Marie and Frederick Manning were publicly hanged outside Horsemonger Lane Gaol on 13 November 1849 following their conviction for the murder of Patrick O’Connor. The murder was one of the greatest crime sensations of the 19th century. This broadside, printed at Seven Dials, just at the edge of the poverty-stricken area of St Giles, was probably produced before the execution of the couple, to be sold to members of the crowd that would gather to watch their execution. Charles Dickens famously witnessed the execution and wrote a letter to The Times in which he was highly critical of ‘the atrocious bearing, looks and language of the assembled spectators’. The woodcut illustration at the top of the print has clearly been repurposed from an older execution broadside, as is evidenced from the extra body scratched on to the gallows.
Broadsides were cheaply produced single sheets, sold by street peddlers, and purchased to paste on to walls or to read (or sing) aloud to others. Affordable to the masses, they sold in their thousands for only a penny or so, and covered popular subjects from politics and crime to shipwrecks and religion.