It was during the mid 19th century that parts of Mrs.
Martha Sheward turned up all over the streets of the
city of Norwich, stuffed into gullies and blocking
drains. At the time, of course, nobody associated these
portions of female anatomy with that of Mrs. Martha
Sheward of Norwich.
Instead the finger was pointed at some Norwich medical
students who were known for their macabre sense of
humour and it was put down as a medical prank in very
There are two reasons why the police did not link the
body parts with Mrs. Sheward, firstly the head was never
recovered and secondly they had no idea that Mrs.
Sheward had been murdered.
That was until the murderer of Mrs. Martha Steward and
the person who had chopped her body into small chunks,
walked into a police station in South London in 1869 and
confessed to an astonished desk clerk that he had
murdered his wife. The confessor to the murder was none
other than the then landlord of the Key and Castle
Public house at no. 105, Oak Street, Norwich and the
husband of the victim Mr. William Sheward. What makes
this confession somewhat unusual though is the amount of
time that had elapsed since the crime had been
committed. Which was around eighteen years.
It was only after the trial and a guilty verdict that
Sheward broke down and confessed all the gruesome
details relating to the demise of the his first wife the
late Mrs. Sheward.
A row had taken place in their small terraced house in
Tabernacle Street (which is now the west end of
Bishopsgate) over money; a common cause of friction
between the Shewards. However, on this occasion Williams
temper got the better of him and he grabbed his
cut-throat razor and slashed his wife's throat from ear
Despite the fact that his wife now lay at his feet in an
ever-increasing pool of blood William Sheward still
managed to keep an appointment for a job interview in
Great Yarmouth, after changing his blood splattered
Upon his return he found that his wife's body had not
been discovered so he decided to dispose of the corpse.
He did this by hacking his spouse's body up into small
manageable chunks. Starting with Mrs. Sheward's hands
and feet and so on.
He then decided to reduce these pieces still further by
placing them in boiling water and heating them up on the
kitchen stove. He began with her hands then her head and
then the feet. Next he placed some of the now slightly
cooked flesh into a pail.
Over the next few nights starting at Tabernacle Street,
William Sheward roamed the Norwich streets with his
grisly pail and its contents. Tossing out a finger here,
a toe there and so on and so forth. Martha's entrails,
it has been reported, he poked down one of the drains.
Some of Mrs Sheward's parts were scavenged by dogs, rats
and the like, but some of course where found. The
process of chopping and then boiling was long and
laborious and as time went by the rest of Martha’s
remains began to putrefy and to smell. William
became concerned that the neighbours might start to ask
questions about the strange aroma emanating from his
house so decided to speed up the process by leaving out
the boiling stage.
At the time neighbours accepted Sheward's report that
his wife had left him and returned to her family. So in
all it appeared to be the perfect crime. With the death
of his wife Williams fortunes took a turn for the better
and he even married again and he and his second wife
took over the Key and Castle Public house at no. 105,
Oak Street, Norwich. Then for no apparent reason
eighteen years after the murder of his wife on January
1st 1869 William decided to confess whilst on a trip to
On the 20th April 1869 William Sheward was hanged at
Norwich City Gaol.
His executioner is said to have been William Calcraft,
one of the longest serving executioners of that era.
Calcraft was known for his 'short drops' which used to
result in the majority of his 'clients' strangling to
death rather than having their necks broken.
So ended the life of William Sheward of Norwich, husband
of Martha Sheward' who ended up all over Norwich.
To this day it is not known what became of Martha
Sheward's head, for her husband would not say.