September 1, 1827
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England
Joshua Slade is executed for the murder of a man during a botched burglary
On July 3, 1827, 18-year-old Slade entered the unlocked home of Reverend Joshua Waterhouse with the intent to burglarize it later. While the reverend was away, Slade went into Waterhouse’s bedroom to unload his blunderbuss and pack it with paper to further render it inoperable, preparing for the possibility of being discovered while pilfering the home. He then waited for nightfall and, after Waterhouse fell asleep, began stealing any items of value he could find.
Waterhouse woke up at the disturbance and confronted Slade, grabbing him. Slade immediately lashed out against Waterhouse and used his knife to stab his victim. He then picked up an unspecified weapon (newspapers reported it was either a hatchet or bill-hook — a machete-like tool with a slightly curved end, used to cut branches and shrubbery) and struck Waterhouse several times before fleeing with what he had stolen: a pair of boots, a large dining table cloth, seven small table cloths, 40 yards of fine shirting cloth, 17 yards of coarser cloth, 18 pieces of cutlery, and 5 cheese knives.
Waterhouse’s body was found in the morning. When he was examined, and it was noted Waterhouse had a large wound to his neck which had also severed his tongue. His jaw was severed as well. Waterhouse had held his arms up in defense against the attack and were “literally hacked to pieces.”
Joshua Slade and his brother John made the acquaintance of William Heddings who, before meeting the Slade brothers, had not had a criminal career. By 1827, however, Heddings and the Slades had committed various robberies together. Soon after Waterhouse’s murder, Heddings suspected Slade had had a role in the crime and demanded to know what he had done. After some prodding, Slade confessed and detailed the events, including tampering with the blunderbuss and lying in wait for Waterhouse to go to sleep. Heddings became concerned at this admission of guilt and surrendered himself to police, confessing to his prior misdeeds as well as what Slade had told him. As the Ipswich Journal reported, “information coming from so polluted a source was obviously liable to much suspicion,” but the magistrates decided to follow the lead and confronted the Slade brothers.
Slade was quickly arrested, tried, and condemned. He was hanged on September 1, 1827, just under two months after Waterhouse’s murder. After his execution, Slade’s body was given to a surgeon for dissection, a common practice bestowed on the cadavers of executed criminals. The skin was flayed from his body and sold as souvenirs while his skeleton became a piece of a traveling show.
Storey, Neil R. The Little Book of Murder. The History Press, 2013
Narrative of the Murder of the Late Rev. J. Waterhouse; With a Full Report of the Trial, Confession, & Execution of the Murderer; and a Biography and Anecdotes of Mr. Waterhouse and of Slade. Huntingdon: T. Lovell, 1827 (image source; digitized: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=ggwHAAAAQAAJ&rdid=book-ggwHAAAAQAAJ&rdot=1)
“Execution of Joshua Slade.” The Derby Mercury. September 5, 1827
“The Late Horrid Murder at Stukeley.” The Standard [London, England]. August 1, 1827
“Murder of the Rev. Mr. Waterhouse.” The Ipswich Journal. July 21, 1827
“Horrid Murder.” The Morning Chronicle. July 7, 1827
“Huntingdon, July 4.” Jackson’s Oxford Journal. July 7, 1827