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on 11 March 2004
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.
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on 12 March 2004
A very well documented work detailing the many capital punishments that took place at what has to be the most famous place of execution in London. The reader is taken back in time to witness the horror and despair of the victims, from the wretched poor who were condemned for petty crimes, to the more aristocratic such as Roger Mortimer. Witness the excitement and anticipation of the crowd as they watch the hanging, drawing and quartering. The attention to detail and emotive language has to make this book one of the best works on the subject available. Highly recommended.
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on 14 May 2007
A wonderful book, filled with intriguing insight into the history surrounding the use of capital punishment in and around London from the 12th century until the disuse of the Tyburn gallows in 1783. The authors successfully relate a vivid recollection of the past, and succeed in placing the reader into the centre of the debate concerning the social and political ends to which the establishment intended public execution and the ensuing spectacle which invariably followed it. The detail into which the authors delve when accounting to the reader the rituals and reasons surrounding Tyburn, especially the recounting of the final journey from Newgate to the `triple tree' really leaves this book as one of the most superb on the subject. This is a must for anybody interested in their social history either for study or pleasure.
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on 1 March 2010
This is how history books should be written. Well researched, full of interesting facts and conjures up the feel of the time.
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on 17 July 2016
Well worth the money as the author delves into the past and vividly portrays what the scenes of execution and the lead up were like as well as telling the stories of how the convicts ended up seeing Tyburn as their last journey
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on 26 December 2012
This was a brilliant book. I read it cover to cover and it's infinately readable! It contains facts from widely ranging sources (police reports, onlookers, journalists of the times, relatives of the victims and many others) and its lovely to have all these in one book. You would have to do a lot of research to get this kind of information for yourself.

It covers a thorough history of Tyburn in depth from the 1500's to the late 1800's, which is brilliant. You can see many changes; not only the attitudes to perpetrators but the exact geographical locations (pubs visited for the prisoners final drink, the exact route of the last ride from Newgate to Tyburn), the punishements before and/ or after the hanging and even the build of the gallows. Nothing is missed!

The best parts of the book are the eye witness quotes. A few I really wont forget.. such as someone who witnessed a father who had to carry his young son to the gallows as he's so frightened he can't stand.
There is so much emotion in the book as well as all the facts. That's the part that brings the horror of execution to life, and can leave you feeling sad.

There is literally nothing that could be improved about this book. I would buy it a hundred times over.
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on 3 March 2012
Excellent book, a potted history of crime and punishment in a democratic society mirrored against our brutal and not so distant past.
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on 26 February 2011
I may be cheating but I have just looked at the cover of this book and thought - NO. I do not trust this book. Hopefully, the author has no contol over the illustrations on the front, but I have been doing some original research on Tyburn recently and I do not approve of this cover. OK. The lower illustration - Hogarth's "Idle Apprentice going to be Hanged" (or some such title) IS appropriate but the gallows on the upper half of the cover is PLAIN WRONG. Vexingly, I know of several other illustrations, all well out of copyright, which would have been far more accurate.

The Tyburn Gallows (in its classic manifestation pre 1759) was a TRIANGULAR structure. Among its cant nicknames was "The Three-Legged Horse", the "Triple Tree". This illustration shows a straight bar! This is only appropriate to the temporary removable gallows at Tyburn after 1760 and before about 1783. It is not the Classic, Iconic image of Tyburn Tree.

Secondly, there are two nooses hanging from this bar. To begin with they have the wrong kind of knot. The classic Tyburn halter had a plain slip knot. This heavy knot (designed to give the neck a massive disabling if not lethal blow) was a much later (19th Century ?) invention. But most of all, nooses were never dangling from the Triple Tree before a Hanging Match (as it was called.) The ciminals hanged at Tyburn travelled to the gallows in open carts already wearing their nooses ("halters") roung their necks and with the slack coiled round their waists. They had been "prepared" in Newgate Prison either in the Stone Hall (pre 1727) or in the Press Yard Room (after 1728) by the aptly named Yeoman of the Halter. Additionally, their hands were tied in front of them so that they could still say their prayers before they died - an important concession. This meant that when the condemned arrived at Tyburn, the hangman did not have to struggle to put the condemned's head into the noose, it was already in place. All the hangman had to do was uncoil the rope and throw it up to a colleague who was sitting on the cross beam overhead who then tied it securely. Then (at an appropriate moment) the cart was driven away, and the condemned were left dangling.

I agree you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, BUT in what is hopefully a serious history, it is the duty of the publishers not to provide misleading images.

If a new addition comes out with an accuate cover, I might just buy it!
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