Britain hanging was the main form of execution from Anglo-Saxon times until
it was abolished in 1964. There were hundreds of executions a year in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with the greatest number being carried
out at Tyburn, near what is now Marble Arch, at the end of Oxford Street in
There is a plaque on the pavement there showing where the gallows stood.
Some 2,169 people, including 146 women, were hanged at Tyburn between 1715
and 1783. It is estimated that 90% of the men were aged under 30.
John Austin was the last person to be executed at Tyburn when he was
hanged for highway robbery on 7th of November 1783. After that executions
for the City of London and County of Middlesex were carried out outside.
3,351 men and 167 women were hanged in England and Wales between 1800 and
This excludes John Lee whose hanging was attempted three times but was
reprieved after the last unsuccessful attempt. Queen Victoria was horrified
and contacted the home office, the trap door failed 3 times. A further 273
men and 17 women were hanged in Scotland over the same period, 12 in the
Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
The figures for Ireland are less reliable and can only be safely dated
from 1827 ? 1899, during which time 529 men and 26 women were hanged. Prior
to that the remaining information is very sketchy.
A total of 865 people were executed in the British Isles in the 20th
century, comprising: 712 men and 14 women, who were hanged for murder in
England, 36 men and 1 woman in Wales, 34 in Scottish prisons (including one
female, Susan Newell). 16 men in Northern Ireland and two on the Channel
Island of Jersey. 4 men were executed for treason, 28 for spying (12 shot &
16 hanged). 6 American servicemen were hanged for rape and 12 executed for
murder at Shepton Mallet (2 shot for the murder of other soldiers & 10
were carried out in public until 1868, the last being on the 26th May of
that year. From then on executions were carried out within the walls of
county prisons, under the provisions of the Capital Punishment within
Prisons Act of 1868 which received Royal assent on May 29th, 1868. The first
"private" hanging was that of eighteen year old Thomas Wells who was hanged
by William Calcraft at Maidstone prison on August the 13th 1868.
A few witnesses, including reporters were admitted up to about 1910 but
thereafter executions were carried out in complete secrecy. The last
hangings in Britain were two carried out simultaneously at 8.00 a.m. on
August the 13th, 1964 at Walton (Liverpool) and Strangeways (Manchester)
prisons. The last hanging in Scotland was that of 21-year-old Henry Burnett
at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen on August 15th 1963 for the murder of
Money for old rope
This saying originates from the days of public hangings. It was a
perquisite of the hangman to keep the rope used to hang his 'customer'. The
rope, however, was popular with the macabre crowds, so the hangman used to
cut the rope up and sell it.
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