Place From 1196 To 3/11/1783
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.