1755 Sarah Dean

James Bason discovered the body of a young female child in a brook near Congleton; the local justice of the peace examined the case, and asked a midwife to examine Sarah Dean, who, it had been rumoured was or had been pregnant. She admitted having given birth and hiding the body under the floor of the privy. The body of the infant was examined and found to have had its throat cut, and Sarah was sentenced to death and hanged.

1602 Arnet

At Michaelmas fair, one Arnet, servant to Mr Manley of Saltney side, cruelly murdered one of his fellows near to his Masters house, first by cutting his throat with a knife, and afterwards, missing his windpipe, he ripped up his belly with the same knife, so that his bowels fell out, and leaving him for dead, went home without taking any mney from him, as he first intended; not withstanding, the dying man came home, and lapping his bowels in his shirt, and lived until he made known who had killed him. And the same murderer was hanged in chains the year following, near to the place where the deed was done.


The History of Cheshire: Containing King’s Vale-Royal Entire, Together with …

By Daniel King, William Smith, William Webb


žKick the Bucket  – allegedly the felon was standing on the bucket with the rope around his neck – to commence the hanging you literally kicked the bucket away.

žGo West – or gone west; something that has gone very wrong; Tyburn was west from Newgate prison

žTurned Off – when the felon was sent up the ladder to be hung, the ladder was turned to dislodge them, they were literally turned off

žDerrick now a style of crane, based on the three legged gallows at Tyburn, from the hangman who devised it

žI’ll swing for you,  one of my mom’s favourites – literally I will hang for killing you

žGet Knotted 

Hangers on – to help the felon to a speedier death, his friends and family would pull on their legs to add their weight. –

žMoney for old rope The hangman not only gained possession of the felon’s clothes, but also the rope that hanged them. This would be sold, normally by the inch, and would be more expensive, the more notorious they were – hence ‘money for old rope’

žCroaked – meaning died (i.e. he’s croaked) – the noise of the felon being slowly strangled.

žPissing when you can’t whistle  It was generally thought that at the moment of death, those being hung would urinate as the muscles relaxed. As men tended to whistle whilst urinating, a comparison was drawn-

žMight as well be hung for a sheep... As stated – if the penalty was the same, you might as well go for the bigger prize.

žIn Limbo Prisoners after being sentenced to death would have a very good chance of commutation, and the cell they waited for news was named ‘limbo’, between heaven and earth.

žSticking your neck out What you had to do for the headsman

žPut your head on the block again, a reference to taking a risk, with the block being that of the headsman

Heads will roll

žPut the kibosh on it To spoil or ruin something – kibosh apparently being yiddish for black cap worn by the judge when passing a death sentence

Places of Execution

It would of course be difficult to identify places of execution from the distant past, but there are often local clues in place names, and a certain logic to their positioning.

Gallows, and later on, Gibbets, were placed at a location where they could be seen by travellers and passers by, as a warning of what might happen to them if they misbehaved!!  This would be on the outskirts of the town or village, perhaps on a raised spot for maximum visibility, but not too close to offend the senses of the local population. Quite possibly it would have been the bough of a tree, where a ladder would be used for the culprit to climb, the rope attached, and the ladder twisted so they fell off. They would quite literally be turned off.

In any area a local search usually beings up a few execution related names, and close to where I live is ‘Hangman’s Lane’,  ‘Gallowsclough Lane’ (Gallows Valley),  and ‘Gallows Lunt’, lunt being a small parcel of land. These may are may not give a clue as to what might have happened there in the past

We know that Executions were carried out in Chester, at Boughton, at the top of the hill. This would have been visible for many miles, and especially a deterent when Chester was used as an embarkation port for troops sailing for Ireland. However as the city expanded, and more affluent people moved nearby, by 1800 there was a call for the gallows to be moved. It was first moved from one side of the road to the other, in around 1790, but the debacle of one of three men destined for the scaffold throwing himself off of the cart, rolling down the hill, and drowning in the river, was a catalyst in their removal back to the city.

The first execution within the city was in 1801, with the victims being ‘launched into eternity’ through the attic windows of the old Northgate Gaol. Their bodies reportedly struggled so much they broke the windows on the floor below.

Executions where then carried out at the new house of correction, just within the city walls. Spectators could watch easily, and the advent of the railways brought the crowds in, until 1868, when the law changed to make hangings ‘private’, and held behind the prison walls of Chester Castle.

Then in 1886 Chester became a military prison, and executions were moved to Knutsford Prison, and discontinued there in 1914, when it became a military prison, and executions were then outside of the county.



Hugh Stringer 1591

Hanged for the murder of Ann Carnage, and her daughter Cecily. This was the last Capital case tried by the Court Baron of Kinderton. It was the responsibility of the tenant of the lands to find an executioner, which John Croston did. He paid John Lingard Five shillings to perform the task