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Coordinates: 51°30′46.3″N 0°9′50.4″W / 51.512861°N 0.164°W / 51.512861; -0.164

Map of Tyburn gallows and immediate surroundings, from John Rocque's map of London, Westminster and Southwark (1746)
The "Tyburn Tree"
William Hogarth's The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn, from the Industry and Idleness series (1747)

Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch. It took its name from the Tyburn or Teo Bourne 'boundary stream',[1] a tributary of the River Thames which is now completely covered over between its source and its outfall into the Thames.

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 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 for free to all comers.[2]

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 1822 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.

Tyburn gallows

Executions took place at Tyburn until the 18th century (with the prisoners processed from Newgate Prison in the City, via St Giles in the Fields and Oxford Street), after which they were carried out at Newgate 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 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 were used for mass executions (usually of Catholics), 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 recognize Elizabeth I. 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; 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 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" 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,[3] 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.[4], the site was at No. 49. Connaught Square.

Some notable executions at Tyburn (in chronological order)

Name Date Cause
Roger Mortimer,
1st Earl of March
29 November 1330 Accused of assuming royal power; hanged without trial.[5]
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 24 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[6].
Elizabeth Barton
"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[7].
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[8].
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[9].
Thomas Culpeper 10 December 1541 A courtier of King Henry VIII who had an affair with his fifth wife, Queen Catherine Howard. Unusually, Culpeper was beheaded, a death normally reserved for the nobility, carried out at Tower Hill. Culpeper and Francis Dereham were both sentenced to be 'hanged, drawn and quartered' but Henry ordered that Culpeper's sentence be commuted to beheading on account of his previously good relationship with Henry. The unfortunate Dereham suffered the full sentence.
Humphrey Arundell 27 January 1550 Leader of the Cornish Rebellion against the English in 1549 - sometimes known as the Prayer Book Rebellion[10]
Edmund Campion[11] 1 December 1581 Roman Catholic priests.
John Adams[12] 8 October 1586
Robert Dibdale[13]
John Lowe[14]
Robert Southwell[15] 21 February 1595
Philip Powel 30 June 1646
John Southworth[16] 28 June 1654
Robert Hubert 28 September 1666 Falsely confessed to starting the Great Fire of London[17].
Claude Duval 21 January 1670 Highwayman[18].
Saint Oliver Plunkett 1 July 1681 Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and martyr[19].
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 Sheppard
"Gentleman Jack"
16 November 1724 Notorious thief[20] and multiple escapee.
Jonathan Wild 24 May 1725 Organized crime lord[20].
James MacLaine
"The Gentleman Highwayman"
3 October 1750 Highwayman[21].
Laurence Shirley, 4th Earl Ferrers 5 May 1760 The last peer to be hanged for murder[22].
John Rann
"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[23].
John Austin 3 November 1783 A highwayman, the last person to be executed at Tyburn.[24]

See also


  • Chronicle of Britain ISBN 1-872031-35-8
  1. ^ Gover J.E.B., Allen Mawer and F.M. Stenton The Place-Names of Middlesex. Nottingham: English Place-Name Society, The, 1942: 6.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Tyburn Convent website, accessed 10/8/07
  4. ^ Notes and Queries, Number 12, January 19, 1850 by Various accessed 30 May 2007
  5. ^ Ian Mortimer The Greatest Traitor (2003)
  6. ^ Ann Wroe Perkin: A Story of Deception., Vintage: 2004 (ISBN 0-09-944996-X)
  7. ^ Alan Neame: The Holy Maid of Kent: The Life of Elizabeth Barton: 1506–1534 (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1971) ISBN 0-340-02574-3
  8. ^ "Blessed John Houghton". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  
  9. ^ Luke MacMahon, Fiennes, Thomas, ninth Baron Dacre, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [1] accessed 30 May 2007
  10. ^ "Humphrey Arundell of Helland". Tudor Place. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  
  11. ^ Evelyn Waugh's biography, Edmund Campion (1935)
  12. ^ Godfrey Anstruther, Seminary Priests, St Edmund's College, Ware, vol. 1, 1968, pp. 1-2
  13. ^ ibid pp 101
  14. ^ ibid pp 214-5
  15. ^ Bishop Challoner, Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholics of both sexes that have Suffered Death in England on Religious Accounts from the year 1577 to 1684 (Manchester, 1803) vol.I, p. 175ff
  16. ^ "St. John Southworth". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  
  17. ^ The London Gazette, 10 September 1666
  18. ^ Claude Du Vall: The Gallant Highwayman Stand and Deliver accessed 30 May 2007
  19. ^ Blessed Oliver Plunkett: Historical Studies, Gill, Dublin (1937)
  20. ^ a b Moore, Lucy. The Thieves' Opera. Viking (1997) ISBN 0-670-87215-6
  21. ^ "James Maclane". The Newgate Calendar. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  
  22. ^ "Laurence Shirley, Earl Ferrers". The Newgate Calendar. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  
  23. ^ "James Hackman". The Newgate Calendar. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  
  24. ^ "Account of the Trial and Execution of John Austin". London Ancestor. Retrieved 31 May 2007.  


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