Until 1815 the place of execution in Lincoln was at the corner of Burton Road and Westgate, where the convenience store and adjoining cottages now stand, and was known as Hangman’s Ditch.
The last person hanged on the old gallows was William Ward, for shopbreaking at Mareham, on 1st April 1814. In those days prisoners sentenced to be hanged were often executed in batches, usually for very trivial offences. On 18th March 1785 nine prisoners were hanged at one time, three for highway robbery, two for sheep stealing, two for cattle stealing, one for horse stealing and one for housebreaking. It was reported that a crowd of 20,000 watched the executions.
In April 1747 Mary Johnson was burned at the stake for the murder of her husband, but prior to her burning she was strangled. The same punishment was meted out to another woman for the murder of her husband in 1722.
From 1815 to the passing of the Act abolishing public executions in 1868, the tower in the north east corner of the castle, known as Cobb Hall, was the place where those sentenced to death were hanged. The gallows was erected on the lead flat roof at the top of the tower.
Hanging was once a crude affair, those being hung died of strangulation which meant that they took a long time to die, they struggled on the gallows, hence the name of the inn at the north west corner of the castle: The Strugglers.
The Strugglers is said to be haunted by a lurcher that belonged to William Clark who was executed on 26th March 1877 for the murder of Henry Walker, a gamekeeper.
William Frederick Horry was convicted of murdering his wife, Jane, and was sentenced to die on the gallows on 1st April 1872. This execution was significant because it was the first one carried out by the Horncastle cobbler, William Marwood. Marwood had developed a method of hanging called the “long drop”, this method ensured that the prisoners neck was broken instantly at the end of the drop.
Marwood was appointed the official Crown Executioner in 1874 and carried out 178 executions in his 9 year career, his last hanging was in September 1883 when he hung the Irish Invincibles, five Irish nationalists 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.