William Marwood : The Gentleman Executioner

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William Marwood was a shoemaker from Horncastle who in 1869 made his mind up to become an executioner and eventually became the chief executioner for London and Middlesex from 1874 until 1883, he always said 'I am doing God's work according to the divine command and the law of the British crown. I do it simply as a matter of duty and as a Christian. I sleep soundly as a child in my bed and never am disturbed by phantoms. When I get out of bed on the morning of an execution I kneel down quietly and ask God's blessing on the work I have to do, and ask mercy for the prisoner, I have a sense of divine mission and a belief that regardless of what deeds the condemned man has perpetrated in his time, he deserves to be dispatched as painless as possible.' It was Marwood who set out a table of "drops", calculated by the weight of the condemned, of between six and 10 feet that, together with the careful placing of the knot under the left ear, would guarantee "almost instantaneous" unconsciousness with death following very rapidly thereafter. Marwood was the first English executioner to refine the "long drop" which was already being used in Ireland, it meant an end to the convulsions and struggling that witnesses saw before Marwood's time, when death occurred from strangulation. He was also credited with the invention of the split trapdoor. He dispatched one hundred and eighty men and women during his twelve years as executioner. Born of poor parents he became known throughout England and Ireland as the 'Gentleman Executioner'. He would tap his victims on the shoulder, shake them by the hand and say 'Come along with me I shall not hurt you'. In justice to Marwood it may, however, be stated that in many cases criminals are described as dying instantaneously by his method of execution; and instances are not wanting of the hard death by means of the short drop, as in Calcraft's day.


Publisher -

Author(s) - Derek Matthews


Published Date -

ISBN - 9781844268092

Dimensions - 19.7 x 13.2 x 2.4 cm

Page Count - 296

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