This dirge – a piece traditionally performed as part of a funeral rite – recounts the case of William Arden, John Doughty and Benjamin Candler who were hanged at Lincoln Assize in 1823 for engaging in homosexual acts.
Candler was valet to the Duke of Newcastle and was in Grantham with him for the hunting season. While in the area, he met Arden, an army lieutenant, Doughty, a joiner, and a third man Henry Hackett, an apprentice draper.
The connections between the men were discovered when Hackett wrote a letter to Arden. At the time, those wishing to send letters to peers and MPs did not have to pay postage, so Hackett, keen to save some pennies, addressed the envelope to the Duke of Newcastle. Hackett had neglected to mention Candler on the envelope however, with the result being that the Duke or his secretary opened the letter.
Following interviews with all the staff, Candler admitted knowing Hackett and an investigation was launched by the authorities in Grantham. Hackett, conscious that his situation was bleak, confessed all he knew of the group of men in order to try and save his life.
Arden was arrested at his home in London and sent back to Lincoln. By rank, Arden was a gentleman and was quickly identified by authorities as the leader of the group, which was reported to have involved up to 36 men.