This broadside from the mid-19th century describes the murder of Mary Wetherley in a house near West Square, in the area of Elephant and Castle. Mary was married, but had recently left her husband to live with her lover William Heeley, possibly as a result of the family poverty she endured. (Her husband was described as a man who made his living – somewhat curiously – by ‘showing a seal about the streets’.) It appears though that Mary soon changed her mind and returned to her husband. Her former lover took exception to this broken relationship and took vengeance on Mary by slashing her throat. Heeley’s own body with found in the property where he had apparently attacked Mary, with newspapers describing how he had (perhaps implausibly) virtually cut his own head clean off.
Single-page broadsides such as this were relatively cheap and easy to produce by the mid-1800s and were often rushed into print when details of foul deeds emerged. The rush to publish inevitably led to wild speculation about the murders and many broadsides were often riddled with inaccuracies and mistakes.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- Crime and crime fiction, Popular culture
Looking at broadsides, cheap pamphlets and the works of Charles Dickens, Judith Flanders explores how crime in the 19th century – particularly gruesome murder and executions – served as entertainment in both fiction and real life.