William Marwood, a shoemaker from Horncastle, developed the more humane method of hanging known as the 'long drop'

Marwood (1818─1883) devised a table of 'drops', of between six and 10 feet, which he used to determine the length of rope in proportion to the condemned prisoner's weight. This calculation, together with the careful placing of the knot under the left ear, guaranteed that the prisoner's neck would be broken during the fall through the trap door on the gallows. Instant death would follow.

This ended the distressing scenes of prisoners struggling and convulsing, as they were strangled by the noose. Sometimes executioners pulled on the wretched prisoner’s legs to hasten death and put an end to suffering.

In 1875, Marwood was appointed to execute Peter Blanchard at Lincoln Castle. The prison Surgeon was an official witness to the hanging:‘[I] visited Peter Blanchard who was tried and convicted and sentenced to death at the last Assizes for the murder of his sweetheart Louisa Hodgson.  I witnessed his execution in the midst of a violent storm of rain, thunder and lightning. The execution was skilfully and rapidly carried out by Marwood.  Death must have been instantaneous.’

Marwood returned to Lincoln Castle in 1877 to hang William Clarke for wilful murder. While out poaching in Norton Disney, Clarke had fired a fatal shot at Henry Walker, a gamekeeper. Clarke was the last prisoner hanged at the castle.  The premises in Church Lane, Horncastle, where Marwood had his shop, are still there today. 

Crime, punishment and prisoners

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