When most city planners are designing the layout for how visitors will be greeted, one would think they would want their guests to feel welcomed. That was far from the case in this medieval northeasterly English city. Visitors to the town were welcomed by the bodies of convicted criminals swinging from the gallows and large crowds of unruly spectators. This was named “The Tyburn,” because of its connection to an area infamously known for similar purposes in London.
For nearly half a century, York Castle dispatched its convicted felons on a contraption called the Three-Legged Mare, on the southern approach into the town. This wooden device with portable appendages was used as a gibbet from the 14th through 19th-century. Thousands of perpetrators had their last dance at the end of a rope in this vicinity.
Thousands more were encouraged to come to watch this gruesome display, and later, attend a horse race in the adjacent field. It just so happens that the very first and very last public executions that took place here, were both military men accused of heinous crimes.
Over the course of several hundred years, there was a wide assortment of nefarious criminals who meet their maker here; from political prisoners to rebellious leaders, to the unusual case of two forgers. Perhaps the most well-known case of capital punishment was that of the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin.
Know Before You Go
The location of the Tyburn Tree is fairly easy to spot, as it is on a raised platform with an information placard and park benches that face the racecourse. Note that during certain weekends the area may be more congested because of events that are taking place nearby. Just a few yards to the north, on the same side of Tadcaster Road, is stone mounting stone. This is a milestone marker, that indicates the original southern boundary of the city of York.