Family looks back at landmark Kinver murder

First published in Local

A family has been marking 200 year since the murder of their ancestor near Kinver led to a turning point in British justice.

The notorious killing  of squire and landowner Benjamin Robins, which took place on December 18 1812, resulted in the execution and gibbeting of his murderer, 32-year-old William Howe.

Gibbeting, where the body of the executed prisoner is displayed in public as a warning to others, was common in the 18th and 19th centuries.

However the Howe case proved so horrific it is believed to have been the final time the practice was carried out in England.

Squire Robins was shot and robbed as he walked from Stourbridge to his home, Dunsley Hall, but it was another ten days before he died from his injuries.

His descendants gathered at the Hall on the 200th anniversary of the murder to remember their aristocratic ancestor, whose killer's body hung in irons for a reported 12 months.

After Howe's execution, a crowd of up to 40,000 is reported to have assembled to see his body suspended above a style on the pathway where he carried out the killing.

In the months after preachers regularly delivered sermons at the spot to warn others against a life of crime.

It is said the body was eventually stolen, possibly by curious doctors keen to examine the effects of decomposition, but the story of William Howe did not end with the disappearance of his remains.

During the last two centuries there have been many accounts of a ghostly figure at the scene, Gibbet Lane, including a report from 1940 when a woman claimed to have been followed by a figure with a stretched and broken neck.

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