Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch in present-day London. It took its name from the Tyburn or Teo Bourne 'boundary stream', a tributary of the River Thames which is now completely covered over between its source and its outfall into the Thames. For many centuries, the name was synonymous with capital punishment, it having been the principal place for execution of London criminals and convicted traitors, including many religious martyrs.
The village was one of two manors of the parish of 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 Book and stood approximately at the west end of what is now Oxford Street at the junction of two Roman roads. The predecessors of Oxford Street and Park Lane were roads leading to the village, then called Tyburn Road and Tyburn Lane respectively.
In the 1230s and 1240s the village of Tyburn was held by Gilbert de Sandford, the son of John de Sandford who had been the Chamberlain of Queen Eleanor. Eleanor had been the wife of King Henry II who encouraged her sons Henry and Richard to rebel against her husband, King Henry. In 1236 the city of London contracted with Sir Gilbert to draw water from Tyburn Springs, which he held, to serve as the source of the first piped water supply for the city. The water was supplied in lead pipes that ran from where Bond Street Station stands today, half a mile east of Hyde Park, down to the hamlet of Charing (Charing Cross), along Fleet Street and over the Fleet Bridge, climbing Ludgate Hill (by gravitational pressure) to a public conduit at Cheapside. Water was supplied free to all comers.
Tyburn had significance from ancient times and was marked by a monument known as Oswulf's Stone, which gave its name to the Ossulstone Hundred of Middlesex. The stone was covered over in 1851 when Marble Arch was moved to the area, but it was shortly afterwards unearthed and propped up against the Arch. It has not been seen since 1869.
Public executions took place at Tyburn, with the prisoners processed from Newgate Prison in the City, via St Giles in the Fields and Oxford Street. After the late 18th century, when executions were no longer carried out in public, they were carried out at Newgate Prison itself and at Horsemonger Lane Gaol in Southwark.
The first recorded execution took place at a site next to the stream in 1196. William Fitz Osbern, the populist leader of the poor of London, was cornered in the church of St Mary le Bow. He was dragged naked behind a horse to Tyburn, where he was hanged. In 1537, Henry VIII used Tyburn to execute the ringleaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace, including Sir Nicholas Tempest, one of the northern leaders of the Pilgrimage and the King's own Bowbearer of the Forest of Bowland.
In 1571, the Tyburn Tree was erected near the modern Marble Arch. The "Tree" or "Triple Tree" was a novel form of gallows, consisting of 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 were used for mass executions, such as on 23 June 1649 when 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 dissection by anatomists.
The first victim of the "Tyburn Tree" was Dr John Story, a Roman Catholic who refused to recognise Elizabeth I. A plaque to the Catholic martyrs executed at Tyburn in the period 1535 - 1681 can be seen at 8 Hyde Park Place, the site of Tyburn convent.
Among the more notable individuals suspended from the "Tree" in the following centuries were John Bradshaw, Henry Ireton and Oliver Cromwell, who were already dead but were disinterred and hanged at Tyburn in January 1661 on the orders of the Cavalier Parliament in an act of posthumous revenge for their part in the beheading of King Charles I.
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 Hogarth in 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" (or simply "go west") 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 insouciance. The crowd would cheer a "good dying", but would jeer any displays of weakness on the part of the condemned.
On 19 April 1779, clergyman James Hackman was hanged there following his 7 April murder of courtesan and 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 on an island in the middle of Edgware Road at its junction with Bayswater Road. It is also commemorated by the Tyburn Convent, a Catholic convent dedicated to the memory of martyrs executed there and in other locations for the Catholic faith.
Some notable executions at Tyburn (in chronological order)
1st Earl of March
|29 November 1330||Accused of assuming royal power; hanged without trial.|
|Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton||8 July 1486||Accused of siding with Richard III; hanged without trial on orders of Henry VII.|
|Michael An Gof & Thomas Flamank||27 June 1497||Leaders of the 1st Cornish Rebellion of 1497.|
|Perkin Warbeck||23 November 1499||Treason; pretender to the throne of Henry VII of England by passing himself off as Richard IV, the younger of the two Princes in the Tower. Leader of the 2nd Cornish Rebellion of 1497.|
"The Holy Maid of Kent"
|20 April 1534||Treason; a nun who unwisely prophesied that King Henry VIII would die within six months if he married Anne Boleyn.|
|John Houghton||4 May 1535||Prior of the Charterhouse who refused to swear the oath condoning King Henry VIII's divorce of Catherine of Aragon.|
|Thomas FitzGerald, 10th Earl of Kildare||3 February 1537||Rebel, renounced his allegiance to Henry VIII. At length, on 3 February 1537, the Earl, after imprisonment of sixteen months, and five of his uncles, of eleven months, were executed as traitors at Tyburn, being hanged, drawn and quartered. The Irish Government, not satisfied with the arrest of the Earl alone wrote to Cromwell and was determined that the five uncles (James, Oliver, Richard, John and Walter) should be arrested also. ref. "The Earls of Kildare and their Ancestors." by the Marquis of Kildare, 3rd edition 1858.
The sole male representative to the Kildare Geraldines was then smuggled to safety by his tutor at the age of twelve. Gerald FitzGerald, 11th Earl of Kildare (1525–1585), also known as the "Wizard Earl".
|Sir Francis Bigod||2 June 1537||Leader of Bigod's Rebellion. Between June and August 1537, the rebellion's ringleaders and many participants were executed at Tyburn, Tower Hill and many other locations. They included Sir John Bigod, Sir Thomas Percy, Sir Henry Percy, Sir John Bulmer, Sir Stephan Hamilton, Sir Nicholas Tempast, Sir William Lumley, Sir Edward Neville, Sir Robert Constable, the abbots of Barlings, Sawley, Fountains and Jervaulx Abbeys, and the prior of Bridlington. In all, 216 were put to death in various places; lords and knights, half a dozen abbots, 38 monks, and 16 parish priests.|
|Thomas Fiennes, 9th Baron Dacre||29 June 1541||Lord Dacre was convicted of murder after being involved in the death of a gamekeeper whilst taking part in a poaching expedition on the lands of Sir Nicholas Pelham of Laughton.|
|Francis Dereham and Sir Thomas Culpeper||10 December 1541||Courtiers of King Henry VIII who were sexually involved with his fifth wife, Queen Catherine Howard. Culpeper and Dereham were both sentenced to be 'hanged, drawn and quartered' but Culpeper's sentence was commuted to beheading at Tyburn on account of his previously good relationship with Henry. (Beheading, reserved for nobility, was normally carried out at Tower Hill. Dereham suffered the full sentence.|
|William Leech of Fulletby||8 May 1543||A ringleader of the rebellion called the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, Leech escaped to Scotland. He murdered the Somerset Herald, Thomas Trahern, at Dunbar on 25 November 1542, causing an international incident, and was delivered for hanging in London.|
|Humphrey Arundell||27 January 1550||Leader of the Western Rebellion in 1549 - sometimes known as the Prayer Book Rebellion|
|Saint Edmund Campion||1 December 1581||Roman Catholic priests.|
|John Adams||8 October 1586|
|Robert Southwell||21 February 1595|
|Philip Powel||30 June 1646|
|Peter Wright||19 May 1651|
|John Southworth||28 June 1654|
|Oliver Cromwell||30 January 1661||posthumous execution following exhumation of his body from Westminster Abbey.|
|Robert Hubert||28 September 1666||Falsely confessed to starting the Great Fire of London.|
|Claude Duval||21 January 1670||Highwayman.|
|Saint Oliver Plunkett||1 July 1681||Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and martyr.|
|Jane Voss||19 December 1684||Robbing on the highway, high treason, murder, and felony|
|William Chaloner||23 March 1699||Notorious coiner and counterfeiter, convicted of high treason partly on evidence gathered by Isaac Newton|
|Jack Hall||1707||A chimney-sweep, hanged for committing a burglary. There is a folk-song about him, which bears his name (and another song with the variant name of Sam Hall).|
|16 November 1724||Notorious thief and multiple escapee.|
|Jonathan Wild||24 May 1725||Organized crime lord.|
"The Gentleman Highwayman"
|3 October 1750||Highwayman.|
|Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers||5 May 1760||The last peer to be hanged for murder.|
|Elizabeth Brownrigg||13 September 1767||Murdered Mary Clifford, a domestic servant.|
"Sixteen String Jack"
|30 November 1774||Highwayman|
|Rev. James Hackman||19 April 1779||Hanged for the murder of Martha Ray, mistress of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.|
|John Austin||3 November 1783||A highwayman, the last person to be executed at Tyburn.|
People about to be executed often addressed the crowd. From this arose the principle of "free speech", still practiced there today, whereby anyone can take their own soapbox along and address the crowd. That part of Hyde Park is for this reason known as "Speakers' Corner" (q.v.).
- Gover J.E.B., Allen Mawer and F.M. Stenton The Place-Names of Middlesex. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society, The, 1942: 6.
- Stephen Inwood, A History of London (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1998), pg. 125. Also see D. P. Johnson (ed.), English Episcopal Acta, Vol. 26: London, 1189--1228 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press for the British Academy, 2003), Doc. 88, pp. 85--86.
- RW Hoyle, The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2001)
- City of Westminster green plaques http://www.westminster.gov.uk/services/leisureandculture/greenplaques/
- House of Commons (1802). "Journal of the House of Commons: volume 8: 1660–1667". pp. 26–7. Attainder predated to 1 January 1649 (It is 1648 in the document because of old style year)
- Tyburn Convent website. Retrieved 10/8/07
- Notes and Queries, Number 12, 19 January 1850 by Various accessed 30 May 2007
- Ian Mortimer The Greatest Traitor (2003)
- Ann Wroe Perkin: A Story of Deception., Vintage: 2004 (ISBN 0-09-944996-X)
- Alan Neame: The Holy Maid of Kent: The Life of Elizabeth Barton: 1506–1534 (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1971) ISBN 0-340-02574-3
- "Blessed John Houghton". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- Emerson, Kathy Lynn A Who's Who of Tudor Women (2011) gives Bulmer's death date as 25 August 1537
- Thomas Percy, Sir Knight at geni.com (citing as source Adams, Arthur, and Howard Horace Angerville. Living Descendants of Blood Royal London: World Nobility and Peerage, 1959. Vol. 4 page 417.
- Luke MacMahon, Fiennes, Thomas, ninth Baron Dacre, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  accessed 30 May 2007
- Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 8, 170.
- "Humphrey Arundell of Helland". Tudor Place. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- Evelyn Waugh's biography, Edmund Campion (1935)
- Godfrey Anstruther, Seminary Priests, St Edmund's College, Ware, vol. 1, 1968, pp. 1-2
- ibid pp 101
- ibid pp 214-5
- Bishop Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholics of both sexes that have Suffered Death in England on Religious Accounts from 1577 to 1684 (Manchester, 1803) vol.I, p. 175ff
- "St. John Southworth". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- "The London Gazette", 10 September 1666
- Claude Du Vall: The Gallant Highwayman Stand and Deliver accessed 30 May 2007
- Blessed Oliver Plunkett: Historical Studies, Gill, Dublin (1937)
- Moore, Lucy. The Thieves' Opera. Viking (1997) ISBN 0-670-87215-6
- "James Maclane". The Newgate Calendar. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- "Laurence Shirley, Earl Ferrers". The Newgate Calendar. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- "Ordinary's Account, 14th September 1767.". The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- "James Hackman". The Newgate Calendar. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- "Account of the Trial and Execution of John Austin". London Ancestor. Retrieved 31 May 2007.
- Heald, Henrietta (1 January 1992). Chronicle of Britain: Incorporating a Chronicle of Ireland. J L International Publishing, Incorporated. ISBN 978-1-872031-35-4. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
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