Previously Posted: Blue Sky Thinking

For those new to CabbieBlog or readers who are slightly forgetful, on Saturdays I’m republishing posts, many going back over a decade. Some will still be very relevant while others have become dated over time. Just think of this post as your weekend paper supplement.

Blue Sky Thinking (27.10.09)

Driving past The London Dungeon recently I noticed that they charge £50 for a family ticket to have that gruesome experience, but with queues around the block willing to pay there must be an insatiable appetite for death.

So for you, dear reader, who like that sort of thing, I have done some research on Tyburn Gallows.

Erected in 1571 condemned prisoners were driven there in a cart, via St. Giles in the Fields where they received a mug of ale, dressed either in mourning or in the dress of a bridegroom if they could. Unfortunately, the clothes, post-mortem, were the property of the hangman. Well, cabbies still expect a tip! In 1447 five men had already been hanged, cut down while still alive, stripped, and marked out of quartering when their pardon arrived, but the hangman declined to give them back their clothes and they were obliged to walk home naked.

Hanging days were public holidays, as it was considered that the sight of execution would prove a deterrent. Twenty-one prisoners could be hanged at once (time and motion consultants were even around in the 16th century), and convention dictated the order of precedence so that highwaymen as “the aristocrats of crime”, and the most popular were despatched first, then common thieves, with traitors being left to bring up the rear. With over 300 offences carrying the death penalty, there was never a shortage of participants.

The site of the gallows is marked by a stone in the traffic island at Marble Arch. But some historians suggest that the original site is on a spot near the southwest corner of Connaught Square.

Now recently Connaught Square, which was once known as Tyburnia, has gained another form of notoriety in the shape of one of its residents. Number 29 only five doors from the gallows site is now the London residence of ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Now if only some of the old traditions were revived that would really pull in the punters.

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