A murder of a maid – Thomas Savage

Thomas Savage

Thomas Savage from exclassics.com.

The following excerpts can be found in A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the Most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifts, and Cheats of Both Sexes by Captain Alexander Smith. They document the murder of a maid by a sixteen year old apprentice, a Thomas Savage from St Giles in the Fields. It is said the accused was later captured and hung for his deed.

Historical records of the era detail a Thomas Savage, 3rd Earl Rivers (born 1628), who died 14th September 1694 on Great Queens Street, St Giles in the Fields.  Thomas Savage was a wealthy royalist and reputable person of note, but it is recorded he had three children – Richard Savage (4th Earl Rivers, born 1654), Elizabeth Savage, and a Thomas Savage (born circa 1648). A connection between this Thomas Savage and the Thomas Savage spoken of in the excerpt is speculation, but there is likely a connection given the date and location.

The following text is paraphrased as the original text is several pages long.

This unhappy person, namely Thomas Savage, was born of honest parents in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.

Breaking the Sabbath (by his own confession) was the first inlet of his vices, especially whoredom, drunkenness, and theft; for frequenting a bawdy-house in Ratcliff Highway, he there became acquainted with one Hannah Blay, a vile common strumpet, to whom he would often carry two or three bottles of wine at a time, to junket with her.

The strumpet, her wicked desires unsatisfied, requests Thomas bring her money, which he may do by robbing his master. This is something Thomas can not do, as at home the maid is always with him. The strumpet entices Thomas to murder the maid:

Hang the jade, quoth she, knock her brains out, and I’ll receive the money, and go anywhere with you beyond sea, to avoid the stroke of justice.

On the day of the murder, the strumpet made him “almost drunk with bad brandy” before sending him on his way between 12 and 1 o’clock.

The maid then upbraiding him with having been at a bawdy-house, which would be the ruin of him in the end, he was much vexed with her, and while he was at dinner, the devil entered so strongly into him that he resolved within himself to kill her.

He went into the bar and fetched a hammer, with which he began to make a great noise, as he sat by the fire, by knocking on the bellows. Hereupon says the maid to him: “Sure the boy is mad! Sirrah, what do you make this noise for?”

To this he made no answer, but going to the kitchen- window began to knock and make the same noise there, of which the maid then taking no notice, he, to provoke her, got on the clean dresser, and walked up and down thereon several times with his dirty shoes. This piece of malice exasperating the maid, so that she scolded at him pretty heartily, he threw the hammer at her suddenly with such violence that, hitting her on the head, it felled her to the ground, and she shrieked out. He then went and took up the hammer, intending to repeat the blow, but laid it down again thrice, not being yet hardened enough in cruelty to strike her any more; but at last, taking it up the fourth time, the devil had then gained such an absolute mastery over him that he gave her several strokes with all the force he could, and quickly dispatched her out of the world.

The account is several pages long, speaking of the eventual capture of Thomas Savage, but a strange turn of events occur when the man is hanged:

The sheriff ordered him to be cut down, when, being received into the arms of some of his friends, he was conveyed into a house not far from the place of execution. There being laid upon a table, he began, to the astonishment of the beholders, to breathe, and rattle in the throat, so that it was evident life was whole in him. Hereupon he was carried from thence to a bed in the same house, where he breathed more strongly, and opened his eyes and mouth, though his teeth were set before, and he offered to speak, but could not recover the use of his tongue.

However, his reviving being blazed abroad within an hour, the sheriff’s officers came to the house where he was, and carrying him back to the place of execution, hung him up again till he was really dead.

It was a common belief at the time that if a prisoner survived a hanging it was deemed as an Act of God, meaning the prisoner would be set free. The accuracy of the above paragraph is therefore open to debate.

As for the strumpet, it was said she delayed her execution by claiming to be pregnant. Often, in these cases it is common to escape execution.

More can be read on Google Books and ExClassics.

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