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Hangmans Corner - Gallows or gibbet

Hangman's Corner on the road to Shuttington has an evocative name. But what really happened there?

"Right of gallows" is documented in Newton Regis in 1285. Right of gallows has been defined as "a privilege of the lord of the manor to hang criminals convicted by his court. This applied to criminals who had been accused of theft, and caught red-handed, with the goods on their person."

We do not have any evidence of hangings at Hangman's Corner, however. Maybe hangings did take place there in the "olden days" but I suggest it was more likely to have been the site of a gibbet.

Gallows and gibbet are sometimes used synonymously, but while a gallows is a place of execution, a gibbet particularly means an upright post with a projecting arm that displayed the dead body of an executed felon - or a part of it - as a warning. To give maximum effect the gibbet was often placed on a hill or at a crossroads. I suggest this is what went on at Hangman's Corner! Dark and spooky it used to be, too, until a few years ago when its use by construction traffic demanded the removal of some of the trees.

A gibbet post still exists in Gibbet Lane, Bilstone, near Market Bosworth. The practice of displaying dead bodies in this way had ceased in most places by the late 18th century, but in 1801 a gibbet was put up in Bilstone to display the hanged body of a local murderer, John Massey, an agricultural worker, wrestler and drunkard. He was sentenced at Leicester Assizes to be hanged and gibbeted for the murder of his wife. Massey was hanged at Red Hill, Birstall, Leicester, in March 1801, and after execution the body was taken to the parish where the crime had been committed. According to the custom of the day, the body would be wrapped in chains and hung from a metal ring on the gibbet post. Apparently, John Massey's skeleton could still be seen on the gibbet at Bilstone as late as 1818!

Caroline Smedley - 2010