High Treason

January 11, 2018

What might make a good film is this real life event from 1832 that was tried at Abingdon …
High Treason
Dennis Collins was convicted of High Treason, at Abingdon County Hall in 1832. Collins threw two stones at the King at Ascot Races. The first stone missed, and the second grazed King William IV, after hitting his hat. The King retreated to safety for a short while before re-appearing to show all was well to the crowd at Ascot .

In the mean time Dennis Collins was apprehended and beaten up and taken to Reading Gaol, and then later to Abingdon Gaol for the trial.

The jury at the County Court at Abingdon decided that he was guilty but at the same time petitioned the King for clemency.

Collins had served in the Royal Navy. He lost his leg on active service and was pensioned off – valiantly. He exchanged his pension to become an in-pensioner at a home for ex servicemen. He did have a bit of a temper, and one day lost his temper over a small matter. The home was swept too often and that disturbed his peace, and he asked that it be swept only once a day. This led to an altercation, and Collins was thrown out and then lost his pension.

For six months he lived as best he could with little money. He was more miserable than he had ever been in his life, and wrote to the King asking that his pension be re-instated. The letter was sent to the admiralty to decide and they decided he could NOT have his pension back.

It was for that reason he threw the two stones at Ascot Race Course. He had done it as a protest to get his pension back, not to hurt the King. He was very sorry afterwards that one stone had hit the King.

A print of Collins exists and shows him with a wooden leg. A kind lady exchanged his old wooden leg and ex-sailor’s garb, for a new leg and more respectable attire.

The King was merciful, and the initial mandatory sentence for such treason (hanging and quartering) was changed to transportation for life, and so Collins was sent to Van Diemen’s Land at 70 years of age. A short residence in that colony ended his days when he died in the spring of the year 1834.

Filed under: heritage

9 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Colin Arthur Skirving Ross Galloway  |  January 11, 2018 at 2:24 am

    I too have an ancester who was deported for trying to get everyone even women the vote, he was a William Skirving. He was deported to Australia and he was a middle class farmer back in Scotland. He was deported to Australia in 1796.

    Also I have another ancester who was a rear gunner radioman in last war, I also believe I have someone married to an ancestor, the lady who married this ancestor worked at Bleckley House where they decoded messages in last war.

  • 2. ppjs  |  January 11, 2018 at 9:01 am

    What a fantastic story. I wonder what the current penalty would be for a seventy year old war veteran who chucked a stone at the Queen.

    Arrest and conviction for sure, but probably two years – hopefully suspended, though not by hanging!

  • 3. davidofLuton  |  January 11, 2018 at 10:03 am

    the penalty these days would be two interviews in the daily Mail, a book deal and a spell on Celebrity Love Island.

  • 4. Badger  |  January 11, 2018 at 11:07 am

    I wonder which luxury flat in the Old Gaol occupies the space where his cell was? As above… how times have changed.

  • 5. Anne  |  January 11, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    What a fascinating story! Where did you find the image of Dennis Collins I wonder.

  • 6. Abingdon Walks  |  January 14, 2018 at 12:31 am

    The King was merciful, and the initial mandatory sentence for such treason (hanging and quartering) was changed to transportation for life. …. Very merciful for a one legged military veteran.

  • 7. Abingdon Walks  |  January 14, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Hi where did you find this story?

  • 8. Lesley  |  January 14, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    The town needs a community meeting point for all sorts of activities and the Abbey Hall is ideal if brought up to scratch . A 2/3/4 screen cinema would be wonderful but would be much more suitable in an empty building in the precinct to add to facilities in the town centre. Otherwise where are groups and organisations going to be able to meet, where are information meetings on reservoirs, planning, large public meetings going to be held? I hope not in private locations with prices to suit the business! Where is the heart of the town going to be, it should be a multi- use universal facility in the centre ie the Abbey Hall in the Guildhall.

  • 9. Houdini  |  January 15, 2018 at 1:52 am

    Nowadays he’d be given time in a warm cell, hot food and a TV.

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