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The Cowper and Newton Museum
Lace making equipment: "Hanging Bobbins"

These bobbins can be useful in helping to establish the years in which a bobbin-maker was producing bobbins.

There were six executions in the nineteenth century which were commemorated on inscribed bobbins.

  • 'Matthias and William Lilley 1829'
    Bobbins with this inscription were made to commemorate the execution of two brothers hanged at Biddenham for the attempted murder of a game-keeper who had caught them poaching. There was some doubt about whether the gun they were carrying went off accidentally, or whether it was a serious attempt to kill the gamekeeper, but they were found guilty of attempted murder, which was a capital offence at the time. It is thought that - unlike the other five 'hanging' bobbins - these bobbins were made out of sympathy for the two unfortunate young men.

  • 'Sarah Dazeley Hung 1843'
    Sarah was hanged at Bedford at the age of 22, for the murder of her second husband whom she poisoned with arsenic. There is a strong possibility that she was also responsible for the premature death of her first husband.

  • 'Joseph Castle Hung 1860'
    Joseph Castle cut his wife's throat and threw her body over a hedge. He met with his 'just deserts' on the scaffold of Bedford Gaol in 1860. It is said that his wife's family gave a party on the evening of the execution, and each guest was given a bobbin with this inscription. Certainly many such souvenirs were sold that day and it is one 'hanging bobbin' fairly commonly seen today.

  • 'Franz Muller Hung 1864'
    This is the only execution commemorated on a bobbin which did not take place in Bedford. It had created wide public interest as Muller was the first man to commit murder on a railway train, and was executed for his crime at Newgate Prison.

  • 'William Worsley Hung 1868'
    William Worsley and Levi Welch murdered a man at Luton, but Welch turned king's evidence, accused Worsley of striking the critical blow, and thus escaped the gallows. Worsley was the last man to be publicly hanged at Bedford and inscribed bobbins were extremely popular souvenirs, making these one of the most common of the six 'hanging bobbins'.

  • 'William Bull Hung 1871'
    William Bull murdered Sarah Marshall, a harmless old woman who was probably half-witted. He was very drunk at the time and killed the poor lady in a particularly brutal manner, so there was great public satisfaction when Bull was brought to justice, and even though the hanging was not public, many people bought inscribed bobbins to commemorate the event.