|Crime and Punishment: Edward Bird|
by Bill McCann
London’s streets have always been crime-ridden. This series presents the tales of some of the individuals convicted of crimes, small and great, at the Middlesex and London assizes, Star Chamber, Court of Aldermen, etc. and their subsequent fate. Tyburn and Newgate are words that are resonant with the extremes of punishment in the 18th and 19th centuries and, naturally, both loom large in the series. However, there will also be articles on some of the more famous crimes in London’s more recent history.
Crime and Punishment: Edward Bird
by Bill McCann
Took a Pinch of Snuff just before his Execution at Tyburn, on 23rd of February, 1719, for murdering a Waiter
Mr Bird was born at Windsor, in Berkshire, and descended of respectable parents, who having first sent him to Westminster School, then removed him to Eton College. When he had finished his studies he was sent to make the tour of France and Italy, and on his return to England was honoured with the commission of a lieutenant in a regiment of horse. Before he had been long in the army he began to associate with abandoned company of both sexes, which finally led to the commission of the crime which cost him his life.
On the 10th of January, 1719, he was indicted at the Old Bailey for the murder of Samuel Loxton. It appeared on his trial that he had taken a woman of the town to a house of ill fame in Silver Street, where Loxton was a waiter. Early in the morning he ordered a bath to be got ready, but Loxton, being busy, sent another waiter, at whom Bird, in a fit of passion, made several passes with his sword, which he avoided by holding the door in his hand; but the prisoner ran after him, threw him downstairs, and broke some of his ribs. On this the master and mistress of the house and Loxton went into the room and attempted to appease him ; but Bird, enraged that the bath had not been prepared the moment he ordered it, seized his sword, which lay by the bedside, and stabbed Loxton, who fell backwards and died immediately; on which the offender was taken into custody and committed to Newgate.
Being convicted on the clearest evidence, he received sentence of death, and was ordered for execution on Monday, the 23rd of February. On the night preceding his execution he took a dose of poison, but that not operating, as he had expected, he stabbed himself in several places. Yet, however, he lived till the morning, when he was taken to Tyburn in a mourning coach, attended by his mother and the ordinary of Newgate. Being indulged to stay an hour in the coach with his mother, he was put into the cart, where he asked for a glass of wine; but being told it could not be had, he begged a pinch of snuff, which he took with apparent unconcern, wishing health to those who stood near him. He then rehearsed the Apostles’ Creed, and, being tied up, was launched into eternity on the 23rd of February, 1719, in the twenty-seventh year of his age.
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