The city of Norwich, looking towards Bishopsgate. In the year 1851, on Tabernacle Street, a small blind alley off this street, there lived a couple whose life was just another blind alley, in a small and squalid house. William Sheward, aged 35, had married middle-aged Martha, who he had met in London. At first the marriage was happy, but when the first ardour of love faded, she seemed old and cruel. Her incessant nagging of her young husband caused William to crawl inside a bottle. The house was filthy and broken down, while William was chronically short of money. Martha's sole contribution to the housekeeping was to brow-beat her husband. Soon love turned to hate. Deadly hate.
On Sunday June 15th 1851, when the congregation are gathering at the mighty Tabernacle chapel opposite the Shewards' little hovel, the temperature of the Shewards' appalling marriage reaches boiling point. After an argument about money, Sheward flees to the bathroom. Perhaps that might have been the last of it, but William's eyes at that night alight on his razor, lying by the basin. Rage boils up inside him, and he walks out of the bathroom, the razor in his hand.
His wife completely ignores him, sitting on the bed with her back to him, her manner offensive. This is the last straw. William sees red. And it's the easiest thing in the world to reach round and slit her throat. from ear to ear.
It's all over very quickly. Soon, the odious Mrs. Sheward is lying on the floor, in a rapidly spreading pool of blood. It's very red and all very real. Sheward is sorry now, but the deed is done. Martha is dead, and the dripping razor in William's hand has his fingerprints on it.
Sheward runs away, terrified by the knowledge of what he has done. He spent several hours wandering Mousehold Heath, just beyond Bishop's Bridge. He considers killing himself a few times, but he hasn't the heart to shed more blood, even his own. At last, he returns to the house of death, ready to surrender himself to the law.
He knows that he will swing for the terrible deed he has committed. He seems to hear the Judge's words. 'You will be taken from here to a prison, from there you will be taken to a place of execution, there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead."