Tower Hill execution site

tower hangingThe principal place of execution, normally by beheading, for the traitors, martyrs, who have been imprisoned in the Tower. About 125 people in all have been known to be officially executed here from 1388, Sir Simon de Burley, tutor to Richard 11 to 1747, the Jacobite Lord Lovat.

However the first deaths were in 1381 when during The Peasants Revolt the mob got into the Tower and dragged out Simon of Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lord Treasurer Robert Hales, John Legge, a Sergeant at Arms and notorious collector of taxes and John of Gaunt’s physician who were praying in St John’s Chapel

Edward IV erected the first permanent scaffold, which led to clashes with the City authorities who resented it being used as a permanent execution site as they would derive no benefit from the crowds who flocked to see executions. Edward granted the monopoly to the city and so when prisoners were led out by the Lieutenant they were handed over to the City sheriffs at the gate of Tower, and a receipt was given to the royal officer. The last deaths here were in 1780.

After Lovat’s death a gallows stood on the spot and the last to be hanged were 2 prostitutes, Mary Roberts and Charlotte Gardiner, and a one armed soldier, William McDonald, arrested during the Gordon Riots for leading an attack by a drunken mob on the tavern of a foreign Roman Catholic. Pillory and Stocks were also on the site at times.

Many spectators came to witness these events. At Monmouth’s execution the executioner Jack Ketch was exhorted by Monmouth to strike cleanly such was Ketch’s reputation. The first blow glanced off his head and the Duke struggled and rose from the block to look reproachfully at Ketch before sinking down on the block once more. Two further blows failed to sever the neck and some say it took 8 blows, the ower of London fact sheet says 5, and he had to use a knife to finally sever the head from body. He had to leave the scaffold under a strong guard, as the crowd was so enraged.

Lovat, the last man to be executed by beheading in England, exclaimed “God save us” when he saw the crowds. One stand overlooking the scaffold was so overladen a support cracked and broke, causing a few to be crushed to death. Lovat commented “the more mischief; the better sport”. He was highly amused and from this comes the phrase “laughing your head off”

Although most executions were be-headings there are recorded Lollards being burnt at the

Stake in the 1400’s, in addition to Wyche; 3 unnamed in 1532 for making counterfeit coins and five unruly youths hanged for causing a disturbance on Tower Hill in 1595.

1) 1388 – Sir Simon de Burley

2) 1397 – Richard Fitzalan. 11th Earl of Arundel

3) 1440 – Rev Richard Wyche, Vicar of Deptford

4) 1462 – John de Vere. 12th Earl of Oxford

5) 1470 – John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester

6) 1495 – Sir William Stanley

7) 1497 – James Tuchet. known as Lord Audley

8) 1499 – Edward Plantaganet. 17th Earl of Warwick

9) 1502 – Sir James Tryell

10) 1510 – Edmund Dudley

11) 1510 – Sir Richard Empson

12) 1521 – Edward Stafford. 3rd Duke of Buckingham

13) 1535 – John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester

14) 1535 – Sir Thomas More, Ex Lord Chancellor

15) 1536 – George Boleyn brother of Anne Boleyn

16) 1537 – Thomas Darcy, 1st Baron Darcy de Darcy

17) 1538 – Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon

18) 1540 – Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex

19) 1547 – Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

20) 1552 – Sir Ralph Vane

21) 1552 – Sir Thomas Arundell, of Wardour Castle

22) 1552 – Edward Seymour 1st Duke of Somerset

23) 1554 – Sir Thomas Wyatt.

24) 1554 – Lord Guildford Dudley

25) 1571 – Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk

26) 1601 – Sir Christopher Blount

27) 1615 – Sir Gervase Helwys. Lieutenant of the Tower of London

28) 1631 – Mervyn Tuchet, 2nd Earl of Castlehaven

29) 1641 – Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Stratford

30) 1645 – William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury

31) 1662 – Sir Henry Vane

32) 1683 – Col. Algeron Sidney

33) 1685 – James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth

34) 1716 – James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater

35) 1746 – William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock

36) 1746 – Lord Balmerino

37) 1746 – Robert Boyd, of Clan Boyd

38) 1747 – Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat

italicised names – denotes those not shown on Tower Hill plaque stone

n.b if you want fuller details of the executed – plse email

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By Steve Welsh




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