The Last Public Execution in Nottingham

by Joseph Earp

The principal sites used in Nottingham for public executions over the centuries were Gallows Hill (near the entrance to Rock Cemetery) County Gaol (Shire Hall), The House of Correction and Bagthorpe Gaol (Perry Road Prison).

Ogilby’s map of 1674 depicts the town’s permanent gallows as standing at the summit of the forest ridge, the position being at the juncture of the present Mapperley Road. There can be little doubt that it was the common place of execution for centuries. The prior of Lenton was probably hanged here in 1538, and executions were contiued here (or in later times across the road where the Church Rock Cemetery gates now stand) until 1827. It was not unusual for the bodies of hanged persons to be buried at the foot of the gallows, and when some levelling work was done here in 1826 more than 15 skeletons were exhumed. In 1871 St Andrew’s Church was erected on the site.


Ogilby’s map of 1674 depicts the town’s permanent gallows as standing at the summit of the forest ridge, the position being at the juncture of the present Mapperley Road (now the site of the church). It was not unusual for the bodies of hanged persons to be buried at the foot of the gallows. In 1826 more than 15 skeletons were exhumed on the site shown in the above photograph. In 1871 St Andrew’s Church was erected on the site. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

The execution of Richard Thomas Parker in 1864 was the last public execution in Nottingham. He was executed at the County Gaol (Shire Hall). The earliest confirmed use of the site for official purposes was by the Normans, who appointed sheriffs to keep the peace and collect taxes; hence the site was sometimes referred to as the Sheriff’s Hall, the County Hall or the King’s Hall. The first written record of the site being used as a law court dates from 1375. The first written reference to its use as a prison is in 1449.

The hall was rebuilt between 1769 and 1772. The architect was James Gandon of London and cost around £2,500. Executions were held on a scaffold erected over the stone steps in front of the central doorway, within the small enclosure created by closing the gates of the iron railings. The drop was described as approximately level with the lintel of the door. After the abolition of public executions in 1868, most hangings took place at the Borough Gaol but on 21 November 1877 Thomas Gray was hanged in the yard at the rear of the Shire Hall.

Richard Thomas Parker, 29 years of age, was the only son of his mother’s second marriage and was “so blindly indulged from infancy that he may truly be said to have been ruined by indulgence”. He was hung for the murder of his Mother, originally a Miss Tutbury of Bingham, who was in her 76th year of age.

He had been apprenticed to a Mr Bee, Butcher of Sneinton Street, Nottingham. At the expiration of his engagement he commenced business at Fiskerton where “he might have succeeded well but for his reckless and dissipated conduct”.

He attended a cricket match at Newark. He had been drinking heavily all day and (as he was known to do when intoxicated) was getting into ‘drunken’ arguments with others at the match. When he returned home it is known that he had a violent argument with his father, who after left the family home. His mother ran out to warn father that “our Tom” had a gun. Parker shot both his parents from a top room window of the house. His father eventually recovered but his mother died some weeks later.

After his trial he was hanged outside the County Gaol at 8am on Wednesday, 10th August 1864. The executioner was a Mr Asken of York. He was immediately buried in the precincts of the gaol. This was the last public execution in Nottingham.

The old Shire Hall and County Gaol now the National Justice Museum. Photo Credit: Joseph Earp.

About nottinghamhiddenhistoryteam

Originally formed in 1965 to try to save or at least record before destruction the cave sites continually discovered during the major redevelopment of the City that took place in Nottingham in the 1960′s. Almost every day new sites were unearthed and destroyed before anyone was notified; last thing they wanted was someone telling them to stop what they were doing; TIME is MONEY. The word HIDDEN in the Team’s title is because a lot of what was being invisibly lost in the redevelopment was our early history in the caves, they are under most, if now all, of Nottingham. In the 80’s and 90’s the Team conducted with the help of Dr Robert Morrell and Syd Henley, research and work on Nottingham’s history, folklore and local archaeology. The Team published quarterly magazines on their findings. The Team lapsed for a few years after the death of Paul Nix who was the team leader for thirty plus years. The Team has reformed and is now back working on Nottingham local history. On this blog you will find a series of history, folklore and archaeological related articles and information. Most of the material published will be specifically related to Nottingham/shire local history.
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