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It started with nothing more than a tree and a length of rope. Today hanging is a scientific art, developed over the centuries into a quick, clean mode of death.

Early man meted out vengeance on his neighbour by hanging - he simply threaded a rope across a branch and hoisted his victim, with a noose around his neck, off the ground. Death usually came about through strangulation. This kind of primitve 'justice' was still used by lynch mobs centuries later.

The first signs of scientific approach came during Anglo-Saxon times when a ladder was used to tandem with a purpose-built wooden gallows. Now the condemned man was forced up the ladder which was subsequently 'turned out' so he lost his footing and fell to his death.

However the fall was a short one. In some cases the victim's neck would snap like a twig from the force, but that was rare. As before, death - which was slow and painful - usually due to strangulation.





Across the Irish sea there were experiments with the 'long' drop. Death was instantaneous but sometimes the fall was so violent that the head was severed. Cobbler-turned-executioner Thomas Marwood, who hanged his first victim at Lincoln 1871, imported the idea of the long drop to England. He cared suffiently about those he dispatched to wish them a swift death. He found that a drop of about eight feet was generally the most successful in achieving this.

With care, he calculated the precise length of rope needed, taking into account the weight and height of the felon and the muscular strength of the neck. He also discovered that a metal ring, carefully positioned on the noose, was faster, more efficient route to death than the traditional hangman's knot.

Decades later trainee executioners were taught the scienceof hanging . A ready reckoner table helped them work out the legth of the hemp rope needed for a successful execution. A chalk mark indicating the exact centre of the trap doors, directly in line with the rope, ensured the body did not swing but punged directly downwards . Including the time it took to apply arm and leg restraints, a condemned man could enter the execution room and meet his maker in as eight seconds. A picture much like the chart described can be seen above.