Staffordshire pottery: The last public hanging in England – a botched job.

Published 28th August 2012

Today’s figure certainly has an air of real life drama about it. It depicts the moment in Summer 1866 when Thomas Smith caught neighbouring farmer William Collier poaching on his land. In the heat of the moment Collier shot Smith then beat him to death with his rifle until the barrel broke.

It does seem like an excessive reaction doesn’t it? However, hanging and transportation were not uncommon punishments for the crime of poaching, so perhaps one could empathise with the desperation of a starving man, but a landowner stealing from another just seems like foolish greed?


Staffordshire Pottery group of Collier and Smith

Collier was hanged outside Stafford Jail, but on the first attempt the rope broke and he dropped into the pit and was heard wailing. Another rope was fetched and he was successfully hung amidst an unsettled and booing crowd. Later that year public executions were banned.

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