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Jones and Harwood: continued

 
 
Murder Ballads
Secret London
Miscellany

Most incriminating of all was a damaged copper penny, found in Jones' pocket when he was arrested at The Rose & Crown. This coin, which bore an image of King George III, had been passed to Mrs Hollest for her parish clothing fund by a local schoolmistress called Bulpin. The two women had discussed the coin a few days before the robbery, noting that the word "penny" on one side was almost obliterated, and that the king's nose on the other side's portrait was terribly battered too.
They pondered for a moment whether it was too damaged for anyone to accept it as genuine currency, but then decided to add it to the bag where Mrs Hollest kept the fund's accumulated contributions. That bag had been one of the things stolen from the parsonage on September 28, and now here the coin was again in a key suspect's pocket. Mrs Hollest identified the penny after it had been recovered from Jones, who claimed he'd been given it in change at the pub.
The circumstantial evidence against them was mounting, but the three accused were canny enough to know that the police still had nothing conclusive. They continued to deny every point of the charges against them, insisting they had not even been in Frimley that night. "As these were skilful and determined ruffians, and kept their own counsel, nothing had yet been discovered which brought the crime clearly home to them," The Annual Register concluded.
Magistrates and police wanted to make sure Smith, Jones and Levi Harwood had no opportunity to cook up a story between themselves while the investigation continued, so they sent each man to be locked up in a different town's cells. One went to Farnborough, one to Guildford and one to Godalming.

The judge and jury both agreed it was Smith, not Jones or Harwood, who'd fired the fatal shot

Smith was still locked up in Guildford Gaol on Monday, October 14, when he asked to see Mr Keene, the prison governor. Keene came to confer with Smith in his cell, where Smith asked to see again the handbill offering 150 reward. He asked Keene if the bill's promise of a pardon would apply if he "peached" - an old English word meaning to betray or inform against.
"He was told that he must use his own judgement," TAR reports. "Thereupon, being duly cautioned, he made a confession to the effect that he, Jones, Levi and Samuel Harwood had broken into the house, plundered the lower apartments and disguised themselves. They then proceeded upstairs and, in the ensuing scuffle, Levi Harwood fired the pistol at Mr Hollest." In the legal parlance of the day, this made Smith an "approver" - someone who agreed to testify against his friends in order to escape his own punishment for the same crime.
In Smith's account, it was only Jones and Levi Harwood who went into the bedroom armed with pistols. Smith said he had followed them into the room, but that they had left Samuel Harwood standing guard outside with a screwdriver.
"Mrs Hollest instantly got from her side of the bed, Jones being on her side of the bed, Levi Harwood at the foot of the bed and myself against Mr Hollest's side of the bed," he said. "Mr Hollest jumped out of bed and went to take hold of Levi Harwood, when he immediately fired the pistol at Mr Hollest."
Keene took the full confession down in writing and passed it to the police. Later the same day, Smith, Jones and both Harwood brothers were taken to Horsemonger Lane's courtroom to face the magistrates again. The four men were arranged in a crescent shape before the bench, each separated from his neighbour by a guard to prevent communication or violence between them. The magistrates' clerk, a Mr Smallpiece, read Smith's confession aloud while the four thieves listened.
"Smith remained with his eyes fixed to the ground," TAR says. "Levi Harwood swung himself to and fro occasionally, and shot looks full of the most savage anger at his approver accomplice, his hands all the time being deeply buried in his breeches pockets, as if to restrain himself from some act of violence. Jones scowled fiercely forward, and Samuel Harwood looked more and more alarmed. When the reading of the confession had terminated, Levi Harwood exclaimed in a subdued tone of voice: 'It is all false what he says, gentlemen, all of it.'
"Jones then, for the first time since the announcement of the confession, turned towards Smith, and in a voice rendered hoarse by the vehemence of his passion, said: 'I hope you will get shot yourself some day for what you have said'."
Reporting the confession, the ILN pointed out that it looked as if much of Smith's account would prove to match the independent testimony and physical evidence already gathered. "If this should be correct, the case will be quite complete," it said. The police returned all four men to their cells while investigations continued. They were committed for trial, and a court date found the following Spring.
The trial began at Kingston Assizes at the end of March 1851, with huge crowds gathering there to watch. "Not a hundredth part of the persons who flocked into Kingston to hear the proceedings could obtain entrance into the court,' TAR tells us. Jones and the two Harwood brothers were all charged with murder, but Smith was required in court only to testify against them.
Levi Harwood was defended by a lawyer called Ballantine, who questioned Mrs Hollest on the stand. She confirmed that, when she'd seen Hiram Smith at the inquest hearing, she'd believed him - not Levi Harwood - to be the man who'd both struggled with her husband and shot him. "Do you believe so now?" Ballantine asked. "I do," Mrs Hollest replied.
"This remark was made most emphatically by Mrs Hollest, and created a thrilling sensation throughout the court," TAR says. "It was thought by many that it would go far to destroy the evidence hereafter to be given by the approver Smith." When the time came for Smith's own testimony, TAR adds, he "seemed thoroughly depressed and trembled violently".
"Levi Harwood was standing on my right," Smith told the court. "I had no pistol in my hand. I had a watch in one hand and a candle in the other. Levi Harwood was about a yard or a yard and a half off Mr Hollest when he fired at him. [...] I did not struggle with Mr Hollest at the fireplace, and I did not see him struggling with anyone else."
Summing up his defence for Levi Harwood, Ballantine asked the jury if they would even consider convicting his client for murder on the evidence presented if it had not been for Smith's statement as well. He bluntly accused Smith of being the real killer, saying he'd told "falsehood after falsehood and lie after lie". Not the slightest reliance should be placed on this man's testimony, he warned.
Ballantine said he could not understand why the prosecution had decided to place Smith in the witness box instead of the dock, and now proposed to hang two innocent men on his testimony alone. It appeared to him, he said, that if Smith had been tried for the crime, the evidence against him would have been quite conclusive. "His object evidently was not only to escape the consequences of his crime, but also to obtain a portion of the reward that had been offered," he told the jury.
Jones' and Samuel Harwood's defence counsels took a similar line, adding their own accusations that Smith was a murderer and a perjured witness. "He fairly quailed under their attacks," TAR says. "His face was over-spread with a death-like pallor, and his whole appearance was that of a man suffering the most intense anguish."
The jury took a little over two hours to reach their decision, returning with a verdict that Jones and Levi Harwood were both guilty of murder. The foreman added, however, that it was the unanimous opinion of the jury that it had actually been Smith who fired the fatal shot.
Baron Parke, the judge, agreed, saying "probably this is the fact". On a point of law, though, he explained that, in a case like this, where all those involved were equally prepared to resort to violence in pursuit of their illegal aims, the act of one must be viewed as the act of all. In the eyes of the law, Jones and Harwood were guilty, no matter which individual had fired the shot, and that meant they must hang.
The jury petitioned Sir George Grey, the Home Secretary, to commute Jones and Harwood's death sentence, but he declined to do so. The injustice of hanging them was more apparent that real, he said, and Parke's sentence was perfectly justified in law.
"It might possibly have sufficed to prove the case without the assistance of the ruffian [Smith], who would in that case have been placed at the bar with his fellows," TAR concluded. "But the law officers very properly resolved that there should be no doubt upon the case". Parke himself was not entirely happy with this tactic, however, and signed a warrant returning Smith to the cells at Horsemonger Lane as soon as the trial was over.
Jones and Harwood's hanging day was set for April 15, 1851, and barriers set up around the scaffold at Horsemonger Lane to help manage what police knew would be a big crowd. As the two men awaited their fate, Harwood maintained a sullen demeanour, insisting again and again that he had not killed anyone.
Jones, on the other hand, softened considerably in gaol. On the evening before his execution, he made a statement to the prison chaplain saying: "Levi Harwood was the man who fired the shot, of that I am certain. The account given by Smith of what took place in the room is quite true."
This statement was taken to Harwood, who at first replied he had nothing to say. An hour before he was due to go to the scaffold, though, he called for Horsemonger Lane's governor and said: "The truth was spoken by Smith. What was done was never intended to be done." Asked by the governor if he meant the guns had been intended only to scare the Hollests rather than to harm them, he replied "Yes".
Given the publicity this case had already produced, and the stink raised by condemning what many people felt were the wrong men, you have to wonder if these confessions might have been bought by the authorities - perhaps in return for a promise to care for Jones and Harwood's families. By deciding to co-operate, Jones and Harwood were tying up an inconvenient loose end from the case at a time when they had nothing to lose by doing so. The police and the courts had already made a deal with Smith to get the quick Frimley conviction they needed, so it would have been a small extra step to arrange a couple of last-minute confessions too.
If that is what happened, it would explain why both Jones and Harwood were so careful to include words amounting to "Smith spoke the truth" in their respective statements, and why they suddenly reversed everything they'd been saying for the past six months.
Jones and Harwood were duly hanged before what TAR called "an immense crowd" on the morning of April 15, 1851. Their executioner was William Calcraft, England's most famous hangman, who was notorious for the "short drop" hangings he favoured. These allowed the condemned men to fall only three feet before the rope halted them, ensuring they strangled slowly to death rather than dying instantly from a broken neck. Powell's ballad sheet records that Jones and Harwood struggled for a full three minutes at the end of their own ropes before falling still.
Smith was eventually brought to trial for Hollest's murder, but the Crown brought no evidence against him, so he was automatically found not guilty and allowed to go free. He complained bitterly at his treatment throughout this period, calling on the Home Secretary to honour his promise of freedom and give him a share of the 150 reward. "It is understood that the intention of the Government is to hand over a small sum of money to Smith, and make some arrangements that will remove him from the country," The Law Times reported.
Samuel Harwood found himself in court again in August 1851, this time accused of a burglary in the Surrey village of Kirdford which he'd carried out three months before the Frimley job. He and his companion John Isaacs were both found guilty and sentenced to transportation for life.

Notes
It was the outcry over the Frimley case that led Surrey to form its own police force at the beginning of 1851. The case was also used to launch a new section in TAR's crime reports, debuting in the 1851 edition, and devoted entirely to the growing wave of burglaries. Charles Kingsley, author of The Water-Babies, wrote a string of four essays on the case for The Christian Socialist magazine, and the next-door county of Sussex expanded its own police force too.

To hear Rick Marsland performing Jones & Harwood with his own guitalele accompaniment, please visit Rick's Soundcloud page here.

Sources and Footnotes
* For the sake of clarity, I've used the names Smith, Jones, and Harwood throughout here. Two of these names turned out to be aliases, however. Jones' real name was James Burbage, and that's the name he appears under in the execution records. Hiram Smith's real name was either Hiram Trower or Richard Trowler, depending on which edition of The Annual Register you believe.
* The Great Moral Lesson at Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Punch cartoon, November 13, 1849.
* Capital Punishment UK (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/1837.html).
* Illustrated London News, October 5, 1850.
* Illustrated London News, October 19, 1850.
* The Annual Register 1850, edited by Edmund Burke (F&J Rivington, 1851).
* The Annual Register 1851, edited by Edmund Burke (F&J Rivington, 1852).
* Life, trial and execution of Levy Harwood and James Jones (Powell of Spitalfields, 1851).
* The Law Times collected case reports, volume 17 (The Law Times, 1851).
* Bouvier's Dictionary of Law, revised 6th edition (Childs & Peterson, 1856).
* Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, edited by Jonathon Green (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005).
* William Calcraft's Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Calcraft).

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Songs menu: A feast of facts and all the lyrics

The menu below lists a few of my favourite ballads from the British Library's collection and elsewhere. Click on any title to find the full lyrics and my account of the case that inspired them. And, if you haven't already read it, do take a look at my background essay describing the London industry which produced these songs.

Part One (April 2010)

Mary Arnold, The Female Monster

The Execution of Nathaniel Mobbs

Mrs Dyer, The Old Baby-Farmer

The Gallows Child


Part Two (June 2010)

The Life and Trial of Palmer

The Silent Grove

The Liverpool Lodger

The Unnatural Murder


Part Three (Oct 2010)

Murder at Westmill

Streams of Crimson Blood

The Murdered Maid

Cruel Lizzie Vickers


Part Four (Feb 2011)

Jones and Harwood

The Sister and the Serpent

Jealous Annie

The Foreigner's Downfall

The Gallows Ballads Project: Musicians wanted
If you'd like to help PlanetSlade bring these gallows ballads back to life as fully-performed songs, why not set one of the 16 ballads' public domain lyrics to your own music and record yourself singing and playing it?
   Any music you write would remain your own property, of course, as would the recording itself, and I'll make sure that all writers and performers are fully credited.
   There's no money in this for anyone - least of all me - but I think it's a worthwhile project nonetheless. There are several ways to get your song heard:

1) Send a digital recording to me, and I'll post it online with the other free downloads listed in PlanetSlade Music, together with a link from your chosen song's page here.

2) Post the recording online at your own site or the hosting service of your choice. Let me know where it can be found, and I'll add a link telling people where to go. Please remember that some hosting sites allow access to members only.

3) Film yourself performing the song, and post the video to YouTube. Once again, I'd be delighted to add a link here telling people where to find it.

4) Write your own song from scratch, based on the true story that inspired one of the ballads, then follow whichever of the above options suits you.


   Check PlanetSlade Music for a taste of what I have in mind. I spent all of 2012 recruiting contributors for this little project, and I've now accumulated at least one new recording of each of the 16 original ballads I selected. You can find links to all this audio on the PlanetSlade page above, or hear the whole "album" in the Soundcloud set here.
   The styles people have chosen range all the way from unaccompanied traditional folk singing via acoustic guitar ballads to full-on rock workouts with a whole band.
   Contributors so far include Sean Breadin of Rapunzel & Sedayne, The Jetsonics, Pete Morton, Fred Smith, Tim Radford, Big Al Whittle and South County.
   Three continents are represented in all, and at least one of the songs has already made it into the contributing band's live set. None of the tracks have achieved a commercial release yet, but I dare say a couple will make that leap eventually.
   We've already got multiple versions of several songs up there, including Nathaniel Mobbs and The Murdered Maid, so please don't feel you're too late to make your own contribution.
   I'm all for people adding second, third or even fourth interpretations of a single song, using as many different musical genres as we can muster. Many, many thanks to all those who've already taken part.
   You can reach me with any questions here