Waltham Abbey Murder – 1797

Hereford Journal - Wednesday 05 July 1797

Hereford Journal – Wednesday 05 July 1797

Ann Gray was the proprietor of a public-house at the market town of Waltham Abbey in Essex.  Late one evening in May 1797 after serving two men in her bar she was trying to close up.  She had already been a little nervous of these two and asked for one of her lodgers who was a carpenter to wait downstairs with her until after they had gone.

Mrs. Gray had every right to be worried. After serving the men an extra pint a fight ensued and she lost her life.  According to the Hereford Journal – Wednesday 20 September 1797 in a letter written by a William Harling, it was Robert Harold and Frederick Upham who were the two men who were found guilty of the murder.  The letter claimed though that it was Harling himself who killed Mrs. Gray.

Hereford Journal – Wednesday 05 July 1797:


The particulars are given in evidence before the Coroner, respecting the murder of Ann Gray who kept the public-house at Waltham Abbey, differing from the former statements, we are induced to insert them.  They are as follow:

“On the 6th of May at last, about 9.00 PM, two men, perfect strangers, went to The Three Compasses, and had some beer and bread and cheese, with pipes and tobacco; they sat about an hour and as half, when Mrs. Gray told them they must go, for that it was time to shut up the house; to which they replied they would have another pint of beer, and then they would go, which they had; when the shortest of the two men said to the other, “Will you pay, or shall I?” To which the other answered, “I’ll pay,” and instantly jumped up, drew a pistol, and presented it towards Mrs. Gray.

Hereford Journal - Wednesday 20 September 1797

Hereford Journal – Wednesday 20 September 1797 – William Harling confession through the newspapers

A carpenter who lodged in the house, and who Mrs. Gray had requested not to go to bed till the men were gone, the media the threw his arms round of the man who held the distal, to prevent him from firing it; the turning his head round, saw the other man draw pistol, upon which he attacked that man, and drove him out of the room, where he left Mrs. Gray and the other man; soon after the pistol went off in the hand of the man with whom he was scuffling, which slightly wounded the carpenter on the wrist, upon which the carpenter army deadly ran up stairs to call some more men who were in bed, and who came down as soon as possible, but the men were both gone, having first shot Mrs. Gray through the left hand which was shattered in pieces and one finger shot off: and by another pistol she was shot just above the left breast, where the ball entered and went through the lungs, and out of the lower end of the shoulder blade.

The poor woman retained her recollection until within a few minutes of her death.”

Ian Waugh
Old British Murder