The Murder Of Elizabeth Brockington

In September 1877, the people of London were subjected to the news that another tragic and pointless murder had taken place in their city.

The Globe, in its edition of Friday the 14th of September 1877 broke the news of the crime:-


The part of London which comes under the jurisdiction of the Clerkenwell Police Court has, during the present week, gained an unenviable notoriety for crimes of violence, and today a case of deliberate murder has been added to the list.

A few minutes after one o’clock this morning Police-constable Feek, 325 G, hearing a loud scream of “murder,” proceeded into Wilderness Row, where he found, lying in the roadway, a woman, from a wound in whose breast blood was copiously flowing.

A man was seen running away, and, on his being immediately arrested, the officer found in his hand a clasp knife covered with blood.


The man and woman were conveyed to the Old Street Police Station, about three hundred yards distant, and Dr. Yarrow, the divisional surgeon, having been sent for, pronounced the woman to be dying, an opinion which was verified a few minutes afterwards.

The prisoner, who gave the name of Thomas Pratt, 30, Queen-street, Ratcliffe, and describing himself as a canal labourer, was then charged by Inspector Oliver with the wilful murder of the deceased, who has since been identified as Elizabeth Brockington, of City Garden Row, St. Luke’s, and immediately acknowledged his guilt.


The Bradford Daily Telegraph, on Tuesday the 18th of September, 1877, published the following report on the inquest into Elizabeth Brockington’s death:-

An inquest was held at St Luke’s yesterday on the body of Elizabeth Brockington, of 45, City Gardens Bow, City Road, who was murdered early on Friday morning in Wilderness Row by a bargeman named Pratt.

A witness named Caroline Bell said she was passing through Wilderness Row at about one o’clock on Friday morning, when she saw the deceased and Pratt quarrelling.

The deceased told her that she was very much afraid of Pratt, and they went together to the police station, followed by Pratt, where a policeman persuaded them to go in different directions.


The deceased went away with the witness, but, shortly after, Pratt over, overtook them, and she raw the deceased stagger and fall.

The two policemen who apprehended Pratt said that on being taken he gave up the knife with which he had stabbed the woman, saying “I’ve done it, and I’ll swing for it.”


The divisional surgeon who attended the deceased when she was taken to the station said that she died ten minutes after her arrival.

Her injuries corresponded exactly with the nature of wounds that would be caused by the knife produced.


The coroner having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Pratt.


The Liverpool Albion, on Saturday 22nd September 1877, provided a report on Pratt’s police court appearance:-

At the Clerkenwell Police Court, last week, before Mr. Hannay, Thomas Pratt, 27, canal labourer, of 30, Queen Street, Ratcliffe, East-end, was charged with the wilful murder of Elizabeth Brockington, a woman with whom he had been cohabiting.

The prisoner is a good-looking young man, of respectable appearance for his class.


Caroline Ball, a girl about 14 years of age, said:-

“I the deceased for the first time last (Thursday) night, or rather Friday morning. It was near one o’clock.

I noticed the prisoner with the young woman and a young man in Golden Lane.

The prisoner was complaining to a policeman, while the woman had gone round the corner towards the Old Street Police Station.


The woman went into the station and told the inspector on duty there that she wanted protection from the prisoner, as she thought he would kill her that night.

The prisoner was then standing at the bottom of the station steps in the hearing of the deceased, who said, “He won’t let me go either one way or the other.” She added; “I would rather you would lock me up than I should go with him.”

The policeman told the deceased to go one way and the prisoner would go his.

The accused then walked towards Whitecross Street, and the deceased went in the direction of the Goswell Road.


The deceased then asked me to come and sleep with her, and I agreed to do so.

Shortly after, we met the prisoner again, across the Goswell Road, near Wilderness Row.


The prisoner ran across the road after the deceased, who was running away. I then saw the accused stick the knife right into the woman – into her breast, saying at the same time. “There, I have done for you now! I will do the drag for you now.”

I did not see the knife.

The deceased screamed, and, while I was assisting her, the man said, “I would as leave stick the knife into you as look at you.” That was to me.”

The witness, in reply to the magistrate, said:- “I saw no blow struck by the deceased at all. She only told him to go away.”


Police Constable Crockford said:-

“The prisoner handed me the knife I produce (an ordinary pocket-knife with three blades, one of them a long one). He said, “I’ve done it, and I will swing for it,”

The woman was taken to the station, where she died shortly afterwards.”


Dr. Yarrow, surgeon to the G Division, said that when called to the deceased he found her in a dying state. The knife had passed through all the muscles of the chest, and then struck on one of the ribs, from which it probably it glanced off through one of the main arteries.”

The prisoner, who during the taking of the evidence, rested his arms on the dock rail and his face on his hands, was remanded for a week.


On the 22nd of October 1877, Thomas Pratt was tried at the Old Bailey for the wilful murder of Elizabeth Frances Brockington.

The Jury found him guilty of the crime, and the Judge sentenced him to death.


His execution took place at Newgate Prison on Monday the 12th of November 1877.

The Dundee Evening Telegraph carried the following report of his execution in its edition of Monday the 12th of November 1877:-

The execution to all intents and purposes was very private, and with the exception of a few representatives of the press those present at Pratt’s last moments were officials connected with the gaol, and those who had to help in the unthankful task of cutting the body down after the execution and placing it in the shell provided.


On appearing near the drop Pratt was supported by the Rev. Lloyd Jones, the chaplain, and appeared weak.

He seemed at first to have a slight smile on his face, but when placed directly under the noose his eyes appeared to look at it with a fixed stare.


Marwood, the executioner, quickly placed the white cap over his face, and at once adjusted the rope around the criminal’s neck.

In another instant, the heavy thud which announces that the extreme penalty of the law has been paid was heard, and the rope was seen for a few seconds to sway to and fro.

It was stated that Pratt was a man just under 12 stone weight, and from his height this would be a good proportion.

He died easily, and shortly after the drop had fallen – when the few present were permitted to view the body – it appeared as if his neck had been broken and that he had died almost instantaneously.”