Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Dark deeds in Nunhead and Blackheath ............... another story from Barny

My dear old dad used to mention, on more than one occasion, a notorious villain that resided in the idyllic hamlet of Nunhead, name of Charley Peace.

Newspaper account, 1879
It was only just a few years ago that I decided to "Google" that name. This is an abridged piece about Mr. Peace.

Charles (Charlie) Peace

Charles Frederick Peace (14 May 1832 – 25 February 1879) was an English burglar and murderer, who embarked on a life of crime after being maimed in an industrial accident when a boy.

After killing a policeman in Manchester, he fled to his home-town of Sheffield, where he became obsessed with his neighbour's wife and shot the husband dead.

In early 1877, he moved to London, where he felt safer from arrest, and sent for his wife and son Willie to join them in a respectable villa at 5, East Terrace, Evelina Road, Peckham),

Charles Peace was a notorious cat burglar and murderer who evaded arrest for over twenty years. Peace was a master of disguise due to his almost rubber like features, and often carried his housebreaking tools inside an old violin case, an instrument on which he was very proficient.

In 1877, while living at Banner Cross Terrace, Sheffield, he began an affair with a neighbour, Mrs Katherine Dyson. Although she was a willing instigator of the relationship, she soon decided that she wanted no further part of it and tried fruitlessly to be rid of him.
Eventually Peace took the hint and left the area. Around this time, Peace shot dead a policeman, PC Nicholas Cock, in Manchester but the crime was attributed to a young Irishman, William Habron, who was convicted and sentenced to death, which was later commuted to life imprisonment on account of his young age.

The execution of Mr Pearec, 1879
During the summer, Peace returned to Sheffield where he again chased after Mrs Dyson. One night her husband caught him as he pestered her and Peace shot him dead. He fled to London and set up with a new name but was soon in trouble again, and while robbing a house in Blackheath he attempted to shoot a police officer.

Peace was arrested and gave his name as John Ward. He was tried for the attempted murder of a police officer and sentenced to life imprisonment but no sooner had he begun his sentence, than he was recognised as being wanted for the murder of Katherine Dyson's husband at Banner Cross, and he was returned to the north to face trial. On the journey, he attempted to escape from the train by throwing himself through a window but was thwarted in his bid.

WINTERINGHAM - and the convict Peace.

Police-constable Robinson, who so successfully arrested Peace at Blackheath, is a native of Winteringham, and was for a considerable number of years employed as labourer at Sand House Farm, near Appleby. That no-one needed telling any more of the story suggests that in the late 1870s, everyone had heard about Peace! Indeed, his life was featured in films (in 1905 and 1949), and even in comics of the 1960s such as Buster. Until Jack the Ripper, he was the most infamous of Victorian criminals.

At 2 am on 10th October 1878, former Winteringham man, PC Edward Robinson, was patrolling the streets of Blackheath when he suddenly saw a light appear at the back of a house in St John's Park, Blackheath, home of Mr Burness.

Quickly realising that there was something untoward, he called for back-up from two of his colleagues and hid in the back garden.

PC Robinson, 1878
One of his colleagues went to the front door and rang the bell. Charles Peace quickly made his way out of a back window and down the path pursued by Edward. "Keep back!" he said, "or by God I'll shoot you!" 

But the courageous Edward did not keep back and when Peace fired once, twice, three times, he still advanced on the double murderer!

A fourth shot was fired and missed PC Robinson, who was now close enough to strike Peace in the face. Peace threatened to "settle" with one last shot, and this time he did hit his target - but in the upper arm.
Despite this wound, Edward managed to fling Peace to the ground, held him, and grab Peace's pistol and hit him on the head with it! The other two PCs ran to help their colleague, and Peace's burgling days were over.

Peace was convicted at Leeds Assizes and sentenced to death, he was hanged by William Marwood after confessing to the murder of PC Cock at Manchester, which resulted in the release from prison and also compensation for William Habron. The sentence of death was carried out in Leeds on the 25 February 1879, Peace was forty six at the time.

Despite his execution for the murder of a Mr Dyson, Charles Peace was ‘primarily celebrated for hid larcenous rather than his murderous achievements’.

Conducting a number of burglaries in Hull, London, Sheffield and the surrounding areas, and on many occasions outfoxing the police, Peace became something of a celebrated and comedic character.

Pictures; supplied by Barny



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