- Tyburn, London
Tyburn was a village in the county of
Middlesexclose to the current location of Marble Arch. It took its name from the Tyburn or Ty Bourne (two brooks) [ [http://www.connect-to-london.com/marylebone/tyburnriver.php "Tyburn - River and source of drinking water"] ] , a tributary of the River Thameswhich 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.
The village was one of two manors of the
parishof 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 Bookand stood approximately at the west end of what is now Oxford Streetat the junction of two Roman roads. The predecessors of Oxford Street and Park Lanewere 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
OssulstoneHundred of Middlesex. The stone was covered over in 1822 when Marble Archwas moved to the area, but it was shortly afterwards unearthed and propped up against the Arch. It has not been seen since 1869.
Executions took place at Tyburn until the 18th century (with the prisoners processed from
Newgate Prisonin the City, via St Giles in the Fieldsand Oxford Street), after which they were carried out at Newgate itself and at Horsemonger Lane Gaolin 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 1649when 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
The first victim of the "Tyburn Tree" was Dr
John Story, a Roman Catholicwho refused to recognize Elizabeth I. Among the more notable individuals suspended from the "Tree" in the following centuries were John Bradshaw, Henry Iretonand 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 Hogarthin 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 . The crowd would cheer a "good dying", but would jeer any displays of weakness on the part of the condemned.
April 19th, 1779, clergyman James Hackmanwas hanged there following his April 7thmurder of courtesanand socialite Martha Ray, his former lover, and the mistress of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. 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, [http://www.tyburnconvent.org.uk/index2.html] Tyburn Convent website, accessed 10/8/07] 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. [ [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/11575 "Notes and Queries", Number 12, January 19, 1850 by Various] accessed 30 May 2007] , the site was at No. 49. Connaught Square
Some notable executions at Tyburn (in chronological order)
* Chronicle of Britain ISBN 1-872031-35-8
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