Search

History: A harangued hangman and racing rivals - glimpse Havering’s past

19:00 16 February 2014

Foxton's stagcoach raced to get away from the hecklers

Foxton's stagcoach raced to get away from the hecklers

Archant

Time is a curious concept. It’s been called nature’s way of ensuring that everything doesn’t happen at once.

Foxton at one of his most famous executionsFoxton at one of his most famous executions

It’s strange that other people once lived in our streets and suburbs, leaving no echo of their voices.

Sometimes we can get a glimpse of events long ago.

Two cameos of the A12 in Colchester Road and Harold Hill linger vividly across the centuries.

Stagecoaches rattled along the lonely Brentwood to Romford road. There was no Harold Hill, Harold Wood or Gidea Park in 1823.

Prof Ged MartinProf Ged Martin

A Suffolk man was due to be hanged at Ipswich one August day for the crime of arson and the authorities sent an expert to carry out the execution.

John Foxton was the hangman at London’s Newgate Prison.

In 11 years, he swung 206 men and six women to their deaths.

Foxton supplied his own rope, pulley, manacles and blindfold. Ipswich provided the gibbet.

But when he arrived, Foxton found that the prisoner had been reprieved. There would be no fee for the official strangler.

Waiting to travel back to London, he got drunk and loudly cursed his bad luck.

People boarding the luxury Telegraph stagecoach objected.

Foxton as a fellow passenger was bad enough, but the grisly “implements of death” in his luggage were revolting.

So Foxton took second best – an outside seat on the mail coach, which departed later.

However, the mail coach was faster. It overtook the Telegraph between Brentwood and Romford.

Passengers perched on the roof of the Telegraph spotted the befuddled hangman as the mail coach caught up.

They jeered and, insultingly, lashed walking sticks together, jamming them in the luggage to make a mock gallows.

The Telegraph’s passengers also abused the driver and guard of the mail coach, who could only escape the curses “by extraordinary speed”.

I cherish image of two coaches, racing past Harold Hill and through Gidea Park, with gesticulating passengers and their ersatz gallows.

My second glimpse is a nicer tale.

On a February day in 1834, two Romford gentlemen staged a horse race through Harold Hill.

William Henry Tolbutt owned a South Street mansion. Young Mr Tyler challenged him to a steeplechase - a gallop through fields and over hedges, with no marked-out racecourse.

Spectators had “an excellent view” of the route from the high ground around the starting point, Foxborough Wood, a mile north-west of modern Harold Hill, near the bend in Broxhill Road.

The winning post was “the 14th mile stone”, a well-known distance marker from London, on Colchester Road behind today’s Sackville Crescent, Harold Wood.

By strange coincidence, the two men must have raced along the line of Harold Hill’s Edenhall Road and Chatteris Avenue.

No doubt there were more onlookers clapping the winner, Tolbutt, at the A12.

Everybody adjourned to a slap-up meal in Romford, where the “utmost hilarity” prevailed until late at night.

The jeering passengers on the Colchester Road stagecoach and the cheering spectators of the Harold Hill horse race have vanished into the mists of Time.

But are they still there - somewhere? Will we one day be able to press a rewind button and hear their catcalls and their laughter?

Probably not! But it’s an intriguing thought.

0 comments

Latest Romford News Stories

10:00
HaveringMind volunteers about to set out to deliver posters and leaflets to local GP surgeries

As a report shows that one in three GP appointments are related to mental health, Chloe Farand finds out about how doctors can help refer patients to adequate services

Yesterday, 16:28
The Houses of Parliament, where long-standing Romford MP John Parker often raised issues affecting his constituents (and, unfortunately for him, was routinely ignored). Picture: Tim Ireland/PA

John Parker was a Labour MP for 48 years. Public school and Oxford educated, Parker was not a typical Labour man. But he spoke up for his constituents, raising local issues in House of Commons questions.

Yesterday, 14:02
Former dinner lady Carol Strange with kitchen staff at Havering Sixth Form College.

Fond farewells and a few tears were shed as a former dinner lady retired after working almost 40 years at a college.

Yesterday, 12:35
Rotational nurse Sally Barbrook, Nelft's rotational nurse lead Paul Chesnaye and rotational nurse Kate Channells at Goodmayes Hospital, Barley Lane, Goodmayes.

Nurses caring for people with mental health problems can now be trained in both mental and physical health simultaneously in a groundbreaking new scheme.

Yesterday, 11:57
Collier Row's 2015 Christmas event. Picture: Andrew Berwick

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as Collier Row’s annual festivities return to dazzle residents.

Yesterday, 11:14
Elfie Shelfie getting up to all sorts of antics at the Mercury Mall

From creating popcorn sculptures to impersonating Santa and covering an entire shop in wrapping paper, a naughty elf will be making mischief at a shopping centre in the lead-up to Christmas.

Yesterday, 07:00
Romford's Marshalls Park School

Parents were invited to an information evening about a school’s plans to convert into an academy.

Thu, 18:25
Police appealing for witnesses after Camden woman killed in coach collision. Picture: Met Police.

Two lanes have been closed and there are 10 miles of queues after a lorry collided with a car near Wennington this afternoon.

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

News from your area

WW100

Click on the banner above for full coverage of the centenary commemorations of the outbreak of the First World War.

Competitions

£3,000 goes a long way at Boots

Cosmetics, toiletries, vitamins and more. Boots is the number one choice when it comes to purchasing daily essentials.

Kit yourself out and go Apple mad!

If you’re obsessed with Apple or just love a good gadget, this is a prize that will blow you away! An incredible £3,333 to spend on Apple goodies! How would you like to be the proud new owner of the Apple Watch?

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now