Edward William Pritchard & the Death Mask

On the 28 July 1865 Edward William Pritchard was put to death by hanging at the Saltmarket end of Glasgow Green. The public of Glasgow are described as having had been very excited about Edwards execution, it was the ‘conversation on every lip. Barriers were erected to form privileged areas and to prevent overcrowding. Hutcheson Bridge, a portion of Great Clyde Street and Market Street were blocked off so no person were allowed inside them.

When Edward was presented in front of the crowds he was asked by the Governor of the Prison if he had anything to say he replied “I Acknowledge the Justices of my sentence” then returned to his quite prayer. Gazing upwards Edward continued to pray as he ascended the scaffold. The crowd Edward must have seen when he directed his gaze upon the Green was large, and covered each inch, no standing room was to be found. William Calcraft (1828 – 1874) was the executioner in charge. Calcraft spent some time examining the ropes before Pritchard was dropped. When the bolt was drawn Edward for some minutes convulsed before stillness.

After fourteen minutes of hanging Calcraft let the body down, but he mistakenly let the rope slip and Edwards body crashed through the awaiting coffin breaking the base board.

Upon the body of Pritchard having been stripped, Alexander Stewart of the Phrenological Museum took a cast of Edwards head. A cast of Edwards hand was also taken for the Anthropological Society of London.

Edwards eldest daughter Jane Frances Pritchard had asked for Calcraft to take a lock of her fathers hair to pass onto her. Unfortunately this message was not passed along. Calcraft did however take a lock for his own collection and later agreed to half the lock with Jane Frances.

Where is the cast of Edwards head, or the cast of his hand – I have emailed the National Museum of Scotland to find out if they currently hold this ‘Death Mask’. When I hear back I shall report back to you all.


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