A while ago someone told me that the Lichfield Gallows were situated near the Shell Garage on the London Road/Tamworth Road junction. A woman had told him she was walking past one evening and was pushed by unseen hands. Spooky!
I’ve always meant to check if this was correct and it appears that it is (the location that is, not the spooky story)!
Here’s a link to one of the oldest maps I know of – John Ogilby 1675 Lichfield to Chester It’s fascinating in its own right, but for today’s purposes look at the bottom left corner and you’ll see Gallows marked, just outside of Lichfield.
‘The History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14’ tells us that ‘A gallows was built, or possibly repaired, at the bishop’s expense in 1532–3. In 1650 there was a gallows on the west side of the London road near its junction with Shortbutts Lane. The gallows there fell down c. 1700, its foundations undermined by people digging for sand, but it was re-erected’
In ‘Staffordshire Customs, Supersitions and Folklore (1924)’, Frederick Hackwood writes that at Gallows Wharf ‘half a centry ago a decayed oak stump stood two feet out of the ground….and was said to be the remains of the ancient gallows-tree’.
Given the description from the County History above, it seems unlikely that this is correct. However, it wouldn’t be the only one in the area – in Brereton (Brewerton?), near Rugeley, Mr Ogilby has marked ‘a hangmans oake on ye road’. A quick look at the archives does show a Hangman’s Croft in Brereton in the 1800s but at the moment I can’t find any other references.
JW Jackson, a City Librarian of Lichfield, contributed a local history column to the Lichfield Mercury in the 1930s. He carried out some research into crime and punishment in Lichfield and found that in 1711 the Sheriff of Lichfield was instructed to carry out two executions. One of these was a man condemned for murder. The other a woman who was sentenced to death for stealing a pair of shoes, a straw hat with brimming, a sixpenny loafe and a cheese. Presumably this poor woman fell foul of the 1699 Shoplifting Act which made it a capital offence to steal goods worth more than 5 shillings!
It seems public executions in Lichfield weren’t a common occurence. According to the website Capitalpunishmentuk, six executions were carried out in the City between 1735 and 1782. Three men were hanged for uttering (which I understand is the crime of putting something forged into circulation) in April 1801 and the gallows was used for the last time on 1 June 1810 when three forgers were hanged. On the 1884 Ordnance Survey Map, the area is called Gallow’s Wharf, but by the 1920s it was known as St John’s Wharf.