Tyburn

... took its name from the Tyburn Brook, a tributary of the River Westbourne. The name Tyburn, from Teo Bourne meaning 'boundary stream', occurs quite widely throughout England.

The Marble Arch Partnership (an association of local businesses) dates the first Tyburn gallows to the year 1177, but "during their first hundred years ... only eight single executions were deemed interesting enough to make note of." According to Wikipedia, "the first recorded execution took place at a site next to the stream in 1196. William Fitz Osbert, a populist leader who played a major role in an 1196 popular revolt in London, was cornered in the church of St Mary le Bow. He was dragged naked behind a horse to Tyburn, where he was hanged."

Roger de Mortimer, the lover of King Edward II's consort Queen Isabella of France, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in 1330. He had effectively ruled England for the previous three years, after leading a successful revolt against Edward and being instrumental in the King's imprisonment and brutal murder. He was eventually overthrown by Edward's son, Edward III.

Perkin Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn in 1499, after twice escaping the apartments where he was being held under the orders of King Henry VII. He had claimed to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York (the son of King Edward IV, and believed to have been one of the so–called 'Princes in the Tower') – which would have made him the rightful King of England.

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.

The famous Tyburn Tree was erected in 1571. It was a triangular frame supported by three posts, from which as many as 24 people could be hanged simultaneously – and were, on at least one occasion. 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. It soon became so famous that it is mentioned in Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost.

The only place where I could actually find confirmation of this being "London's first permanent gallows" was in a book called The London Encyclopedia – replicated in Google Books. "The first permanent London gallows" it says, "was at Tyburn in 1571."

Most prisoners would begin their day of execution at Newgate Prison in the City. They would then clamber onto a horsedrawn cart, to embark on a very public journey through St. Giles in the Fields and down Oxford Street, before arriving at the Tyburn Tree – their final destination. A journey that would now take around 20 minutes on the number 23 bus could take up to three hours due to the number of people crowding the route, wanting to get one last look at the condemned man (or woman). Pickpocketing, ironically, was rife.

The Parliamentarians John Bradshaw, Henry Ireton and Oliver Cromwell were disinterred and hanged from the Tyburn Tree in January 1661 on the orders of the Cavalier Parliament, in a belated act of revenge for their part in the beheading of King Charles I.

Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn in 1681 after being found guilty of involvement in the fictitious Popish Plot. He was England's last Catholic martyr, and the last of 105 to be hanged at Tyburn in the years since 1535.

The Tree was taken down in 1759 (having presumably deteriorated through exposure to the elements) and eventually replaced by a gallows that could be easily erected and dismantled as and when it was needed. The last person to be hanged at Tyburn was the robber John Austin, in 1783. Today, a circular plaque embedded into the pavement, on a traffic island at the entry to Edgware Road, marks the spot where the Tyburn Tree once stood.

In 1903, the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre left France to make a new home in England, after a law was passed in France ordering the dissolution of every religious community that was not authorised by the government. They built a convent at Tyburn and dedicated it to the 105 Catholic martyrs, who are commemorated by a plaque on its wall. In the basement you can view relics such as blood–stained linen, hair, and even a fingernail.

© Haydn Thompson 2018