William MarwoodWilliam Marwood
), a cobbler, of Church Lane, Horncastle
at the age of 54 persuaded the governor of Lincoln prison to allow him to conduct an execution. The efficient way in which he conducted the hanging
of of William Frederick Harry (or Horry) without a hitch on 1 April 1874
assisted him in being appointed hangman by the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex, for which he was paid a retainer of £20 a year plus £10 per execution.
Marwood developed the "long drop" technique of hanging, which ensured that the prisoners' neck was broken instantly at the end of the drop, resulting in the prisoner dying of asphyxia while unconscious, which was undoubtedly kinder than the slow death by strangulation which often resulted from the previous "short drop" method, which was particularly distressing to prison governors and staff who were required to witness executions at a close distance following the abolition of public executions in 1868.
In his nine years as a hangman, Marcroft hanged 176 people, including:
- Charles Peace, the archetypal Victorian burglar and murderer, whose name struck terror in the hearts of everyone at the time. Hanged at Armley Jail, Leeds, Yorkshire, on 25 February 1879.
- Kate Webster, an Irish servant girl who murdered her mistress with an axe. Hanged at Wandsworth Prison, London, on 29 July 1879.
- Percy Lefroy Mapleton, who murdered Isaac Frederick Gold on a train between London and Brighton for his watch and some coins. Mapleton was arrested almost immediately, but escaped before being arrested again, convicted, and hanged on 29 November 1881.
- Joe Brady and four other members of the Invincibles gang who murdered Lord Frederick Cavendish, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and Thomas Henry Burke, the Permanent Undersecretary for Ireland, with surgical knives in Dublin's Phoenix Park. They were hanged at Dublin's Kilmainham Jail in 1883.
In Marwood's time there was a popular rhyme which went:
If Pa killed Ma
Who'd kill Pa?