The Diary of the Governor of Bedford Prison
It is interesting to compare the account of the last days of William Worlsey in the Bedfordshire Mercury with the diary kept by the Governor of Bedford Prison, Robert Evan Roberts. This is kept at The National Archives but Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a copy in microfilm [Mic265].
Monday 16th March 1868: "William Worsley" convicted of Wilful Murder before Mr. Baron Bramwell and sentance of Death pased upon him. "Welch" was made an approver but was convicted of stealing from the person with violence, sentence 14 years Penal Servitude. "Worsley" was safely brought back to Prison and placed in a Cell under the constant eye of officers. The High Sheriff visited the Prisoner immediately afterwards.
Shortly after 8 o'clock this morning Mr. Baron Bramwell paod a visit to the Prison, his visit was quite unexpected. He took great interest in what he saw, highly approved of the industrial employment and assured me if he again visited Bedford he would repeat his visit.
Tuesday 17th March: Waited upon the High Sheriff Sir J. M. Burgoyne to ascertain the day he fixed for the execution of William Worsley, when he decided Tuesday 31st of March instant at wight o'clock in the morning. I returned to the Prison and informed "Worsley" to which he simply replied, "Oh very well Sir".
Wednesday 18th March: "Worsley" slept well last night and eats his food freely. He is very bitter against "Levi Welch" and I think indulges in the hope that he will not be executed.
The High Sheriff Sir J. M. Burgoyne Bart. visited the Prison, repeated what I had already told him that the day of Execution was fixed for the 31st of March. The High Sheriff remained nearly an hour with "Worsley" in conversation.
I am with "Worsley" every night until twelve o'clock when he generally goes off to sleep.
Friday 20th March: "Worsley" appears to realize his position this morning. Still I am convinced he indulges in having a reprieve and were it not for this he would I think confess his guilt, however he has virtually done that, both to myself and the Chaplain. He says "I cannot say whether I did hit him ot not, if I did I did not intend to take away his life and he must have done something to me first". He repeatedly refers to "Welch's" conduct in the affair but he does not deny that he struck the deceased.
"Worsley" is a very indifferent Scholar; he has improved much in Prison in reading and scripture knowledge. He had a letter from his wife which I read to him, which brought him to tears.
Saturday 21st March: "Worsley continues to eat and sleep well. He is far from being satisfied with his Counsel or Attorney and thinks the Jury very hurriedly decided his Case.
Yesterday I went to London to seek an interview with the Executioner. I have to meet him again on Monday next when he will be prepared to give me a final answer.
"Worsley's" wife and brothers have applied to see him. I have fixed Wednesday for their visit.
The High Sheriff and Colonel Stuart waited upon me today.
Sunday 22nd March: "Worsley" attended Chapel twice today.
Monday 23rd March: I am into Worsley every night until midnight when he generally drops off to sleep.
I have finally arranged for the presence of the Executioner for Tuesday Morning next. I telegraphed the High Sheriff to that effect.
"Worsley" appears more bitter against "Welch" this evening and he calls "Day" "a lying villain". He now says, if he is to be hung he will be hung innocent - and "Welch" ought to be placed with him. To my mind his manner is not so encouraging as it was two or three days ago. I am convinced he is buoyed up with the notion that he will be reprieved.
Tuesday 24th March: I am more convinced than ever that "Worsley" thinks that he will yet have a reprieve and repeats that if he does suffer "he will suffer innocently and it is a shame that "Welch" should be allowed to escape". I was with him until midnight and at his request took down in writing a statement he made which he signed. He is dissatisfied with his Trial and with the Jury but admits that the Judge acted in fairness towards him".
Wednesday 25th March: "Worsley" slept well last night after I left him and still eats his food heartily. He is looking forward to meeting his friends some time today.
1.35 p. m. Worsley's wife and his brothers and their wives visited him, the interview lasted nearly an hour. I and the Chaplain were present. The interview to some extent was affecting, his friends implored him to confess his guilt "if he did it". He immediately replied "I may have done it but if I did he did something to me first" to which one of his brothers added "The General Opinion is you both ought to be served alike. We think you had not a fair trial" and their reason for saying so was because "Welch's evidence was received against you".
Thursday 26th March: The interview Worsley had with his friends yesterday I am afraid does him no good. He certainly treats the matter in a very off hand way. He wrote two letters to his friends in one he states that "Welch has sworn that the Almighty God had not struck him dead. It was enough to make my blood run cold to hear him tell them awful lies which he knew was not true".
Saturday 28th March: Worsley's conduct and demeanour yesterday was singular and unsatisfactory. He says boldly if he confesses his sins to God it is enough he is not bound to confess to man. He does not find any authority in The Bible for so doing. I went to the [unreadable] Office yesterday and ascertained that there was little or no hope of a reprieve.
The High Sheriff entered the Prison at 11.30 a. m. and left at 1.15 p. m. Nearly the whole time he was with the Convict the Chaplain and myself present.
"Worsley's" three brothers and wife visited him immediately after the High Sheriff had left. They remained with the Convict about two hours. They took their final leave of him.
At Midnight I was in possession of information that led me to believe there was no hope of a reprieve and I told the Convict so. He said it was "no use being cast down then. I must be prepared to meet it".
Sunday 29th March: Myself and Mr. Maclear decided to explain to the Convict that all hope of reprieve was gone.
I went over to the High Sheriff informing him that I had learnt that there would be no reprieve.
Monday 30th March: Commenced preparing the Gallows for the Execution.
4 o'clock p. m. "Calcraft" came at 1/2 past eight "Worsley" admitted to the Chaplain that he had committed the deed and was Guilty. I saw him shortly after and he admitted his Guilt and asked me to take his statement down in writing which I did.
He made a further statement at Midnight which he signed after I had read it over to him in the presence of the Chaplain and we both witnessed his signature. I left the Prison about two o'clock a. m. he wishing to go to sleep. I returned again shortly after for o'clock and found him still asleep. He woke about five and I was with him until the Chaplain entered the Prison shortly before six o'clock.
At 1/4 to seven o'clock "Worsley" asked for his breakfast. He ate it heartily and said he enjoyed it and afterwards [unreadable] dressing in doing which he appeared unusually particular.
Shortly after seven the Deputation of the Press were admitted and the Under Sheriff Mr. Hooper arrived.
At five minutes to eight "Worsley" was brought from his Cell and the Undersheriff spoke to the prisoner after which "Calcraft" commenced the operation of pinioning the prisoner this done, the procession formed, all moved forward to the Scaffold the prisoner walked in a firm step to the place of Execution, took his leave of all present, made a respectful bow to the audience and at one minute past eight poor "Worsley" was no more. The body was interred by 12 o'clock.
The Officers have conducted themselves in a highly satisfactory manner and their duties have been discharged with great zeal and ability.
The High Sheriff visited again on Monday afternoon.
Wednesday 1st April: Committee Meeting today instead of yesterday (Tuesday) in consequence of the Execution of "William Worsley".
The Confession of "Worsley" submitted to Committee.
Monday 6th April: I accordance with "Worsley's" last wishes I visited his wife at Luton and conveyed to her sundry little articles he wished her to have also a message with respect to a little girl (Rose) he had adopted and to whom he was very partial.