Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marwood, William

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MARWOOD, WILLIAM (1820–1883), public executioner, born at Horncastle, Lincolnshire, in 1820, was by trade a cobbler. He turned his attention early to the subject of executions. He suggested that culprits ought, for reasons of humanity, not to be choked to death. By carefully ascertaining a criminal's weight, and by employing a proportionate length of rope, he showed that the descent of the body into the pit beneath the scaffold would instantaneously dislocate the vertebræ, and thus cause immediate death. He obtained his first engagement as a hangman at Lincoln in 1871, and his 'long-drop' system worked with success on that and many subsequent occasions. Among the more celebrated criminals whom he put to death were Charles Peace, Percy Lefroy Mapleton, Dr. Lamson, and Kate Webster. He died at Church Lane, Horncastle, on 4 Sept. 1883, aged 63, and was buried in Trinity Church on 6 Sept.

[The Life of W. Marwood, 1883, with portrait; Law Journal, 8 Sept. 1883, p. 490; St. Stephen's Review, 3 Nov. 1883, pp. 9, 20. facsimile of his letter; Illustrated Police News, 15 Sept. 1883, pp. 1–2, with portrait.]

G. C. B.