The BERKSHIRE Tragedy,


The BERKSHIRE Tragedy,


OR THE WITTAM MILLER, With an Account of his Murdering his Sweetheart.

Digital Object

Image / Audio Credit

British Library - Roxburghe, C.20.f.9.802-803, 3.802-803; EBBA 31475


YOUNG men and maidens all give ear, Unto what I shall now relate;
O mark you well, and you shall hear, Of my unhappy fate:
Near unto famous Oxford town, I first did draw my breath,
Oh! that I had been cast away, In an un[t]imely birth.
My tender parents brought me up, Provided for me well.
And in the town of Witt[a]m then, They placd me in a mill.
By chance upon an Oxford lass, I cast a wanton eye,
And promisd I would marry her,
If she would with me lie
But to the world I do declare, With sorrow, grief and woe,
This folly brought us in a snare, And wrought our overthrow.
For the damsel came to me, and said, By you I am with child:
I hope, dear John, youll marry me, For you have me defild.
Soon after that, her mother came, As you shall understand,
And oftentimes did me persuade, To wed her out of hand.
And thus perplexd on every side, I could no comfort find,
So for to make away with her, A thought came in my mind.
About a month from Christmas then, Oh! cursed be the day,
The devil then did me persuade, To take her life away.
I calld her from her sisters door, At eight oclock at night,
Poor creature she did little dream, I ow'd her any spite.
I told her, if shed walk with me, A side a little way,
We both together would agree, About our wedding day.
Thus I deluded her again,
Into a private place,
Then took a stick out of the hedge, And struck her in the face.
But she fell on her bended knee, And did for mercy cry,
For heaven sake dont murder me, I am not fit to die.
But I on her no pity took,
But wounded her full sore,
Until her Life away I took, Which I can neer restore.
With many grievous shrieks and cries, She did resign her breath,
And in inhuman barbarous sort, I put my love to death.
And then I took her by the hair, To cover this foul sin,
And draggd her to the river side, And threw her Body in.
Thus in the blood of innocence, My hands were deeply dyd,
And shined in her purple gore, That should have been my bride.
Then home unto my mill I ran, But sorely was amazd,
My man he thought I had mischief done, And strangely on me gazd.
Oh! whats the matter then said he, You look as pale as death,
What makes you shake and tremble so,
As though you had lost your breath.
How came you by that blood upon, Your trembling hands and cloaths?
I presently to him replyd, By bleeding at the nose.
I wishfully upon him lookd, But little to him said,
But snatchd the candle from his hand, And went unto my bed.
Where I lay trembling all the night, For I could take no rest,
And perfect flames of hell did flash, Within my guilty face.
Next day the damsel being missd, And no where to be found;
Then I was apprehended soon, And to the Assizes bound.
Her sister did against me swear, She reason had no doubt,
That I had made away with her, Because I calld her out.
But Satan did me still perswade, I stiffly should deny,
Quoth he, there is no witness can, Against thee testif[y].
Now when her mother she did cry, I scoffingly did say,
On purpose then to frighten me, She sent her child away.
I publishd in the post boy then, My wickedness to blind,
Five Guineas any one should have, That could her body find.
But Heaven had a watchful eye, And brought it so about,
That though I stiffly did deny, This murder would come out.
The very day before the assize, Her body it was found,
Floating before her Fathers door, At Henly Ferry Town.
So I the second time was seizd, To Oxford brought with speed,
And there examined again, About the bloody deed.
Now the coroner and jury both, Together did agree,
That this damsel was made away, And murdered by me.
The justice he perceivd the guilt, No longer would take bail:
But the next morning I was sent, Away to Reading Goal.
When I was brought before the judge, My man did testify,
That blood upon my hands and cloaths, That night he did espy.
The judge he told the jury then, The circumstance is plain,
Look on the prisoner at the bar,
He hath this creature slain.
About the murder at the first, The jury did divide,
But when they brought their verdict, All of them guilty cryd.
The jailor took and bound me strait, As soon as I was cast;
And then within the prison strong, He there did lay me fast.
With fetters strong then I was bound, And shin bolted was I,
Yet I the murder would not own, But still did it deny.
My father did on me prevail, My kindred all likewise,
To own the murder which I did, To them with watery eyes.
My father he then did me blame, Saying, my son, oh ! why,
Have you thus brought yourself to shame, And all your family;
Father, I own the crime I did,
I guilty am indeed,
Which cruel fact I now confess, Doth make my heart to bleed.
The worst of deaths I do deserve, My crime it is so base,
For I, no mercy shewd to her, Most wretched is my case.
Lord grant me grace while I do stay, That I may now repent,
Before I from this wicked world, Most shamefully am sent.
Young men take warning by my fall,
All filthy lust defy;
By giving way to wickedness, Alas! this day I die.
Lord wash my hateful Sins away, Which have been manifold,
Have mercy on me I thee pray, And Christ receive my soul.

Method of Punishment





Execution Location


Printing Location

London: Printed and Sold at Sympsons Printing Office, in Stonecutter-street, Fleet Market.




“The BERKSHIRE Tragedy,,” Execution Ballads, accessed June 15, 2024,

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