Felo de Se


Midnight Funeral

Thomas COSGRAVE, Liverpool 1815


"In the year 1815 a tragic event occurred in this locality. A man named Thomas Cosgrove, residing in Cheapside, in a state of insanity, murdered his wife and committed suicide by taking poison. The coroner's verdict was " Felo de se " as to the suicide, and, in accordance with the barbarous custom of the time, he was buried at midnight at the intersection of the roads between Tithebarn Street and Vauxhall Road (five lane- ends), with a stake driven through his body, as the old law required."

Liverpool Courier etc February 23rd 1815

On Wednesday morning last, a man named T. COSGRAVE, who resides in a small court in Cheapside, Liverpool, has been observed for some time past to have been on very bad terms with his wife the neighbours having frequently heard them quarrelling, and she has often expressed a reluctance to go home, for fear of being beaten by her husband.

Between 6 and 7am on Wednesday, a man walking along Cheapside was surprised to see COSGRAVE standing at the end of the passage where he resides with no cloths on except his shirt and nightcap. On the mans approach COSGRAVE immediately begged him to alarm the neighbourhood, saying, that he had just strangled his wife and cut his own throat. The man being much alarmed at this account, procured two other men to accompany him, and all three returned to the place and entered the habitation of COSGRAVE, whom they found lying on the bed beside his wife who was quite dead, they found her linen covered with blood, and also the blood of COSGRAVE, and the unhappy wretch having repeated the same account as before, a Constable was immediately sent for, and he was taken into custody without offering the least resistance or making any attempt to escape. The wound in his throat has since been sewn up, but he has not yet been pronounced out of danger.

On the Coroners inquest it appeared in evidence that the deceased Mary COSGRAVE and her husband retired to bed rather late the preceding evening, but neither of them were at all intoxicated, nor did those who had been with them observe any quarrelling or disagreement between them. Some neighbours ,likewise, who live very near them declared that they heard no kind of noise during the night. Dr VOSE who had been sent for to examine the body, gave his opinion that the deceased had suffered death by strangulation, agreeably to the own account of COSGRAVE. All witnesses agreed that the prisoner had no symptoms of insanity, either in his words or actions, but conversed in a collected and rational manner. The Coroner after a long and careful investigation returned a verdict of wilful murder against Thomas COSGRAVE.

Liverpool Mercury, March 10th 1815

Thomas COSGRAVE the unhappy wretch on whom a verdict of wilful murder was found for the murder of his wife, expired in the Bridewell on Tuesday morning a Coroners inquest sat on the body, who brought a verdict of felo de se. His remains were interred on Thursday morning following at 6am at the junction of four streets opposite the end of Marybone in the presence of a considerable number of spectators.

Death of his wife

Burial: 17 Feb 1815 St Nicholas, Liverpool, Lancashire, England

Mary Cosgrove - Wife of Thomas Cosgrove

Age: 36 Years

Abode: Cheapside

Buried by: James Gildart Curate

Register: Burials 1813 - 1817 from the Bishop's Transcripts, Page 41, Entry 525

Source: LDS Film 1068890

Baptism and death of a child

Baptism: 2 Feb 1812 St Anthony, Vauxhall, Lancashire, England

Bridget Cosgrave - daughter of Thomas Cosgrave & Mary

Born: 31 Jan 1812

Godparents: James Quirk; Ann Casson

Baptised by: J. B. A. Gerardot Rector

Register: Baptisms 1804 - 1818, Page 134, Entry 510

Source: LDS Film 396379

Burial: 11 Dec 1812 St Nicholas, Liverpool, Lancashire, England

Bridget Cosgrave - Daughter of Thomas Cosgrave & Mary

Died: 9 Dec 1812

Age: 10 months

Abode: Fairhurst St

Occupation: Labourer

Register: Burials 1810 - 1812, Page 16, Entry 228

Source: LDS Film 93833

Other references to Felo de Se

September 8, 1733

Saturday last one REYNOLDS, an ostler aged 70, was found hanging at the Angel in the parish of St Stephen, the coroners inquest found him felo de se, the body was accordingly buried in the highway without the Gates of St Stephen.

February 13, 1742

On Friday morning the maid servant of the Anchor at Ballast Key, near the Lady Cowleys at Greenwich, was found drowned in the river near the town. There had been a quarrel on the Thursday between her and her sweetheart, which created the suspicion that she threw herself into the river wilfully. The jury returned a verdict of felo de se, in consequence she was that night buried in a cross-road and a stake drove through her body according to the law.

September 25, 1788

Last week John Marshfield a labouring man hanged himself in an out house in Avon St. The jury returned a verdict of felo de se, in consequence he was buried in the cross-road leading to Charlecombe.

January 14, 1801

At a coroners inquest on the body of Theophilius Smith who shot himself in Stafford gaol a verdict of felo de se, was returned, in consequence he was buried in a public cross-road

May 19, 1800

Yesterday the Coroners jury sat at the Blue Anchor in York St, Westminister on the body of George LOCK a corporal in the Grenadier Guards, who hung himself the previous evening, the jury returned a verdict of felo de se, the body was last night buried in the cross-roads at Strutton Ground.

June 10, 1807

John PATTERSON, Land Surveyor and agent to Admiral BETNICK, raped a girl of 12yrs at Terrington near Lynn, a warrant for his apprehension was released and he absconded, but on being pursued was apprehended at Markham Moor, he acknowledged the offence with which he was charged, but said he did not mean to evade justice, but intended after seeing his wife and three children in Cumberland, to return to Norfolk to take his trial. After talking rationally he asked permission to go into the garden which was granted and he returned, he begged to retire a second time, which was permitted, but he had not been absent for more than two minutes when the report of a pistol was heard, the miserable man had blown his brains out. He was buried on Saturday after a verdict of felo de se. in the cross-roads near Markham Moor, in Yorkshire.

October 01, 1808

A young woman servant near Bank Top, near Manchester, obtained a quantity of corrosive at a druggist shop, which she took and died on Wednesday night. An inquest held before N. MILNE Esq, showed no evidence of insanity and the Jury found a verdict of felo de se. and the deceased was buried in the highway at New Cross

Cambridge, May 8th, 1809

Inquest at Downham before H. R. EVANS Esq, coroner on the body of Eliza CARTER, who hung herself the previous day. Verdict of felo de se. and the deceased was buried in the highway

January 10, 1810

Thomas TOMLINSON, aged about 24, a private in the 6th Carbineers, quartered in Leeds, discharged a pistol through his head which occasioned his almost instantaneous death. It is supposed the fear of death impelled him to commit the dreadful act, which was much lamented by his regiment as he had fought with distinguished gallantry the battles for his country. The same evening the jury at an inquest returned a verdict of felo de se. and the corpse was seized and lodged in prison until Monday night, when the remains were taken at midnight to a short distance from the town and buried in the lanes. The body had scarcely been committed, when some of the military, impelled by an attachment to their brother soldier, and encourage by the populace, jumped into the grave in the presence of the civil officials, and finding it impossible to get the coffin up, took off the lid and raised the corpse, and carried it to a new burying ground in the parish church, where it was interred with military honours.

January 10, 1810

Charles BLAND a labouring gardener, aged 40, hung himself at the home of his mother in Crown St, at the inquest the jury returned a verdict of felo de se, and he was buried on the cross-road leading to Horningsheath and Hardwicke.

May 02, 1810

A private who had deserted from the London Militia, being recognised in Clare Market by a corporal sought refuge in the White Horse public house, but being pursued and dreading the punishment which awaited him he pulled out a knife and nearly severed his head from his body. A coroners inquest returned a verdict of felo de se, the corpse at midnight the next day was interred in the cross-road, with a stake driven through. He leaves a wife and two children.

June 9th 1910

A man named SELIS, who had attempted to murder the Duke of Cumberland in St James Palace, and then took his own life by cutting his throat with a razor, was buried in Scotland Yard in the highway towards the Thames near the Egg Warehouse.

Margate Oct 11th 1810

THORNTON many years proprietor of the caravans which daily proceeded to Deal and Dover committed suicide on Tuesday last at his house in Neptune Square by hanging himself with his garters. Previous to his committing the act he took his silver buckles he usually wore from his knees and shoes and locked them up with notes and cash in his bureau, he likewise transacted some pecuniary affairs, and passed the preceding evening at a convivial party, on each occasion betraying marks of perfect sanity. The Coroners inquest brought in the verdict felo de se, he will be buried tomorrow at a cross-roads.

January 31, 1811

Friday last a fine young servant girl aged 20, of Lieut Col KENT at the army depot Isle of Wight, poisoned herself by taking arsenic. She was five months with child and it was thought she only meant to destroy the child, but told the surgeon she meant to destroy herself. The Coroners inquest brought in the verdict felo de se, and she was buried on the high road near the Barracks.

Cambridge June 10th 1811

A coroners inquest was held at Peterborough last week on the body of Elizabeth JAMES, aged 22, who had poisoned herself, in consequence, she told the Vicar of Peterborough, previous to her dissolution of a disappointment in marriage. At an inquest the verdict felo de se, was returned and the rash young woman was interred upon the road leading from Peterborough to Spalding, attended by six female relatives dressed in white, and a vast concourse of spectators.

September 01, 1813

A respectable woman aged 25 at Morvah near Penzance, poisoned herself by taking arsenic, she was six months pregnant with twins. No evidence was brought forward at the inquest in favour of the woman, the jury returned a verdict of felo de se, and she was accordingly buried at a cross-road.

October 4, 1813

An inquest was held at Bainton on the body of William GUTTERIDGE aged 70, who hanged himself by a rope from a beam in his bedroom. The wife of the deceased destroyed herself in the same manner two years ago, where a verdict of felo de se was returned, but the man having shown symptoms of insanity, the jury found the verdict of Lunacy.

March 30, 1816

At Deddington an inquest on the body of William HOPCRAFT a mason, who was found hanging on a staircase, not being able to prove he had not previously been deranged the jury returned a verdict of felo de se and his body was interred on the public road.

September 24, 1816

At Road an inquest was held on the body of John JONES who was found hanging in a stable at that place. A verdict of felo de se was returned and the body was interred in the cross-roads the same evening. He has left a pregnant widow and child to lament his loss.

October 7, 1816

On the 21st September an inquisition was held by Mr PRATT Coroner for the Isle of Ely st the parish of Tid St Giles, on the body of Rebecca NOBLE. The deceased on the Wednesday preceding had been to Wisbeach Satute where she bought a quantity of opium, which she took on her return home on Thursday and died in great agony. She was frequently heard to declare, she would put a period to her existence, as she could not bear to see a young man to whom she was attached, pay attention to other young women, and even pointed out those who should bear her to the grave, and receive trifling presents, as testimonials to her regard. A verdict of felo de se was returned and the body was interred the next morning at a place called High Broad Gate, in the parish of Tid Saint Giles.

Derby Mercury December 1816

Sarah WILD at Bolsower, poisoned herself and three of her infant children, William, George and Sarah, several witnesses at the inquest called in to prove Sarah WILD was insane, but the Jury, not having proof to their satisfaction of the insanity of the deceased gave their verdict as wilful murder on the three children, and felo de se. The Coroner directed the constable of the parish to bury the body of Sarah WILD on the highway, and certify to him that he had done so.

April 16, 1817

An inquest was held at Boddington, Northamptonshire on the body of Mr G. BRADSHAW, aged 70, who on the preceding day hung himself. Verdict felo de se. The deceased was the father of a family, all of whom were married and settled except one, a poor lunatic daughter, who lived with the deceased, and on the Thursday evening preceding was delivered of a male bastard child, of which the deceased was reported to be the father.

August 23, 1817 Murder and suicide

An inquest was held yesterday before Thomas Sterling and T. W. Unwin, Coroners, at the Sluice House, Hornsey and the Red Lion, Stoke Newington, for the purpose of investigating the cause of death of Sarah Elizabeth CROFT aged 24, whose body lay at the Sluice House and Maria AYLING, 20, and an illegitimate child the son of CROFT whose bodies lay at the Red Lion, who where found drowned in the New River. Two separate juries returned the verdicts, Wilful murder against person or persons unknown with regard to the child supposed CROFTS and AYLINGS and felo de se against CROFT and AYLING. AYLING was interred at cross-roads at Stoke Newington, Stoke Newington and CROFT at cross-roads at Hornsey The child was buried in Newington Churchyard.

December 10, 1818

An inquest was held at the Ship Afloat, Beer Lane, London on the body of Mariabo Marquez de Castro, a Spanish Gentleman, aged 30, formerly Captain in the Spanish service who was in exile from Spain in the early part of the war, in consequence of him being charged as one of the persons conspiring to assassinate the King of Spain and overturn the government. Who shot himself in the throat with a pistol. In a note book found in his possession he wrote, on the 3rd of December that he would put an end to his existence, the reason being nothing to anyone but himself. The jury consulted for some time and returned a verdict of felo de se, his body was buried the same day at the cross-roads at Mark Lane. An article was written concerning the interment, while a hole was being dug a concourse of people assembled and during the absence of the labourers endeavoured to fill it up again, but were prevented by the arrival of peace officers. The peace officers went to the lodgings of the deceased to fetch the body. It was carried down stairs naked as it had been stripped of the clothes which he had on when he killed himself, placed on a shutter, covered with a sheet and carried to the hole. In torch light, the shutter was laid by the side of the grave and the cloth removed, the naked body exposed to the crowd, females as well as males witnessed the disgusting scene. Cries of "Shame, Shame" expressed the feelings of horror. The body was then thrown headlong into the hole and the noise occasioned by its fall produced a renewal of public feeling.

The interment in a cross-road, a relic of the superstitious barbarism of past ages has lost its salutary terror, the law which decrees this ignominious kind of interment, can scarcely authorise the brutal outrage on public decency committed in this enlightened age, in the polished metropolis of the most enlightened nation of the civilised world

October 30, 1821

At an inquest held at Nether Stowey on Sarah Walford aged 49. The deceased had been cohabiting with James Thresher for some months, they had words in consequence of the man refusing to marry her, which he declined because she was in debt. The unfortunate woman was discovered near Threshers lodgings, suspended by a rope from a willow tree. A verdict of felo de se was returned and the body was interred the next morning at Bincombe Cross

February 23, 1822

At Leicester, a man named Stanley in custody at Southwell charged with murdering a hawker was on Saturday committed for trial, but during the evening the horrors of his situation had such an effect on him that he hanged himself. A coroners verdict of felo de se was returned and the body was ordered to be buried on the highway, with a stake driven through.

February 08, 1823

Last week a lad of only 14, apprenticed to Mr DYMOND a respectable farmer at Lezant, was found hanging in an out house. A coroners verdict of felo de se was returned and the body was interred near four cross-roads

Felo de Se Act 1823

The Morning Post, Tuesday, July 15, 1823

The Act relative to the interment of persons found felo de se received the Royal Assent last week, no more persons committing suicide are to be buried in cross roads

February 7, 1835

Sir Robert PEEL, The Law, as old as England itself, sentenced the self-murderer, and very wisely and very justly, so sentenced him to be buried in cross-roads, with a stake driven through his body. A Lord cut his own throat and killed himself. A jury in Kent found him to be insane, though he was active in fulfilling the offices of the three Secretaries of State at the very moment he cut his throat, and therefore the cross-road burial did not take place.

The Morning Post , September 02, 1846

Discovery of Skeletons at South Lambeth

Saturday last while men were excavating preliminary to the erection of a Viaduct for the South Western Railway, which is to pass through Lambeth, were digging below the foundations of some houses recently standing on the South Lambeth side of the Wandsworth Rd, opposite Phillips fruit tree nursery they found two human skeletons, the bones quite black and on being handled they crumbled to dust. They appeared to be in place about a century and a half and probably those of felo de ses at cross roads.

Birmingham Daily Post , September 9, 1868

Thomas SHIRLEY a labourer employed by the Corporation, on Thursday last was engaged with others digging a trench for a sewer, in Great Hampton Row at the junction of several streets. At a depth of about 7ft he came upon a box and on removing part of the top of the box found it contained bones and pieces of rope, on being removed the coffin was found to be of the fish-tail shape and was removed to the Kenion St Police Station. The area where the skeleton was found had been formerly called Hangman's Lane.

Frederick MATTHEWS, aged 73, deposed that about 60 years ago, he remembered when passing along the lane, then Hangman's Lane, seeing a number of people standing about there and afterwards learned that it was on account of a man who had committed suicide by hanging himself being buried there.

Mr C. J. BRACEY, surgeon who inspected the remains had no doubt they were human and formed the perfect skeleton, with the exception of the fibula which was absent. It was 5ft 9inches long and that of a middle-aged man, there were no fractures, he could not give the cause of death. At the foot of the coffin he found 6 pieces of rope, about 3ft 4inches in length and a third of an inch thick. There was nothing to contradict the conjecture that the body had been interred 60 years ago, when it was law of the land that suicides should be buried at cross-roads. The Coroner agreed with the conjecture that it was the interment of a suicide.



Felo de Se Act 1882

The Morning Post , August 10, 1886

Madame Taussaud's Exhibition

The recent discovery of the remains of John WILLIAMS, the murderer and suicide at Cannon St, Rd, suggest a reference to the circumstances that a portrait in oils of the criminal by Sir Thomas LAWRENCE, R.A, is to be found among the objects of interest at Madame Taussaud's famous gallery in Marylebone Rd. WILLIAMS was apprehended in 1812 for the murder of two families named WILLIAMSON and MARR, who resided at the East-end. He was sent for trial at Newgate, but before conviction, committed suicide. His remains were buried at cross-roads in Whitechapel, near the scene of the murder, and a stake was driven through the body with the mallet with which he had committed the murders.

In Northamptonshire there is an old notion that the ghosts of unfortunate individuals buried at cross-roads have a particular license to wander about on Christmas Eve, at which time they wreak their evil designs upon defenceless and unsuspecting persons. On this account the peasantry in years past have taken special care to avoid running the risk of coming in contact with such danger, their remedy to stay at home and leave these spiritual foes to their own devices. In 1823 a suicide and parricide named GRIFFITHS was buried at cross-roads


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