide and murder.
A variety of circumstances procrastinated the trials of the prisoners charged with these atrocious murders till the 12th of August, 1818; when George Chennel and J. Chalcraft were arraigned for the wilful murder of O. Chennel, at Godalming, on the 10th of November preceding; and, on a second indictment, for the murder of Eliz. Wilson; by fracturing the skull with a hammer, and cutting their throats.
Mr Gurney, as leading counsel for the crown, stated the case to the jury in a speech most admirable for the lucid arrangement of the circumstances. In his preliminary observations, he said, that even the horrid crime of murder had its gradations of atrocity; it was aggravated when committed by the strong upon the feeble and unresisting -- when by the servant against his master -- and above all, when by the son against his aged father. The two last were the dreadful charges imputed to the prisoners -- the one being the son, and the other the servant of the deceased. He did not mention this to excite their passions; on the contrary, they must not suffer themselves to be transported by their indignation at the crime, to be caused, by a premature judgment, to pronounce the accused guilty. With respect to that evidence from the result of which they must form their opinion, it must of necessity be collected from a variety of circumstances, all tending to the same end. The murderer did not do his foul deed in the presence of witnesses: No; he chose night and solitude for the perpetration of his crime.
The deceased Mr Chennel was a respectable tradesman at Godalming, and was also a man of considerable property. The prisoner Chennel was his son, and the other prisoner his carman, and had been so for many years, he having a little farm in addition to his trade of a carrier. Eliz. Wilson, the other person murdered, was a harmless old woman, who had been also for many years his housekeeper. The prisoner Chennel lodged in the town of Godalming, and usually took his meals, but did not lodge at his father's, and it would be proved, had not that filial feeling which a son ought to have for a father. On the morning of Tuesday, the 11th of November, about seven o'clock, the town of Godalming was alarmed with the account that Mr Chennel and his housekeeper were both found murdered in their house, which was in the middle of the street at Godalming, the old gentleman in his bed, and the housekeeper in what was called the front kitchen. They were last seen alive at about eight o'clock on the Monday evening, and from circumstances the murder must have been committed from nine to ten o'clock. The old gentleman was a very regular man, and went to bed usually at nine; his housekeeper sat up after him for some time, and usually retired to rest at ten. He was found in his bed, and therefore it was done after he had retired; she was found in the kitchen at work, not having been to bed, and the work which lay near her was a shirt of the prisoner's, which she was mending; it was therefore presumed that it was before her usual time of going to rest. The person also who lived in the next house, and whose bedroom adjoined to Mr Chennel's, went to bed at ten o'clock, and could hear anything that passed in his room, did not hear any noise after that hour. In addition to this, a person was passing the house about half-past nine, and heard a scream, and afterwards something fall, but did not suspect anything of the dreadful deed which was then most probably in perpetration.
The next morning, when a farming servant of Mr Chennel's came to the stables for the horses at about six, he found Chalcraft there, as usual; and it was the conduct of Chalcraft that excited suspicion against him. They dressed their horses, and went to the house where usually the old gentleman and his housekeeper would be stirring at that hour, The door was open, but no one appeared; at length Chalcraft went into the front kitchen, and the other heard him calling his master, but no answer. Now it would be proved that the murdered body of the housekeeper lay in such a position, that when he opened the door he must have seen it, and, indeed, must have stepped over it to get to the stair-foot door, and therefore his affecting not to see it was matter of great suspicion. in addition to this, when the alarm was given, he stated that his master was murdered upstairs before he or anyone had been upstairs. He was known to be the constant companion of the other prisoner, Chennel, and therefore he was immediately sent for, and on searching the box of Chennel, two one-pound bank notes were found, one of them slightly tinged with blood, which notes would be traced to the possession of the father a few days before. The prisoner at once acknowledged the notes had been his father's, and said his father gave them to him on the preceding Sunday; he should, however, call evidence to prove that the prisoner, in the early part of Monday, could not pay a sum of 8 1/2d.; but about ten o'clock on Monday evening, after the murder was supposed to be committed, he went to the Richmond Arms, in that town, and squandered money very profusely.
As they were both suspected, they were required to say where they had been, and whether they were together on the Monday evening. They both agreed that they had not seen each other since the preceding Friday. The falsity of this statement would be abundantly proved, for both Chalcraft and Chennel were seen on the spot at half-past nine on the evening of the murders, and Chennel was seen standing at the very passage which led to the deceased's house; and a witness afterwards passing by, saw a woman walking backward and forward before the door, apparently on the watch. This woman, it was now evident, was one Sarah Hurst, an accomplice; and Chalcraft was seen walking towards his home, Hurst following him; and Chennel at the same time went back to the Richmond Arms, which he had left some time before, he insisting that he went to look after a woman, and was gone so short a time, that the pipe he left behind him was burning when he returned. It was also singular, that Chalcraft had a short time before declared that "there would be a bigger blow up before long than Godalming had ever seen." With respect to Chennel the prisoner, he was separated from his wife, and was in the constant habit of using invectives against his father and the old woman. These were the circumstances of suspicion; but in addition to this, he should call Mary Hurst, the accomplice of the deed.
The Jury knew that an accomplice was an infamous character, and ought not to be believed unless confirmed by other testimony; and, in justice to the prisoner, be was bound to state that this accomplice, Hurst, had accused A and B -- he would not mention names, who, upon investigation, were clearly innocent, They would hear the whole case, and decide impartially.
A great mass of evidence was then adduced in support of the statement made by the learned counsel, from which the following is selected as bearing upon the most important points of the criminality of the prisoners.
John Currington was farming servant to the late Mr Chennel. He saw his master about a quarter after seven, on the Monday evening. He went to the house on Tuesday morning at half-past six. He took some horses from a field to the stable behind the house, and there saw Chalcraft. The door was open. Chalcraft had the corn-sieve in his hand. Witness had never found that door open before, till his master had risen. His master used to leave the corn in two peck-measures at the top of the stairs. The key was usually kept within the door of the front kitchen. To get that key it was necessary to enter the kitchen. Witness, after cleaning his horses, went up to the back kitchen to breakfast, with George Sweetman. They found the door on the latch. Chalcraft went home to breakfast. When he came back, they went to harness their horses. He returned about half-past seven. They brought out their horses into the street: no person was up in the house. Witness told Chalcraft that he wanted small beer for breakfast, and told him that the back kitchen door was open. Chalcraft said, how the deuce did that come open? Mr Millner, the shoemaker, rattled at the front door to waken his master; then Chalcraft and witness went down the passage, went through the cellar, and called his master three or four times. Witness did not see how far he went, but heard him call. Witness heard the door of the kitchen rattle. After having called, Chalcraft came back the way he went through the cellar. Prisoner afterwards rapped the window in front with his whip at the chamber where Mr Chennel slept. Chalcraft returned down the passage again, and unlatched the kitchen door, when witness or prisoner found a puddle of blood by putting down his hand. Prisoner then shoved the door to. Witness mentioned to prisoner that it was blood. They went up the passage as fast as they could, and gave the alarm. Chalcraft asked whom he should call. Chalcraft met Mr Earl, who came to the house. People then collected.
Examined by the Judge.-- Witness said, that when he observed it was blood, by dipping his finger in the puddle, Chalcraft made no reply. The prisoner being asked if he had any questions to put to the witness, replied no.
John Knight jun., deposed, that he came to Chennel's passage about half-past seven. Chalcraft was then standing at the entrance of the passage from the street. Witness went to the door of the kitchen, followed by Chalcraft. Having opened the door, he saw the body of the woman lying on the ground. The door could not open completely on account of the body. Chalcraft did not enter; and when witness asked him to go upstairs, he replied he could not go, and seemed very much agitated. Prisoner just looked in, and witness did not go up. A person opening the kitchen door to call upstairs must have seen the body.
Mr Henry Causton was next door neighbour to Mr Chennel. On Tuesday morning witness heard the alarm. Chalcraft was standing in the middle of the road, with his arms folded. Prisoner said, "My master and Bet are both murdered to-night." Witness said, "Good God! what do you mean, Chalcraft?" He answered, "Bet lies in the kitchen, and master is upstairs." Witness directly went down the passage, and saw the housekeeper lie on the floor of the front kitchen. Witness went and informed his family, and made an alarm. He thought the body of Mrs Wilson had been moved a little, as the door could not otherwise open wide; the door to the passage came against her head as she was first lying. Witness did not take particular notice of the marks of violence, but observed blows on the temple, and the hand had nearly been cut off. Witness did not go up into Mr Chennel's chamber. The prisoner, Chennel, did not live in the house with his father, but he frequently had his meals there. The prisoner and his father lived on very bad terms. Witness had heard the prisoner Chennel make use of expressions regarding his father about a month or two months before his father's decease. The expressions conveyed vile names, and he wished he were dead. His language for several years past was so much against his father that witness had often shuddered at it. The expression of a wish that his father were dead had been used about a year before. His language against the housekeeper was violent. He wished his father would turn her out of doors, as she told his father tales of him, and was making mischief between them.
John Earl is a shoe-maker in Godalming, and used to work for the late Mr Chennel. He recollected the Monday when the murder took place. He heard of the murder about twenty minutes before eight, in the street, and saw the prisoner standing with his hands folded. He said, "For God's sake, John Earl, come over, we cannot find master anywhere, and there is blood in the kitchen." Witness went, followed by Chalcraft, to the kitchen door, and saw Elizabeth Wilson lying on the floor, with her throat cut. Chalcraft leaned against the door. Witness said, "Here lies Bet, murdered, and no doubt master has met with the same fate." Chalcraft went for the constable. Witness then let the shutters down, but could see the body before the window was opened, from the light of the door. Witness, with two or three others, went upstairs, the staircase door being shut. They went into Mr Chennel's bed-room; saw him in bed, with his throat cut, and blood on the clothes. The body was covered up to the head. Witness then went into the housekeeper's bed-room. There was no appearance there of the bed being slept on. He then went down, and saw Chennel at the front door of the side kitchen, outside in the passage. Witness said, "George, a bad job has happened to-night; here lies poor Bet, murdered, and your father has met with the same fate in his bed." Prisoner said, "O dear, what is to he done?" Witness said, "Won't you go up and see your father?" Prisoner made no reply, but went immediately upstairs, accompanied by witness. As soon as he went into the room, he took one look at his father, and sat down on the left of the room, holding his handkerchief to his face, and making a mournful noise. Witness went downstairs, and left prisoner there with the constable, who had come into the room a little before. On getting downstairs, witness was shown a knife all stained with blood. It was the knife of the deceased; witness had often seen and used it before. Witness remained two or three hours about the house; he saw Chalcraft afterwards in the shop, and asked him why he did not go into the house; Mr Austin had asked the question why he did not go and see his master, and he answered he could not, because he had seen the man who was murdered at Petersfield.
Richard Stedman went up into Mr Chennel's room on the Tuesday morning with the last witness and Austin. He there saw Mr Chennel lying with his skull fractured and his throat cut. The blood about the wound was dry, and showed that the murder had been committed some time. He did not turn the clothes down so as to observe if there was blood on the bed. He examined the body of the housekeeper, and found a knife resting against her body, with the point on the brick; the blood was dry on the knife; the apron and handkerchief were bloody, but dry. The knife was a large case-knife. He remarked the state of the wound on the woman, and it appeared to have been done a considerable time, as the blood was dry. The arm of the woman, which witness felt, was cold.
John Kean, the son of the keeper of the House of Correction at Guildford, on the discovery of the murder, went to Godalming. He examined the premises of Mr Chennel, and found a hammer covered with blood. He compared that hammer with the wound on Mr Chennel's head, and the end appeared to fit one of the marks. Chalcraft was committed to witness's custody. He had a smock-frock on when he took him. He examined him, and found spots of blood on the right sleeve of the frock.
Isaac Woods, the constable at Godalming, produced the fatal knife; a case knife with a wooden handle. It was still covered with blood, and produced a shudder in the court when it appeared. He produced likewise the hammer: it was a hammer used by shoe-makers, sharp at one end and round and blunt at the other. The prisoner Chalcraft appeared to look steadfastly at the last instrument.
William Parsons, a surgeon at Godalming, was made acquainted with the melancholy event about ten minutes before eight. He went into the house by the kitchen, where he saw Elizabeth Wilson on the floor, with her throat cut, and other marks of violence on her head. She was cold and stiff. The wounds appeared to have been inflicted a considerable time, and the wounds were flaccid and cold. He went upstairs to Mr Chennel's room, where he found him a corpse, reclining on his right side, with his throat cut and his skull fractured. Witness thought life was suspended by the blows of the hammer, and his throat afterwards cut, and the reason why he thought this was the course of the proceeding was, that there was not such a flow of blood as would have appeared if the throat had been cut first, while the pulsations of the heart were still active.
George Austin remembered Tuesday, the 11th of November, and saw Chalcraft when he was looking up to his master's windows. Witness called him into Chennel's shop, and asked if he would like to see the bodies, and he said No. Witness asked him why; and he answered, Because I never saw but one man murdered, and that was the man at Petersfield. He asked, if he saw that man murdered, and he said No, I saw him afterwards. Witness then asked him again to go, remarking that they would do no harm, and he said he would not go for all the town. Prisoner seemed much agitated. Witness turned round him, and perceived a spot, which he considered to be blood, on the right arm. This was before he was taken into custody. On the following day witness went with Kean and Chalcraft to the house of the deceased. Kean asked if he would go and see the bodies, and he said he would, and they all went together. They passed through the shop, Chalcraft stepped over the body, and they went upstairs. Kean then asked if he knew which was his master's bedroom. He answered, No. He did not know any more than the child unborn, not being upstairs before. They went in, and Chalcraft said, There he lies, poor old man, one of the best masters I ever had. When going down, witness asked the prisoner to take the position he was in when he called his master in the morning: he took the position, and the witness described his attitude from a model. [The description could not be intelligible in words; but the object of the examination went to prove, that in the morning when the prisoner went to call his master, he must have seen the body of the housekeeper, though he made no mention of it.] Witness asked him, why he did not open the door and pass through to the stairs, instead of going round, to which the prisoner answered, "If you knew the pedigree of it as well as I do, you would have done as I did." Witness asked Chalcraft on Wednesday, when in custody, when he saw George last, (meaning Chennel,) and he answered, "On Friday last, ploughing." Witness saw George Chennel on the Tuesday night at his (witness's) mother's house, when he said that he had left the Richmond Arms on the Monday night to go and see a lady; and that he was not gone above four or five minutes; and when he returned, his pipe was out.
Benjamin Kean, a constable at Guildford, took Chalcraft into custody by order of the magistrates. He searched Chennel's lodgings at his landlady's, and particularly a chest, where he found two £1 Bank-notes, and 14s in a tin box, One of the notes had the appearance of blood, they both had that appearance, but one was more faint than the other.
James Steelworth lived at Godalming. The prisoner, George Chennel lived at his house. He identified the notes found in Channel's trunk. One of them had marks of blood, the other had not.
Thomas Simpson Allathorp, warehouseman, Gate-street London, swore that he paid the two notes to Mr Chennel on the 4th of November. He knew the two notes by taking them of a Mrs Baker, whose name he had put on them. He put the notes which he had received from Mrs Baker, on the 3rd of November, among his other notes, and paid two to Mr Chennel, on the 4th of November.
William Coombes, waiter at the Angel Inn, Godalming, remembered the evening of the discovery of the murder; Chennel was at their house on that evening with Sarah Hurst. He observed Sarah Hurst and Chalcraft whispering together. He heard nothing but these words, said by Sarah Hurst, "Hold your tongue, Chalcraft, I want to hear no more of it." This ended the whispering. He saw Chennel on August last, and said to him, "George, when your business is arranged, you will go and live with your father." Chennel answered he would go home to eat and drink, but not to sleep, because the housekeeper would know at what hour he came home. He hoped some morning, when he got up, he should find her with her throat cut; and if he met the men coming out of the door who had done the murder, he would not tell of it though he were to be hanged for it himself; and that if he found them both so, he should not be the least sorry; nor even if he committed the murder himself, should he think he had committed any sin.
James Ayles, a wheelwright at Godalming, remembered Chalcraft coming to his shop in November last. Witness asked him, "What does Great George (meaning Chennel,) do now?" Prisoner answered, "D--n me, I do not know what he does. He goes on letting off fire-works at the Richmond Arms. There will be a bigger blow-up in Godalming than ever was known. You will soon hear of it."
Johnstone, a drayman in Godalming, went to Hasscombe with his dray on the Monday before the discovery of the murders. George Chennel, the prisoner, went with witness. He put up his horses there. Chennel asked him to pay a pot of beer for him, as he had only 2d. in his pocket, and had left his money at home. They had beer and tobacco. When they had gone out, Chennel said to the landlord, "Miles, I have no money, but I will make it up to you another time."
Elizabeth Stillwell, the wife of Stillwell, in whose house Chennel lodged, remembered the morning of the murder. She did not see Chennel on the Monday, but she heard him go out on Monday morning at ten o'clock, and he did not return that day. He came home after midnight on Monday between twelve and one: she left the door open for him. On the Saturday previous the prisoner owed her five weeks' rent, and he then promised to pay her on Monday. Witness had lent him 10s. before, and lent him some more on the Saturday night to buy his wife some brandy. He asked 7s., and witness lent him 5s., and he promised to return the whole on Monday.
Charles Woods, on the evening of Monday, in the street near Mr Chennel's house, saw two persons going down the passage dressed in round frocks. They were near the door of the kitchen. This was about half-past seven. Those persons were conversing together. Witness went away, and on returning about ten minutes afterwards, saw them still in conversation. He went away and returned a third time, when he found them in the same position. There was a light in a baker's shop opposite that east a reflection down the passage. He knew the prisoners very well, and believed those persons to be them.
William Stillwell lives in Godalming, and remembered the circumstances of Mr Chennel's death. He saw Chalcraft on Monday evening, at half-past seven, about forty yards from Mr Chennel's, going towards Chennel's house. He met Sarah Hurst about 14 or 15 yards behind him, going the same way, but slower than the prisoner.
James Tidy keeps the Richmond Arms, at Godalming. The prisoner, George Chennel, was at his house on Monday, the 10th November. He came at seven o'clock, and called for a pint of beer, then a pennyworth of tobacco, and then another pint of beer. He paid for the beer, which came to 8 1/2d. He then went away, leaving his pipe on the table where it lay. It was about nine o'clock. There were several persons in the house, but none in his company. A person of the name of Fisher sat by his side. Fisher and the prisoner went away together. About a quarter before ten he returned quite alone. Then they had another pot; Chennel left his house about half-past eleven. Chennel was in witness's house on the Friday preceding, when he said, he wished his father's housekeeper were dead, and if he saw anyone murder her he would not tell of it. He had heard prisoner frequently wish the housekeeper dead.
William Cooper, hostler at the Red Lion, remembered standing at the door about a quarter past nine, and remembered bidding Fisher good night. Witness heard something over the way, turned his lantern, and saw Chalcraft and Chennel a few minutes after he saw Fisher. The prisoners were standing then face to face. Witness saw them go down towards Chennel's. They had both smock-frocks. Continued there about ten minutes, but saw nobody returning; must have seen them if they had.
William Cobely lives at Godalming. On the night before he heard of Mr Chennel's death, saw Chennel and Chalcraft standing together. He knew them at the time. In going down the town he passed Mr Chennel's. When near Mr Chennel's house he heard a very sharp scream, apparently of a woman. He thought the scream came from Chennel's passage. Witness walked about eight or ten paces, and saw a woman, who was apparently looking for something, and then he perceived Chennel standing right in front of the passage, in the centre of it. Chennel appeared to have come up the passage, as he did not see him till then. The prisoner was speaking to the woman. After the scream he heard a great fall. Witness then went to Bridge-street, and stopped there ten minutes. In passing, he went through Chalcraft's passage. In coming back, witness met Chalcraft going home between Mr Chennel's and his own house. Witness wished Chalcraft good night, which salutation prisoner exchanged.
Mary Morley, on the Monday night, passed Mr Chennel's passage at a quarter past nine, and saw Chalcraft and Chennel just within the passage. Chalcraft looked out just as she passed.
Sarah Hurst, the accomplice, appeared deeply affected, and could scarcely stand. She lived in Godalming, and knew the prisoners; saw Chalcraft at five in the evening of Monday, the 10th of November. He asked if she should be down the town that evening, and she answered she did not know if she should. He said he wished she would, giving no reason for his wish. She told him she would come down if he wanted her. Nothing more then passed. She saw him again a little after nine, a few doors below Mr Chennel's. He was then alone. She asked what he wanted. He answered, that he wanted her to stand by Mr Chennel's door to watch. Nothing more then passed. He went to Mr Chennel's house, and witness walked in front of the doorway backward and forward. She remained there for some time, but could not tell how long. She saw George Chennel going in too when Chalcraft went. After Chalcraft came out, she heard a screech from within doors, Chalcraft said, when he came out, "Is that you Hurst?" and she said, "Yes." She asked him what they had been doing? He answered, "We have done for them both." Witness saw some blood on his round frock sleeves, by the light of two candles in the opposite window. Witness asked how it came there, to which he answered, "It was the blood from them two." Chennel came up while they were talking from the passage, and asked who Chalcraft was talking to. He said he was talking to Hurst. One or two persons passed at this time. They parted -- Chalcraft went down the town, and Chennel went up. Witness likewise went up. The next night she was in company with Chalcraft, and he offered her £4 to keep it a secret at a public house. She told him she would not have it, as she did not want the money. He spoke in whispers. This happened in the Angel Inn. She told him at last to hold his tongue, she did not want to hear any more of it. She saw him on Wednesday evening coming from Mr Wood's house in the custody of Pattock. She asked him how he got on, He said, "All well, Sarah, at present."
This wretched woman underwent a severe cross-examination, from which it appeared that she herself was an old offender against the laws, and, as far as concealment went, deeply implicated in the guilt of the prisoners; but as her evidence as to the particulars of her share in the atrocious crime was supported by collateral testimony, it was received by the court, and appeared conclusive against the prisoners.
The evidence for the prosecution being closed, the prisoners were asked what they had to say in their own defence.
Chennel gave an account of the transactions of the Monday, which he read from a paper. The account did not very much vary from what appeared in the evidence and his previous statement. He persisted in saying that he used the same pipe when he returned to the inn as he had used before he left it. He went through the transactions of the night at the Richmond Arms nearly as given by the master of that house. He mentioned a good deal of irrelevant matter about his conduct on the Tuesday morning, which it is unnecessary to repeat.
Chalcraft, when asked what he had to say, said he would state his defence if the Jury would give attention. He likewise gave an account of his conduct on the Monday, stating what he did at the different hours, but brought in manythings that had no reference to his exculpation. He delivered this story, introducing the most minute circumstances, and the most trifling dialogues, without the least stop or embarrassment, in a firm voice, and with great composure of manner. The only sign of anxiety or agitation that appeared was a quivering in his lips, which he found it necessary to wet frequently with his tongue. He concluded by declaring, "What I have said is true, so help me God!"
Witnesses Were called in behalf of the prisoners, but their testimony was of no consequence.
The Judge (Mr Sergeant Lens) then proceeded to address the Jury, and sum up the evidence. He was not aware that he could do anything more in this important case than merely recapitulate the accounts given by the different witnesses of the conduct of the prisoners during the hours between eight and eleven on Monday, the 10th of November. If they could rely on any part of Sarah Hurst's evidence, the decision of the Jury would be short and infallible. The conclusion would be inevitable, if her word could be trusted; but her conduct did not tend to establish her credit. She, according to her own account, was appointed to watch while the murder was committing, and was, therefore, a party in the murder. She had charged others with the crime, and it was difficult to say whether her charge was the effect of malignity, or the mere wanderings or delirium of her mind. Whatever was the cause, her evidence was proportionally affected by it; and the Jury were to consider how far a person of such character was to be listened to. The evidence on which the Jury were to form their judgment included the minute points of time, of situation, of conduct, of declaration, and language. The declarations of Chennel's hatred were important; but the Jury were to consider that the expressions he used with regard to his father and his housekeeper, coarse and violent as they were, extended over a long course of time, (as much as a year) before the fatal deed; and the Jury were to judge whether they were the infatuation of criminality, unconsciously avowing its designs, or loose idle words, that had no definite meaning, and were never intended to avow any purpose. He thought that these expressions could hardly be taken to convey what they meant; and though they were not to be forgotten, as evincing a general disposition to evil, and rendering what happened more probable, they were not to be relied on as declaring the intention of murder, which no man in his senses who meant to commit the crime would previously declare. The learned Judge then went over the different parts of the evidence, and showed its bearing on the guilt or innocence of the prisoners with great penetration, discrimination, and impartiality.
The Jury almost immediately returned a verdict of Guilty against both the prisoners. Very little change took place in the appearance or countenance either of Chalcraft or Chennel when the verdict was pronounced.
The learned Judge then proceeded to pass the awful sentence of the law, apparently much affected. He told the prisoners that they had been found guilty by a Jury of their countrymen, after a most mature and patient investigation of their case; and he might now mention what he had studiously abstained from hinting before, that he thought the conclusion they had come to the only one to which any reasonable man could come on the evidence against them. After the long examination into which the Court had already entered, he felt that he could not much longer make a demand on their attention, but he could not omit stating to the prisoners the situation in which they stood with regard to the deceased. The one of them stood in the relation of a son -- a relation which should always create the utmost reverence and love; the other in that of a servant, which should always command duty and respect. Murder committed in these relations could scarcely admit of aggravation; but the crime in their case had been aggravated by circumstances of almost unexampled atrocity. The one had lifted up his hand, not only against his father, but that father aged and feeble; and the other against a master whom he himself had denominated kind and benevolent. If they had not yet prepared their minds by repentance to supplicate that God whom they had offended, they should employ the few hours that yet remained for that purpose, without uselessly denying their guilt, and endeavour to place their souls in a state to receive pardon in another world for a deed like this. He had now only to pronounce the awful sentence of the law, which was, that they be taken hence to the prison from whence they came, and on Friday next carried to the place of execution, there to be hung by the neck till dead, and their bodies afterwards be given to be anatomised and dissected according to the statute. This being the sentence of the law, the Lord have mercy on their souls.
The prisoners were then led away, Chalcraft protesting that he was "as innocent as the child unborn," and Chennel saying nothing. The latter was about 40; he was a stout made man, rather inclined to be corpulent, with the outline of a good face, apparently rendered heavy and dull by the effects of indolence and irregular habits. He was dressed in a black jockey coat, a striped waistcoat, and a black neckerchief. He displayed, on his entrance into court, the utmost indifference to his situation, and did not appear to be much touched by anything that occurred. The prisoner Chalcraft appeared in a smock frock, with a coloured handkerchief tied carelessly about his neck; he had all the rustic appearance of his situation, joined to a considerable degree of acuteness in his eye and general intelligence in his countenance; he seemed secure and confident, but at the same time earnest and attentive.
The execution of these atrocious murderers took place, according to their sentence, on the 14th of August; and it was thought due to public justice and public feeling, that the neighbourhood which had been alarmed and horror-struck at the atrocity of their crime, should likewise witness their punishment, and hear their confession, if disposed to make any. General convenience happily agreed with this arrangement, as Godalming, where the murder was committed, is only four miles distant from Guildford, where the trial took place; and there was no danger that an overwhelming crowd would create any confusion. The expected confession, however, was not made; and from the time that they were taken into custody (which was more than nine months previous to their execution), they seemed to have entertained hopes of an acquittal, and therefore avoided any serious thoughts of their situation.
Chennel, both in Horsemonger-lane gaol, and at Kingston, during the Spring assizes, seemed as fearless and indifferent as if his conscience had been at ease; and though not apt to assert his innocence, unless when questioned on the subject, appeared to make no doubt of his getting off, as he expressed it, by the insufficiency of the evidence, or the ability of his counsel. He, therefore, smoked his pipe, and drank his beer, when it was procured him, with as much apparent relish as if his mind were clear from guilt, his life secure from punishment, and his confinement only temporary. Though he showed no contempt for the truths or exercises of religion, admitting implicitly the one, and joining without reluctance in the other, his conduct plainly evinced that his mind was not impressed, and his reverend instructors had to lament that his devotions were languid and formal. His temperament, naturally phlegmatic, was never excited to any spiritual consideration. There seemed no conflict in his mind between the secret consciousness of guilt and a desire to reveal it. He appeared taciturn, sullen, and incommunicative, more from native apathy than from premeditated design; and a kind of stupor, or sottishness, contracted by long habits of idleness and intemperance, prevented him from being interested about anything but the supply of his present wants, or the gratification of his appetites.
His fellow prisoner and coadjutor in murder was of a very different character. His education had been entirely neglected, he could not even read, and he had likewise run through a long course of iniquity; but his intellects were acute, and his feeling strong. He was always more communicative, and seemed at times, by some expressions which he used, disposed to relent into a confession, when probably the remembrance of an oath of secrecy which they had mutually taken before the commission of their crimes prevented him from making a disclosure of them. He seemed to wait for the commencement of confession on the part of Chennel, and sometimes desired him to confess, (a phrase which, we are aware, may admit of different meanings); but as the latter revealed nothing, he resolved likewise to keep his oath and the horrible secret, partaking probably to the last in the hopes of an acquittal.
They were led back to their cells at the termination of their trial, determined to persist in their denial of guilt, and resolved rather to take the chance of pardon for unconfessed crimes in another world, of which they had no habitual or vivid impressions, than to brave the horrors of their fellow men in this by admitting the monstrous atrocity of their crimes, They, however, allowed that appearances were all against them, that the Judge was merciful in his direction to the Jury, that the Jury were attentive to the evidence, and just in a mistaken verdict, and that if they had been in the situation of either they must have behaved as they had done. At the same time they declared their innocence -- Chennel with less vehemence, and only when questioned; Chalcraft repeatedly, and with stronger asseverations.
They joined that night with more earnestness in religious exercises with the Rev. Mr Cole, the ordinary of Guildford gaol, and slept afterwards four or five hours. When the reverend gentleman was about to leave Chennel, he asked him when he would wish to see him again, to which the latter replied, with seeming earnestness, "The sooner the better." The Rev. Mr Mann, the excellent ordinary of Horsemonger-lane gaol, who had been very attentive to them when confined there previous to their trial, was sent for express after their conviction, and arrived on the following morning. He immediately visited the prisoners, and after joining with them in religious exercises, offered to hear anything they had to say respecting the crime for which they were to suffer, endeavouring to impress their minds by a suitable address, with the obligation under which they lay to the offended laws of their country, to society, to their neighbourhood and their families, to make a full disclosure, but telling them at the same time their confessions must be voluntary, and that he did not wish to extort from them more than they were disposed to reveal. To this address they remained insensible, and answered it by protesting their innocence.
The day previous to their execution, their families visited them, and to them likewise they declared that they were innocent. Chennel's son and wife performed this melancholy office; from his wife he had been separated for some time. They had only one son, then five years of age, who lived with his grandfather, and who had only left old Chennel's house on a visit to his mother, two days before the parricide was committed. It did not transpire at whose suggestion he was removed; if at that of his father, it would be a strong circumstance in support of his premeditated design to perpetrate the crime of which he was convicted. Chalcraft left a wife and six children, three of them being by a former marriage; his first wife was said to have died a victim to his licentious and profligate habits, and he took his second from the workhouse, where he himself was sent to be cured.
The Rev. Mr Mann and Mr Cole visited them late at night, and were requested by them to come early. They accordingly went a little before seven o'clock, nine being the hour appointed for the procession leaving Guildford. They found the prisoners nearly in the same state of mind as when they had left them the previous evening. They first went into the cell of Chennel, whom they found up and waiting for them. There appeared to be little change upon him since his trial. He was dressed in the same clothes, and had the same heavy, inanimate, sullen and inexpressive look. Mr Mann again addressed him on the subject of his confession, after asking him the state of his present feelings. He told him, that however he might conceal his crime from men, he could not elude the all-seeing eye of that God before whom he was in a few hours to appear. He informed him, that there were certain crimes which he was not required to reveal to the world, and for which he had to account to his Maker alone; but that crimes against society should be confessed for the satisfaction of society. It was a duty he owed to his country, friends, and neighbourhood, to make a full disclosure of the latter; it was the best sign he could give of his repentance for having committed them, and he hazarded his salvation by leaving the world with a lie in his mouth, in declaring his innocence, while conscious of his guilt. He begged him to understand at the same time, that the confession, to be satisfactory, must be voluntary, and that he did not mean to extort anything which he was not willing to communicate. To this considerate admonition, uttered in the most feeling manner, Chennel returned no other answer, than that be had nothing to confess; that he was perfectly innocent of the crime charged, and that his life had been sworn away by false testimony.
Mr Mann then proceeded to the cell of Chalcraft, and, to an admonition of the same import, received a similar answer, impressed only with more vehemence. The two prisoners were then conducted into the same cell, (the gaol at Guildford being without a chapel,) to join in devotional exercises, and to receive the sacrament. When the communion elements were brought, and the Bibles and Prayer-books laid on the table, Mr Mann again embraced the opportunity, before those sacred emblems, of making a feeling address to the prisoners on their situation and prospects, if they partook of the sacrament with a lie in their mouths, and having again put the question, whether they had anything to disclose, they replied successively that they were innocent and the service proceeded. Chennel received a Prayer book. Chalcraft, who could not read, was requested to attend. The psalms which the Rev. gentleman read were the 51st and 90th, the lessons were the 7th chapter of Job, and the description of the Last Judgment under the parable of the Shepherd separating the sheep from the goats in Matthew.
Chennel joined in the service, and read the responses with an audible though feeble voice, and in a languid manner. He was several times observed to be more attentive to the trifling inconvenience of a fly buzzing about his ears, than to the sacred duty in which he was engaged; and during the reading of the prayers he yawned three or four times, as from fatigue or listlessness, which he could not conceal. In short, the whole of his behaviour and manner was that of a man completely besotted in his intellects, or hardened in his crimes, dead to any feelings of remorse, incapable of any spiritual reflection, and insensible to anything but visible objects. If it be allowable to make such an allusion on so solemn an occasion, his character strongly called to mind that of Barnardine in Measure for Measure, "a man that apprehends death no more dreadfully but as a drunken sleep; careless, reckless, and fearless of what's past, present, or to come; insensible of mortality, and desperately mortal." Chalcraft seemed more attentive, and by the expression of his face appeared to apply to himself those parts of the service that had a reference to his wretched situation.
When Mr Mann had communicated himself and administered the communion to the other clergyman who accompanied him, he made a pause, and again in a most solemn manner, addressed the prisoners on the subject of confession. He described to them the nature and objects of the Holy Communion, and conjured them not to risk their salvation by participating in it unworthily; informing them, that they could not taste the sacred elements with true dispositions, unless they were prepared to go into the presence of their God, which they could not do safely with unrepented sins and unconfessed crimes. The question being again put to them, they severally protested their innocence: their hardened guilt affected the two Reverend gentlemen to tears. They proceeded, however, to administer the elements, and the two prisoners communicated with every appearance of reverence and awe.
When the service was concluded, the two clergymen formerly mentioned, together with others who attended, left the cell, and the Rev. John West, of Stoke, went in to converse with them. By addressing them on their awful situation, they were, for the first time, melted into tears; but still they refused to confess; Chennel saying that, whatever crimes he may have committed, be was not guilty of that for which he was about to suffer; and Chalcraft echoing the words without variation.
At nine o'clock the Under-Sheriff arrived, the waggon or caravan which was to convey the criminals to the place of execution was brought to the prison door, the various officers were at their posts, and the prison bell tolled the hour of departure. The two prisoners were then brought out, with irons on their feet, their hands pinioned, and the rope with which they were to be hung round their waists. Chennel was dressed as on his trial, in a black jockey coat, a striped waistcoat, and gray cotton pantaloons. Chalcraft had on a new smock frock. The back part of the caravan was occupied with a platform, provided with steps on which they were to ascend to be tied to the gallows. The executioner, with a drawn sword, sat in front of the platform, with the two turnkeys on each side of him; the Rev. Mr West sat with his back to the horses, with Chalcraft on his right hand and Chennel on his left. The cavalcade then proceeded towards Godalming.
The crowds that were assembled at Guildford, Godalming, the neighbourhood, and even parts of the country more remote, were immense, and lined the road as far as the eye could see. In the narrower places they were pressed together so closely as to be endangered by the horses, and raised clouds of dust that literally enveloped them. All the heights on the road were crowned with multitudes, and where an open space occurred they spread out so as to cover it. The greatest part of the crowd consisted of farm servants, in their usual costume, and few persons, perhaps, had ever witnessed the assembly of so many smock-frocks and straw hats. During the mournful procession, the two prisoners seemed to be very attentive to the Reverend gentleman who sat between them and directed their minds to suitable topics of reflection and consolation. He read to them the 18th and 25th metre psalms, and the 102nd Bible psalm, the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, and two hymns from a collection of sacred hymns. The prisoners still refused to confess, though several times pressed to do so both by the clergyman and one of the turnkeys.
The procession arrived at the place of execution about 11. The gallows was erected on an extensive meadow to the north of Godalming, which, together with the neighbouring heights, was covered with people of all conditions. It was surrounded with a ring made of rope, within which only the caravan and the officers were admitted. The prisoner Chalcraft seemed a good deal shaken, and hung his head on one side. He had urged Chennel to confess, if guilty, by which he perhaps alluded to other crimes, but no confession could be obtained. When the caravan stopped under the gallows, the Rev. Mr Mann came out of the Sheriff's carriage and ascended it. He again repeated his question, whether the prisoners had anything to communicate, and was answered in the negative. An officer, who knew Chalcraft, and to whom he said, that on arriving at the place of execution he would "tell the whole pedigree of it," now came up, and asked if he was ready to perform his promise and make confession. He now refused and protested his innocence.
Chennel was first taken up the platform, probably to allow time and opportunity, while the rope was adjusting, for his fellow-prisoner to make disclosures; but still nothing could be gained from him. Seeing all importunity vain, the executioner proceeded to his work, and tied both to the gallows. Chennel, as soon as he ascended, requested that the cap might be drawn over his eyes, to prevent his face from being seen by the spectators, many of whom had known him in other days. He then stood firm and upright without the least motion. Chalcraft trembled and had nearly required support. Mr Mann ascended the platform, and addressed to Heaven in their behalf an excellent and affecting prayer, at which Chalcraft became very much agitated, and his fellow-prisoner somewhat moved. No appearance of a design to confess being made, the platform was drawn from under them, and they were launched into eternity. They both seemed to struggle a little when thrown over, but the executioner soon terminated their sufferings by drawing down their heels with great force.
After hanging an hour, their bodies were cut down and given to two surgeons of Godalming, Mr Parsons and Mr Haynes, for dissection. They were received into the waggon which conveyed them to the place of execution, and extended on the elevated stage which had been constructed in the vehicle. The procession of officers, &c. was then re-formed, and the remains of the murderers were conveyed in slow and awful silence through the town of Godalming, until they arrived at the house of the late Mr Chennel. Here the procession halted, and the bodies of Chennel and Chalcraft were removed from the waggon into the kitchen of the house, one of them being placed on the spot where the housekeeper Eliz. Wilson, was found murdered. After this, the surgeons proceeded to perform the first office of dissection, and the bodies in this state were left exposed to the gaze of thousands, who throughout the day eagerly rushed in to see them, The effect of this awful scene may be imagined but not described. The horror and reflection, however, which it excited, will, it is hoped, produce that salutary warning and effect, which may in future prevent the recurrence of those horrible deeds, which gave rise to the spectacle.
Thus these two great criminals suffered the penalty of their offences near the spot where the most atrocious part of them was committed. We say a part, because there is now great reason to suspect that the complicated and premeditated atrocity of their last act, by which the one imbrued his hands in the blood of an aged and feeble father, and the other of a kind and benevolent master, their hardened insensibility before trial, and their persevering denial of guilt after conviction, were only the effect and the climax of a long course of crime and violence. The impunity of past deeds of blood had probably led them to believe that they had a "charmed life," while their necessities, arising from their profligacy and irregular habits, prompted to fresh excesses of plunder and murder. It will be recollected that Chalcraft gave as a reason for refusing to see the body of his murdered master, the shuddering feeling with which he had viewed the man murdered at Petersfield. From what has since transpired, there is every probability that his reason for disliking the sight was the same in both cases, namely, his connexion with the act of murder. It is singular that he and Chennel were at the place at the time the former crime was perpetrated, and that some of the clothes of the victim were found near Godalming where Chalcraft lived.
Another murder, too, was perpetrated at Farnham, and the two criminals were there at the time, while the knife found in the house appeared to be one of Chennel's father's. Other acts of the kind have been attributed to them; indeed they would appear to have prowled about like wild beasts, whose appetite for spoils and blood was as keen as that of a hungry tiger. The person whom they last murdered, and for whose murder they were executed, besides standing to the culprits in a relation which should have secured him from their violence, was an excellent and respected man. His murderer was his only son, his only child. He had treated him with great indulgence; he had set him up as a master farmer, after he had deserted the profession to which he bred him; he had supplied his wants when by idleness and profligacy he had squandered his property; he had taken and offered to maintain his child; he had rescued him from prosecution when by forgery on himself and his brother he had exposed himself to that fate which he ought to have suffered; for this he had mortgaged his small freehold estate, and he would have given his all to reclaim him, when he imbrued his hands in his blood.
The reader may perhaps think that we have entered into too minute details on these executions, but they will excuse us when they think of the useful lessons that may be learned from it. The fatal effects of profligacy and depraved habits in the lower classes, leading to the most atrocious guilt, by first deadening the feelings, besotting the understanding, and hardening the heart, were never more eminently exemplified; and we shall think no details too minute, and labour misspent, which may impress deeper so important a conviction.