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The Gibbet in the Landscape: Locating the Criminal Corpse in Mid-Eighteenth-Century England

  • Zoe Dyndor
Part of the Palgrave Historical Studies in the Criminal Corpse and its Afterlife book series (PHSCCA)

Abstract

In the late 1740s a group of smugglers known as the Hawkhurst gang committed a number of violent crimes that included several brutal murders. At least 75 of the gang were subsequently hung or transported for smuggling, robbery and murder. Of those in receipt of the death sentence, 14 were subjected to the further punishment of hanging in chains (or gibbeting), thereby inflicting further ignominy on the offenders.1 Hanging in chains was usually reserved for murderers, and occasionally mail robbers. However, between 1747 and 1750 members of the Hawkhurst gang were also gibbeted for crimes including smuggling and robbery. Gibbeting was an infrequently used punishment, but the violent circumstances of the Hawkhurst gang’s crimes coupled with the authorities’ desire to punish smugglers on the south coast led to the large number of gibbetings, and consequently a peak in the use of the punishment in the 1740s. These gibbetings reflected the increasingly severe measures taken to eradicate the crime of smuggling. They were temporally and spatially specific, reflecting the nature of the crimes and the circumstances that led to the hanging in chains. This study provides an insight into the extreme use of a particular punishment, showing that judicial penalties were adapted to fit the circumstances of the crimes and reflect how the offences were perceived.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Violent Crime South Coast Crime Scene Death Sentence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

  1. 4.
    N. Rogers, Mayhem: Post-War Crime and Violence in Britain, 1748–1753 (New Haven, 2003), p. 120.Google Scholar
  2. 24.
    G. Smith, ‘Violent Crime and the Public Weal in England, 1700–1900’, in Richard McMahon (ed.), Crime, Law and Popular Culture in Europe, 1500–1900 (Cullompton, 2008), pp. 190–218; S. Devereaux, ‘Recasting the Theatre of Execution: the Abolition of the Tyburn Ritual’, Past and Present 202 (2009), 127–74.Google Scholar
  3. 25.
    Rogers, Mayhem; F. F. Nichols, Honest Thieves (Birkenhead, 1973); F. Mclynn, Crime and Punishment in Eighteenth-Century England, (Oxford, 1989); C. McCooey, Smuggling on the South Coast (Stroud, 2012); J. Rule, ‘Social Crime in the Rural South in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’, in J. Rule and R. Wells (eds), Crime, Protest and Popular Politics in Southern England 1740–1850 (London, 1997), pp. 135–53; Cal Winslow, ‘Sussex Smugglers’, in Douglas Hay et al. (eds), Albion’s Fatal Tree (New York, 1975), pp. 119–66.Google Scholar
  4. 28.
    Thomas Yeakell and William Gardner, Sussex Great Survey Map (1778), WSRO, PM/48. The 1778 county map as annotated by Cavis-Brown in 1906 indicates that the coastline had changed and that the gibbet was now under sea level.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Zoe Dyndor 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zoe Dyndor

There are no affiliations available

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