Hanging

Execution Dock at Wapping in LondonIn 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 London.

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 1899.

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 hanged).

The preserved Oakham gallows in Rutland last used on March 25 1833Hangings 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 Thomas Guyan.

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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