A gruesome murder over three shillings

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Chelmsford prison, where Charles Joseph Revell was hanged Chelmsford prison, where Charles Joseph Revell was hanged

“And may the Lord have mercy on your soul...Amen”.

Those were the final, haunting, words uttered by a judge before passing a death sentence on one of the worst, most notorious criminals of his time.

By 1815 the death penalty could be imposed for more than 200 offences from petty theft and cattle rustling to arson and murder.

It was the latter crime for which the sentence was passed in 1878 on 25-year-old gardener Charles Joseph Revell.

Revell was found guilty of the gruesome murder of his wife Hester in Epping Forest on June 10 of the same year.

His wife was two years his junior when she was found in the forest the following morning with, according to Essex Police records, her throat cut “from ear to ear”.

The 23-year-old met her demise after an argument with her husband over three shillings.

Newspaper and police reports indicate that Revell had been given the money by his wife during a meal with her parents at her parents’ house, in order to buy ale to accompany the food.

He is said to have returned to the house over an hour later drunk.

Seeing he had not bought any ale Hester asked him for the three shillings, and when he wasn’t able to give them to her she grabbed him by the lapels and hit him.

He retaliated by beating her and knocking her to the ground, and then fled the house.

Hester got to her feet and followed him against the advice of her parents.

An account of the events from the National Library of Scotland recalls a neighbour, called Hogg, telling her family: “Run after her or she’ll be murdered.”

It was the last time she was seen alive.

When arrested by PC Tubbs, Revell is reported to have said: “Now you’ve come to the critical point, I might as well tell you I don’t deny it.

“Good luck to her, the sooner the rope’s round my neck the better.”

The chief executioner of the time was William Marwood, a cobbler by trade, who at the age of 54 performed his first hanging.

He was the pioneer for the hanging technique known as the Long Drop which broke the prisoner’s neck immediately, when they reached the end of the drop.

This more humane method caused death through asphyxiation while the victim was unconscious rather than the previous method of Short Drop which often involved a prolonged struggle.

In total Marwood oversaw the execution of 178 criminals, giving rise to, in Revell’s case, the rather applicable rhyme: “If Pa killed Ma, who killed Pa? Marwood.”

Revell was executed at Springfield Gaol, now HMP Chelmsford, on July 29 1878 by hanging, after a jury found him guilty of wilful murder.

lNext week’s Murder Files features two crimes of passion: the case of Albert John Bartlet who killed his girlfriend in Epping Forest in the 1920s. And we tell the story of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, a couple hanged for murder.

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