The Last Execution

In May 2012 a memorial stone will be erected in St Erth churchyard in memory of Emily Tredrea, who’s grave lies unmarked and untended although more than a thousand people attended her funeral in May, 1909.

Emily, born 1892, lived with her mother Grace, and three siblings, in Vicarage Row, St Erth.  At fifteen years old she was an attractive girl, with a sweet voice and sang in the Methodist Church Choir.

Emily’s father was away working in South Africa when a young miner, William Hampton, moved into the Tredrea’s  four-roomed cottage as a lodger. Although Emily was only fifteen, there was an immediate attraction between her and the young, hardworking lad, and it was soon rumoured around the village that the couple were engaged.

However, during the next year, Emily’s feelings began to change towards William, she confided to  a friend that she did not care for him any more, but was too frightened to tell him. Eventually, on 1st May 1909, Emily plucked up the courage to tell William that their engagement was over.

The following evening Emily’s mother left the house to care for a neighbour, leaving Emily and William in the kitchen. The younger children were in bed, but baby Beatrice was unsettled, and was brought downstairs by Emily.

We shall never know the contents of the ensuing conversation that caused William to leap up and seize Emily by the throat. The noise from the kitchen caused nine year old Rowland to rush downstairs, where he saw his sister lying lifeless on the floor, Hampton's hands around her throat.

Despite being ordered back to his bedroom, Rowland threw on his clothes and rushed from the house to fetch his mother. As he ran, the front door slammed and looking back he saw a shadowy figure running out.

William Hampton gave himself up an hour later to PC Roberts and PC Wherry outside Copperhouse Police Station, saying “Have you heard of a girl being choked to death at St Erth tonight?”

He was found guilty and sentenced to death at Bodmin Assize Court. He passed his last days at Bodmin Gaol as a repentant, God-fearing, model prisoner.

Despite a Cornish petition signed by over three thousand people, William Hampton was hanged at Bodmin Gaol on 20th July 1909.  The chief executioner, Henry Pierrepoint, officiated.

This was to be the last execution at the Gaol, and in Cornwall.

Kath Mullinger.