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  • 11/3/2010

Today in History:

 Last Hanging at Tyburn Gallows (1783

tyburn_tree

Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch. It took its name from the Tyburn or Ty Bourne (two brooks), a tributary of the River Thames which is now completely covered over between its source and its outfall into the Thames at Vauxhall.

The name was almost universally used in literature to refer to the notorious and uniquely designed gallows, used for centuries as the primary location of the execution of London criminals.

HistoryThe village was one of two manors of the parish of St Marylebone, which was itself named after the stream, St Marylebone being a contraction of St Mary's church by the bourne. Tyburn was recorded in the Domesday Book and stood approximately at the west end of what is now Oxford Street at the junction of two Roman roads. The predecessors of Oxford Street and Park Lane were roads leading to the village, then called Tyburn Road and Tyburn Lane respectively.

Tyburn had significance from ancient times and was marked by a monument known as Oswulf's Stone, which gave its name to the Ossulstone Hundred of Middlesex. The stone was covered over in 1822 when Marble Arch was moved to the area, but it was shortly afterwards unearthed and propped up against the Arch. It has not been seen since 1869.

 

Tyburn gallows

Executions took place at Tyburn until the 18th century (with the prisoners processed from Newgate Prison in the City, via St Giles in the Fields and Oxford Street), after which they were carried out at Newgate itself and at Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark.

The first recorded execution took place at a site next to the stream in 1196. William Fitz Osbern, the populist leader of the London tax riots was cornered in the church of St Mary le Bow. He was dragged naked behind a horse to Tyburn, where he was hanged.

In 1571, the "Tyburn Tree" was erected near the modern Marble Arch. The "Tree" or "Triple Tree" was a novel form of gallows, comprising a horizontal wooden triangle supported by three legs (an arrangement known as a "three legged mare" or "three legged stool"). Several felons could thus be hanged at once, and so the gallows was occasionally used for mass executions, such as that on June 23, 1649 when 24 prisoners – 23 men and one woman – were hanged simultaneously, having been conveyed there in eight carts.

The Tree stood in the middle of the roadway, providing a major landmark in west London and presenting a very obvious symbol of the law to travellers. After executions, the bodies would be buried nearby or in later times removed for dissection by anatomists.

The first victim of the "Tyburn Tree" was Dr John Story, a Roman Catholic who refused to recognize Elizabeth I. Among the more notable individuals suspended from the "Tree" in the following centuries were John Bradshaw, Henry Ireton and Oliver Cromwell, who were already dead; they were disinterred and hanged at Tyburn in January 1661 on the orders of Charles II in an act of posthumous revenge for their part in the beheading of his father.

The executions were public spectacles and proved extremely popular, attracting crowds of thousands. The enterprising villagers of Tyburn erected large spectator stands so that as many as possible could see the hangings (for a fee). On one occasion, the stands collapsed, reportedly killing and injuring hundreds of people. This did not prove a deterrent, however, and the executions continued to be treated as public holidays, with London apprentices being given the day off for them. One such event was depicted by William Hogarth in his satirical print, The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn (1747).

Tyburn was commonly invoked in euphemisms for capital punishment – for instance, "to take a ride to Tyburn" was to go to one's hanging, "Lord of the Manor of Tyburn" was the public hangman, "dancing the Tyburn jig" was the act of being hanged, and so on. Convicts would be transported to the site in an open ox-cart from Newgate Prison. They were expected to put on a good show, wearing their finest clothes and going to their deaths with insouciance. The crowd would cheer a "good dying", but would jeer any displays of weakness on the part of the condemned.

The Tyburn gallows were last used on 3 November 1783, when John Austin, a highwayman, was hanged. The site of the gallows is now marked by three brass triangles mounted on the pavement at the corner of Edgware Road and Bayswater Road.

 In fact the plaque is on an island in the middle of Edgware Road at its junction with Bayswater Road. It is also commemorated by the Tyburn Convent, a Catholic convent dedicated to the memory of martyrs executed there and in other locations for the Catholic faith.

Tyburn today remains the point at which Watling Street, the modern A5 begins. It continues in straight sections to Holyhead. According to an 1850 publication. the site was at No. 49. Connaught Square

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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