mobile nav


Tyburn tree

Place  From 1196  To 3/11/1783

Categories: Execution, Law, Tragedy

The first recorded execution here was the hanging of the champion of London's poor, William Fitz Osbern in 1196. Back then there may have been a real tree but in 1571 the 'Tyburn Tree' was erected. This was a triangular structure, which enabled multiple hangings to take place simultaneously: 24 on one occasion. Its first victim was Dr John Story, a Roman Catholic who refused to recognise Queen Elizabeth I. In 1661 the restored Charles II ordered Cromwell, along with Ireton, Pride and Bradshaw, to be hanged here, all four having been dead and buried for some time. After several hours Cromwell's body was decapitated and put in a lime-pit here (or not, see Cromwell's body). The scaffold was last used in 1783 for the hanging of the highwayman John Austin. Many of its victims came from Newgate Prison and were paraded through jeering/cheering crowds across the City, St Giles and Oxford Street. The hangings were popular spectacles as shown in Hogarth's 1747 print "The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn". Our picture is a detail of this, showing the triangular scaffold in the background.

2016: An article in Apollo reported on a new artwork in the Catholic Westminster Cathedral. This has been created as a memorial for the Tyburn martyrs, with their names in flaming clouds on the ceiling. A text reads “Two miles beyond this wall our martyrs gave their lives for the faith 1535 - 1681.” (Actually Google Maps gives the walking distance from the Cathedral to the Tyburn Stone at Marble Arch as 1.7 miles and it would be even shorter as a straight line.) When jokes are made about recent tragedies a response is sometimes “too soon”. We suggest another phrase, “too long”, to question the wisdom of keeping resentment alive for too long a time.

On the wall behind the text is a symbol: a square containing a "Y" whose arms reach the top two corners of the square. This symbol also appears on the Tyburn Tree plaque at the Convent so we guess it belongs to a group dedicated to commemorating the Tyburn martyrs but we don't know the name of the organisation.

For the nautical equivalent see Execution Dock.

There was a York Tyburn - named for the one in London.

See other memorials in this area

This section lists the memorials where the subject on this page is commemorated:
Tyburn tree

Information Commemorated at

Tyburn Convent - green

105 Catholic martyrs lost their lives at the Tyburn gallows near this site, 1...

Read More

Tyburn Convent - relief

There is a better picture at Flickr - we're not proud. Note the Tyburn tree ...

Read More

Tyburn Convent - Tyburn Tree

{Top left is a ‘logo’ for the Tyburn Tree:} Tyburn Tree The circular stone ...

Read More

Tyburn Stone

We could not read most of the inscription on the stone but found it at San Fr...

Read More

Tyburn tree - pavement plaque

2 October 2014: The plaque was restored but we have kept our picture so you c...

Read More