The Wetheral Atrocity

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Bradbourne Hall, Ashbourne. April, Ashmolean Museum. Some have cylindrical padlocks attached to them. Doddington Hall, Lincoln. See p. Rye, Court Hall. Warrington Museum.

In the possession of Lady Dorothy Nevill. In the possession of the Rev. T o rest at last in the ground, to be buried in the sepulchre of their fathers, was accounted by the Jews as the greatest honour and happiness, and throughout the Old Testament the expression for death is sleeping, implying lying tranquil and undisturbed. On the other hand, to die an unnatural or violent death, to be cast out of the grave like an abominable branch, to be as a carcass exposed in the sight of the sun, or trodden under foot, and not to be joined with their fathers in burial, was ever esteemed a note of infamy, and a kind of curse.

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As with the Jews so it was with the Egyptians. They refused burial to executed criminals and gave their bodies to the birds and beasts. The seven crosses were planted in the rock on the top of the sacred hill of Gibeah. The victims were sacrificed at the beginning of barley harvest,—the sacred and festal time of the Passover—and in the full blaze of the summer sun they hung till the fall of the periodical rain in October She spread on the rocky floor the thick mourning garment of black sackcloth, which as a widow she wore, and crouching there she watched that neither vulture nor jackal should molest the bodies.

The misery of having no burial, of rendering neither justice to the earth nor mercy to the dead, was recognized by the refined nature of the Greeks, and, while they refused decent sepulture to infamous persons [Pg 7] and prisoners, they yearned both in peace and war for quiet burial in the ground, for they were dismayed at the thought of burial at sea.

And, to take another and a notable example, Hector, in his last hour, beseeched Achilles to take the ransom and suffer not his body to be devoured by the dogs of the Greeks, but to let the sons and daughters of Troy give him burial rites. He was a powerful ruler, and an Etruscan, and made his mark on Rome. He came from Etruria when it was in a high state of development, and, no doubt, the practice of gibbeting on a cross was early in use with that ancient and gifted race.

The Romans dreaded the public exposure of their bodies, and shipwreck, no less than did the Greeks; thus Ovid—. They refused sepulture to suicides, for they thought it unreasonable that any hands should bury him whose own had destroyed himself, and they withheld decent burial from criminals.

All such persons as hung upon this gibbet were, by the laws, denied sepulture; and a sentry, says Petronius, was set to watch them, lest anybody should come by night and steal them away. The number of Saints who suffered, and were exposed upon the cross or gibbet, is larger than that of those who died the death in any other way. H ence , as we have seen, gradually arose, side by side with the capital punishment of hanging on the gallows in its simplicity—which may be almost said to be as old as the world itself—the custom of publicly exposing human bodies upon gibbets as warnings to others.

Casmody Reports

An obscure poet, Robert Brunne, has:—. Such a treatment of the carcass was, like the rack, rather an engine of state than of law. This is an early record of a judgment to hang in terrorem , and of chains for the purpose. Again, during the second Northern Rising, in , the Duke of Norfolk hung and quartered, as the usual punishment for high treason, seventy-four men at Carlisle, but the bodies of Sir Robert Constable and Ashe were hung in chains at Hull and York respectively, as special cases.

We gather from these items that, although the public exposure of the body entire formed no legal part of the punishment for high treason, it was sometimes added to it for the increase of the shame. Whether the ensanguined, quivering quarter of a man, uplifted high on a gateway, had a more deterrent effect than a whole body slowly wasting away in chains, we are, fortunately, not now called upon curiously to determine.

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It may here be mentioned that the [Pg 18] punishment for high treason differs in one important particular from that for murder. The head must be severed from the body after the hanging. The man must be drawn to the gallows, and may not walk; he must be cut down alive; his entrails taken out and burnt before his face. Such a sentence had been first carried out, as it appears, upon a pirate named William Marise, in It is recorded that one of these last victims struggled for a few moments with William Stout of Hexham, the fiend who, for twenty guineas and the clothes, did the bloody business, when he opened his bosom and plucked out his heart.

As a curiously mitigated example we may mention the case of the five gentlemen attached to the Duke of Gloucester, who were arraigned and condemned for treason in They were hung and immediately cut down alive, stripped naked, their bodies marked for quartering, and then, no doubt very much to their surprise, pardoned. It would appear that, at least with us at the present day, gallows is the thing upon which men suffer, and gibbet the object upon which they are set forth. A gallows may by particular use become a gibbet, but not contrariwise, and the same remark may be said to apply to Potence and Gibbet.

W hilst such horrors were going on in England we may be sure that the Germans, with their dogged brutality, were not behind-hand. With them the bodies of traitors and highwaymen, as well as of murderers, were fixed upon poles, set upon wheels, impaled alive, or hung upon gibbets. The last instance of burning at the [Pg 27] stake in Germany occurred at Berlin, Aug.

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Hanging in Chains, by Albert Hartshorne.

It was then seventy years since a similar punishment had been carried out in the Prussian capital. The criminal, stripped to his shirt, was enclosed in a cage-like frame which fastened with a door, and was surrounded with wood and straw. The last example of breaking on the wheel was carried out at Vienna in the above-mentioned year. We may now pass for a short time to France. In that country the gallows was a feudal right which, held in the first place in capite , could be sub-infeudated to lesser vassals, but they could at any time be suppressed by the Crown. Charles V.

Such gibbets, of which the number of pillars, or, if of wood, posts, varied from two to eight, according to the quality of the lord, were used both to hang criminals from, and for the suspension, exposure, or gibbeting of the bodies of men executed elsewhere upon temporary gallows. It is certain that there was already at the end of the twelfth century a great [Pg 33] monumental gibbet on the eminence of Montfaucon, between the faubourgs of St.

Martin and the Temple, in Paris. Sauval gives a remarkable description of it as at that period, and, although he does not give his authorities quite in the way English antiquaries might wish, there can be no doubt, from the documents of the thirteenth century, that the monument was as Sauval describes it. It underwent extensive repairs, if not partial re-building, in , when forty-eight old beams were replaced by new ones. From these very curious records the genius of Viollet le Duc has produced an illustration which is here reproduced.

It will speak for itself better than any description, and it will be only necessary to say that the fourth, or open side, allowed access to the interior by a broad flight of steps leading to a wide platform on what may be called the first floor, running round the three sides of the interior. Upon this platform the executioner, with his ladders and assistants, performed his office. This arrangement enabled the designer of the building to form a vault in the centre, lighted by a small loop. It must have been a thing quite unique in the world, somewhat recalling the Towers of Silence of the Parsees.

The executioner then gripped the crossbeam, and, placing his feet in the loop formed by the bound hands of the patient, by dint of repeated vigorous shocks terminated his sufferings. It may not be questioned that death under the circumstances and complicated conditions above described cannot have been other than a very shocking spectacle, and particularly when it is noticed from the arrangement of the chains that many a malefactor may in his agony have broken loose from his bonds, and clutched and grappled in his last moments with a decaying carcass at his side.

We can gather a further idea of the strange and dismal appearance of the Gibbet of Montfaucon, if we consider that the quantity of bodies attached to it, and ceaselessly renewed, attracted thousands of carrion birds to the spot. But that its hideous aspect and pestilential surroundings prevented not the establishment, in its immediate vicinity, of places of amusement and debauch, one would almost have been slow to believe were [Pg 38] it not for the testimony of ancient poetry:—.

So wrote Villon—also called Corbeuil,—in the middle of the fifteenth century. We shall have occasion, later on, to show that human nature on the hill of Montfaucon, in the darkness of the Middle Ages, was the [Pg 39] same as human nature in a great English midland town in the enlightened nineteenth century. The bodies of men decapitated, quartered, torn to pieces by horses, or boiled, were hung up in sacks of sackcloth or leather; such as committed suicide also, [40] and lay figures of persons condemned in contumaciam. The corpse of the great Captain Coligny, who was killed in the massacre of St.

Bartholomew, [Pg 40] August 24, , was hung up by the heels at the gibbet of Montfaucon. It was the custom in France to try, condemn, and hang on the gibbet, in human clothing, certain animals under special circumstances. So a sow, who had killed a child, was hung up at Montigny. A bull was similarly tried and condemned for killing a man, but whether the beast was gibbeted is not recorded.

It may be that the difficulty and inconvenience of carrying the matter out, or perhaps the trouble to obtain garments large enough, caused our fantastic neighbours to draw the line at the bull. It is [Pg 41] pleasant to know that in many English towns at the present day societies are active in seeing that not only simple justice, but, what is much better for them, mercy also, is dealt out to the poor dog, the poor horse, the necessary or unnecessary cat, and other harmless, helpless creatures. I n Spain the body remained usually upon the gallows after execution, the gallows thus becoming the gibbet.

The following story is an exemplification of this practice:—. Domingo to enter the Town-Church: accompanied with two French Puppies, mindful to shew me a miraculous matter.

And demanding why they were kept? Certain Spaniards replyed come along with us, and you shall see the Story; and being brought to the Choro it was drawn thereon as followeth. Whereupon instantly, and in the same place he was hanged, and left hanging there, seizing on their money by a Sentential forfeiture. Where, when come, and Devotion made, our Lord of Mount Serata appeared to him saying: Thy prayers are heard, and thy Groans have pierced my heart, arise, and return to Saint Domingo, for thy Son liveth.

And he accordingly returned, found it so, and the Son-hanged Monster, after thirty days absence, spoke thus from the Gallows, Father go to our Host, and shew him I live, then speedily return. By which direction the old man entered the Town, and finding the Host at Table, in breaking up of two roasted Pullets, told him, and said: My son liveth, [Pg 45] come and see. To which the smiling Host replyd, he is as surely alive on the Gallows, as these two Pullets be alive in the Dish.

At which Protestation, the two fire-scorched Fowls leapt out suddenly alive, with Heads, Wings, Feathers, and Feet, and kekling took flight thrice about the Table.

Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Calder

The which amazing sight, made the astonished Host to confess his guiltiness, and the other relieved from the Rope, he was hung up in his place, allotting his house for a Hospitality to Pilgrims for ever. Having an opportunity we made inquiries in Holland. In that country the procedure seems to have been much the same as in France. Our very obliging correspondent informs us:—. I have in my possession a copy of an old judgment, dating , which, in my opinion, gives full evidence of what I advance, as this criminal also remained there a long time afterwards.

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Whereas the information given by M. Giving sentence and justice we have [Pg 47] of high authority and on behalf of the county of Holland and West-Friesland, condemned it the dog , by these presents, to be brought into the yard of Graefstyn, in this city, where criminals are usually punished, and that it may there, by the executioner, be hung by means of a string on the gallows, between heaven and earth, so that death may ensue; further, that its dead body be dragged on a stretcher into the gallows-field, and that there it be suspended to the gallows in horrification for all other dogs, and as an example to everybody.

We further declare all his assets, if it owns any, to be forfeited and confiscated in favour of the county of Holland and West-Friesland. This was written between and [Pg 50] The crimes in question were combination against the truth, and [Pg 51] opposition unto holiness, figuratively deserving the highest punishment that could be awarded.

At the last moment they bethought themselves of a wretch who was gibbeted hard by the gate of the principal entrance. Him they therefore dressed in a clean white shirt, to do honour to the emperor. Before proceeding further it must be stated, as it were to clear the ground, that there were certain treasonable offences for which women might be convicted, and it is to the credit of the English law that the solemn and terrible sentence was not carried out upon them in its fulness, so that, both for high treason and petit treason, the sentence ordered merely drawing to the gallows and burning alive.

This sentence was modified in 30 George III.