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MURDER IN WEST PUTFORD

 

The execution of Llewellyn Garrett Talmage Harvey took place in Exeter at 12 noon on 4 August 1854 before a crowd estimated at 10,000 who congregated in the area now occupied by Exeter's Central Station and the slopes of Northenhay. The event was newsworthy enough to make the national press and it's all backed up by Harvey's own account - he spent his last days after the trial writing an account of his life which he hoped to sell so as to be able to leave something for the benefit of his wife and child.

 

He had been born in Oxford, the illegitimate son of a woman called Harvey, his father's name being Talmage. His mother had married a decent local tradesman, claiming she was a widow, but when he discovered her son was illegitimate he at once discarded her, whereupon she bought herself a one-way ticket for the colonies and emigrated. She left her child with a relative who turned out the child as soon as possible, so from the year 1831, Harvey had led a hand-to-mouth existence, never learning a trade and constantly committing petty crimes.

 

He was accused of theft in a house where he was sweeping the chimneys, taken to court, tried and sentenced to transportation to the Bermudas. There, he claimed to be a Roman Catholice, lived quietly, did no wrong and managed to get the local priest to help with an appeal. As a result, his sentence of 7 years transportation was commuted to 4 years 9 months leading to his immediate release.

 

From Bernuda, he somehow made his way to the American continent and landed up at Quebec.He became a vagrant and attempted to get himself involved with the Wesleyan Methodists in each community he passed through on his journey south. This failed when everyone discovered his opportunistic approach to petty crime.

 

He returned to England in 1851 and travelled the country as a chimney sweep, arriving in West Putford in July 1852. There, he met his wife; her parents were decent people who thoroughly disapproved of her subsequent marriage in the September of that year. It is said that Harvey showed considerable affection towards her, always treated her well and was never known to drink.  He settled down in the village, working as a chimney sweep though often suspected of dishonest practices.

 

He told the local Wesleyan Minister that he had recently come from America and claimed to have been a member of the Connexion there but when asked for his membership card, was unable to produce it. Since he was outwardly sincere and convincing, he was allowed to join the congregation of the local chapel on trial.

 

But then his behaviour began to lapse. Other villages accused him of threatening behaviour towards an elderly neighbour. Then, on 20 December 1852, he was accused of stealing a sheep from a Robert Dullam of Fritherlstock. Someone had spotted Harvey coming from that direction carrying a large basket so the Constable decided to search his house. In his bedroom, a quantity of mutton was found, being salted in a pan. He told his Methodist friends that he hadn't planed to eat it but that he had been going to "fast for the good of his soul".

 

But in the cart, on his way to the jail, he started to shout out "What shall I do? What shall I do? I am the man! I am the man!" At his trial, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 9 months in prison. While serving his sentence , he behaved with the utmost propriety and left the impression that he had seen the error of his way and would offend no more. He quietly walked home and went on sweeping chimneys.

 

 

 
 
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