Gallows Field is recorded as a place name on maps and, today, gives its name to a house.
Located off London Road, Newark, – about half way between Newark and Balderton on the eastern side of the road, Gallows Field is thought to have stood approximately on the site of the present day Paddocks housing development.
How did Gallows Field get its name?
Gallows Field appears to have acquired its name in 1603 when King James I (James VI of Scotland) was passing through Newark en route to London to his coronation in London. It was whilst in Newark, on 21st April 1603, that he is recorded to have ordered the hanging of a cut-purse (pickpocket) who had been following his retinue. The sentance was passed without recourse to a trial by judge and jury.
The gallows erected by order of James I were apparently still there 70 years later when John Ogilby drew his map of the road through Newark (see below).
William Stevenson, in his Bygone Nottinghamshire (published 1893) (p.122) notes “We find gallows alongside the Great North Road, on the south of Newark in the time of Charles II…. This might have been the gallows at which King James I, when at Newark, ordered a thief following his retinue to be hung without consulting judge or jury”
This action, notes Cornelius Brown (in his History of Newark, Vol.2, 1907 – p.34), “is often referred to by writers on English law as the last recorded instance of an unwarrantable exercise of royal prerogative in the infliction of capital punishment without trial.”
J.B. Nichols in his Progresses of James I (Vol. pp.88-89)* explains further that this action “was beyond the power of a king of England, and directly contrary to the privileges of the English nation”.
[As Brown op.cit points out, however, King James proved that he could be lenient as well as severe; Whilst at Newark King James issued a mandate and royal pardon for the release of all those (except murderers) incarcerated in Newark Castle. This mandate is reproduced by Brown on p.35 of his History].
Pictures of the gallows
John Ogilby’s ‘Road Book’ of 1675** shows a gallows on the east side of the road at apparently the location mentioned by Stevenson et al above (see illustration).
[Ogilby’s depiction of a gallows should not be confused with that included in Samuel Buck’s later (1725) map of the Civil War redoubts around Newark, which shows a gallows on the opposite (WEST) side of the road, somewhat further out of town. Here, says the map, “A Spie sent to Montross [was] Executed” (See opposite). It is assumed that this merely records the erection of a temporary gallows to carry out this single execution in the heat of battle.
The house at No.63 London Road, Newark, is named ‘Gallows Field’
* The full title of J.B. Nichols’ book is The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities, of King James the First : His Royal Consort, Family, and Court; Collected from Original Manuscripts, Scarce Pamphlets, Corporation Records, Parochial Registers, &c., &c. … Illustrated with Notes, Historical, Topographical, Biographical and Bibliographical, Volume 1 ( London , 1828)
** The full title of Ogilby’s book is Britannia, Volume the First: Or an Illustration of the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales: By a Geographical and Historical Description of thePrincipal Roads thereof…..” (London: 1675)