Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Other Crimes and Punishments. > Ancient Punishments.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

If you have ever wondered, what punishments our Saxon ancesters faced, ( and your family tree goes back that far you are very lucky ) maybe some of the following will give you some ideas. Striking off a couple of fingers for theft, was fairly common, so was slow strangulation it seems, for crimes such as murder. It was possible more commom though, to demand restitution by way of payment. Murder, surprisingly, was not an everyday occurance back in our recorded History. The normal method appeared to Hanging, until the Norman Conquest, in 1066, when William 1, to give him his correct title, or if you like, his continental title, William the Bastard, abolished it. Good old William you may think, but you would have been mistaken, for the alternatives which came in, were far more gruesome. The Normans, held some strong views on the subject of keeping Law and Order, and the mainstay of these views, was Punishment. The new Lords held open courts, where the sentence's dished out, especially if the crime involved loss to the new boss, were nothing short of barbaric. Cast so much as a coverted glance, at a female member of a fine Norman family, and you took the risk of being publicly Castrated. Now that would certainly put a stop to any amourous ideas you may have been harbouring. Steal from his Lordship, and this would include poaching as well, and you would be taken to the village green, and have your eyes put out with a very hot Iron. If you were very lucky, you might get a reprieve, and only lose a hand or a foot. Once again, just to make sure you had the message, they threw in Castration as an after thought, As a means of conveying to the serfs, that crime, unless committed by them, didn't pay, some poor wretches were strung up on the Castle ramparts, and left to starve to death. Hanging, in some case's, would have been a lot kinder. As time went on, things didn't get any better. Try pleading innocent, or not entering a plea, when Edward 1 was on the throne, and a whole range of " interrogating methods ", came into play. The poor starving peasant, caught poaching, had, as an inducement to confess, Molten Lead poured in his ears. They very rarely survived this " interview ". Another method, and quite popular for centuries, was " Pressing ". This involved spread eagling the prisoner, ( Man or Women, there was no discrimination ) and putting a series of heavy weights on the chest. These were added too, until either the unfortunate victim gave up, or more likely, was so crushed that they didn't have the breath left, and died.



There were a whole raft of measures for less serious stuff, like having your nose sliced off, for nicking a few vegetables, or being roasted on a spit with your family invited to watch.  If his Lordship decided that you had a sufficiently big enough pair of ears, he might jovially have them, with you attached, nailed to a tree or post. ( a early form of ear piercing no doubt ) An application of a very old invention, would have been a source of great amusement to his Lordships " Law enforcers ", " The Thumb Screw ", or it's bigger brother, The Head Screw. ( Try a visit to the Tower of London )  Then of course there was the Rack. This machine, designed to slowly, and painfully, dislocate arms and legs, was a great favourite of the Nobility and Royalty. Just the thing for a spot of after dinner entertainment.There are bound to be some, who would no doubt like to see such punishments re-created today, but then again, it won't be them going through the agony, will it ?

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 27, 2011 at 11:54 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There has always been a certain reluctance, when it came to executing women. Seen as the givers of life, and in some societies, venerated as the epitomy of Innocence. Medieval methods, given the supposedly chivalrous nature of the times, came up with an answer, that at least, so they thought, kept their hands clean. Any woman found guilty of a variety of offences, and condemned to death, would be bound, and stitched securely in a stout sack. Also in the sack, would be either a Dog, a Snake, a Cockerel, or if they could find one, a Monkey. The whole lot, would then be thrown into the nearest deep pool or pond, while a crowd watched, to see if the unfortunate women could escape. This rather depraved spectacle, was spared the more upper class women, who were merely beheaded. Thankfully, the method was not universaly adopted in this country, mainly due I suspect, to it not being much of a crowd pleaser. Rural areas prefered a variation of this method, the Ducking Stool. This wasn't just a playful jest for slight misdomeaners, it could last for sometime, with each ducking getting longer, until the poor tortured soul could hold her breath no longer, and drowned. Our European cousins used branding, either on the face, arms or hands, to mark out thieves, a practice, that was also widely used here as well. " Marked for Life ", as the old saying goes. Religion played it's part in all the mayhem as well. The Bible has a passage, " Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live ", which, as we know, resulted in a great many women being burnt at the stake. Most of them while still conscious.



The last woman to be so despatched in England, was Alice Muholland, in 1684, at Exeter. Even the clergy weren't safe, any dissent with the established Church, could lead to be being publicly burnt at the stake, like John Rogers, vicar of St Sepulchres, in London. Others were slowly roasted alive over hot coals. Punishments varied from fom county to county, before a uniform law came about. Really brass of the Lord of the Manor, and you could be torn, limb from limb, by four horses, each one attached to a different body part. Broken on, or by the Wheel, was another favourite pastime for the large crowds. The unfortunate wretch also having his entrails cut out, and then burnt in front of him. Only having hands, fingers, and legs chopped off, must have come as a relief to some of our early thieves and rogues, and  merely suffering a severe whipping, would have been a doddle. The much older punishments of crucifiction, or impalement, which was a favourite in eastern Europe, were, as far as records go, never practiced here, nor was the particular french usage of the Guillotine. No matter which punishment was used however, non of it seems to have worked, otherwise we wouldn't today, have so many overcrowded prisons.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 11, 2011 at 11:51 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
Member
Posts: 46

No such thing in those day,s as the human right,s bill ?

June 11, 2011 at 2:04 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now I have mentioned riots before, Wednesbury, Bilston, and Walsall, were not the most law abiding places in the Black Country. A great many people had no fondness at all, for the Hanoverian line of monarchs. The reign of George II, was a particulary turbulent time. In early May,1750, the citizens of Walsall took to the streets in protest, which resulted in the call out of the Militia. It took the authorities a good few months to round up those responsible, the good folk of Walsall refusing to grass up anyone. There were a few area's that required a line of Musqueteers, and during one such event, a supposed rioter was shot in the leg, and one of the Soldiers, straying away from the rest, was badly beaten up. Even the local Vicar, the Rev Samuel Roe, had to strenuosly deny his part in  supporting, or taking part, in any disturbances. Being a man of the clothe, he got the benefit of the doubt, which is more than can be said for some others. It was some time, before those accused appeared in a court, in fact it was March 1751, and even then they were committed to the Easter Term of the Kings Bench in London.. There were Ten in all, classed as the ring leaders, who would pay the price.


Thomas James Snr, Anne James,Thomas James Jnr, John Guy, John Rose, William James, William Wiggin, Eleanor Higgins, John Cotterall, and John Rose.


William Wiggin was found guilty of shouting words of insults against the King, and was fined 6s.8d, and sentenced to 6 months in Prison. Thomas James Jnr, and John Rose, were aquitted of the charges, and went back to Walsall, presumable still walking. Thomas James Snr was found guilty of being the ringleader and was sentenced to stand 3 times on the Pillory, at the Royal Exchange, the end of Chancery Lane, and at Charing Cross. Just for good measure, they gave him 3 years hard labour as well. The only ones spared the Pillory, were the two Women, who were flung into prison for a year. The rest were sentenced to varying times on a Pillory,  but all of them went to Goal for 2 years hard labour. Now the Pillory may sound a fairly easy punishment, it most certainly wasn't. Some, who underwent this treatment, did not survive the second time they were locked in the contraption. All kinds of objects would be hurled at the heads of the poor souls, and they would be subjected to attacks by dogs, and at night, rats. Depending on the whim of the district officer, in whose area the Pillory was, they might also have their ears nailed to the boards as well. Sometimes I suppose, it was a lot easier just to keep your mouth shut, and suffer the conditions in silence.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 16, 2011 at 11:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now, in case anyone may be interested, I did say that the Guillotine, as a form of execution, never caught on in this country. In one part of our fair land though, a method of despatching criminals, very similiar to the French system, was in operation prior to it's continental appearence. Called The Halifax Gibbet, because it was only used in the town and surrounding area's, it somewhat resembled the french apparatus. From 1541 to 1650, it was recorded that 49 people had been excuted in this manner. 5 during the latter reign of Henry VIII, 25 under the rule of Elizabeth I, 7 when James I was on the throne, and 2, during the reign of Charles I, before he lost his own head. ( Not of course in Halifax )



Two 15 foot uprights, and a cross piece, to hold it steady, the blade or axe, about 8lbs in weight, being attatched to a 5 foot wooden block. This block moved up and down between the uprights, and was kept in place with a wooden pin, until it was required to be dropped. There is a remarkable likeness, between this and the Guillotine, and there's a good chance that the Halifax design was copied by the french. There is evidence to suggest that the Normans may have introduced it, in which case it was a old Viking invention in the first place, but the idea was lost in the mists of time. The earlest recorded use was about 1286, and the device may have been used in other area's as well. It was official recorded in 1541, as a general punishment. Not very popular, as the action of striking off of a head, was over too quickly, and the law demanded as much pain as possible. This was to satisfy the victims families, and of course, the large crowds, who looked upon it as entertaiment. Two women met their end on this device in 1620, Anna Fairbank, and Sarah Lum, possibly for stealing. Any item, which had a value of over 13.5 pence, or over. ( about 1 shilling ) could attract the death penalty, and frequently did. (This sum was also the amount earned by the executioner) They also had a system for executions that did not include a permanant executioner, the wooden pin holding the axe, was attached to a rope, which was pulled by several men. This ensured that collectively, the whole community took responsibilty for the act. What a comforting thought that must have been. In a few case's, nobody pulled the pin out at all, but the culprit was beheaded just the same. Special arrangements were taken for animal theft. The rope was attached to the pin, which in turn, was attached to the type of animal stolen. As the beast wondered around grazing, and the extent of the rope was reached, the poor victim could only look on in horror, for at the next step of the animal, bingo, down came the blade. Rather neat I thought, although you can imagine the terror the victim was feeling, watching and waiting for the chop. There was a way of avoiding punishment of this type, you could simply run away, if he or she were quick enough to evade the pursuers. At the site of this contraption, the Parish boundry to the north was only about 600 yards away. To the south, it was about a mile and a half, with a similiar distance to the east. West would have been a huge mistake, it was almost 10 miles distant. Of course, once free, you could never return, as witnessed by one John Lacy, who returned 7 years later, was recognised, and this time, really got the chop. The device was last used about 1650 in a double execution, the contraption then falling into disrepair.


Back a bit farther in time, and the Romans may have bought with them a favourite form of punishment, The Crucifixion. Never meant, or intended other than as a death sentence, the Romans learnt this method from the Eygptians or Greeks, and it is recorded as far back as ancient Babylonia. Faced with numerous outbreaks of rebellion, it's difficult to believe that they never used it to, teach the British tribes to behave. Now here's something to make you think, Agnes Griffin, during the English Civil War, was nailed to a tree, in a crucifixion position, forced to drink her own blood, and eat her own flesh. Why such a parody of a church ceremony was enacted is not recorded, but she did survive the ordeal, and got compensation as well. Thankfully, this method was abolished, during the reign of Constantine I in c337ad, at least in the Christian world it was.


Lapidation, or to give it a more common name, Stoning, is the oldest form of capital punishment in the world. It's not just confined to certain countries either, it's been used almost everywhere mankind has appeared. Never practised widely in this country, never the less, it has been used here. It made a re-appearence during the 17/18/19th centuries, when many felons were committed to serve time on The Pillory. This was a wooden device, that secured the arms and heads of a prisoner, and placed on a raised platform so that the crowds could see. All manner of objects were thrown at the victims, vegetables, eggs, dead animals, mud, excrement, stones, and bricks. Many victims died, as witness the highwaymen Egan and Salmon, in 1756 when pilloried in Park Lane, London.


From the Newgate Calender, March, 1756.

Egan and Salmon were taken to Smithfield amidst a surprising concourse of people, who no sooner saw the offenders exposed on the pillory, then they pelted them with stones, brickbats, potatoes, dead dogs and cats, oyster shells and other things. The constables now interposed but, being soon overpowered the offenders were left to the mercy of the enraged mob. The blows they received occasioned their heads to swell to an enormous size; and by the people hanging on to the skirts of their clothing they were near strangled. They had been on the pillory for about half an hour when a stone struck Egan on the head, and he immediately expired.

The remaining prisoner, Salmon, was taken back to Newgate, but died a few days later. It doesn't make for pleasent reading at time's, but it's as well to remember, that the history of one's own country, is not untainted with such happenings. Thankfully, we have got beyond hysteria and mob rule. Well I hope we have.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 3, 2011 at 4:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Anyone who delves into old criminal records and punishments, will soon realise who made and upheld the Laws; Men. Protecting their property was a priority, as can be seen from the terrible and harsh treatment dished out. The aim of course was punishment, pure and simple, no attempt here to rehabilitate the individual. The more suffering that the convicted had to endure, was part of the justice system. Besides, as mentioned elsewhere, these events drew large crowds, and served as a deterent for the population. Well they were supposed too, but to be honest, no matter how many swung from a rope, had heads chopped off, or burnt at the stake, it has never stopped murders happening, has it !  Only a man could have come up with the punishment for a woman who did away with her husband, while at the same time, not handing out the same for a man who did away with his wife. The crime was deemed to be " Petty Treason ", the punishment for which, was burning at the stake.



The men were simple hanged, or in many cases, transported to the Colonies. Double standards here methinks. Records from 1735, the year before Witch Burning was abolished, suggest that when Mary Fawson, aged 20, was burnt at Northampton, the event drew the whole district out to watch. The same thing happened at Tyburn the same year, when Margaret Onion suffered the same fate. Both women had murdered their husbands by administering poison. Margaret was the encore for the crowd, as several men had been hanged prior to the bonfire party starting. Here in the midlands, they must have been more soft hearted, for I can find only one such case even close. Elizabeth Moreton, found guilty of stabbing her other half to death, at the Worcester Assizes in 1744, was ordered to be burnt at the place she came from, Evesham.  Between 1735 and 1786, some 34 women were put to the stake, mostly for killing their loving husbands, and for a variety of reasons. Some didn't kill at all, they were found guilty of High Treason, under which heading was to be found, " Coining ".  Six women underwent the treatment, two of them for just filing the edges off. Took it's money seriously did this country. The one that sticks out, is the sad case of Mary Grote. She was a servant, ill treated by a very cruel mistress, so she poisoned her. While expressing some sympathy, at her trial in 1738, the Judge still passed the death sentence, employers, after all, had to be protected from such retribution by the oppressed, and she was served up as a deterent. Mary was just 16 years old.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 28, 2011 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

And to answer the question that was posed, here you are. Between 1735, and 1789, when the practice was abolished. 34 Women were Burnt at the Stake. Thankfully, not one in our region. Either they were all well behaved, couldn't afford the poison, or didn't have the energy for stabbing the old man after a hard days work. Then again, they could all have been too drunk to even bother. Of the women, 19 had poisoned their husbands, or someone they worked for. 8 women stabbed their husbands either for taking a bit on the side, or for personal gain. ( Made a will yet fella's ) 6 Women were burnt for either being involved in making forged coins, or for filing down the edges for the gold or silver content. That leaves just the one, Mary Ellah, from York, who in 1757, fed up with his village antics, took the yard Axe, and hacked her other half to bits, and fed some of him to the pigs. What a really charming woman she must have been, and it's enough to put one off that next sausage sandwich.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 11, 2011 at 3:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

For the more squemish amongst the many visitors to the site, I suggest you look away now, or go and put the kettle on. If there's one thing I've learned, during many years of interest in the subject, it's that almost everyone. has expressed a morbid fear of Being Buried Alive. There are numerous instances of this, caused mainly by the lack of medical knowledge in times past. Falling into a coma, up to at least the 1840s, was not a bright career move. Deep scratch's, on the inside lid of a Coffin, were not an uncommon sight, particulary when the unfortunate soul was put into a Crypt. Normal ground burials of course, would have rotted away the evidence. Hence the thoughts, behind the practice of tying string around the corpse's foot, and attaching a bell to the other end. ( This of course won't work in a cremetorium, you wouldn't hear the bell when the they shut the oven door would you )The practice, as a punishment, was largely confined to our continental cousins, but there are a few records in this country. From the manorial rolls, in the National Archives, comes a true story, which occured in Oxford, in 1222. The case was one of Sacrilage, two people, a man and a woman, both of whom refused to attend Church, and the man. ( proclaiming himself to be a resurrected Jesus, and even going through a painful process of crucifiction ) were ordered to be walled up, Alive. Without food and water, they wouldn't have lasted long. The report also hints at a degree of Wichcraft. Further back in time, and the Romans bought with them, another form of burying alive. Bound hand and foot, the victim would be thrown into a pit, prone and face down, then the pit was filled in, leaving just the feet exposed on the surface. This was of course, a form of torture, a more violent version of being walled into an underground cell, which was covered over and left. Vestal Virgins and other religous figures were given this punishment for " Lax and Loose Morals ". ( The old Romans would be very busy today, digging away like mad )  Several such bodies have been found in London, Dorchester, and Colchester. Thankfully, it never really caught on here, the people who followed the Romans had better things to do with the land, like growing food. The rest of the World though, and some Asian countries, continued with it, sadly, even during the last War. There are several instances, where some Japanese Commanders, allowed captured American Soldiers, to be buried face down in a hole, leaving again, just the feet exposed so that they would be later found by their comrades in arms. Done I suppose, to demonstrate the fearsome reputation of their army, well let me say this, it scares the **** out of me.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 14, 2011 at 11:35 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

If any of the Punishments mentioned so far, have put you off your Dinner, then this next one will really make you gag. The origin of Impalement, is lost in the vastness of time, but as it was practised by the Romans, it is likely to have a middle eastern connection. I should add, that the Romans, like others, only reserved this form of punishment for serious offences, and very few cases have been recorded. I wonder if this is why the Druids vanished. Whether it was used during the occupation of this Country, no one knows, the Romans only ever wrote a good press about themselves, everyone else was classed as a " Barbarian ". The method was brutal in the extreme, depending on it being either a quick death or a slow one, the stake used could be sharpened, or more likely just rounded off, in which case it could take up to three days to die. Three days of unimaginably excrutiating agony. Take the system used by Vlad The Impaler, quite possibly the most depraved and perverted man in Central European history. In the 1450s, using the methods then prevelant in the Ottoman Empire, he then set about ' reforming ' the habits of his law breaking subjects. A horse would be attached to each unfortunate prisoners legs, and he would be spreadeagled. Then, a suitable stake would be driven either through the chest, abdomen, or a bodily orifice. The more noble the prisoner, the longer the greased wooden stake would be, and it was hammered home by a big strong man. When it was deemed far enough in, the stake, with the victim attached, would be planted in the ground, the weight of the poor soul completing the task, as he slowly slid downwards. If it was an " Adulterous Woman ", ( his apparent favourite sport ) there was of course a choice, and I'm not going to describe the various preparations that this entailed. He was noted for the Impalement of around 20,000 Turkish Prisoners in 1462, during an invasion. The Turks gave up and went home. Ali Pasha, born in 1744, in Albania, also used Impalement, based on the methods of old Vlad, but with a slight twist in the tail. ( please forgive the pun ) When the stake had been inserted, greased with Lard, he sometimes had a change of mind, and had the victim spit Roasted instead, the relatives of the unfortunate indivdual being made to turn the spit. Done to a turn you might say. I've put their ugly mugs in the Gallery.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 9, 2012 at 3:54 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
Member
Posts: 46

What a way to go.

March 10, 2012 at 1:39 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In some of the murders, we have the courts ordering the body of a hanged man to be " Gibbeted ", and you wouldn't be surprised to find out it was an ancient practice. It has been attributed to the early Kings of France, who, used the method to deter Forging or Clipping coins of the realm. These early coins were of silver or gold, but such was the scale of theft, that later, copper and bronze was substituted, and the silver or gold content was reduced. The first recorded use in England, was in the reign of Henry III, in 1236. A name appears in 1242, one William de Marisco, a Knight of the realm, found guilty of Treason and murder, he was taken from the Tower of London, and Gibbeted on Tower Green. Some time later, he was taken down, his body, or what was left of it, cut into four pieces, and despatched around the Kingdom. After some complaints about the smell from these grisly goings on, the bodies were painted with a layer of Pitch, which, incidently, tended to keep away the rooks and crows as well. You may have already read, that these devices were erected as near to the actual crime as possible. Skeletons were never removed as the sentence was " placed on a Gibbet until the body drops ". There are a few stories, where a Wife, or Mother, spent many years at a Gibbet, collecting the fallen bones, in order to give the relative a half decent burial.



Many of the nations numerous Highwaymen, were Gibbeted on sections of the road where they had committed their crimes. As a warning to others, it was a spectacular failure. The system went out of favour towards the end of the 18th century, a new sentence for miscreants now appeared. Anatomizing, or Public Dissection. To some criminals, this was far worse than the hanging itself, and many made the plea to be simply buried, so that at least relatives could visit a grave. These requests were usually turned down, the eminant Doctors of the day needed to teach pupils the workings of the human body. ( Not the breathing part, obviously ) Up in bonny Scotland, although they used the Gibbet, it was with a slight variation. Taking down the hanged man, they cut off the hand that had committed the foul deed, and hammered it to the Gibbet post with a dagger. I presume they then handed what was left to the dead mans relatives, or simply threw it into an open grave. Not renowned for being very sympathetic the Scots, not even towards their own kin, as witnessed by events following The Battle of Culloden, in 1746.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 9, 2012 at 3:32 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now while on the subject of Scotland, did you know that James VI, ( James I of England ) had a thing about punishing " Witches ". That he believed in their evil powers, is something he inherited from his aunt, Elizabeth I, under whose reign, it was a criminal offence. Many " wise old women ", were put to death during his time in Scotland, and he took a rather keen interest in it all. He blamed the Scottish witches for the stormy conditions that delayed his Bride arriving from  Denmark. In the end he set off to fetch her, and almost drowned on the way back. So upset was he, that in 1590, he organised a witch hunt at North Berwick. Similar to a Fox hunt really, except the quarry could speak. The quarry he chose to prove that the power was real, was one Agnes Sampson. While he watched, a rope was twisted around her head, and tightened. in order you understand, to improve her memory. She duley confessed to creating the storms by throwing a Cat and some body parts into the Sea. Not enough for our noble Scottish King, the rope was tightened again. Agnes then confessed, that on All Hollows, ( Hallowen hadn't been invented yet ) that over 200 witches had put to Sea, in a " Magic Sieve ", to stir up a storm.  Not completely convinced, he ordered the rope twisted a bit more. This time Agnes claimed that they had all gone to the Church, met the Devil, kissed his ring piece, and declared James to be the Devils greatest enemy.  James may have been a bit of twit, but he wasn't having this, declaring, " You witches are all extreame lyars ", he then ordered more twisting of the rope. At this, Agnes realised she may have slightly over exaggerated somewhat, and asked to speak to the King in private. She then whispered in his ear, the very words he said to his Bride on his wedding night. She must have been pretty close, for he had her released, but any thoughts she may have had of escape. were now cruelly dashed. In his eyes, because she got it mostly right, she was now, in her own words, proved to be a witch. She was taken outside, unmercifully whipped, and then burnt alive at the stake, in Haddington, in 1591. He then wrote a Book about finding witches, " The Daemonologie ", and bought in the stupid Witchcraft Act of 1603, which was responsible for a great many other deaths, untill it was repealed in 1735. That people can still believe today, in witches who are able to control the weather, is a failure of modern education. Which reminds me, I must watch Emma Jesson's  weather forecast today, I plan to do some gardening tomorrow.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 26, 2012 at 4:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Another very old form of punishment was Branding with a very hot iron. Much favoured around Europe, the criminal had a letter or mark burned into his/her forehead. They even did this to those convicted of murder, with a nice big capital M. Prisons in the period were not always that secure, so I presume they were making sure, that if the wretch escaped before being hanged, he/she would be easy to find. In more enlightened times, the forehead branding was replaced by one on the persons cheek, the lower arm, or the palm of the hand.




In an earlier age, the law granted the right to Trial by Combat, in which the accused offered to defend himself in battle. ( Usually with a wooden staff, or sacks filled with sand, as this meant the fight would go on for several hours, and give the spectators a bit of sport.) Taking the part where an accused person could defend the charge with his body, led to another form of trial, more familier to those who have an interest in Witch Craft, where the accused was thrown, tied up, into the nearest pond or River. Sink or swim, the result was the same, a Death Sentence. Others were given another choice. An area, about 10 feet long was prepared, at one end of which was a nicely burning brazier. Into this was thrust an Iron rod, and when it was a nice shade of yellow, ( very very hot ) it was placed in the accused persons hand. To avoid an instant death, this hot rod, had to carried the distance marked out, before it could be dropped. Most men could manage to cover the distance in 3 strides, women took a little longer. The wound would then be bandaged, and 3 days later, they would be back to the court to see how it was getting on. If it was festered, (  given the primitive state of medicine, it usually was ) they were taken away and executed. Yet another form of this branding survived into the 19th century, ( but without the execution bit ) when a Judge could order a Thief, or Vagabond, to be " Burnt in the Hand ", or in some cases, on the Ankle or Heel. I wonder if thats were the expression, " Show us a clean pair of Heels " came from.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 15, 2012 at 11:17 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Buried, deep in the records, is one of the strangest ends to an act of murder you will possible find. The case, 211 years old, come the 28 th October, concerns an old, ( and probably mentally disturbed ) Chelsea Pensioner. He was Irish by birth, about 68 years old, and his name was James Legg. He had been at the Chelsea Hospital for about 10 years, having served faithfully in many campaigns, including with General Cornwallis, in the American War of Independence, where he had the rank of Sargeant. At Greenwich though, after a few years, he insisted on being addressed as " Captain " Legg. Laterly, he shared a room with William Lambe, who although married, qualified by means of his service, for a place at the Greenwich Hospital. Several arguments had ensured over the years, according to what Legg later said, and which finished on the 28th October,1801. Legg had somehow obtained a brace of Pistols, and after the lastest spat, loaded them both and challenged Lambe to " fight like a man " .  When handed the Pistol, Lambe threw it on the floor, and outraged, Legg shot him in the chest with the other Pistol. He died almost immediately. Disregarding some evidence of insanity, the Jury found Legg guilty of wilful murder and Justice Heath, sentenced him to death. This was carried out opposite the Debtors Door of Newgate Prison, some days later. Now comes the strange bit.


You may all have seen, many times, Pictures that depicted the death of Jesus on a cross. It was to prove, that all these scenes were anatomically correct, that the still warm dead body of James Legg, was handed to some Doctors, who then nailed it to a wooden cross. To satisfy any further questions about the procedure, they then had a plaster cast made of the results. Gruesome or what, and the whole thing still exists, in the Museum of London. This week, it has moved into a conservation laboratory, where work is taking place on a restoration. Later on, if you are in to that kind of thing, you will be able to gaze at the plaster image of a man hanged for murder, who was then Crucified. Now if thats not strange, then I don't know what is. Picture in the album " Criminal Intent ", in the Gallery.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 1, 2012 at 11:04 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

For those of you who were bought up to believe, that Henry VIII was a jovial if rather overweight monarch, try this one. His sense of humour was well established early on in his reign, but sadly, it was sometimes tainted with a rather sadistic twist. One of his ministers, and a fellow adherent of Jousting, reported that after a party he had thrown, two of his guests had died, and he suspected they may have poisoned. Given the lack of hygiene during the whole of the Tudor Period, he was probably lucky that they were the only victims. Never the less, he managed to persuade the King to investigate and low and behold, the first one to undergo " questioning " was the Cook, Richard Roose. He of course protested his innocence, so, as the order came from his corpulant majesty, they arranged for him to pay a visit " below stairs ". A few turns of the handle of the rack, and poor Richard " confessed " his supposed crime. When told, Henry VIII thought for a moment, then came up with what he concidered to be a very suitable punishment. In a place where a large crowd could gather, they lit a large bonfire, placing on it a big couldron filled with water. When it began to boil, the unfortunate Cook was lowered in, and slowly boiled to death, like a Lobster. Henry rather liked public executions, as he felt they acted as a deterrent, and horrific examples, of what could befall someone who broke the Law. Even a couple of his own wives.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 3, 2012 at 3:35 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now its a strange thing, but delving through old records sometimes throws up a few coincidences. In the topic " Want to Solve a Mystery ",  I have mentioned one Daniel Lambert, born in Leicester, he became the heaviest man recorded in England. He was seen at many fairs and wakes, around what became known later as the Blackcountry. His portrait can be seen in the Images From the Forums album. The subject I was looking at, was one already mentioned, " Gibbeting ", and although it isnt actually in the district, its not that far away. ( Picture of the Gibbet in the " Criminal Intent " album.


The story concerns one John Massey, born at either Bagworth or Thornton, near Leicester, in 1746. He was by trade a " sougher ", a man who dug ditches, made sluices, and generally worked on drainage and irregation systems. A big strong lad, he took up Wrestling, as opposed to Prize Fighting, perhaps fearful of losing of his good looks. He married a local girl, Jane Charnel in 1788, although neither the marrige,nor she, lasted long, as she was dead within 5 years. You needed to be very fit to continue with wrestling, and he soon began to feel the strain, possibly because of his famous trick of throwing his opponent clean over his head, and retired early, presumably with a few bob tucked away. In 1793, he remarried, but just how much his new bride knew about him, is anyones guess, for Massey had a dark secret. Mary Pyner, ( or Pinor ) very soon found out, he was a violent men, and beat her black and blue whenever he was displeased. Mary had a daughter from her first marriage, aged about three at the time, and they went to live in a little village called Bilstone , about 4 miles southwest of Ibstock. In 1881, Mary died, following a terrific beating from Massey, witnessed by the child who was now 10 years old. Fearing she would betray him, as he had told the village she had fallen badly, he attempted to drown the child in the Mill Pond. She was a wise little child though, and escaping his clutches, she ran into the village for help. Arrested and charged with his wifes brutal murder, he was sent to Leicesters Bridewell Prison, in High Cross Street to await his trial. He now came across a man who he would have had trouble wrestling to the ground, never mind the old over the head move, non other than Daniel Lambert, the 40 stone plus Keeper of the Gaol. Daniel had taken over the job, after his father had died, in 1791, and was probably much relieved when the Gaol was rebuilt in 1793. It had wider corridors. ( and lord knows he needed them ) He must have travelled to Red Hill, Birstall, on the 23 August 1801, when the dreadful John Massey was slowly, and its hoped, painfully executed, but not I suspect, back to village of Bilstone, where Massey was duly Gibbeted, on Congerstone Heath, barely a quarter of a mile from where he had beaten poor Mary to death. It was said, that the body, bound in chains, attracted a great deal of attention, not that surprising, as entertaiment at the time was in short supply. There is a story, that someone, having rattled the cage a bit, stole his skull, took it to over the border into Atherstone, Warwickshire, from where it disappeared, and has never been seen since. Daniel Lambert gave up the post at the Prison in 1805, and turned to touring as a fairground attraction. Much better paid I would imagine, judging from the clothes he is wearing in that picture. By the way, if anyone finds a spare skull, John Massey's is supposed to be lined inside with Silver.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 31, 2012 at 3:28 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

I will return now to the subject of the Guillotine if I may, for it attracted some of the Countries top writers. Charles Dickens had attended an English hanging, and was not overly impressed with what he had witnessed. Lord Byron, distinguished poet as he was, went to a execution near Rome, in 1817, and was much impressed with the action of the guillotine. He later wrote back home, " The day before I left Rome, I saw three robbers guillotined. The ceremony, including the masked priests, the half naked executioners, the bandaged criminals, the black Christ and his banner, the scaffold, the soldiery, the slow procession, the quick rattle and heavy fall of the axe, the splash of blood, and the ghastliness of the exposed heads, is altogether more impressive than the vulgar and ungentlemanly dirty " new drop " and dog like agony of infliction upon the sufferers of the English sentence. The pain seems little, and yet the effect to the spectator, and the preparation to the criminal, is very striking and chilling.".  It was all very well for him to wax lyrical about what he had seen, for it wasn't him with his neck on the block. He wasn't the only one who suggested that the English should change to the French system of Capital Punishment either. Sir John Bowring, better known as an explorer, and Lord Durham, later to be become Governor General of Canada, both expressed interest in Madame Guillotine, even going to the length of arranging an exhibition of its action by the well know French executioner, M. Sanson.



On the way, Lord Durham had to be pursuaded not to buy a live sheep for the occasion, as the demonstration was always done with bales of straw. Dickens, in Rome in 1845, witnessed his second be-heading, and wrote these lines. " The victim immediatly kneeled down, below the knife. His neck fitting into a hole, made for the purpose, in a cross plank, was shut down by another plank above; exactly like the pillory. Immediately below was a leathern bag. And into it  his head rolled instantly.". As was the custom, the executioner then picked up the head by the hair, and paraded it around the scaffold. English hangings at the time, may have been a bit on the gruesome side, but never as gruesome as this. It was, said most of the English Aristocracy, a barbaric practice, and had no place in a civilised country. They had a point,given the bloodshed during the French Revolution, but the French hung on to the system until 1981. There are some pictures in the Criminal Intent Album.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 10, 2013 at 4:59 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Back to the subject of " Branding " for this item. Used by the Romans, who possibly bought it here, for the identification of their Slaves, with a big prominant " FUG ", the Latin Fugitivus. This came in very handy for when they ran away. It's known that the Anglo Saxons branded both their animals and their slaves, the latter with the letter "S". From the early 16th century, another letter was added after slavery died out, the letter "V" appeared, used for Vagrants and Gypsies. Facial branding was discontinued, as the mark left the person unemployable, and if the punishment included a fine, it would never get paid. In Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was having trouble with a group known as the Anabaptists, and any caught, who refused to abandon the faith, were branded on the forehead. It was illegal in Germany to do this, but the Church ignored it. Over in America, the Puritans, who at times had an unbalanced population of males and females, were going through a troubling time with the levels of Adultery. When found out, the miss-creants were branded with a letter "A". The men were branded on the chest, the women on the bosom, which begs the question of what they did, if the woman was caught out more than twice. The French were great believers in their Naval strength, a great deal of which relied on the Galleys, as opposed to pure sail. The power for the Galleys depended on muscle, and this motive power was supplied by slaves. Any sort of slave would do, and there was many an Englishman, captured in battle, who had the letters "GAL" branded on his arm. This changed to "TF", ( Forced Labour ) later on, as the Navy caught up with progress, and slaves were used to work in the French Colonies instead. Back in North America, and this included Canada, branding was confined to the Armed Forces, "D" for deserters, and "BC", for someone concidered to have a bad character. The same system was used in the British Army as well, up to 1829, when branding was replaced by a Tattoo, using either ink, or Gunpowder. This stopped in 1879. To escape punishment in days gone by, you could plead the old excuse of " Benefit of Clergy ". If you could read, or later recite, a selected bit of the Holy Scriptures, you would be let off the crime, no matter what you had done. Naturally, this became a scandal, as many evaded any punishment several times, so the Law came up with an amendment. Every one who pled this defence, after being found guilty, and before the Court rose, was branded, or " burnt in the hand ". This ammounted to a mark on the persons thumb, a "T" for Theft, an "F" for Felon, and an "M" for Malefactor. After the hot iron had been applied, the clerk had to declare to the Judge " a fair mark m'lord ". Bribery to only use a cold iron led to many complaints, and the system was abolished in 1822. If you had been a naughty person between 1698, and 1707, you would have sported a rather fetching mark, on the left cheek, near the nose. Very similar today to those things they call " piercings ", body embellishment's that it's hard not to stare at. They should have kept the branding, for it must have had the same effect.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 6, 2013 at 11:37 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Every time there is a reported child murder. or a particulary pointless one, the cry will go up, " Bring back hanging ".  The result of a recent, and reliable survey however, reveals that more than half of those asked, expressed the opinion that it shouldn't be. Anyone who says that it would be a deterent, and a lesson to others, is sadly mistaken, as in the whole history of these Islands, the crime of murder has never ceased, or even decreased due to anyone having their neck stretched. There are even those who have called for the public executions of offenders, a system that most would find deeply upsetting and traumatic. Here is a little tale that illustrates what happens when things go drastically wrong.


On the 22nd of September, 1783, William Cunnyngham, ( the old spelling of Cunningham ) was executed on Low Sands, near Carlise.  The Executiioner, who had held the post for many years as few others would take on such a hated task, was described as old, and a bit feeble. It had taken some time to erect the two ladders, side by side, one for the executioner and one for the condemned man. There was a further delay, as Cunningham, desperately seeking to extend his time on earth for as long as possible, kept the Clergyman in prayers for almost an hour and a half. The vast crowd was growing a bit restless, and the under Sheriff cut short the next round of prayers, forcing the doomed man up the ladder. The old executioner mounted the other ladder, thick rope in hand and looped it over Cunninghams head. Unfortunately, the knot, which should have been on the left side of neck, ended up on the right, under his jaw, so when he was turned off, he merely swung in the breeze. The crowd began to look forward to a long execution, as the poor victim cried out " It will not do- it will not do ". The under Sheriff quickly scaled the ladder, and with the assistance of the old man, attempted to correct the rope. They failed, and the agile Cunningham managed to grab hold of the old mans coat. and gained a grip back on the ladder. This was fast becoming a farce, as both men, now back on the ground having failed to correct the position of the knot, managed to shake the half hanged man off. The crowd cheered as he finally swung into empty space, which turned to gasps, as the frantic efforts of the condemned man gained himself yet another foothold on the other ladder. His cries of " Murder, Murder ",  echoed around the field, as in desperation, the two men wrenched away the ladder.  It took an agonising 15 minutes, before William Cunnyngham finally finished struggling on the ropes end. A fine spectacle for the crowd on the day, most of whom had travelled a long distance to watch a man die. This sickening sight failed to deter anyone from attending the next public hanging, and of course, it had also failed to prevent the murder for which the next man was also hanged. I have been asked many times. am I for, or against Capital Punishment. I say merely this, I do not believe, that the State, which exsists to protect us all, has the right to mandatory take away anyone's life.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 27, 2015 at 3:52 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.