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Tyburn

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Tyburn_gallows_1746.jpg
Map of Tyburn gallows and immediate surroundings, from John Rocque's map of London, Westminster and Southwark (1746)
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Tyburn_tree.jpg
The "Tyburn Tree"
Hogarth's Idle 'Prentice (1747)
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Hogarth's Idle 'Prentice (1747)

Tyburn was a former village in the county of Middlesex which now forms part of London's City of Westminster. It took its name from the Tyburn or Ty Bourne stream, a tributary of the River Thames which is now completely covered over between its source and its outfall into the Thames at Vauxhall.

The village was one of two manors of manor of the parish of St Marylebone, which was itself named after the stream,St Marylebone being a contraction of St Mary's church by the bourne. It 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, called Tyburn Road and Tyburn Lane respectively.

Tyburn had significance from ancient times and was marked by a monument known as Oswulf's Stone, which gave its name to the Ossulston 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.

The village was notorious for centuries as the site of the Tyburn gallows, London's principal location for public executions by hanging. (According to an 1850 publication [1] (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/11575), the site was at No. 49. Connaught Square.) Executions took place at Tyburn from the 12th to the 18th century, after which they took place at Newgate Prison in the City of London. The first execution recorded at Tyburn took place in 1196 at a site next to the stream, but in 1571 the "Tyburn Tree" was erected near the modern Marble Arch. The "Tree" was a novel form of gallows, constituting 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. It 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. The gallows was occasionally used for mass executions, such as that on 23 June 1649 when 24 prisoners – 23 men and one woman – were hanged simultaneously, having been conveyed there in eight carts. After executions, the bodies would be buried nearby or removed for dissection by anatomists.

The first victim of the "Tyburn Tree" was Dr. John Story, a Catholic agitator 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 example of a posthumous execution.

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 person.

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 at the corner of Edgware Road and Bayswater Road. It is also commemorated by the Tyburn Convent, a Catholic convent dedicated to the memory of martyrs executed during the Reformation.

People executed at Tyburn

Among those executed at Tyburn were:

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