The trial of a man accused of murder almost 200 years ago is to be re-enacted this summer at a Swindon pub.

In 1819 coal merchant Stephen Rodway was murdered in cold blood by local ruffian and part-time boxer Robert Watkins, who lived at Wootton Bassett.

The victim's autopsy was carried out at The Bell pub in Purton Stoke by the local surgeon and Watkins was subsequently arrested and sent for trial at Salisbury Assizes.

There, the judge found him guilty and ordered him to be sent back for hanging at the scene of the crime - Purton Stoke - to show the community justice had been done and as a warning to others.

Unusually for the time, considering more than 200 hangings took place every year in England, The Times Newspaper covered the murder and subsequent hanging in great detail and, according to the reporter, 10 to15,000 people turned out to see the event, turning the day into more of a fair than a hanging as traders took advantage of the opportunity to sell their wares to the enormous mass of people.

Now on July 28, 188 years almost to the day, Purton Amateur Dramatic Society will be re-enacting the event in the field behind The Bell, aiming to create not just a reproduction of the hanging but also the atmosphere of the day through a fair.

Villager Denise Simpkins is helping organise the event. She said: "We are inviting local and traditional traders to come and take part, along with villagers and people from the surrounding area."

Arkell's Brewery, which owns The Bell and the field behind, where the event is taking place, is also supporting the festivities. James Arkell, brewery managing director, said: "Denise and other local villagers have spent a huge amount of time and energy researching the historical detail of the event, looking into archives and genealogy.

"I understand that they are also seeking descendants of both the victim and the murderer - although I think that perhaps if my name was Watkins I might just keep out of the way that weekend!"

The fair will raise money for The Prospect Hospice and other local charities.

Denise added: "The topic has been discussed often amongst local villagers and this year we all seemed to have the time and enthusiasm to commemorate the event.

"It also seemed like a good opportunity to raise money for charity - allowing some good to finally come out of an unfortunate historical event.

"The landlord, Peter Gill, and Arkell's Brewery have been very supportive so everything's in place to authentically recreate this small piece of history in a little Wiltshire hamlet."

She continued: "We are in contact with living descendants of Stephen Rodway and the brother of the murderer, Robert Watkins, who have both shown an interest in attending the Fayre.

"They come from Gloucester, Bristol, London and New York. But it would be wonderful if more came forward, especially descendants of Robert Watkin's daughters who were left orphaned after his wife died in childbirth with her third child and he was hanged."

Bell landlord Peter Gill is delighted to host the event. He said: "The village has been talking about this ever since I took over behind the bar over a year ago.

"It should be a great day out for everyone and I promise, no autopsy in the bar. I don't think Health and Safety would approve in the 21st century."

The re-enactment of the trial and Hanging of Robert Watkins will take place on July 28 2007 behind the Bell at Purton Stoke near Swindon at 1pm.

Are you a descendent of either Stephen Rodway or Robert Watkins? Please contact us by posting a comment below.