A horrible, cruel and bloody murder

These snippets come from a murder pamphlet published in 1614. The above image is taken from the frontispiece, and depicts the act itself, overseen by Satan.

In the parish of Putney upon Thames in the Countie of Surrey, there dwelt this Murdered Man, named Edward Hall, by his vocation a Miller, a man of good reputation, having substance of money. Now this aforementioned Hall, on the twentieth of April last 1614, about tenne of the clock after supper, was sleeping in a Chaire by the fire in his Kitchen; his servants, namely John Selling, Peter Pett, and Edward Streater, having (as they confessed) conspired their Master his death long before, now they perceived him sleeping, thought it not fitte to let such an opportunitie pass to put their damnable practise in execution. John Selling, having provided a pickaxe to give the fatall blow, told Pett that now it was a fitte time to doe it, and bade Pett strike the first stroake, and hee would second him with another: whereupon Pett took the pickaxe, and standing behind his sleeping Master, lifting it up with all his force, gave his Master a violent blow on the back betwixt his shoulders, wherewith Hall fell down and gave a great groane, where Selling presently took the pickaxe from Pett and stroake a second blow, hitting him on the head in a most cruel and inhumane manner, beating out his braines. The other, named Streater, being in his Master’s Mill and not knowing as then the devilish designe was done, Pett went to him and told him, and bade him come and beholde their handi-worke.

Presently Streater left the Mill, and coming into the house where he saw his said Master lye in his own blood with his braines most brutishly dashed out, he upon the instant tooke the pickaxe and strooke the said Hall a blow on the breast which slit and severed his breast boane. Hall being thus dead, these three Murtherers consulted amongst themselves what were best to bee done with the dead body. They took the dead caracass and carried it into a stable, where they digged a hole and buried it.

The pamphlet continues with the three men’s attempts to evade detection, and their eventual capture.  Examined by a Justice of the Peace

they confessed that they had done this cruell fact to their Master because he did not love his wife so well as he ought to do, and because he did not allow them meat enough… and did affirm that they did it upon the inspiration and instigation of the Devil. Then were these mallefactors committed to the common jayle of the white Lyon in Southwark, where till the sessions they are to abide, then to have the recompence of their demerrits.

© 2009-2013 All Rights Reserved


  • April 18, 2010 - 3:42 pm | Permalink

    It does seem like a strange excuse. The involvement of the devil is fairly typical, but I guess their disgruntlement was much deeper than they acknowledged, and it is possible that the depiction of their victim as an upright member of society was pure fabrication.

  • April 17, 2010 - 12:21 am | Permalink

    I wonder if they did it to their Master simply “because he did not love his wife so well as he ought to do, and because he did not allow them meat enough”.

    Being a servant would have been the most miserable of lives, with little opportunity of escape. Being a female servant had even worse dangers, so it is interesting that all three confessors were men. They must have been seriously unhappy blokes.

  • Comments are closed.

    All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

    Join other followers:

    © Shakespeare's England 2009-2014