Thursday, January 17, 2019

"One for the road"

The Telegraph Travel section provides an article about "London's 11 most notorious public execution sites," from which:
1. Smithfield

Many of the Marian Martyrs, protestants slaughtered under Queen Mary, met their demise at the Elms at Smithfield, London’s oldest execution site. St Bartholomew's Hospital features a plaque to commemorate several of them.

It was also the site of William Wallace’s execution in 1305. It happened much like in the movie, Braveheart (hung, drawn and quartered), though there is no evidence to support the blood curdling cry of “Freedom!”

Wallace’s head was tarred and put on display atop the southern gatehouse of London Bridge; his limbs were placed (separately) in Perth, Stirling, Berwick and Newcastle, and a quarter was sent to Aberdeen (it’s said to be entombed in the walls of St Machar's Cathedral). A memorial to the Scot can be seen today outside St Bartholomew's. In 1869 the Wallace Monument was erected near Stirling Bridge. ....

2. Tyburn

Smithfield fell from favour as an execution site in the 1400s, with Tyburn (close to the modern landmark of Marble Arch, one of central London’s busiest corners) seizing the limelight. Back then it was a mere village, but it soon became synonymous with public executions.

Prisoners would be taken there from Newgate Prison, via St Giles in the Fields and Oxford Street, with some permitted a final drink at a pub en route — the source of the phrase “one for the road”, some believe.

The dream of all condemned criminals would be an escape on the way to the gallows — or from prison — and a mad dash to the nearest church, where sanctuary might be found. ....

A stone memorial can be seen on the pavement marking the spot where the Tyburn Tree, its distinctive three-sided gallows, once stood. The design meant multiple hangings could be carried out at once, such as on June 23, 1649, when 24 prisoners were hanged simultaneously, having been conveyed there in eight carts. You can get a sense of the chaos of the crowds attending these events in Hogarth’s etching The Idle Apprentice.

Oliver Cromwell's exhumed body was, symbolically, hanged at Tyburn in 1661. ....

3. Newgate Prison

In use for more than 700 years — from 1188 to 1902 — and the site of London’s gallows after Tyburn was retired from duty in 1783. The executions took place in public — with the gallows set up on Newgate Street — until 1868.

The prison, whose former inmates include Casanova, Rob Roy, Ben Jonson, William Kidd and Daniel Defoe – was demolished in 1904. The Old Bailey occupies the main site, but head to the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate to see the old jail’s execution bell, Amen Court, which is home to a surviving wall, or The Viaduct Tavern, where five former cells of a neighbouring lock-up are visible in the basement. .... (and more)

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