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March 2018



On high ground in the middle of nowhere, on the north side of the Welsh Road from Banbury to Buckingham, lies Gallows Field (#1) – where cattle thieves were hanged1.

 

Ross Adkins, who farms just south of the road at Greatworth Hall, remembers the gallows mound.  The field was pasture before the Second World War so it used to be clear to see: nearly a yard high, 3 yards in diameter and almost perfectly round.  I don’t know the exact date of the map (#2), but it must be pre-1866 when the short-lived Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway opened: the line of the railway runs along the western edge of the field on modern maps.  (The spelling of “Welch” Road may be a clue too.)2  

 

Ross vividly remembers when his father was ordered to plough up Gallows Field to produce more food for the war effort.  As year followed year the mound grew lower, until it disappeared, and a bit of rural history went with it.

 

Why a gallows in the middle of nowhere?  I have said elsewhere that drovers would be believed if they found someone stealing their cattle; and at Stuchbury only a quarter of a mile away lived the Washingtons3 and Moles, powerful families who would have provided the Justices and the justice.  The hanging bodies must have been visible for miles.

 

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Only 5 miles away, on the same Welsh Road (now called “Welsh Lane”), where three roads meet just south of Biddlesden at 634387, is “Hangman’s Tree” on a triangle of grass.  Again, in the middle of nowhere and on high ground; again with a powerful family nearby, the Morgans of Biddlesden Park, to provide justice.  Chris Rumble kindly provided me with #3 & #4; I took the (bad) last one.

 

How much is truth, how much romance?  Anyone with other examples of isolated gallows, please get in touch.

1 OS square SP5643 covers most of it.

2 How quaint to see, in tiny writing, three strips of garden on the south verge of the road.  It would have been well-manured, but the suppliers of the manure were on their way to market by train when the map was drawn.  Gipsies used to inhabit the road, with fearsome dogs.  Their gardens, perhaps?

3 The same family moved to America and provided the USA with its first president.

March 2018 image 1
Gallows Field
March 2018 image 2
Pre-1866 Map
March 2018 image 3
Hangman's Tree 1908
March 2018 image 4
Ditto 1950's
March 2018 image 5
Ditto 2009