HOPE gave way to despair and ultimately to death as manacled John Blake shuffled out of the condemned cell. Escorted by the prison governor, chaplain and several warders, he mounted the scaffold's wooden steps and with commendable courage met his fate.

It was August 8, 1835, less than two months after he had launched a savage and premeditated attack on his estranged wife, Louisa, who had escaped a loveless marriage to live with her brother in what she thought was a safe refuge. She could not have been more wrong. 

Within minutes of disembarking from his ship, a furious Blake, discovering her whereabouts, set out after his bride of a few months in revengeful mood with a three-inch bladed pocket knife concealed in a sleeve. She was fortunate to survive, much to his fury, readily confessing to police without an ounce of pity or remorse: "I came to kill her and would have done so had the knife had not bent."

Their marriage had been tempestuous, he often beat her and with no hope of a reconciliation, Louisa fled to stay with her brother, Joseph Cully, as her husband sailed on a three-master, ironically named 'Peace' in the Mediterranean. Once ashore on June 15, he stormed to his brother-in-law's home in the All Saints parish of Southampton at about 9.30pm, forcing open the front door and demanding to see her. 

Cully told him she was not there but would return shortly. Blake accepted his invitation to sit on a stool by a fire, the pair engaging in friendly conversation on a variety of subjects before Louisa, cradling their baby, returned some 15 minutes later.  

She was evidently wary and sat next to her brother and not her husband who suddenly drew the blade from his left hand cuff. "He then rushed towards her, took her by the neck with his left hand and struck her in the neck with the other," Cully told jurors at Hampshire Assizes. "I took the child and tried to help Louisa who had begged me to look after the child."

Daily Echo: A three-masted ship .

Locking him in a bedroom, Cully rushed downstairs as the couple scuffled before she screamed 'murder' and fainted. Blake did not relent, repeatedly striking her with what Cully thought in the dark was a clothes prop - but it wasn't.

"Oh, God," screamed Louisa, "He's got a knife." He then violently stabbed her in the chest and instinctively raising her hand to protect her neck, she fended off one blow and saw blood trickling from her wrist. Collapsing onto the floor, she felt the knife time after time being plunged into her back.

"He tried to get at my throat again but couldn't. I think he threw the knife under the grate, I never saw it after that. I tried to get out but he stopped me and gave me another blow which knocked me down. He told me he had come to the house on purpose to murder me and would do it before he went away."

Despite her extensive injuries, the terrified Louisa still had the presence of mind to distract him by pleading to be let into another room. The ruse worked and she ran into the courtyard to cry "murder." 

The duped Blake gave chase and looking round to ensure they were alone, hit her twice more which sent her crashing into a pump trough where he tried to strangle her. He finally hurled a large washing pad at her head as he was overpowered by a neighbour and his servant who heard her screams for help.

Watchmaker Stephen Simpson grabbed hold of Blake who promptly hit him. "I asked 'What have you been doing, you wretch?' and he replied, 'I have come here to murder and I will do it.' He then threatened to hit my servant who came to assist me."

Daily Echo: All Saints Church of All Saints parish.

They were shortly joined by pastry cook Robert Brigden to whom Blake confessed: "It is a hard thing for a man to marry a wife he cannot live with." After the weapon had been retrieved from beneath the grate, Blake went quiet. "I don't think he had been drinking," Brigden confirmed, concluding his evidence.

Blake, who denied a charge of attempted murder at his trial on July 17, submitted a written defence, claiming his only motive for going to the house had been to merely make peace with his wife. "But I found her with another man who had his arm round her neck. I then took the knife from my pocket and stabbed her in the neck. I am sorry for it."

But the weight of evidence was heavily stacked against him and within seconds, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. Mr Justice Coleridge then passed the sentence of death in what was described as 'a highly impressive manner.'

Blake's hanging was set for August 3 but hours before his execution there came a week's respite. There was however no further reprieve and his final moments were spent in prayer with the prison chaplain before he was escorted from the condemned cell. 

Unlike those who had passed before him, he was spared the indignity of being executed in front of a baying crowd. Instead he was taken to the rear of the Jewry Street jail and after death, his body was given to friends for burial.