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Tyburn gallows 1746
Map of Tyburn gallows and immediate surroundings, from John Rocque's map of London, Westminster and Southwark (1746)
Tyburn tree
The "Tyburn Tree"

Tyburn was a former village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch. It took its name from the Tyburn or Ty Bourne (two brooks), 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 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. 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.

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.

Tyburn gallows

The village was notorious for centuries as the site of the Tyburn gallows, London's principal location for public executions by hanging.

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 London tax riots 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").

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 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. In fact the plaque is 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.

Tyburn today remains the point at which Watling Street, the A5 ends, it continues in straight sections to Holyhead.

Notable executions

Name Date Cause
William Fitz Osbert 1196 Citizen of London executed for his role in a popular uprising of the poor in the spring of 1196.
Roger Mortimer,
1st Earl of March
29 November 1330 Accused of assuming royal power; hanged without trial.
Sir Thomas John Browne, MP, Sheriff of Kent 20 July 1460 Convicted of treason and immediately hanged. Was knighted by Henry IV and served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1440 and 1450. Served as Justice of the Peace in Surrey from 1454 until his death.
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.
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.
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. 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 Dibdale
John Lowe
Brian O'Rourke 3 November 1591 Irish lord, harboured and aided the escape of Spanish Armada shipwreck survivors in the winter of 1588. Following a short rebellion he fled to Scotland in 1591, but became the first man extradited within Britain on allegations of crimes committed in Ireland and was sentenced to death for treason.
Robert Southwell 21 February 1595 Roman Catholic priest.
John Felton 29 November 1628 Lieutenant in the English army who murdered George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, a courtier, statesman, and favorite of King James I.
Philip Powel 30 June 1646 Roman Catholic priests.
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 Lord Primate of All Ireland, Lord Archbishop of Armagh 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).
Jack Sheppard
"Gentleman Jack"
16 November 1724 Notorious thief and multiple escapee.
Jonathan Wild 24 May 1725 Organized crime lord.
James MacLaine
"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.
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.
John Austin 3 November 1783 A highwayman, the last person to be executed at Tyburn.
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