In this talk is part of Shire Hall’s Raising Voices series.
Dr Rose Wallis, historian for Shire Hall, will explore the broader legal and cultural significance of the case of Martha Brown and its resonance today.
Elizabeth Martha Brown was the last women to publicly hanged in Dorset. Convicted at Shire Hall for the murder of her husband in July 1856, her case caused a sensation. Martha, as she has become known, is probably best remembered as the inspiration for Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. As a young man, the author witnessed her execution at Dorchester Gaol, mesmerised by ‘the figure turning slowly round on the rope’. But there is more to Martha’s story than its influence on Hardy. At the time, her case became part of national debate on the validity of capital punishment and the treatment of women in the criminal justice system.
This talk seeks answers in local geography and in the customary principle of exemplary justice.
Sat 5th Feb - 2:00pm
The History of the Dorset Button Industry
Sat 5th Mar - 2:00pm
This talk considers how women who committed crime were judged to have breached two sets of law, criminal law, set down by the courts, and the law of nature.
Tue 15th Mar - 7:00pm
As part of our Raising Voices series, we welcome back Brian Bates to give us an incredible insight into the life of this extraordinary woman!
Tue 22nd Mar - 6:30pm