This week I thought I’d do something different, so I have a short film for you. My girlfriend did the flowers for a wedding at Woodhill Hall in Otterburn last weekend and I realised it was just a few miles from one of the only remaining signs of capital punishment in the North East – Winter’s Gibbet. So, off I drove to collect glass baubles, vases, garlands, flowers and to film a gibbet. This was the first time I had used the camera and I had forgotten my tripod, but was happy with the results. Answers on a postcard if you can guess what music I’ve used.
I have written about Winter’s case before, but here’s a very quick summary. William Winter was a member of the renowned Faws gang, whose criminal exploits in the late c18th were known across Northumberland and further afield. Winter himself was arrested for the murder of Margaret Crozier at the Raw, Elsdon. He, alongside his two female accomplices, was hung at Newcastle’s Westgate in 1792. All three were sentenced to the post-humous punishment of dissection, but Winter’s punishment was later revised to gibbetting. The gibbet itself has stood since 1792, albeit after numerous rebuilds and repairs. As previous blogs have shown it is still a controversial monument to this day. Enjoy.
DISTRACTION 1: THE WONDERS OF GIN
Given the shortness of the blog this week, I thought I’d do a longer distractions section to compensate. Firstly, I am a big fan of Radio 4’s In Our Time and this weeks episode was on the explosion of the gin trade in the mid c18th. Alcohol and capital punishment go hand in hand and you rarely see a trial go by where the guilty party doesn’t blame drink for how they have ended up. Perhaps the most famous representation of its effect, or feared effect, is William Hogarth’s Gin Lane. If you look closely you can see a demobbed soldier on the steps, who has traded some of his clothes for gin. The end of the Austrian Wars of Sucession (1740-48) had led to a huge demobilisation of troops – a group people feared would turn to crime and drink.
DISTRACTION 2: MUSLIMS LIKE US
I caught this two part series this week and found it very interesting. The premise was that 10 muslims were brought together in a house in York to live. It had the usual TV flaws of trying to pick ‘characters’ that would deliberately test each others boundaries, but unlike Big Brother it had a less sensationalised feel and created some genuinely interesting dialogues. More of this please.
DISTRACTION 3: RILLINGTON PLACE
I spend my life reading about murders, hangings and general blood and gore but nothing I have read or seen has affected me quite like this. As the period my PhD covers stops at 1878 c20th cases are not my forte, so I cannot attest to its accuracy. What I can attest to though is its dramatic brilliance and Tim Roth’s masterful performance as John Reginald Halliday Christie. Samantha Morton is similarly harrowing as Christie’s wife. I have had troubled nights ever since!
DISTRACTION 4: IGNOBLE BOB
Last one I promise. So, I mentioned my love of Bob Dylan a few weeks ago, when all the shenanigans about his ‘non acceptance’ of the Nobel award were filling the papers. This week he gave a speech about how grateful he was whilst, in classic Bob style, not actually attending or giving the speech himself! I watched Scorcese’s brilliant No Direction Home at my girlfriend’s parents’ house last week and it reminded me of one of my favourite songs (below). It also had a new resonance as, in one of the clips, Dylan actually went into my girlfriend’s father’s renowned clothing store – Marcus Price of Newcastle. I don’t know many people who can say they sold clothes to Bob Dylan!