They were hanged at York - and Miles at Manchester...

The present day Micklegate Bar at York
The present day Micklegate Bar at York

Leslie Thomas travelled from Morecombe to give his presentation on Hangings at York from 1622-1850.

Leslie lived locally as a child and has been a member of Halifax Antiquarian Society all his adult life, presenting numerous papers published in their Annual Transactions, writes Sue Clough.

The York Tyburn was built in the 14th century for public executions. The site is by the tower steps at Micklegate Bar. The earliest hanging occurred after soldier Edward Hewison had raped a 22-year-old in 1379. During the next 400 years many executions took place there for crimes of sheep stealing, rioting, highway robbery, murderers and more.

Leslie recounted all those criminals, with special reference to those linked to Calderdale. Our Antiquarians heard a summary of the Cragg Vale Coiners story, who clipped coins to make counterfeit money. David Hartley and James Oldfield received death penalties and were hung at York in April 1770. We heard woeful tales of condemned local Luddites. Some criminals narrowly escaped execution, only to be transported for life.

Beacon Hill overlooking Halifax was also a site for public execution until 1783. The last victims had been rioting against Corn Laws. Body parts were left around as warnings to other criminals.

The “Murder at The Vicarage” has been a booklet in the series of publications by members of Todmorden Antiquarian Society. Leslie switched counties and told us of this notorious murder committed by Miles Weatherill in 1868. After being refused permission to court 16 year old servant Sarah Bell, drunken Weatherill returned to Todmorden Vicarage where he killed the nurserymaid and fatally injured the Rev Plow. Weatherill was publicly hanged by Manchester Prison. Historically, the Vicarage would then have been the Lancashire side of Todmorden.

The last Calderdale hanging occurred in 1858, of an unrepentant murderer. The largest crowd ever watched! Unbelievably, hangings drew thousands of voyeurs as a social gathering.

The society’s last meeting of the season will be on Tuesday, April 8, in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room (7.30pm). Archaeologist Steve Brown will speak on “Haworth”. Visitors welcome.