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13 November 2014

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You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > Notts treasures: Britain's last working gallows

Hangman's noose

Notts treasures: Britain's last working gallows

The Galleries of Justice, in Nottingham's Lace Market, is home to Britain's last working gallows doors.

Wandsworth's gallows were last used on 8 September 1961.

However, it was kept in full working order, being tested every six months, up until 1992.  

For the General Manager, Gary Holmes, the gallows doors are the star attraction at award-winning museum.

"They remained in service until 1994 because, in theory, it still stood in the law books that for High Treason against the monarchy, desertion from the services or piracy on the High Seas you could still be hanged." 

Dead man walking 

When visiting the Galleries of Justice you can stand on the spot where 69 criminals took their last breath.

The doors, now housed behind glass in the floor of the museum and displayed alongside many other exectioners' tools, went into service in 1937.

When it was time for the condemned to die a false wall would open between his or her cell and the execution suite.

Gary Holmes and the Wandsworth gallows doors behind glass

Gary acts as executioner

The hangman and assistant would lead the criminal through, put the hood and noose on him or her, walk off the trapdoors and pull the operational lever.

Gallows history

Of the 69 people to be hung through these doors only one was female. Five were spies while two were convicted of treason, including 'Lord Haw Haw'.

Other notable names to face the death penalty in Wandsworth include serial killer Gordon Frederick Cummings (1942), a 28-year-old airman who strangled four women in one week, the infamous 'acid bath' murderer John George Haigh (1949) and Derek Bentley (1953), who was granted a posthumous pardon in 1998.

The final person to stand on Wandsworth's gallows was 49-year-old Hendrick Neimasz. He was convicted of the murder of his lover and her husband and met his death on Friday 8 September 1961.

More about the museum

The site of of the Galleries of Justice was in use as courts and prisons from the 1780s to the 1980s, although there has been a court on the site since at least 1375 and a prison since 1449.

last updated: 13/05/2009 at 17:56
created: 27/03/2009

You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > Notts treasures: Britain's last working gallows

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