In our series of article on Dorchester High Street, we've been looking at the different shops in the street and their various guises over the years.

We looked at the past of 48 High West Street which is where the Dorchester Prison surgeon Dr John Good practised in the middle of the 19th century. Dr Good authorised for casts of the heads of executed prisoners to be taken. Four of these heads are held in Dorset County Museum.

The casts are said to be of Charles Fooks, Edwin Alfred Preedy, Jonah Detheridge and Thomas Radcliffe. These casts were made by Thomas Voss (1806 - 1889). The last public hangings in Dorchester were Edwin Alfred Preedy and Charles Fooks in 1863.

Since then we've heard from Sue Hogben, who contacted Looking Back because she thought readers might be interested in more information on Edwin Preedy. The Revd Henry Moule of Fordington was a regular visitor to Edwin Preedy.

Sue came upon this information when she was researching and writing her book Nothe Fort and Beyond.

A Major Nugent, who oversaw the lives and works of soldiers and convicts on government sites, would be kept busy at Portland prison.

"In September 1862 yet another violent death demanded his attendance at a prison inquest held under the vigilant eyes of Frederick Steggall. It involved a particularly gruesome murder of prison guard, Charles Evans, by inmate ‘no.737’ Edwin Alfred Preedy, a 20-year-old illegitimate lad, reportedly raised in a home lacking any manner of love, care and attention.

"Over his short, brutal life he became a persistent petty criminal, finally ending up in Portland prison. Preedy was termed as having a depressive and violent nature. The Dorchester Prison Admission and Discharge Book gives us a tantalising glimpse of the man.

"He is described as having brown hair, grey eyes and fair complexion. The story of his turbulent life quite literally tattooed over his body, swords, anchors, crucifix and hearts adorned his torso and arms. His occupation stated rather scathingly as ‘a fool’.

Preedy made no bones about his contempt for authority. Many a time he had been on the receiving end of the prison’s cruel and inhumane punishment and had already boasted of his plans to murder one of the guards. Prisoners in those days were locked back into their individual cells for their dinner.

"On that fateful day the bell rung at 1 o’clock, signifying the end of lunch hour. Warder and ‘master shoemaker of the establishment’ Charles Evans, along with his helpers, started the usual round of gathering in lunch items. Having reached Preedy’s cell, Evans unlocked the door. Preedy was standing with his cutlery and can ready, instead of passing the items, he dropped them on the floor. One of the other prisoners stepped forward, but ‘he pushed him to one side, and rushed upon Charles Evans’.

"Grabbing Evans in a headlock, with one brutal motion, he slashed the knife across his throat. The other prisoners leapt forward, tried to grab hold of the enraged man, pleading with him to drop the knife. He had no intention whatsoever of dropping it. ‘So determined was he in the execution of the deed, that after he had got the knife in the unfortunate man’s neck, he, with the most diabolical resolution, worked it round several times, as though to make sure of his work’.

Evans was rushed to the infirmary, but to no avail. It was too late. ‘The jugular vein, the carotid artery, and the great nerve of the neck’ had been severed, according to attending Medical Officer William Houghton.

Edwin Alfred Preedy was moved to Dorchester prison where he was convicted of Warder Evans’ murder and sentenced to hang. While awaiting his fate he was befriended by prison chaplain Reverend Henry Moule, who also happened to be the barrack’s chaplain and was well known to the soldiers of Weymouth.

Reverend Moule’s persistent attempts at redemption must have finally got through. During Preedy’s remaining afternoon he had taken communion with Moule and some of the other prison warders, after which Preedy presented them all with a Bible, presumably supplied by Reverend Moule.

Seven o’clock in the evening of 27th March 1863, the condemned man was led out to the northern entrance of Dorchester prison, where he was ‘hung by the neck until dead’.

Reverend Henry Moule crops up later in the story of the fortifications. He was no run-of-the-mill reverend, he was also an avid inventor, a man way ahead of his time and Major Nugent taps into his talents.’

Later (1863) in my book I talk of Rev Moule;

'Major Nugent, between giving site tours, attending funerals and inquests, was called upon to examine a form of unwanted garbage; human waste. Receiving direction from the War Office to trial a new ‘waste disposal system’, he set up an experiment over at Portland prison.

Meanwhile, in the village of Fordington lived someone who had found an interesting solution to this problem. Someone we have already come across, Henry Moule. He was Fordington’s vicar, one who cared a great deal about the health and welfare of his parishioners. Moule was also Chaplain for the local barracks and prisons and the man who had escorted convict Edwin Preedy to his execution in Dorchester prison the year previous.

During the 19th century, Fordington, like many other towns and villages, suffered from frequent, often lethal, outbreaks of cholera. Moule was wholly convinced this was down to poor hygiene, fresh water supplies being contaminated by leakages from what he considered to be ‘those dreadful cesspits’.

By 1859 he had devised a new system of dealing with human waste by mixing the excrement with dry earth. Within 3–4 weeks the sordid, stinking pile was turned into black, odourless, and crumbly compost. Not only had he solved the problem but also unintentionally produced a valuable fertiliser as a by-product. Trialled on food crops on a local farm, the results were impressive.

In 1860, Moule patented an improved design of earth closet, one with a handle. Each time it was turned it would tip soil on top of the excrement.

Thanks to Sue for this look at a prisoner and the vicar who tried to help him.