Sunday, 2 April 2017

2nd April 1817: The execution of Daniel Diggle, at Nottingham

The header from a broadsheet published to mark the occasion of Daniel Diggle's execution on 2nd April 1817 The full broadsheet can be seen here,

On Wednesday 2nd April 1817, Daniel Diggle was executed in front of the Shire Hall in Nottingham. The two local newspapers each gave a report.

The Nottingham Review of 4th April 1817:
Of Daniel Diggle, for shooting at George Kerry. 
Wednesday being the day appointed for the execution of Daniel Diggle, who had been convicted at our last Assizes, of shooting at Kerry, he was brought forth from the county gaol to the front of the hall, about eight o'clock in the morning, where a temporary gallows had been erected; and, notwithstanding it was at so early a period, and no public information had been given of any alteration being made as to time or place, a vast concourse of people assembled to witness the tragic scene. Diggle, with considerable fortitude, addressed the multitude—acknowledged his crime, and deeply lamented his having slighted the salutary admonitions of his parents; and particularly deplored his having been associated with Luddites, which, he said, had him to this unhappy situation. While under sentence of death, he was visited by Dr. Wood, the Chaplain of the prison; also by several dissenting ministers, whose exhortations and prayers, as far as we can judge, were rendered very beneficial in preparing him for his awful end. 
The following document has been handed to us by a Clergyman, who occasionally visited Diggle, and may be depended on as genuine:—
The rest of the report contained Daniel Diggle's alleged confession of the day before his execution.

The Nottingham Journal (from the Leicester Journal of 11th April 1817):

On Wednesday morning, the 2d instant, Daniel Diggle suffered the awful sentence of the law, on a temporary gallows, erected in the front of the county gaol, at Nottingham, conformably to his sentence at the last assizes. This unfortunate man was a native of Basford, near Nottingham, and was convicted of shooting at George Kerry, in his dwelling house in the parish of Radford, (in company with two other persons, who are still at large), on the evening of Sunday the 22d of December last, with intent to kill and murder him—From the time the decision of the Judge was made known to him, his only anxiety appeared to be how he might best prepare himself for another world. He fully admitted his guilt; and his sorrow and contrition, not only on account of the crime for which he suffered, but the numerous other errors of his past life, was apparently deep and sincere. He conducted himself to the last moment with becoming resignation, and we trust, by the attentions  paid to him by the Reverend Chaplain, and another worthy divine, who had daily visited him, he left the world supported by rational hope of mercy, through the all sufficient merits of a crucified Redeemer. About 8 o'clock the culprit was brought forth through the County Hall door, in a light cart, along the platform raised on the steps, under the fatal tree. He appeared firm and collected, and addressing himself to the numerous spectators, said, it was "Ludding" that had brought him to that untimely end:—he expressed his regret that he had neglected the good advice given him by his parents, and that he had not abandoned his wicked courses in time to avert the dreadful fate that awaited him, and exhorted all present to take warning by his untimely end. After a few minutes spent in prayer, the cart was drawn off, and he was launched into eternity.—His last words were, "Lord have mercy upon my soul!"—After hanging the usual time, his body was cut down, and delivered to his friends for interment. He was a stout good looking man, but extremely illiterate, had just attained his 21st year, and had not long been married.

The particulars of the trial of Diggle have been already published; but since it may be gratifying to some persons to possess some short notice of his Prison Thoughts, a friend who visited him during the last week of his life, has furnished us with the following particulars:—

On his first interview with the prisoner, he appeared rather unconcerned, but a degree of mutual reserve seemed to account in some measure for the circumstance. In all my subsequent visits he conversed frankly on the events of his past life; and manifested a degree of contrition (especially in his devotions), which was very becoming his awful situation.—Whenever he adverted to his contempt of the advice of his parents, he was very deeply affected.

We he mentioned Luddism, which was frequently the case, he severely reprobated a system, in which he had latterly been an active, though a subordinate agent; and he remarked with a feeling severity, upon the guilty guilt and cruelty of the secret promoters of that practice, whom he declared that he considered equally criminal with himself.

On the Monday before he suffered, he had formed the resolution of speaking freely on the subject of Luddism and his other crimes, from the scaffold; but fearing that his feelings might possibly prevent him, he desired that his sentiments might be written down, and published after his execution.

The following is the confession he earnestly desired might be published:—
...and the Journal also ended the article with Diggle's alleged confession.

The Nottingham Review of Friday 11th April gave a line to report Diggle's burial, which took place on the evening of the same day:
Diggle's body was removed from the County Hall, by his friends, to Basford; and on the same evening was interred in the church yard of that place, amidst an innumerable throng of spectators.
However, despite the report in the Nottingham Review, there doesn't appear to be any record of Diggle's burial in the Basford Parish Registers. It looks as if Diggle's burial was simply unrecorded and we may never know where his remains lie.

Diggle had married his wife, Catherine or Kitty Cockram in 1816 and their daughter, Sarah Ann, was christened at Basford on 10th August 1817.

I am indebted to the historian & genealogist Lesley Abernethy for researching Diggle's family history.

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