Executions in York

Execution Day at York c.1820 Thomas Rowlandson - York Art Gallery

On 31 March 1379 Edward Hewison was executed for rape on the new gallows at the York Tyburn - an area to the south of the city now part of York Racecourse.

The Tyburn was one of four execution sites in the city at the time.  Remarkably, the other three were run by the great church institutions - the Minster, the Abbey and the Hospital - each of which had their own systems of justice. 

The Tyburn site was used by the Crown's justice, administered at York Castle.  Its gallows consisted of a wooden triangle standing on three wooden pillars - it was known as the 'Three-Legged Mare'.  The site was the scene of executions for more than 400 years.

Execution day was a big, rowdy event - criminals were a spectacle as they were driven from the prison to their deaths, sitting with their coffins.  Until 1745 their bodies were quartered after hanging.  Special newspapers were printed detailing the crimes and punishment of the condemned.

Women were amongst the criminals put to death.  Their crimes ranged from murder to 'stealing wearing apparel of no great value'.  (With reference to the image, there is no record of a hanging of a Mary Evans in York in 1799 - the nearest is a Mary Ellah killed in 1757 for murdering her husband by strangling).

The last hanging at the Tyburn took place in 1801, after which executions took place at York Castle itself.  This was in order that the 'entrance to the town should no longer be annoyed by dragging criminals through the streets'. 

In spite of that sentiment hangings took place in public until an act of Parliament in 1868.  Thereafter, until the last York execution in 1896, murderers were executed from a specially constructed platform, known as The Drop, at the end of the Female Prison.  The doors leading onto the Drop can still be seen at that end of the building.


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