An Execution On The Forest

By Joseph Earp

Recollections of a Nottingham Old Boy. Weekly Guardian. 1904:

Mansfield Road in those days witnessed many scenes of terror and excitement, for the executions took place on what was then called Gallows Hill. The exact spot was the flat piece of ground near where the gates of the Church Cemetery now stands, and it was up that road prisoners were taken in a cart to be executed. If the prisoner was confined in the County Jail he was quietly removed the night previous to the House of Correction, so that his last journey should be shortened. I remember the last execution on the Forest, I think it was about the year 1829. I saw people running and heard some terrified women shout “they are just taking him”. There was a great crowd round the cart, but the condemned man was conspicuous, being bare-headed, with his arms pinioned to his sides by thick ropes. Near him was the hangman and two friends. Some of the crowd were singing a plaintive hymn. As they went passed the rocky caves, which were then on the right side of the road, old men in smock frocks had come out to look at the procession, for at that time several of the caves were turned into dwellings, and on the door might be seen a horse-shoe nailed up, as protection against witches and bad luck.

Over the fields on the left of the road hundreds were running with the intention of coming at the top of Sherwood Lane, so as to get a favorable standing near the Gallows. The Gallows was formed of two upright beams of timber firmly fixed in the ground, and wide enough apart to allow a horse and cart to pass between. On the top of the uprights was the cross beam. As the cart drew near to it the noise from the crowd was something indescribable. Suddenly it hushed as the cart stopped under the cross beam, and for a few seconds the silence of the vasts crowd was more terrible than the noise had been a moment previous. All eyes were centred on the cart, in which, there now was only the prisoner and hangman. With a touch of the whip on the horse’s back the cart plunged forward, and the condemned man’s body was seen spinning round and round. Then the crowd relived itself by hoots and groans, and hymns and prayers, as it broke up and melted away. Executions on Gallows Hill having become a public danger, and a scandal, the custom was abolished and convicts were publicly executed in front of the jails in which they were confined. I saw three executed together in front of the House of Correction. I think that was about the year 1830, and afterwards I saw several others. At the last I saw a number of people were trampled to death in the crowd.

Photo:The Mansfield Road and Nottingham in the Distance

The Mansfield Road and Nottingham in the Distance

Nottingham Hidden History Team

This page was added by Joseph Earp on 05/03/2013.

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