King's College London
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Hangings

Engraving of prison of two storeys with a scaffold on the room holding four men in white hoods with hopes around their necks, near them a man reading from a book and on either side other figures, some with gunsHorsemonger Lane Jail hanging, 1800King's medical students came into close proximity with the consequences of violent death in 19th century London.

Shephard Taylor must have been one of many students from King's to attend a public hanging before using the penalty as a public spectacle was removed from the statute book in 1868.

Taylor's illuminating Diary of a Medical Student has been quoted elsewhere in this exhibition.

In January 1864, Taylor wrote:

'Saw Samuel Wright hanged on the roof of Horsemonger Lane Jail for the murder of a paramour. This man, a bricklayer, three years ago found and returned to me a silver watch which I had lost at a fete... It was a remarkable case in the fact that the murder, the coroner's inquest, the magisterial investigation, the trial, and sentence all took place... in a week.'

'The general public and all the newspapers without exception advocated clemency on the part of the Crown, but the Home Secretary was inexorable. The blinds were down in all the neighbouring streets and the military were called out in case of an attempted rescue.

When the unfortunate man appeared on the scaffold, loud cries of 'Take him, take him down' were heard in every direction, to which the unhappy man responded by repeated bows to the multitude... he still continued bowing and was actually bowing when the drop fell.'

Image source: (reference: Epsom and Ewell History Explorer website, accessed 9 Apr 2015)

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