Tower Hill Memorial

640px-London_Tower_Hill_Scaffold_Site Bryan McKinnon

Trinity Square Gardens on Tower Hill is an elegant green space which draws many on warm sunny days and has been so since laid out in 1796 by Samuel Wyatt. This, to complement Trinity House which he designed for the Corporation of Trinity House, the General Lighthouse Authority. On the Square’s north side and built in 1794-96, the House continues as its headquarters and in 1922 was joined by Ten Trinity Square, now an hotel. Built however as the Port of London Authority’s headquarters, its scale reflected London’s position as the largest port in the world until 1939.

The district’s maritime links brought the Merchant Navy Memorial in 1928 but adding its Second World War section in 1955 meant allowing for another monument dating from around 1913.

The Tower Hill Memorial, one of London’s most forbidding, is situated at the southwest corner of that Second World War section. It marks the position of the scaffold, the place of public execution of, principally, the nobility and gentlemen from the late 14th to late 18th century. Some 125 executions are known, most being beheadings but burning at the stake as well as hanging, with or without drawing and quartering, are included. Public executions meant, it is said, that 100,000 spectators were typical of the occasion. While royalty was despatched within the Tower itself and others at such as Smithfield, Tyburn or Newgate Prison with Wapping’s Execution Dock for pirates, those executed on Tower Hill ensure it an important place in British history.

Treason was often the charge, associated with such as Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warbeck, the Monmouth Rebellion and Jacobite Rising with the last, two women and a man, being hanged following the Gordon Riots in 1780. Perhaps best-known is Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, beheaded on Tower Hill in 1535 for refusing to renounce Catholicism and acknowledge King Henry VIII as Head of the Church of England. In 1516, More wrote ‘Utopia’ but may be better known today through Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ while Robert Bolt’s play, ‘A Man for All Seasons’ became a film for which Paul Schofield won an Oscar as More.

attachment (1) attachment Execution Duke of Northumberland 1553

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