Half-hanged Harding

7 September 1736
Bristol, Sept. 4. At 12 o’clock yesterday noon, Vernham and Harding were carried from Newgate to the place of Execution on St Michael’s-Hill, attended by the Under-Sheriff and his Officers, and the Constables of the City (in a cart, with haltars [sic] about their necks) the Divine who attended them having finished his last office, the cart drew away; but to the surprize of every person, after being both cut down from the gallows, Vernham was perceived to have life in him when put in the coffin, and some Lightermen and others, who promised to save his body from the Surgeons, carried him away to a house near the Ferry on St Philip’s Backs, and a Surgeon being sent for immediately, open’d a vein, which so recover’d his senses, that he had the use of speech, sate upright, rubbed his knees, shook hands with divers persons that he knew, and to all seeming appearance a perfect recovery was expected. This being rumour’d about, it came to the Under Sheriff’s ears, who with Mr Legg [the turnkey of Newgate prison], and several Officers arm’d, went to know the truth of the affair, and finding it certain, were about to remove him to a proper place, in order to have him again under their care for a second execution and finishing the law, which we hear would have been done in a private manner without any ceremony: But whether any secret method was used to dispatch him, he died about 11 o’clock in great agony of pain, his bowels being very much convulsed, as appear’d by his rollinjg from one side to the other, and often on his belly.
     And to our second surprize, Joshua Harding is also come to life again, and is actually now in Bridewell, where great numbers of people resort to see him, particularly the Surgeons, curious of observation; and ’tis thought must a second time submit to the finishing his unhappy fate by a private execution this day at the same Tree he was cut down from. Two such resurrections

happening at one instant in this world, was never heard of before in the memory of man! He lies in his coffin, cover’d with a rug, has a pulsation, breathes freely, and has a regular look with his eyes; but he has not been heard to speak, only motions with his hand where his pain is. (Daily Gazetteer)

14 September 1736
Bristol, Sept. 11. Vernham’s body was carried down the river early on Sunday morning, guarded by a Possy [i.e. posse] of Lightermen, and buried in the Sands in Kingroad, secure from the Surgeons.
     The same day Joshua Harding, who was executed with Vernham, was guarded by the Sheriff’s Officers from Bridewell to Newgate in a hackney coach, and is lodged in the condemn’d room, from whence he so lately took his final leave, where all proper care is ordered to be taken of him, is so well recover’d, as if the halter had never stretch’d his neck, tho’ he hung about 8 minutes. Abundance of people visit and give him money, who are very inquisitive whether he remembers the manner of his execution; to which he says, he can only remember his being at the gallows, and knows nothing of Vernham’s being with him. As it was reported he would again be executed without formality last Saturday night, many people were assembled to see his second catastrophe; but to their disappointment, ’tis now generaly believ’d he will be pardon’d. (Daily Gazetteer)

21 September 1736
’Tis now said, that Half-hang’d Harding will be provided for in some convenient House of Charity in that City [Bristol], with restraint, he being found defective in his intellects. (Daily Gazetteer)

29 March 1737
Bristol, March 20. John Harding, now called half-hanged Harding, and Goring, condemned the last Assizes, are to be transported for 14 Years. (Daily Gazetteer)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Half-hanged Harding", 30 November 2003 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/harding.htm>

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