Charles Rotherham's Confession

Photo:Bessie Shepherds stone showing plaque

Bessie Shepherds stone showing plaque


A Nottinghamshire folk song

By R B Parish

In Mansfield library are some typed notes of various folk songs recorded by a Malcolm Seymour of Mansfield, their dates and origins of these songs are not recorded and perhaps a reader could add more. One of these recalls the story of the murder of Bessie Shepherd by Charles Rotherham. It is a well known story of course, within and beyond the county, but especially by those who regularly pass her stone on the A60. It goes as follows:

 “Oh my name it is Charles Rotherham, And soon it will be time, For me to swing from the gallow’s tree, For a most dreadful crime

I came from Sheffield, one fine day, Unto Mansfield town, And, as the eventide grew nigh, ‘neath a hedge I lay me down.

Early next morning, I awoke, As on the ground I lay. There before me, though the trees, A fair maid came my way.

Oh, she was tall and slender, Her heir gold as the sun, And lightly on her dainty feet, She through the woods did run

And in her long, slim fingers, A pair of fine shoes did she hold, And I knew in Nottingham city I, Could sell them for much gold,

I picked me up an old hedge-stake, And with it struck her down, And, as her body bleeding lay, I fled to Mansfield town,

I took the shoes from out her hand, And fled that cursed ground, And thence I fled to Nottingham, And a tavern there I found,

I sold those shoes unto a man, And he did pay me well, But yet I did repent me, for I knew I was damned to Hell.

Next day, two peelers I espied, As I walked out alone, Straightway, I did confess to them, The deed that I had done,

The judge he sentenced me to hang, For the most heinous deed, Now God, have mercy on my soul, I killed her out of greed.”

The incident dates from the 7th July 1817, when Elizabeth (Bessie) Shepherd left her mother at Papplewick about mid-day to look for a job in Mansfield. It was fateful journey, for despite being successful in securing a position, she turned for home about six o’clock and was found dead the next morning in a roadside ditch with a large hedge stake nearby, the bloody murder weapon. Whether Rotherham did confess as above is unclear, but he was soon identified and apprehended, after trying to sell Bessie’s distinctive new shoes and yellow umbrella at the Three Crown Inn, Redhill. He was however caught whilst looking over a bridge at Loughborough and hung on Gallows hill, Nottingham on the 28th July.  Interestingly, Bessie mother came across Rotherham whilst looking for her daughter, so the story relates a frequent occurrence in a number of murder hunts. The case of course was a cause célèbre and a stone was set up at the site which continues to worn travellers of the perils of strangers on this road.

The author is doing research into folklore and customs of the county and would welcome any correspondence on the matter.


Seymour, M., Charles Rotherham's Confession.

Anonymous (1817) A full and particular account of the life and execution of Charles Rotherham. 

This page was added by R B Parish on 21/02/2013.
Comments about this page

Sad to say, there are so many errors in the lyrics one wonders if he read up on the story prior to writing it. Try my book, The Murder of Bessie Sheppard (through, pub. 4/1/15) for the accurate version. Cheers.

By Dave Marshall
On 15/01/2015

Yes please read the facts before postimg anything to do with Elizabeth Sheppard. :) 

Excellent book by the way David,  it's set me off again on finding out as much as possible about what really happened to poor Bessie. 

By Richard Morley
On 20/01/2015

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