April 2021: Kingswood Museum

March 24 2021

John Horwood display

ONE of this year’s four new displays at Kingswood Heritage Museum features the story of John Horwood, the first person to be hanged at Bristol New Gaol.

John Horwood was born in Hanham, and worked in local pits as a child. He later worked with his father at a local spelter, most likely the Hanham Spelter Works.

John Horwood display

John was accused of throwing a stone which hit the head of a local girl, Eliza Balsom, leading to her death. He stood trial and was found guilty of murder, and was hanged at Bristol New Gaol, the gates of which still stand alongside “The Cut” near Prince Street Bridge. 

John was executed on 13th April 1821, just 3 days after his 18th birthday. His body was then dissected, and his skin was used to bind a book, held in the collections of Bristol Archives, that consists of the case notes and account of his trial. 

John’s remains were buried with his father at Christchurch, Hanham, at 1.30 pm on 13 April 2011, exactly 190 years to the hour after he was hanged.