The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Dr Edward Pritchard

Dr Edward Pritchard

A carte-de-visite portrait of Dr Edward William Pritchard (1825-1865), a Scottish doctor convicted of poisoning two members of his family. He was also suspected of the murder of a third person, though he was never tried for it. He was the last person to be publicly executed in Glasgow.

Born the son of naval captain at Southsea in Hampshire, Pritchard claimed to have studied medicine at King’s College Hospital in London and to have graduated from there in 1846. He served in the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon with HMS Victory. For another four years he served on various other ships travelling around the world, before coming back to Portsmouth where he met his future wife Mary Jane Taylor, the daughter of a prosperous silk merchant in Edinburgh. The couple married in 1851, but after a period apart, Dr Pritchard resigned from the Navy. He first took a job as a general practitioner in Yorkshire, living for a time in Hunmanby. There he became a prominent freemason in the lodge in nearby Scarborough, where he was Master of the Royal Lodge in 1857 and Master of Old Globe Lodge in 1858 and 1859. However, in 1859 he left under a cloud and in debt, moving to Glasgow.

In 1863 there was a fire in the Pritchards' Berkeley Terrace house in Glasgow, which killed a young servant girl. The fire started in her room but she made no attempt to escape, suggesting that she may have been unconscious, drugged or already dead. No charges were brought, but the procurator fiscal looked into the case.

In 1865 Pritchard poisoned his mother-in-law, Jane Cowan, 70, who died on 28 February. His wife, whom he was treating for an illness, died a month later on 18 March at the age of 38. Both were living at the family's new home in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. He was caught after an anonymous letter was sent to the authorities. When the bodies were exhumed, the poison antimony was found in their system.

Pritchard was convicted after a five-day hearing in Edinburgh in July 1865, presided over by judge Lord Inglis. He was hanged in front of thousands at the Saltmarket end of Glasgow Green.

Photographed by the Cramb Brothers of Glasgow.


Code: 123933
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© Paul Frecker 2019