GALLOWS AND GIBBETS

30 June, 2021

Another interesting, though grisly, article from Peter Trott – a wealth of inforamtion about Shepherd’s Bush. Enjoy.

For as long as I can remember an urban myth has linked public executions to Galloway Road and Gravesend Road in Shepherd’s Bush. However, in the booklet ‘Street Names of Fulham and Hammersmith’ it states that Galloway Road was possibly named after Mr Galloway, an engineer, mentioned by Faulkner in 1839, as having lived in the Goldhawk Road. And Gravesend Road was named after Richard de Gravesend and Stephen de Gravesend who were Bishops of London in the 13th and 14th centuries respectively. But having said that Shepherd’s Bush at one time was a location for public executions.

Up until the late 18th century a huge number of public executions took place at Tyburn which stood on the present junction of the Edgware Road and Bayswater Road. It was common practice for the dead bodies to be hung in metal cages or in chains from gibbets on roads leading to London as a warning to potential criminals.

An unnamed inn once stood in the vicinity of what is now Shepherd’s Bush Green and it was recorded as the only house standing between Acton and The Kensington Gravel Pits. Rocque’s map c1745 does show a building on the north of the Green. The map also clearly shows one single and one double gallows or gibbet at the eastern end of the Green. Records state that they stood on a piece of waste ground known as Gallows Close. The Athenaeum magazine once reported:

at the east corner of Shepherd’s Bush Common two ghastly gibbets reared their disgusting height, and held, rocking in the wind, the rattling bones of murderers hung in chains’

Shepherd’s Bush Gibbets

In 1737 a black man named Jeffery Morat was arrested for burglary with violence at the house of the Marquis of Lindsay. He died in prison. A private soldier by the name of Maw was hanged at Tyburn for the murder of a watchman at Shepherds Bush. The bodies of both men were hung in chains at Shepherds Bush. A public journal dated March 12th, 1737 stated:

On Sunday last thousands of people went to Shepherd’s Bush to see Maw, the Soldier, and Morat, the Black, hung in chains. The roads were perfectly lined with People and several had their pockets picked under the gibbet. The Black hangs in a very indecent manner: he has nothing over his face, but quite exposed, with his mouth wide open, and his swelled tongue hanging out, and looks very frightful. He is hung in his green livery, but without shoes or stockings. The Soldier has a white cloth over his face, and hangs more decent. There were several gallons of gin sold on that road all Sunday, not only by Running Distillers with bottles, but almost every hundred yards was a stall with gingerbread and gin’

Ten years later Richard Ashcroft and John Cook were caught smuggling brandy and tea in Eastbourne. They were held at Newgate Prison and executed on 29 July 1747 at Tyburn. Their dead bodies were also hung in chains at Shepherd’s Bush.

The General Evening Post dated 29 July 1747 announced:

Yesterday morning about eight o’clock Richard Ashcraft and John Cook, the two smugglers, were carried under a strong detachment of the guards, from Newgate to Tyburn, and executed pursuant to their sentence; after which their bodies were hung on a gibbet at Shepherd’s Bush, in the Acton Road, near James Hall, who was executed some time since for the murder of his master, Counsellor Penny’

James Hall had been executed for the murder in 1741 and this account indicates that his body had been hanging on the gibbet for six years.

Two un-named highwaymen were executed at Shepherds Bush in 1748. Reports suggest four further bodies were hung in chains between 1747 and 1751. One of these was a smuggler named Samuel Austin – his body was gibbeted in December 1747 and the Morning Advertiser reported:

the body of Samuel Austin the smuggler, who was executed on Monday last at Tyburn, was afterwards hung in chains at Shepherd’s Bush, on the same gibbet with the two lately executed’

On 29 August 1751 Robert Steel murdered his wife at Brick Street Hanover Square and was subsequently sentenced to death at the Old Bailey. He appears to have been the last reported person to be hung on a gibbet at Shepherds Bush.

Rocque’s map also shows two further double gallows or gibbets standing at the junction of Starch Green (Becklow Road) and the North High Way (Uxbridge Road). The approximate position would be close to where the Princess Victoria pub now stands. I found no reference to these, but it could be the site where Ashcroft, Cook and Hall were gibbeted as the report states the site was in the Acton Road.

Starch Green Gibbet

There are no records of the number of criminals executed in Shepherd’s Bush but the Gentleman’s Magazine of 1856 reported:

there were gallows and occasional executions at Shepherd’s Bush, when Tybourn succeeded St Giles’

Finally the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser of Tuesday, March 26, 1765 reported from the previous year:

Saturday night last the only remaining gibbet at Shepherds Bush was blown down, so that place remains now without any marks of ignominy upon it; which has not before happened for a century past”