The dreadful confessions of John Holloway

From the 16th century to the middle of the 19th century, the purpose of a broadside was to inform the general public on the latest crimes, executions and murders; which were based locally. Acting as an informative poster or tabloid, in its time broadsides were one of the most popular forms of street literature, or just a poor man’s newspaper as on execution days, they would only be sold for a penny!

Criminal Broadside of John William Holloway, 1831

Take a look at other versions of broadsides regarding Celia by clicking here.While looking through possible broadsides to research, the one above caught my attention in particular, its captivating descriptive language creates violent imagery in my mind, the graphic illustrations add to the disturbing nature. The large, bold font set a frame for the text, which chronologically runs through the context and details about the murder and trail.

Now, I’d like to draw your attention to the brutal murder of Celia Holloway, alternatively known by her maiden name, Celia Bashford. In 1831, Celia was strangled to death by her husband of six years, John William Holloway. In a desperate attempt to wash the blood off his hands, he proceeded to cut her up into pieces and discard of her body in ‘Lovers Walk’, while being accompanied by Ann Kennett.

Surprisingly, through my research I found that, ‘study reveals that the most common relationship recorded between a murder and victim was that of near kin, such as husband and wife, or child and parent’, (Bates, 18).

In the 19th century a patriarchal society existed and the majority of society followed Christian teachings, to have children was seen as a God-given blessing and to be a mother was more of an identity than an experience, being pregnant would have meant a lot to Celia. However, after the stressed caused from John and Celia’s physically abuse marriage and two failed pregnancies, Celia finally conceived a child but, in her third trimester, John ‘threw her under a chest of drawers, and continued pressing upon her throat with all his force, until he strangled her. When she had ceased struggling, he took out his knife and cut her throat’, in the process, he murdered his unborn child.

Holloway Passing the Hare and Hounds to the Copse in Lovers Walk
‘Holloway Passing the Hare and Hounds to the Copse in Lovers Walk’ (1831) by artist J.Parez. A depiction of John passing the Hare and Hounds Public House with his wife’s dismembered body in a trunk followed by Ann Kennett who helped trying to bury the remains of Celia in Lover’s Walk. Kennett was tried as an accessory to the murder of Celia, the previous determination of her case having been prevented by her being confined with a child, the offspring of her guilty paramour; but after a long and patient inquiry, a verdict of non guilty was returned.
inquest into celias death was held
The Crown & Anchor at Preston where the inquest into Celia’s death was held, The Brighton Murder an Authentic and Faithful History of the Atrocious Murder of Celia Holloway (1831). Brighton History Museum.

In 1832, John Holloway released a book revealing all of his dark thoughts and secrets during the time he murdered his pregnant wife Celia. John speaks of what he thought seconds before he strangled Celia, and attempts to shift the blame onto the Devil while trying to make the reader feel pity, ‘At last I could I must either do it, or give up altogether. But the Devil said, ‘Do it; it will not be discovered’ My keeping her there so long caused her, however, to suspect something not right’, (Holloway, 234). In court John proceeded, ‘why should I be hanged? I don’t wish to live – a man who commits murder ought to die’, here John is contradicting his own thoughts and further questioning his sentence he was served with by justifying why he should be hanged rather than be deported as a convict to Australia, ‘but I have the same right to be sent out of the country that Winter had’.

One word of advice John, don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.

If you’d like to read more about convict history look at my blog about convict love tokens.

Works Cited:









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s