Events moved at whirlwind speed in the last few days of the life of bricklayer Samuel Wright, 27. On December 13th, 1863, he slit the throat of his girl friend Maria Green, 40, after an argument at their lodgings in Waterloo Road, south London. Only three days later, on December 16th, he was tried for murder at the Old Bailey and sentenced to death the same day, and less than a month after that, on Tuesday, January 12th, 1864, he was hanged at Horsemonger Lane.

A protest meeting, “attended chiefly by the working classes,” was told that the court’s haste in passing sentence was probably unparalleled in Britain.

Even in that short time the Home Office received a number of petitions pleading for mercy for Wright, on the grounds that Maria Green was a violent woman who always carried a knife and regularly threatened men with it. More than 1,000 policemen were on duty at the hanging, fearing a large crowd sympathetic to Wright. In the event the attendance was not so large and the execution passed off without incident.