Making a Murderess

Thu 06 Sep

Hogarth may have mingled with prime ministers and playwrights but he also knew how to make money from the seedy underworld of 18th-century London – by painting those on death row, for example. Read on to find out about the real-life inspiration for infamous murderess Sarah Sprackling, played by Jasmine Jones in Hogarth's Progress

Jasmine Jones


Jasmine recently garnered critical acclaim for her ‘incredible performance’ (The Londonist) as Baby Ava in Buggy Baby at the Yard Theatre. She also appeared in BBC favourite Call the Midwife and Joe Wright's Oscar-nominated film adaptation of Atonement.

This time, she turns her talents to something completely new – serial murderess Sarah Sprackling in The Art of Success, who was based on real-life killer Sarah Malcolm. Read on, if you dare…



  • Sarah Malcolm was born in Durham in 1710 and brought up in Dublin. She moved to London after her father lost the family fortune and lived with elderly lady Lydia Duncomb with another woman and their shared maid.
  • Things took a turn for the worse when Malcolm got involved in London's criminal underworld whilst working at a public house near Temple Court.
  • All three of Malcolm's housemates were found murdered in February 1733 during a robbery. Malcolm was brought in for questioning after she was found with blood on her clothes and 45 guineas hidden in her hair.
  • Malcolm admitted to the robbery but consistently – and unsuccessfully – protested her innocence of the murders. It took the jury 15 minutes to pronounce her guilty and she was sentenced to death.
  • At the time, infamous criminals were frequently visited in prison by the public and their execution was a monumental event.
  • Due to her notoriety, Hogarth, accompanied by his father-in-law Sir James Thornhill, visited Malcolm in Newgate Prison days before her execution to take down her likeness. He created an engraving, oil painting and cheap prints of Malcolm sitting in her cell. 
  • Hogarth was not the only person to capitalise on Malcolm’s execution – her ‘confession’ was published in The London Magazine and The Gentleman Magazine.
  • Malcolm was executed on Fleet Street in March 1733 in front of huge crowds.


Jasmine also plays Bridget in The Taste of the Town

Both plays together form the double bill Hogarth's Progress, which runs at the Rose from Thu 13 Sep – Sun 21 Oct. Each play can be enjoyed as a standalone performance or together, either over different days or both in one day.

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