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Wiltshire Community History

Wiltshire History Questions Search Results

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Question Date :

Monday 4th July 2011 10:03

Question:
Can you tell me anything about Rebecca Smith being the last woman in England hanged for infanticide?

Answer:
Rebecca was tried at the Assizes in Devizes in August 1849 and hanged on 23rd of the month.

There are reports of the trial and execution in the Salisbury Journal 11th & 25th August 1849, and in the Devizes Gazette on the 9th August, 16th August and the 23rd August. There is also an account in The Statistics of Crime (our ref A1/516/6).

From these sources it appears that she was about 44 years old and that she came from Bratton. She moved to Westbury with her husband Philip Smith, whom she had married 18 years before, having inherited 100 from her father. Smith appears to have been a drunkard who wasted most of their income. The couple rented 30 acres there. She had 11 children and appears to have resorted to desperate measures because she was unable to cope.

These leads took me to the parish registers, which were transcribed by Jean Morrison, where I found the following:

Philip Smith and Rebecca Prior were married in Bratton church on 5 May 1831.

Rebecca, daughter of William and Sarah Prior was baptised in Bratton church on 17 May 1807.

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