Because Mondays are MURDER...

Monday, 24 December 2012

Murderous Monday - Priscilla Biggadyke - Hung for a crime she didn't commit

At 9:00am on Monday 28th December 1868, Priscilla met her maker at the end of Thomas Askern's rope at Lincoln Castle for the alleged poisoning of her husband Richard Biggadyke.

Priscilla Biggadyke was born Priscilla Whiley in 1833 in Gedney Lincolnshire to George Whiley, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Susanna Crook.  In 1853 Priscilla married Richard Biggadyke, an agricultural labourer in Boston, Lincolnshire.

On the 1861 Census, Priscilla is living with her children Frederick and Alice, while Richard is living at his father William's house.

To supplement Richard's wages, the couple took in lodgers.  It wasn't long before Richard began to suspect Priscilla of having an affair with their lodger Thomas Proctor, a 30 year old rat catcher from Lincolnshire.

On the evening of Wednesday 30th September 1868, Richard returned to the home he shared with his wife Priscilla, their three children, Frederick, Alice and Rachel, as well as the two lodgers George Ironmonger and Thomas Proctor.  Previously that evening Priscilla, George and Thomas had sat down to a meal of tea and cake, some of which had been saved for Richard's return.  Soon after Richard finished his meal he became unwell.  A doctor was summoned, but he was unable to offer Richard any relief, 12 hours later Richard was dead.  The speed of Richard's passing concerned the doctor and he arranged for a post mortem to take place and for the stomach contains to be analysed.  It was soon determined that arsenic was present and Richard had died from poisoning. 

Priscilla protested that she had seen Thomas Protect place something in her husband's drink as well as the piece of leftover cake. 

Her statement of that fact is as follows -

'On the last day of September, on a Wednesday, I was standing against the tea-table and saw Thomas Proctor put a white powder of some sort into a tea-cup, and then poured some milk, which stood on the table, into it. My husband was at that time in the dairy washing himself. My husband came into the room directly after and sat himself down to the table, and I then poured his tea out and he drank it, and more besides that. And half-an-hour afterwards he was taken ill. He went out of doors and was sick, and came in and sat about a few minutes, and went out and was sick again, and then went to bed, and he asked me to send for the doctor, which I did. The doctor was an hour before he came. I went to the doctor’s about a quarter of an hour after he left and he gave me some medicine and ordered me how to give it to him - two tablespoons every half hour – and I was to put a mustard plaster on the stomach, and he came no more until eleven o’clock at night. I came downstairs to go out of doors and asked Thomas Proctor to go upstairs and sit with my husband. When I went upstairs into the room, as I was going up, I saw Proctor putting some white powder into the medicine bottle with a spoon, and he then went downstairs and left me in the room with my husband. As soon as he had left the room I poured some medicine into the cup and gave my husband, and I tasted it myself. In an hour afterwards I was sick and so I was for two day’s after. What I have just stated about the medicine took place about two o’clock in the morning, and after the doctor had gone. I wish you to send a copy of what I have said to the Coroner, and I wish to be present at the inquest to state the case before them, as it is the truth.

- Priscilla Biggadike X her mark.'

Priscilla and Thomas were duly arrested and taken before Lincoln Assizes, where the judge Justice Byles instructed the jury to dismiss Thomas Proctor on the grounds of lack of evidence.  It only took a few minutes for the jury to find Priscilla guilty of the wilful murder of her husband, she was then sentenced to death.

On the morning of the execution, Monday 28th December 1868, Priscilla had to be assisted to the scaffold.  However while the noose was placed around her neck and the hood over her head, Priscilla stood firm, then exclaimed, “All my troubles are over; shame, you’re not going to hang me. Surely my troubles are over.”  The bolt was then drawn, Priscilla dropped and struggled for a full three minutes before becoming still. 

Priscilla was then buried in the grounds of Lincoln Castle, a small grey stone baring the simple inscription P. B.  Dec 28 1868 marks her grave.

Priscilla's story may have ended there, if it had not been for the conscience of Thomas Proctor, who upon his deathbed 14 years later confessed to the murder of Richard Biggadyke.

Priscilla received a posthumus pardon, yet still remains with the convicts in Lucy Tower, Lincoln Castle.


  1. You wonder how many more like Priscilla were stitched up and came to a sticky end. Love you Murderous Monday storys and look forward to more in the new year.

    1. Thank you. It seems that many women were convicted and sentenced on very flimsy evidence. There is a post about Florence Maybrick coming in the future that may interest you.

  2. Priscilla's husband (Richard) was a relative of mine on my father's mother's side of the family. I would be interested to hear from any other family members.