Sussex Express
Saturday, April 10th 1852
The Chiddingly Murder

The execution of Mary Ann French (Sic) is fixed for Saturday (this day), at 12o’clock. The warrant, which arrived on Wednesday morning, stated the time for the sentence passed upon her to be carried into effect to be between the hours of eleven and two.

The High Sheriff, in the exercise of the authority with which he is invested, appointed the hour named above.

Preparations for the erection of the scaffold commenced on Thursday last, in consequence of Good Friday immediately preceding the day fixed for the execution. The relatives of the unhappy woman paid their last visit to her a week ago, under the impression that, according to usual custom, the event which is to end her earthly career might take place at an earlier period than has been appointed. The criminal, though still under the influence of great physical disability, has, since the above event exhibited a greater degree of composure.

We are now enabled to state through the courtesy of the respected chaplain of our county gaol, that the criminal “fully acknowledged her guilt and the justice of her sentence, and seems to feel as she ought under all the dreadful circumstances.

This is the only official announcement which has been made to the press upon the subject.

P. Salomoms, Esq., High Sheriff, accompanied by Mr. Kennett, the under Sheriff, visited the county gaol yesterday, and had an interview with the chaplain and governor.


Of the early life of Mary Ann French, (Sic) but little is known. She was sent to school for a time, when a girl, but she may be decidedly regarded as an uneducated woman. What little is recollected of her by her school companions is, that she frequently exhibited a very vindictive spirit towards “those who might happen to give her offence”. She was married at the age of twenty to her deceased husband, being at the time in the family way. The child, the only one they ever had, was born soon afterwards.

It is a well known fact, that the unfortunate woman came over to Lewes from Chiddingly, accompanied by her late husband, to witness the execution of Mary Ann Gearing, who was executed, for poisoning her husband and sons, about three years ago.

Mr Reeves, of Stream Farm, Chiddingly, has recently received a letter of enquiry from a gentleman in Somersetshire, stating that there is a woman now living in that county, whose husband – a William French – deserted her some years ago, and on seeing the account of the murder in the papers she thought that the deceased might be the same person. It has been ascertained, however, that this is not the case.

A strong body of the county police will be in attendance at the execution, under the direction of Superintendent Flanagan and Inspector Dawes and Akehurst.

A second edition of this journal will be published as soon after the execution as possible.


Transcribed by Carol Harrison

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