A MURDER in a village near Beaminster made national news in 1858.

Sarah Guppy, a young woman who was small in stature, was killed in a brutal fashion.

She and her mother lodged with a man named James Seal and, by coincidence the man suspected of murdering her was also called James Seale, although the two men were not related.

Dorset Echo: Stoke Abbott in the 19th centuryStoke Abbott in the 19th century

The crime made the pages of The Spectator, which reported the incident on May 8, 1858:

“A murder has been committed at Stoke Abbott, near Beaminster, and a house fired with a view to conceal the first crime.

“Sarah Ann Guppy, a young woman, small in stature, rather deformed, and of exemplary character, was left alone in the house in the afternoon.

“A neighbour heard a scream; and presently a young fellow, James Seale, whose character is not good, was seen to leave the place ; his finger was cut and bleeding; there was blood on his clothes: he endeavoured to account to a woman for these suspicious appearances.

“Soon after, it was discovered that the house where Guppy lived was on fire.

“The neighbours hastened to the place, got out the young woman, and extinguished the flames: Guppy's throat had been cut—she was dead.

“Seale was arrested. Every circumstance pointed to him as the murderer and the raiser of the fire.”

Dorset Echo: Stoke Abbott Church Stoke Abbott Church

Seale was quickly brought before magistrates, who committed him for trial at the next Dorset Assizes.

Dorset Echo: The old Dorchester Crown Court where Seale was triedThe old Dorchester Crown Court where Seale was tried

The article continues: “The poor young woman who had been killed had expressed her fears of him, as he used to hang about the house—she thought he contemplated robbery.

“The Coroner's Jury pronounced a verdict of" Wilful murder" against him.”

Dorset Echo: Dorchester Prison - Seale was hanged outsideDorchester Prison - Seale was hanged outside

Seale was taken to the gallows and hanged, in front of a crowd of thousands. at the gates of Dorchester prison on August 10, 1858.

Dorset Echo: Executioner Willian CalcraftExecutioner Willian Calcraft

He was dressed in a coarse white cotton garment. William Calcraft was the executioner.