A huge crowd for a hanging: the end of John Knatchbull

One of my very favourite letters in the collections of the State Library of NSW was written by a wool merchant by the name of Joseph Whitehead. In an 1838 letter to his uncle in England, Whitehead describes Sydney as ‘without exception one of the most wicked places...

Brutality at Birch Grove

Research on the epitaph on a tombstone in Sydney’s old Devonshire Street Cemetery led to the shocking story of the deaths of Samuel Bradley, 59, and his wife Esther, 65, who were brutally murdered at their home in Birch Grove on 15 August 1822. Listen to Rachel...

No honour among thieves…

In Governor Arthur Phillip’s great outdoor gaol in Sydney Cove, most eyes were on the convicts. It was logical to assume that those who had already proven themselves as felons were those most likely to offend in a new settlement. Yet, it was a military man, not a...

Hanging out with the hangman

Today is the anniversary of the death of Robert Rice Howard, the hangman for New South Wales from the 1870s until 1904, who died on 3 February 1906. Listen to Rachel and Alex on 2SER here Less than two years earlier, Howard had given up his post as executioner, and a...

The first woman hanged in Sydney

On 23 November 1789, Ann Davis became the first woman hanged in New South Wales. Listen to Rachel and Alex on 2SER here Davis was, as we would say today, ‘known to police’. In England, Davis (also known as Judith Jones) had been indicted in April 1786 for feloniously...