The Murder of Nicholas Fairles
On June 11th, William Jobling, a Jarrow pitman, was involved
in a drinking session at a local pub with Ralph Armstrong. By
the toll-bar gate in Jarrow, a grim north-east mining village,
on a grim north-east English coast, Jobling, having spent his
last penny, recognised Nicholas Fairles, a 71-year-old
magistrate, riding past. Jobling approached him in a friendly
gesture and asked for some money. Fairles refused to hand any
over, but was not unduly distressed by Jobling's inebriated
state, and in a well tempered altercation attempted to carry
on his journey. Unfortunately this snub enraged Armstrong who,
high on drink, assaulted him with a stick and stone. The
magistrate fell from his horse, and the shocked and confused
Jobling attempted to offer compassionate assistance. His
friend in panic, grabbed him and persuaded him to flee, or
else they would both be for the chop. Fairles was left
seriously injured. Two hours later Jobling was arrested, found
wandering drunk on the beach, and hauled before the victim.
The magistrate still had the wherewithal to acknowledge that
it was not Jobling who struck him, but the other man, who had
escaped. Nevertheless, Jobling was removed to Durham prison,
until, ten days later Nicholas Fairles died, and Jobling was
charged with his murder.
What became of Armstrong is unknown, however he was a sailor,
and no doubt managed to return to his ship and sail away.
On August 21st
1832 Jobling was tried for murder by Mr Justice Parkes, a
notorious judge who hung or transported prisoners with
impunity. Upon sentence, with the black cap on his head, he
addressed Jobling saying: “I trust that the sight of
that will have some effect upon those who are, to a certain
extent, your companions in guilt and your companions in these
illegal proceedings which have disgraced the county. May they
take warning by your fate.”
At his place of
execution, with the noose around his neck, Jobling attempted
to apologise, but words failed him. The ground beneath him
disappeared, and his neck, after a delay, finally snapped. His
death was prolonged because just as the trap opened, he turned
his head briefly in recognition of a voice of familiarity
crying out from the crowd. Some suggest the caller may have
been Armstrong in disguise. In any event, the action
dislocated the rope. His body was then eviscerated and soaked
in tar. It was placed in a metal cage, paraded through the
streets, and in a final indignity, hung on a wooden post, just
a few hundred feet outside his home.
There it swung, guarded by a contingent of Hussars, until it
became so putrid a few brave people eventually managed to
clandestinely remove and bury it - to a place still unknown.
Jobling's family, are lost to history. His wife was committed
to South Shields workhouse, and his children probably suffered
the same fate.
Nicholas Fairles was buried in St Hilda's Churchyard in an
unmarked grave. The location was not recorded.