The Bedfordshire Mercury of 31st March 1868 reported thus on the aftermath of the trial of William Worsley:
A large concourse of people waited to see the condemned convict removed, and he was taken away by the Governor of the Gaol and his officials without difficulty soon after he had been sentenced. A feeling of gloom pervaded the minds of the inhabitants when they became aware of the sentence.
In a few minutes after the sentence was pronounced the news had spread throughout the town and a large crowd had assembled outside the court-house to catch a glimpse of the unhappy man as he left for the prison. Shortly afterwards a prisoner was taken to the van which was awaiting at the gates, but this was Welch, although many were not aware of the fact, and when Worsley was brought out soon after there was no great press in the crowd, which was not then very large. The prisoner and several officers got into the van, and an officer guarded behind with cutlass in hand.
It has been customary to hold executions at our County Prison on a Saturday, at 12 o'clock, but the evils attending this plan have been so numerous and so great that the present High-Sheriff (Sir J. M. Burgoyne, Bart., of Sutton Park) determined if possible to alter this state of things by having the execution, not only on another day than market-day - when country people entered the town in flocks - but at an earlier hour in the morning, which arrangement would make it very inconvenient if not impossible for persons to visit the town and crowd together in front of the prison. Accordingly, after some consultation with the Governor (Mr. R. E. Roberts) the High Sheriff fixed Tuesday, the 31st of March, at eight o'clock, for the execution, and the Governor conveyed the information to the convict on Tuesday, the day after the trial. On Wednesday, the following day, the High-Sheriff visited the prison, and, in the presence of the Governor, told the unhappy culprit the day fixed. Worsley replied, "Oh, very well, sir". By a remarkable coincidence the date of the execution is the same as that on which Castle suffered the extreme penalty of the law, although on a different day of the week. He has behaved himself becomingly towards the officials of the prison, one of whom is in constant attendance upon him day and night, and listened attentively to the overtures of the chaplain (the Rev. George Maclear) after his trial. On Saturday one of his brothers had an interview with the Governor, and during the whole of the day remained in the town making exertions on the prisoner's behalf.
MEMORIALS TO THE HOME OFFICE
Soon after the day of the trial an effort was commenced in Bedford to save the town the scandal of another public execution. The borough magistrates promptly sent up a memorial to the Home Office, urging the propriety of speedily passing the Capital Punishment Within Prisons Bill, the provisions of which are well known to our readers - the measure having been read a second time in the House of Commons by a large majority, We believe we are correct in saying that there is not the slightest probability that this bill can pass by the day named. Mr. Usher, the Rev. B. Backhouse, and other leading residents of the town, met together for the purpose of drawing up a petition to the Home Secretary praying that the sentence of death should be commuted on the grounds of the unpremeditated nature of the crime and the worthlessness of the evidence given by the convict Welch against his companion in vice. A memorial was drawn up and taken round to the principal residents, professional men and tradesmen of the town and it is a noteworthy fact that men of all political parties and denominations appended their signatures very readily.
The following memorial, on behalf of the unhappy man, was forwarded on Tuesday evening last to Colonel Stuart, M. P., for presentation at the Home Office. It was signed by a very large number of influential inhabitants of Bedford during the brief space of two days in which it was in course of signature. It ran thus:
"To the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Home Department".
"The memorial of the undersigned inhabitants of the borough of Bedford showeth: -"
"That William Worsley, of Luton, in the county of Bedford, was tried and convicted of murder at the last Bedford Lent Assizes, and now awaits his execution".
"2. That year memorialists believe that not only was the murder for which he is condemned unpremeditated, but that the principal witness against him, one Levi Welch, is a man whose career for the last sixteen years had been one of violence and crime, and he upon his own confession was convicted of having robbed the deceased in conjunction with the convict Worsley when the murder was perpetrated".
"3. That the House of Commons in the Bill now before it having condemned both the principle and expediency of public executions, your memorialists earnestly pray that the capital sentence in this case may be remitted".
"4. The under the peculiar circumstances of the case your memorialists sincerely believe that the claims of justice and the majesty of the law will thus be more effectually vindicated than by a public execution, whose debasing influence upon the community at large, and especially upon the youthful population of which Bedford is chiefly composed, is greatly to be deprecated".
Mr. Bailey, of Luton, the prisoner's solicitor, exerted himself on his client's behalf in his native town, and a similar memorial to the above was very numerously signed and presented to Mr. Secretary Hardy.
The convict's demeanour has been very calm since his trial, and has caused no anxiety and trouble to the Governor and other officials of the prison - unlike the man Castle, the last prisoner under sentence of death, who was a source of annoyance to all with whom he came into contact by his obstinacy and uncouthness. Worsley eats his food very heartily, without demanding delicacies with an imperious air, as though he were master of the situation; and he seems depressed, although from his manner at intervals we believe he buoys himself up with the hope of a reprieve. The Chaplain is unremitting in his attentions to him, and it must be a source of gratification to the rev. gentleman to find that his efforts to excite a religious feeling in his mind meet with gratitude. The convict expresses his thanks to his spiritual adviser, and asks for no other to visit him. By his improvement in education since being brought to the prison, he has been enabled to write two letters to his friends, in which he expresses in strong terms the dissatisfaction which he feels respecting the conduct of Welch in making a statement against him, to which his conviction may be fairly attributed. On Monday, Worsley made a statement in the presence of the Governor, which was taken down in writing, and he appended his signature to the same; but, as this document must be first laid before the visiting justices, we are unable to state at present what it divulges.
On Wednesday afternoon the wretched man was visited by his wife, two of his brothers with their wives, another brother, and a niece, who stayed with him for a length of time in the presence of the Governor. As might be expected, the interview was a most painful one - especially with the wife, who was almost heart-broken. His relatives expressed their satisfaction with the endeavours put forth by the Chaplain, and mentioned no other clergyman whom they should prefer visiting the condemned man. Worsley has no children, but he and his wife have brought up a little girl from infancy - the child of some relative, now about 12 years of age; and he expressed his sorrow that she had not accompanied her guardian to the prison as he much wished to see her. We understand it is very probable this will not be the last occasion on which his relations will visit the convict. Several of his brothers are men of respectability and comfortable means, and it may be very naturally supposed what effect the unhappy occurrence has upon them.
The Governor of the Prison pays all the attention to the prisoner which his other duties will allow, remaining with him every night until the midnight hour approaches, when Worsley invariably falls asleep; and we are glad to find that the effects of Mr. Roberts to gratify his wishes meet with no expression of dissatisfaction on his part
No communication has been received from the Home Office with reference to the unhappy man, and it is impossible to say what the determination of the Home Secretary may be after conferring with Mr. Baron Bramwell upon the subject.
The convict has received several visits to-day. First, the High-Sheriff arrived at the Prison, and after a conference with the Governor proceeded to the condemned cell, and, in the presence of the Governor and Chaplain, engaged in conversation with the prisoner, which was prolonged for upwards of two hours, - the High Sheriff being evidently very anxious to produce a right feeling in the unhappy man's mind. While that gentleman was in the cell an intimation reached him that some of the prisoner's relatives had arrived at the Prison for the purpose of having an interview with him. The High Sheriff accordingly at once withdrew. The convict's wife and his three brothers then entered the cell, where, in the presence of the Governor and Chaplain, they freely talked to each other on the mournful subject that had brought them to the prison. They informed him that every effort had been made, and was still being made, on his behalf, and that on that very day a deputation had proceeded to London for the purpose of inducing Mr, Secretary Hardy to grant a reprieve. They assured Worsley that the people of Luton took a warm interest in the matter, and had done all that was possible in his favour. The effect of this interview upon the convict, we fear, was to render him hopeful, and evidently he still buoys himself up with the expectation of a reprieve. We need scarcely say that the interview was a most painful and effecting one, and when the last farewell was taken by the prisoner of his wife their grief was great: but here we let fall the curtain, and the imaginative powers must be called into play concerning his separation from wife and brothers. The Chaplain visits the unhappy man constantly, and is listened to by him attentively when endeavouring to bring him to a knowledge of the depravity of man's nature and the necessity for making his peace with God. The Governor and Chief Warder, with their assistants, pay strict attention to the wishes of the convict, and all reasonable requests are at once complied with. He eats heartily of the liberal fare which is provided for him, and there is no very perceptible change in his general demeanour.
From intimations which were received by the authorities as late as midnight in Saturday, it was understood that the chance of reprieve was almost hopeless, and it was a matter for consideration whether the convict should not be informed of the state of affairs, so that he might not rest any hope upon a false foundation. Accordingly, the Governor and Chaplain agreed to take the course suggested, and Worsley was informed on Sunday morning how the case stood. Notwithstanding this, he does not give up all hope.
Worsley attended Divine service in the chapel yesterday morning, and the Chaplain, while abstaining from delivering what is sometimes called "the condemned sermon", set forth fully that Christ's death was sufficient to atone for the deepest guilt, and that there was hope for the vilest sinner if he repented of his sin.
Early this morning some workmen, in the employ of Mr. J. Batson, builder, commenced putting up the prison scaffold over the gateway leading to the interior. This scaffold was made and erected for the execution of Abel Burrows, but, in consequence of that convict being reprieved, it was taken down again and not used until 1860, when Joseph Castle was hanged. It is now being placed in position under the superintendence of the Governor, and is being boarded round to a certain extent in order to screen the execution from public gaze.
There will be no barriers in front of the Prison, as at the last execution, - such a precaution being considered entirely unnecessary.
We believe that during yesterday there was nothing in the prisoner's conduct to call for special remark. He has received several letters from relations and friends. Indeed, two were handed to the Governor while we were at the Prison ay noon to-day, which will probably prove his last. One was fro his wife, and the other on behalf of his brothers and sisters, in which they expressed a wish for him not to put any reliance in the efforts that were being made to get a reprieve, as they saw very little chance of being successful; they urged him to banish the idea entirely from his mind, and to pay every attention to the ministrations of the Chaplain.
Numbers of people stand in front of the Prison this afternoon looking at the operations of the workmen in erecting the scaffold. It affords an opportunity for gossip on the part of the Monday idlers, who are speculating as to the chances of a reprieve arriving, remembering that in the case of Burrows an intimation favourable to the prisoner was not received until the day before the execution.
The Governor and other officials are busy preparing for the sad event, and their anxiety and labour are almost indescribable. We fear the unhappy culprit still hopes for the best, and does not give up all anticipation of a favourable communication being received from the Home Office. The Chaplain visits him frequently, and manifests an intense desire for his spiritual good.
Calcraft, the executioner, has arrived, and has taken lodgings in a public-house in the neighbourhood of the Prison.
Hundreds of people watched the workmen erecting the scaffold until after it had become dark (lights being used at the work), and up to a late hour groups of persons lingered on the spot. A large number have arrived from long distances, not a few having walked from Luton.