Executions & The Executioners Who Perform Them

Carse

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#61
Pierrepoint used to shake the hands of people he hanged in a sort of little forgiveness ritual. (Rather gruesome if you ask me!)

He retired to run a pub and used to shake customers' hands. I once met a man who'd shaken his hand and was invited to shake his, do I did, and so have shaken hands with a man who shook the hand of the hangman who had executed so many famous men and women.
Pierrepoint once hanged a man who was a regular at his pub. He wrote about it in his autobiography, including the fact that he had used his personal special soft calfskin strap (as opposed to his Home Office issued one) to secure the man’s wrists. It’s an interesting book and he was certainly an odd character. It’s commonly believed he resigned over an argument with the Home Office about expenses for a cancelled execution but in his book he maintains that he suddenly realised how futile capital punishment is. He also worked as a sort of private contractor hanging copious numbers of Nazis after the Nuremburg trials.
 
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#62
I’ve been looking for a more appropriate place to post something inspired by comments of Bad Bungle’s on the Creepy Small Villages thread – I don’t want to take that one off tangent, and this looks like the right place.

So, to lighten the mood of fear and anxiety during these unprecedented times – let’s talk about hanging up dead bodies in big iron cages

...In 1773 a man called Corbet forced entry into a cottage, accompanied by his dog, and killed the occupier - but left his dog shut in behind. The Constable next morning let the dog out and followed it to his Master, who was duly condemned and hanged. After the hanging the body was encased in irons and strung up on the arm of the gibbet (whose post was 18 feet high) as a deterrent and subsequent tourist attraction. Despite numerous complaints from Villagers of the sight outside their bedroom windows (and the smell), the corpse remained in the gibbet for another 20 years...
This is going to go off on a bit of a tangent from Bad Bungle’s post, but it's connected, and it’s something that's intrigued me for a while, and for which I've not really been able to find a definitive answer.

Here's a photo of a locally infamous gibbet site not far from me, and on the route of one of my favourite walks - Peter’s Stone, on Wardlow Mires, near the village of Litton in the Peak District:

Peter's Stone for net.jpg


So, the story is (and it seems well backed up by official records) that at this place a murderer named Antony Lingard was the last man in Derbyshire to be gibbeted after death. It’s probably safe to say that the assumption is that the gibbet was actually sited on Peter’s Stone, the stump of limestone you can see in the middle distance - and if so, it would certainly have made an impression on passing travellers - but it’s not so easy to get up there, so I think there’s maybe a possibility that it was just in the vicinity.

However, there’s also a similar legend centred quite nearby (this time, without any real documentary back-up) – that the last live gibbeting in Derbyshire (and, it’s sometimes stated, England) took place on the aptly named Gibbet Moor just to the east of Chatsworth House, and that pressure from the Duke of Devonshire – who objected to the wailing of the gibbeted man – was one of the reasons that live gibbeting was done away with.

And here - eventually - I’m coming to a point. It’s obvious that many people assume that gibbeting was something that was done to live, as well as dead, criminals. However, although the latter was very clearly a thing, I can’t find any record, apart from in apocryphal tales and local lore, that live gibbeting ever took place – at least in England - and I wonder if this is another example of a commonly accepted historical reality actually being a product of popular imagination inspired and influenced by elements like local lore, Gothic romance and Hammer Horror.

I also have some possible practical objections.

Firstly, there was no police force during the period that gibbeting took place. In the case of Antony Lingard, it was a military escort that took his body to the gibbet site, but I doubt that they had the resources to hang around (no pun intended) until the poor bugger starved to death or died of hypothermia - and the idea that a live criminal would be simply be left unguarded and therefore open to rescue by family, friends or criminal associates, seems unlikely, especially when the authorities made considerable efforts to prevent such things occurring in other situations.

Secondly, and possibly more importantly – I believe that the close fitting iron cages we associate with the practice would quite quickly lead to anyone imprisoned in one suffering from what is commonly called ‘suspension trauma’. There’s some argument about the accuracy of that description, but not about the syndrome, which will can leave the victim unconscious within twenty minutes or so – possibly much sooner – and prone to cerebral hypoxia and death. The syndrome is usually associated with a person hanging under their own bodyweight (hence the reason it is known in my own working circles as Harness Hang Syndrome); however, thinking back to my own training - which is, admittedly, quite a long time ago now - and checking out definitions on the net, I'm pretty sure that severely restricted movement while held in an upright position, and without the body being directly attached to the method of suspension, can induce similar issues.

So – a question: Many of us have probably heard tales of live gibbeting, and have grown up accepting it as a reality, but has anyone ever seen an actual legal or historical record of it ever taking place anywhere in the British isles?
 

escargot

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#63
Paying the Det

Det or primer cord wrapped around the condemned's forehead.

It happens faster than the nerves can react to pain.

They're dead literally before they can know it.
So it blows the top of their head off. Putting aside any discussion of how quick/painless/humane this might be for the prisoner, it won't be nice for the witnesses. They will be traumatised.
You'd also need workers to arrange the execution and crucially to clean up afterwards, which would be be horrifying work.
 

Bad Bungle

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#64
Here's a photo of a locally infamous gibbet site not far from me, and on the route of one of my favourite walks - Peter’s Stone, on Wardlow Mires, near the village of Litton in the Peak District:

View attachment 24512

So, the story is (and it seems well backed up by official records) that at this place a murderer named Antony Lingard was the last man in Derbyshire to be gibbeted after death. It’s probably safe to say that the assumption is that the gibbet was actually sited on Peter’s Stone, the stump of limestone you can see in the middle distance - and if so, it would certainly have made an impression on passing travellers - but it’s not so easy to get up there, so I think there’s maybe a possibility that it was just in the vicinity.

However, there’s also a similar legend centred quite nearby (this time, without any real documentary back-up) – that the last live gibbeting in Derbyshire (and, it’s sometimes stated, England) took place on the aptly named Gibbet Moor just to the east of Chatsworth House, and that pressure from the Duke of Devonshire – who objected to the wailing of the gibbeted man – was one of the reasons that live gibbeting was done away with.
So – a question: Many of us have probably heard tales of live gibbeting, and have grown up accepting it as a reality, but has anyone ever seen an actual legal or historical record of it ever taking place anywhere in the British isles?
That place certainly has a presence, I can see why Wardlow is one of your favourite walks:
There is an excellent book by Sarah Tarlow The Golden and Ghoulish Age of the Gibbet in Britain (Palgrave Historical Studies in the Criminal Corpse and its Afterlife) which concentrates on the period between the1752 Murder Act (more formally "Act for better Preventing the Horrid crime of Murder") where bodies of murderers had to be either dissected or hung in chains, to the 1832 Anatomy Act when the last gibbeting took place.
She lists Anthony Lingard : Derbyshire: Gibbet located at Wardlow: sentenced 22/03/1805: executed 28/03/1815
There was quite a gathering at his suspension apparently, maybe 40,000 people on the first day and the local vicar, finding nearly all his parishioners absent from church, decided instead to give the sermon at the gibbet site.
In 1826, John Lingard was convicted of assault and robbery committed within sight of the gibbet containing the bones of his brother Anthony, executed 11 years earlier - so much for a deterrent. In fact in 1819, 16 year old Hannah Bocking chose the road near Lingard's gibbet to give poisoned cakes to Jane Grant (who'd been offered a job for which Bocking had been turned down) and was herself executed and dissected.


As for live gibbeting, Sarah Tarlow says this:
"Popular reconstructions of gibbets - such as occur in local ghost walks, computer games and theme parks- often misrepresent the gibbet as a kind of oubliette, where condemned prisoners were left to die of thirst or exposure. There is no evidence that by the18th century this ever happened in Britain."
"In France condemned prisoners might be sentenced to hang in chains for 2 days before execution (bareheaded and fed on bread and water) and then executed on the 3rd day. Gibbeting alive was known from the Caribbean during the plantation period, always in regards of a slave found guilty of a treasonous crime".
However, gibbetting alive seems to have been practised in Britrain during the 16th Century (William Harrison's Description of Elisabethean England 1577) (Book III chapter 6): Most felons sentenced to death are cut down and buried when they are dead, "But if he be convicted of wilful murder, done either upon pretended malice or in any notable robbery, he is either hanged alive in chain near the place where the fact is committed (or else upon compassion taken, first strangled with a rope) and so continueth till his bones consume to nothing". I don't have a name or a record for any such occurrence though.
 
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