A hanging on the Lines

On Wednesday 9th July 1834,Sergeant Patrick Feeney of the 50th Regiment,was inspecting  and drilling the troops on the Parade Ground at Chatham Infantry Barracks. Feeney saw that Private Benjamin Gardiner was staggering and probably drunk. After several parade orders directed at the soldier,Gardiner continued to stagger,so Feeney ordered that Gardiner be taken to the Guardroom. Gardiner's musket was primed and loaded despite this being contradictory to orders. He raised it up,and shot Sergeant Feeney at point blank range. The Musket Ball penetrated about two inches above his naval,slightly to the right,it had passed through his ribs and then through his liver. Although very bady injured,Feeney was not yet dead at this point. Private Gardiner was immediatly disarmed and taken to the Guardroom. On the way he was heard to utter:"I have rid the world of a rascal and tyrant and i am ready to die for it"  Gardiner was then taken to the civil lock-up in Cage  Lane,Chatham and was heard to say to a later witness "If he is not yet dead i hope he soon will be,for i am not afraid  of the rope" Patrick Feeney died soon afterwards.

 An inquest was held in Rochester the next day presided over by Mr Hinde the Coroner, the verdict reached by the coroner jury was death by wilful murder. The Trial followed two weeks later at the Assizes at Maidstone. An account of the murder was given by Sergeant George Hewer who had witnessed it. In defence Gardiner stated that he was not aware that the musket was loaded and that the incident had only happened  because "I was in a state of intoxication when the piece went off and did not know what i did or said"  In the Judges summing up he said it was up to the Jury to determine if the gun went off by accident or not. The Jury took only five minutes to find Private Benjamin Gardiner guilty of murder. The sentance of death was to be carried out on Monday 28th July,but moved to Thursday 31st.

On the day of his execution,Gardiner was taken by Civil authorites from Maidstone Gaol to about a mile from the town,where he was handed over to the Military authorities. The wagon that held him passed through the town of Chatham,and then proceeded onto the Chatham Lines where gallows had been erected. (the exact location is unknown) The weather was bad on the day,but despite this a great crowd of local people had gathered to watch the hanging. Troops of the Garrison were assembled on the ramparts of the Lines fortifications to watch the event. Private Gardiner said prayers with a prison Chaplain and then said his last words,which were:

"Gentlemen i am guilty of the crime for which i am about to suffer,and i am sorry for it. I beg also to state that unless it had been for a drink i should not be here today,i dare say"

The local papers reported that when Private Gardiner was hanged his suffering was short of duration. His limp body hung on the rope for an hour before being cut down and placed in a coffin. He was then taken back to Maidstone and buried in an unmarked grave.

Patrick Feeney was buried in Chatham Town Cemetery. There is a memorial stone dedicated to him in the entrance porch at Chatham Town Hall Gardens,it was erected by subsription from Officers of the 50th Regiment.

Information rewritten in some of my own words,originally from: Military Punishment in the Chatham Garrison during the 19th Century,Amherst Papers No 2. By Keith R Gulvin MA.  Publication available from Fort Amherst or sometimes from Ebay.

Entrance Porch at Chatham Town Hall Gardens (former Town Cemetery)


Sgt Patrick Feeney's Memorial Stone inside