The heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds
|William Marwood, born 1818 in Goulceby, was a master boot and shoemaker resident in
Horncastle living in Foundry Street with his cobblers shop in Church
Lane (also see Marwood's Cottage).
Whilst taking care of the towns footwear he took a keen (and morbid ?)
interest in capital punishment, namely the technical aspects of hanging.
His work and research lead to the method of hanging with which he is
synonymous - The Long Drop !
Remarkably at the age of 54 with
no experience of the penal system, never mind executions, he managed to
persuade the governor of Lincoln Prison to allow him to perform his
first execution, the hanging of William Frederick
Harry on 1st April 1872.
Accordingly Marwood became the official hangman of the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex. For his services he received an annual retainer of £20 plus £10 per execution and travelling expenses. As an added bonus he was able to keep the unfortunates clothing !
He became something of a celebrity in his time, travelling all over
England and Ireland to carry out executions, he was even referred to in
popular songs and rhymes. Presumably he also enjoyed his fame and notoriety as
well having the sign Marwood Crown Office above his shop he had visiting cards printed
During his time in office he was involved in many notorious and high profile cases including the hanging of Charles Peace, the infamous murderer and housebreaker, at Armley Gaol in Leeds. In 1879 he executed Kate Webster the only woman ever to hang at Wandsworth Prison.
He remained in his post for nine years before dying of a lung disease in 1883, during that time he hung 176 people, 8 of which were women. He was buried at the Holy Trinity Church but now lies in an unmarked grave because of the number of people breaking parts from the headstone as souvenirs!
© R.D. Collins 2004
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