Jemmy Botting: the hangman

James Botting who was better known as ‘Jemmy’, lived just off Brighton’s West Street. The building, which was behind Westfield Lodge, became known as ‘Botting’s Rookery’ and was frequented by Brighton’s lowest class of vagrant. Many of these had no other option but to lodge under the same roof as an unsavoury local man who had become the official hangman for Newgate and various other prisons.

J. A. Erridge stated that Botting had personally boasted that a total of 175 people (both men and women) lost their lives at his and his assistant’s hands, 13 of them in one week. Newgate records confirm that for multiple hangings he used a gantry type gallows that had two parallel beams above a 10 x 8 foot hinged platform, which he released by a single lever. A report on the internet adds that he only gave his condemned a drop of between 1 and 2 feet, which made death a very slow process.

Execution of the Cato Street Five
Apart from executing the Brighton banker and fraudster James Fauntleroy in front of a London crowd estimated at 100,000, the most prominent execution he attended to was that of the Cato Street five who had conspired to murder several senior members of the English Cabinet. The five included a former butcher, James Ings, who was reputed to have once worked in Brighton’s Cranbourne Street. That group were not only publicly hanged, but it was also decreed that their corpses be decapitated. In 1820 Botting did the court’s initial bidding and then stood back to enable a masked surgeon to undertake the more macabre aspect of the entire sentence. It was the last time that a legal beheading was ever performed in England.

The wheeled chair – still to be heard
In his later years Botting became partially paralysed and this forced him into retirement on a 5 shillings a week state pension and the occasional free drink in bars when he told gruesome stories to the uninitiated about his past occupation. By then he could only shuffle about Brighton using an old seat with wheels as both a crutch and place to rest. Many of the Brightonians who knew him chose to avoid contact with him and there is a report that when he fell from his wheeled chair at the corner of Codrington Place & Montpelier Road, no-one came to his aid and he was left there to die.

Botting’s memory, however, still survives in the form of a local ghost story. According to the tale, on the occasional dark and windy night, Botting’s rickety wheeled chair can be heard dragging past one of his old haunts, the Half Moon pub in Boyces Street.

J. A. Erridge “History of Brighthelmstone” (1862) pp 335-336
R. C. Grant “Notorious Brightonians” Sussex Family Historian (June 1996) p. 52
A. Griffiths “The Chronicles of Newgate” (1987); pp 454-458
The internet and local folklore

Comments about this page

  • As a Brightonian bred and born I have never before heard of Botting. You haven’t given any dates for his life or activities. I can’t be the only person who would like to read this information.

    By Frances White (31/07/2008)
  • Frances, you ask for a few dates to coincide with his birth, death and activities: He is thought to have been the son of Jeremy Botting and Mary nee Willard and was born in Brighton around 1793. It is recorded that not only was he hangman at Newgate Prison in London from 1817-1819, he also worked for other prisons as well. The 13 he hanged in a 6 day period were between 23-29 November 1821 and his greatest public audience (which the press estimated to be over 100,000) was to see him dispatch the Brighton banker Henry Fauntleroy on 30 November 1824. I have it that his own death came on 1 Oct 1837, but to be fair, I have seen other sources that claim it was a considerable number of years after that date.

    By Roy Grant (07/10/2008)
  • Hi Roy,
    I am currently doing a family search, and am intrigued by James ‘Jemmy’ Botting. Nobody wants to have a hangman in their family background, but I still want to find out more. I read the comments about possible parentage and wondered if you had any further information, or know where I might do some further research. Many thanks in anticipation.

    By Donna Botting (20/10/2008)
  • James Botting (hangman) is in my family tree. Send me a mail and I will try to find a gedcom file as it is several years since I last did work on my tree.

    By Paul Botting (25/10/2008)
  • Hi Donna, it looks as though Paul Botting can offer you far more further info than I can. There may however be something additional in my sources of reference which I have just edited out to keep the story short and concise.
    By the way, you may also like to apply for a copy of his death certificate as a grim reminder of him. His death certificate in 1837 records him as James Botting and it can be found in the Hove records (Steyning district).

    By Roy Grant (05/11/2008)
  • Thank you Roy. I have been in touch with Paul who has sent me all of the work on his family tree. I am slowly trawling through all of the information to see if we have a family link. I will get a copy of the birth certificate and plan a visit to the cemetary at Lewes as there are lots of Bottings laying in there! I am having a lot of fun with this! Many thanks again.

    By Donna Botting (13/11/2008)
  • A rare name – I knew a Mr Botting here in Brighton who was a painter and decorator when in the 1960s maybe 1970s. I wonder if he was related?

    By Dave Harris (05/07/2009)
  • There used to be a bakery along St. George’s Road near Eaton Place called Botting’s – maybe a link to his family.

    By Gwen Healy (28/01/2013)
  • I am also doing some family research and wonder if you have a discovered a William Botting in your family – I believe he resided at 4 Grafton Street some time in l953 – any information would be helpful.

    By Louise Nash (01/09/2013)
  • Just wondering if the name “James Fauntleroy” is correct, since on this website it lists his name as “Henry Fauntleroy”.  A radio drama related his story on the “ROK Crime & Suspense” channel this morning, and came across this website in seeing if the drama was based on fact (apparently so).  It is no “big deal”, but with the discrepancy here on this website, may need correction…even if it is “James Henry Fauntleroy” or “Henry James Fauntleroy”…with both the names “Henry Fauntleroy” and “James Fauntleroy” as the infamous hanged forger listed on this website (his entry on this website is under “Henry Fauntleroy” and in this article he is listed as “James Fauntleroy”). Or is this just a confusion on this article regarding the names of the father who was one of the founders of the bank and his son, the forger? Just curiosity

    By Rev Dr John Benjamin Tatum DD PhD (20/01/2016)
  • I would like to find out more about James Botting and whether the building he lived in is still there. He may be a part of my family tree.

    By Adrian Botting (25/11/2022)
  • The area that Botting lived in has long been erased. The creation of the large seafront hotels in the area in later years of the 19th century wiped out many of the small dwellings and the 1960s devt of Churchill Sq and the adjacent high-rise car parks did for the area west of West Street which was a poor district.
    The statement in the final para of the introduction needs some revision; although the Half Moon pub ended up in Boyces Street, at the time that Botting was alive it was near the top of Russell Street, now under Churchill Sq.

    By Dr Geoffrey Mead (25/11/2022)
  • Westfield Lodge was at 112 Kings Road. It was one of the houses demolished to make way for the Hotel Metropole. Erredge correctly describes it as to the west of Cannon Place.
    Botting’s father, who was also named James Botting, had owned a smallholding near Westfield Lodge. Botting the hangman inherited the smallholding in 1814, but the premises he lived in ‘off West Street’ must have been a different property.
    Botting the hangman’s death, in October 1837, was registered in the district of Steyning (which covered Hove and Preston). Don’t know if that’s an indicator as to where he died.
    Sources: Parish registers on FreeGen, Free BMD, Erredge, ESRO documents SAS-N/567-8 and PBT/1/14/1814/2.

    By Gill Wales (27/11/2022)

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