William Palmer’s final resting place

After the execution, in accordance with the sentence, William Palmer was left hanging for one hour.  Prison records tell us that the body was taken to the Death House (the prison mortuary). A couple of death masks were made. No coffin was supplied, his naked body was put in a sack and placed in a grave which had first been lined with quicklime. It is believed that he was the last culprit to be buried ‘without a shell’ in any prison in this country. The reason for the quicklime was a desire for the physical remains to be destroyed as quickly as possible, however, it is now known that quicklime would, in fact, preserve a body.

Stafford Gaol burial ground. William Palmer's grave was under the window on the right.
Stafford Gaol burial ground. William Palmer’s grave was under the window on the right.

He was buried in a grave beside the prison chapel. A plan of prison graves are in the prison records but bodies were not buried in separate graves but are buried four or five to a grave to save space.

The prison burial ground is located next to the chapel. In 1834 executed prisoners were ordered to be buried within the prison grounds. William Palmer’s grave is under the window on the right.

Mr. Chris Copp, from the County Museum based at Shugborough Hall, has informed me that the spot where Palmer was buried now lies beneath an artificial football pitch inside the prison.

Death Certificate details:-

No When and
where died
Name and surname Sex Age Occupation Cause of death Signature, description & residence of informant When registered Signature of registrar
338 Fourteenth
June
1856
County
Prison
Stafford
William
Palmer
Male 31 years Formerly
a Surgeon
at
Rugeley
Executed for
Murder
W. Fulford
Good.
present at
death
County
Prison
Stafford
Nineteenth June
1856
James Speers
Registrar