Timeline of judicial hanging in Britain.
Hanging has been the principal form of execution in Britain since the 5th Century, although other methods such as drowning, burial alive, hurling from cliffs, beheading, boiling alive and shooting have been used at various times.
Transportation introduced replacing hanging for many crimes under the "Black Act". In the decade 1779 - 1778 there were 531 hangings in London and Middlesex whilst in the next ten years this dropped to 191 and to 126 in the decade from 1799 - 1808.
18th March 1789 The last hanging and burning took place at Tyburn when Christian Murphy was executed.
1793. The crime of Petty treason abolished, the offence simply being reclassified as murder.
1808. Michael Hammond aged 7 and his sister aged 11 were hanged at Lynn for felony. Michael was probably the youngest person ever to suffer the death penalty.
1810. British law had 222 capital crimes at this time, although it is unclear in how many of these judges had discretion to pass lesser sentences, e.g. transpotation.
1814 Last hanging under the "Black Act" - William Potter for the crime of cutting down an orchard. Even the judge petitioned for a reprieve!
1818 - 1861. Number of capital crimes began to be reduced. Sheep, cattle and horse stealing removed from the list, followed by sacrilege, letter stealing, returning from transportation, forgery and coining, burglary and theft from a dwelling house and finally rape and attempted murder.
1st February 1820. Last hanging at Execution Dock - John Pater executed for the murder.
1st May 1820. Last hanging drawing and quartering - that of the Cato Street conspirators for treason. They were in fact only hanged and beheaded.
31st December 1829. Last hanging for forgery - Thomas Maynard at Newgate. This crime was reclassified as non - capital in 1832.
1831. An unnamed boy of just nine was hanged at Chelmsford for arson.
1834. Hanging in chains upon a gibbet finally abolished after James Cook is hanged and gibbeted for murder.
1837.The Piracy Act imposes the death penalty for offences of piracy involving "assault with intent to murder". It was last used in 1860.
27th August 1861. Last execution for attempted murder when Martin Doyle suffered at Chester.
1861. Criminal Law Consolidation Act reduced the number of capital crimes to four : murder, treason (including arson in Royal Naval dockyards), mutiny and piracy.
22nd March 1868. Last fully public hanging in Scotland - that of Joseph Bell at Perth.
2nd April 1868. Last public hanging of a woman - Francis Kidder at Maidstone for murder.
12th May 1868. Last public hanging in Scotland. Robert Smith was executed outside Dumfries prison but the authorities ensured that the public saw very little.
26th May 1868. Last public hanging in England. Michael Barrett at Newgate for the Fenian bombing at Clerkenwell
29th May 1868. Parliament passes the Capital Punishment within Prisons Bill ending public hanging.
13th August 1868. First private hanging when Thomas Wells was executed at Maidstone for murder.
1874 William Marwood introduces the "long drop".
1908. The execution of persons under 16 outlawed by the Children's Act of that year.
1922. The Infanticide Act forbids the execution of women who killed their babies in the first year of life.
1931. Pregnant women no longer hanged after giving birth. (Mary Ann Cotton became the last to suffer at Durham Castle on 24th March 1873, her baby being taken from her before execution)
1933. The Children and Young Persons Act prohibits the death sentence for persons under 18 at the time of the crime.
3rd January 1946 William Joyce - better known as "Lord Haw Haw" hanged for treason. Last for this offence.
4th January 1946 Theodore Schurch became the last person to be executed for offences committed under the Treachery Act of 1940.
April 1948. The House of Commons votes to suspend capital punishment for five years but this is overturned by the Lords.
10th November 1953. Last hanging under military jurisdiction - Private J.J. Itumo of 3rd (Kenya) KAR convicted of murder in Malaya, as it was then.
13th July 1955. Ruth Ellis becomes the last woman to hang. (see Ruth Ellis)
March 1956. Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill passed by Parliament on second reading. This was also overturned by the House of Lords.
March 1957. As a half measure, Parliament passed the 1957 Homicide Act. This limited the death sentence to five categories of murder and was generally seen as a fiasco.
- 5th Century. Hanging first introduced as a method of execution in Anglo-Saxon Britain.
- 1196 William Fitz Osbert became the first to hang at Tyburn (for sedition).
- C 1500 Eight capital crimes defined : Treason, petty treason, murder, robbery, larceny, rape and arson.
- 1st June 1571. The "Triple Tree" introduced as a permanent gallows at Tyburn - for the execution of John Storey who was hanged drawn and quartered for treason.
- 23rd June 1649. Twenty three men and one woman executed at Tyburn for burglary and robbery requiring eight carts. This was probably the largest number of ordinary criminals put to death in a single execution in Britain.
- 1671 The Coventry Act made it a capital crime to lie in wait with intent to put out an eye, disabling the tongue or slitting the nose. It came into being after Sir John Coventry had been attacked in Covent Garden and had his nose slit.
- 1686. Alice Molland becomes the last to be hanged for witchcraft in England.
- 1699 The Shoplifting Act defined shoplifting to the value of 5 shillings (25 pence) as a capital crime.
- May 1723 The Waltham Blacks Act made poaching and damage to forests and parks a hanging offence. Over the next few years its wide provisions increased the number of capital crimes from 30 to 150. These extended to such "appalling crimes" as blacking the face or using a disguise whilst committing a crime.
- 22nd June 1752. 17 year old Thomas Woolford became the first person to be hanged (at Tyburn) and then anatomised at Surgeon's Hall.
- 1759. During this year the "Triple Tree" was removed and replaced with a portable gallows with a trap. This ended hangings from the back of a cart.
- 5th May 1760 Lawrence Shirly the Fourth Earl of Ferrers is hanged at Tyburn for murder of a servant using the "New Drop" for the first time. (The only Peer of the Realm to hang for murder)
- 7th November 1783 . John Austin becomes the last person to suffer at Tyburn.
- 9th December 1783. First hangings outside the Debtors Door at Newgate. Edward Dennis and William Brunskill hanged 10 criminals at once on the new gallows.(see
These were :
Murder committed in the course or furtherance of theft.
Murder by shooting or explosion
Murder whilst resisting arrest or during an escape.
Murder of a police or prison officer.
Two murders committed on different occasions.
23rd July 1957. John Vickers becomes the first to be executed under the provisions of the new Act.
15th August 1963. The last hanging in Scotland was that of 21-year-old Henry Burnett who was executed at Craiginches Prison in Aberdeen for the murder of seaman Thomas Guyan.
13th August 1964. Peter Anthony Allen (at Walton Prison Liverpool) and Gwynne Owen Evans - real name John Robson Walby, (at Strangeways Prison Manchester) become the last to be hanged. The executions taking place simultaneously at 8.00 a.m.
9th November 1965. Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act passed which suspended capital punishment for 5 years. Treason, piracy with violence and arson in Royal Dockyards remained capital crimes.
December 1969. Parliament confirmed abolition of capital punishment for murder.
7th July 1986. Kevin Barlow (along with Australian Brian Chambers) were hanged in Malaysia's Pudu prison in Kuala Lumpur for drug trafficking. The first Briton to die for this offence.
21st July 1989. Derek Gregory becomes the second and to date, last Briton to die for drug trafficking, also in Malaysia.
July 10 1992 Tony Teare became the last person to be sentenced to death in the UK for a contract killing in the Isle of Man. The sentence was commuted to life in 1994.
1994. The last vote on re-introduction of the death penalty was defeated by 403 votes to 159.
April 16th 1996. John Martin Scripps becomes the last Briton to hang, for murder in Singapore.
1998. Death penalty abolished for crimes committed under military jurisdiction.
20th May 1998 On a free vote during a debate on the Human Rights Bill, MPs decided by 294 to 136, a 158 majority, to adopt provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights outlawing capital punishment for murder except "in times of war or imminent threat of war". The Bill incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.
1999. Parliament totally abolished the death penalty (previously only available for treason and piracy) It is extremely unlikely that even if anyone had been convicted of these crimes over the last 30 years that they would have actually been executed. Successive Home Secretaries have always reprieved persons sentenced to death in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man where the Royal Prerogative is observed.