Posts filed under 'Tyburn'

1740: Not William Duell

3 comments November 24th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1740, five criminals were hanged at Tyburn.

Sixteen-year-old William Duell was among them. He was hanged — but he did not die. As recounted in The Newgate Calendar:

WILLIAM DUELL was convicted of occasioning the death of Sarah Griffin, at Acton, by robbing and ill-treating her. Having suffered, 24th of November, 1740, at Tyburn, with Thomas Clock, William Meers, Margery Stanton and Eleanor Munoman (who had been convicted of several burglaries and felonies), his body was brought to Surgeons’ Hall to be anatomised; but after it was stripped and laid on the board, and one of the servants was washing it, in order to be cut, he perceived life in him, and found his breath to come quicker and quicker, on which a surgeon took some ounces of blood from him; in two hours he was able to sit up in his chair, and in the evening was again committed to Newgate, and his sentence, which might be again inflicted, was changed to transportation.

Failed hangings were not unheard-of at this time … and if transportation was no mean sentence, the young criminal must have reflected that matters certainly could have gone much worse for him.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Children,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Executions Survived,Hanged,Lucky to be Alive,Murder,Not Executed,Pardons and Clemencies,Public Executions,Rape,Theft,Tyburn

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1755: Rowley Hanson

2 comments November 12th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1755, a young soldier named Rowley Hanson was hanged at Tyburn.

Though the hanging, like many of its era, was for a trifling theft, the account of the Newgate ordinary (chaplain) did not dwell overmuch on the watch he stole from a London barrister.

What wrought his ruin was, the company he fell into, when a drummer [in the army]; and shocking delusion from the most abandoned, and unnatural crew of wretches, that ever the world knew, called Sodomites, first led him into that damnable violation of all laws, natural, civil, and religious.

all he had besides his pay arose from the advantages which he received from those worse than brutes, whom St. Paul has complimented with the name of men, who leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

This unfortunate youth, who laid open the way to these short observations, declared himself much more affected with sorrow, for that he had been among so vile a set of wretches, than that he was to suffer death for the robbery … He thanked God, who had thus afflicted him, and given him time to repent; and generally when we conversed he wept very bitterly.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Common Criminals,Disfavored Minorities,England,Hanged,Homosexuals,Public Executions,Soldiers,Theft,Tyburn

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1783: John Austin

12 comments November 3rd, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1783, highwayman John Austin was hanged at Tyburn for robbing and murdering John Spicer on the road to London.

The village Tyburn on the outskirts of London had been used for public hangings dating to the 12th century. Though not the only site of executions in London, it was the iconic one. Situated at the modern intersection of Edgware and Bayswater Roads on the northeast corner of Hyde Park, the distinctive “Tyburn tree” — a triangular gallows capable of hanging over twenty prisoners simultaneously — made a foreboding landmark round which teemed thousands of spectators on execution days. Some 1,200 people were executed on this singular device.

Public executions typically began four kilometers away at Newgate Prison, where the condemned were loaded into ox carts for a two-to-three-hour procession through public streets now at the very core of London, perhaps including stops at public ale houses.


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While Tyburn carved its niche during England’s age of religious bloodletting, its social role had changed significantly by the 18th century. Most of the doomed were offenders against property, often executed for stealing negligible sums or else reprieved for transport to the New World or, later, Australia. Peter Linebaugh’s The London Hanged intriguingly suggests that hangings of this era were an assertion of nascent capitalism, violently throwing off the remains of feudal labor relations. (Summarized more thoroughly in this friendly review.)

Even that formative age was receding. Once a neighboring village, Tyburn had been swallowed up by the city; a generation before Austin’s death, residents of the now-upscale neighborhood had successfully pushed for the removal of the macabre “Tyburn tree”.

Austin was hanged, instead, on a portable gallows, a typical penitent imploring heavenly mercy and taking 10 minutes to strangle to death — the very last execution at that somber and storied crossroads.

Here’s the story of the Tyburn hangings from London writer Peter Ackroyd:

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Common Criminals,England,Hanged,Milestones,Murder,Popular Culture,Public Executions,Theft,Tyburn

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