This is a well-written and extremely readable book, which will appeal both to readers having a general interest in the social and cultural history of London and of crime and, because of the thoroughness of the research and the extensive bibliography, to those wishing to pursue a more academic study of those areas. The practices and cultural significance of the place at which up to 50,000 met their frequently gruesome ends are carefully investigated. High profile cases are covered, but attention is also given to ‘London’s forgotten criminals’, those obscure beings who made up the vast majority of those perishing there, having been sentenced for usually mundane crimes.
An attempt is made to pin-point the exact site of Tyburn’s fatal tree and this is followed by descriptions of events there during the early years, the turbulent 16th and 17th centuries and the 18th century until executions were transferred to Newgate. The hopeless terror of those facing their sentences is set within the context of the expectations of the crowds at the drunken revels of the carnivalesque Tyburn Fair, whose thirst for grotesque spectacle was matched by the concentration of the press on salacious detail. Victims, hangmen, punishments, the crowd and London street life are all examined in fascinating detail and the place of Tyburn in contemporary culture is well established.
A hugely enjoyable read which is at the same time informative and thought-provoking.