Executed for the murder of Mrs. Phipps, 11th September, 1769
THIS malefactor was a native of Gloucestershire, and brought up as a husbandman, which employment he quitted to live as ostler at an inn at Tewkesbury, in which capacity he continued several years, and then came to London.
After this he was engaged in the service of Mrs. Phipps, a widow, who kept the Lamb Inn at Colnbrook. Though she was the mother of several children, yet a scandalous intimacy soon ensued between her and Taunton, and they lived together some years as husband and wife; and strangers calling at the inn presumed that he was the landlord, from the airs of authority which he assumed.
Miserable, however, was this connexion in its progress, and fatal to both parties in its event. Continual quarrels arose between them, and frequent blows were the consequence of their reiterated disputes; and this way of life, as might be reasonably imagined, greatly injured the character of Mrs. Pbipps, and occasioned the loss of great part of her business.
After a residence of some time, their situation becoming unhappy, Taunton went down to his friends in Gloucestershire, with an intention, as it was thought, to have remained there; but be had not been long in the country when be received a letter from Mrs. Phipps, earnestly inviting his return, alleging, as a reason for it, that she was unhappy without his company.
The ill-fated man was weak enough to return on this invitation; but the connexion had not been long renewed before their quarrels became as frequent as before, and proceeded even to a greater degree of violence, till the neighbours were alarmed at their inconsistent conduct, and what began in illicit love ended in murder.
After repeated disagreements, they sat down to supper one evening in apparent reconciliation; when Mrs. Phipps asked Mr. Taunton if she should pare him a cucumber, or would he eat it with the rind on. These words were scarcely pronounced when Taunton seized the kitchen poker, and told her to lay hold of one end of it. She wondered at this command, and asked him why it must be complied with. He still insisted on her taking hold of one end of it: on which she said 'If I must have it, let me have the clean end; but what am I to do with it?'-- His answer was 'You must, knock out my brains.' She replied 'No, Taunton, I will not hurt a hair of your head.' To this he said 'If you will not knock my brains out, I will knock your brains out;' and no sooner had be uttered this horrid expression than he struck her on the head with such force as almost to lay her skull bare; after which he gave her a blow on the face, which cut her in the most terrible manner.
A surgeon, being sent for, dressed her wounds, and, addressing himself to Taunton, told him that, if he had murdered her, he would certainly have been hanged. The offender acknowledged that he knew that must have been the consequence; but desired the surgeon to take all proper care of the wounded woman.
The injury took place on the 30th of July, and the surgeon attended the wounded woman for five days; at the end of which time she said to her daughter, 'Peggy, you may go out of the room, for I want to sleep.' During the absence of the daughter Taunton entered the room, and struck Mrs. Phipps so forcibly on the neck with a hatchet, that her head hung over one side of the bed.
The horrid murder being at length committed, Taunton threw down the instrument of death, and went to drink at a public house at about a mile distant; and the surgeon coming soon after to attend his duty, and finding Mrs. Phipps dead, dispatched the ostler and another man in search of the murderer. It was not long before they found him, and, bringing him back to Colnbrook, the surgeon hinted to him that the most fatal consequences would probably ensue from the crime of which he had been guilty.
The coroner's jury, being summoned on the occasion, gave a verdict that Taunton had been guilty of the wilful murder of Mrs. Phipps; on which he was taken before a magistrate, who committed him to New Prison.
In this place he was visited by many persons, who conversed with him on his unhappy situation; and one of them hinting his fears that he was guilty, Taunton acknowledged that he was, and expressed his sorrow for the crime; but said it was now too late to remedy the evil.
His friend then inquired what could induce him to commit such an atrocious crime; to which he answered that she had traduced his character, by telling lies of him in the neighbourhood.
Being brought to trial at the ensuing sessions at the Old Bailey, he produced several persons who deposed that he had been, at times, so much out of his mind, that he was not master of his own conduct: and one of these in particular swore that he had at one time attempted to destroy himself by drowning, and at another by hanging; but this plea being thought unsatisfactory by the jury, he was capitally convicted, and sentenced to die.
After conviction he gave the fullest proof of being in possession of his intellectual faculties; exercising himself in the offices of devotion, and receiving the sacrament from the hands of the Ordinary of Newgate.
He was tried on Saturday, the 9th of September, 1769, and ordered for execution on the Monday following. A most extraordinary shower of rain falling that morning, he was taken from Newgate in a hackney coach, the Ordinary attending him, and the executioner riding behind; and in this manner he was conveyed to the place of death.
On his arrival at the fatal tree a person who had formerly known him went into the cart, and assisted him in his devotion. After the body had hung the usual time it was cut down, and carried to Surgeons' Hall for dissection.
This malefactor suffered at Tyburn on the 11th of September, 1769.
It is very seldom that we hear of unmarried persons living together as man and wife with any tolerable degree of happiness; and bow, indeed, is it to be expected they should? -- Those, who have mutual reason to reproach each other with their crimes, will hardly fail to avail themselves of every opportunity of doing so; for the guilty mind conceives that it lifts a load from its own breast when it seeks to criminate another.
From the whole of this narrative we ought to learn that there is no happiness in this life equal to that which is to be found in the married state. Trifling difficulties may occur; trifling differences may arise between the married pair; but their mutual interest, and their mutual love, will soon reconcile all differences, and overcome all difficulties. The vow which has been made at the altar will perpetually recur to the honest mind: -- the man will consider himself as obliged to the woman who once honoured him with her hand; nor will the woman deem herself less obliged to the man who undertook to be her guardian and protector for life.