Above: In time-honoured fashion, the judge would have placed a black cloth over his wig when announcing the sentence of death on Dale.

From the newspaper reports, he was obviously in a very poor health. And even in those far harsher times, there was a great deal of sympathy for him.

In the previous instalment, the jury took just two minutes to deliver their verdict of guilty. Dale was said to have heard ‘the awful decision without any apparent emotion’.

Dale’s counsel lodged an appeal based on the wording of the charges. But this was turned down at a later hearing. The Chester Courant of 20th April 1824 carried news of the judgement of death on Joseph Dale. (There are a few gaps where the newspaper was impossible to read).

Yesterday morning was the time fixed for bringing this young man up for judgement. It is generally known to our readers, that Dale was convicted at our last assizes, for being concerned with two others, Taylor and Platt, the first of whom hanged himself, and the latter is at large, in the murder of Mr. William Wood, near Whaley Bridge, on the 16th of July last.

It is also well known, that his sentence was suspended, on account of a legal objection taken by his counsel, Mr. D. F. Jones, on the wording of the indictment, which objection has been decided on by the judges against the prisoner.

For the last day or two a most intense feeling has prevailed in Chester in regard to Dale, connected with the general expectation that he would yesterday morning receive the awful sentence of the law.

He has, during a considerable part of his confinement, been in a poor state of health, and frequently afflicted with a severe bowel complaint. On Friday last, he had a serious attack, and on Saturday he was considered to be in such a dangerous state as to render it doubtful whether he could survive.

For a considerable time, he was in convulsive fits, and only at short intervals had the exercise of his faculties. During a great part of Sunday, he was in a no less afflicted and dangerous condition, and it required several persons at times to hold him.

The deplorable condition of the young man was generally known in the city on the Sunday evening, and doubts were entertained whether it would be possible to bring him to the bar.

We understand he was exceedingly restless and disturbed during the Sunday night, and at half-past seven in the morning, when the officer of the castle went to apprise him of the necessity of his appearance at the bar, he was yet in bed.

He was, however, assisted to dress, and as ten minutes past eight o’clock, soon after the Judges had taken their seats on the bench, led up and supported to the dock by two individuals.

His pallid countenance betrayed the extreme disordered state of his body, and his frame generally manifested excessive debility.

A chair had been placed close to the bar, in which he was seated by the kind attentions of Mr. Donstan; and Mr. Justice Warren directed that no persons should press near or incommodate him.

Sustained by the governor

After a short interval, he was ordered to stand up in front of the bar, but appearing incapable of such an effort, he kneeled down on a ledge under it placed for the convenience of prisoners, while Mr. Dunstan, the governor, sustained him with both his hands.

The Chief Justice then addressed him to take following effect:

Joseph Dale – You were tried here last Assizes, indicted with Joseph Platt, and charged with casting stones at a person of the name of Wood, and inflicting upon him mortal wounds of which he instantly died, on the 16th of July last.

Platt was not in custody, and Taylor, the other associate of your guilt, had put a period to his own existence.

You, therefore, was the only person upon whom guilt could be proved, and it was then the duty of the court to pass upon you the awful sentence of the law; but your counsel, Mr. Jones and Mr. Law took an objection to the proper wording of the indictment, and the court thought fit, upon the doubts it entertained on those objections, and especially where the life of an individual was concerned to respite the sentence, in order to take the opinion of the Judges.

The Judges have delivered that opinion, which was, that the indictment was right, and that decision has been communicated to you in the usual way.

The learned judge who assisted me upon your trial, but who is now no more, was clearly of opinion that the only conclusion at which the jury could arrive, was a verdict of guilty; and the Judge now beside me, is anxious I should state, that after having carefully read over the examination on the trial he is perfectly satisfied, that the Jury could find no other verdict.

It appeared, by the evidence that Wood was murdered, that the wall near which he lay, was stained with blood; and that the stones, with which the murder was committed, and which were brought into court; bore marks of blood also. A more barbarous and inuman transaction was scarcely ever known.

You were seen walking with Wood; and after the deed, you were seen running away with the other culprits; you were traced with them on the road; then found with them at Macclesfield; upon your person a portion of the effects of the deceased were found, for it is clear a robbery as well as murder was committed and it was proved you were going from shop to shop purchasing articles of wearing apparel.

No doubt of guilt

You prevaricated; you told stories in accounting for your share of the transaction; and these, with other facts connected with the case, leave no doubt whatever of your guilt.

I think, therefore, with the other Judge beside me, that it would be unfair and unjust, not to have the law its course. Young as you are, unhappily you have associated yourself with the most abandoned characters, and ruin has been the consequence.

The length of time you have had since you was found guilty, has furnished you with an opportunity of looking seriously into the course of your past life, and repenting of your crimes.

Every spiritual instruction has been afforded you; and earnestly recommended you to pass the few hours that yet remain to you in this world, in prayer and humble supplication to heaven.

The sentence of the court is, that you be taken from hence to the place of execution on Wednesday next, and be hanged till you are dead, and that your body be dissected. And may the Lord have mercy upon your soul.”

The already exhausted state of the prisoner’s strength did not permit the perception of any alteration in his consequence. Pale and languid, he received the sentence with Christian meekness; and was afterwards raised from his kneeling position by Mr. Danstan.

It seemed to be with extreme difficulty he descended the steps up to the lower part of the prison, and that not without being assisted by two or three persons.

There was a strong feeling of sympathy excited for the situation of this unfortunate, but [?] young man, throughout the crowded court. During the Judge’s address, the silence of death prevailed; the scene was [?] impressive; and [?] many a tear [?] the eye of the attentive auditors.

After he had been borne across the yard to his last earthly depository in this world, we understand, he expressed his entire submission to the fate that awaited him, declaring that he had no fear in the contemplation of dissolution.

Dale was neatly dressed in a black coat, buff striped waistcoat, drab kerseymere pantaloons, and a clean cravat.

Of course we shall collect for publication in our next, all the interesting particulars connected with the execution – of which, however, is far from being certain, he survives till that day.

…your mortal existence must end

The Macclesfield Courier of 24th April 1824 included the judge’s final remarks to Dale, and described the condemned man’s reaction;

“…you prevaricated so much in the statements you made, as to make it impossible not to believe you were guilty of the crime you were charged with.

“It is a painful and most lamentable thing to observe a young man of your early life thus broken from your present existence, through you having associated with the most abandoned characters; and your unhappy and disgraceful fate, will, it is hoped, be a warning to all young men to take care of the company they fall into.

“The last advice that can be given to you is seriously to prepare yourself for your transit to another world, for no hopes of mercy can be given you in this.

“A Clergyman will attend you to give you that spiritual assistance which your unfortunate situation requires. In this world your hopes are closed, and on Wednesday next your mortal existence must end”.

The Judge then, in the solemn words of the law, sentenced him to be hung on Wednesday, and his body to be given over to the surgeons for dissection.

When the concluding words of “the Lord have mercy on your soul” were pronounced, the prisoner looked fervently up to Heaven, and in a trembling voice said “Amen”.

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Topic tags (click for similar posts): Crime & punishment | William Woods murder