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The Wells Gallows (18)

Updated: Apr 23

During the 17th and 18th centuries here stood the place of public execution for hanging, drawing, quartering and burning at the stake.



All the first seven Blue Plaques installed in Wells are cheerful – but No 8 is not. It commemorates the Wells gallows and reads: “Near here during the 17th and 18th centuries stood the place of public execution for hanging, drawing, quartering and burning at the stake.”



The Reverend Clare Cowlin from St Cuthbert’s in Wells was present for the unveiling of the plaque off the Glastonbury Road at Keward and said: “We cannot name the hundreds who died here, but we can honour them as individuals, known to God whose own son died like a criminal on the cross,” and led the Lord’s Prayer.



Civic society vice-chair Philip Welch read a report from the Bath Journal about an execution at Keward of a woman called Susannah Bruford who had poisoned her husband.



“She was brought from the room where she was imprisoned into the yard of the Star Inn at Wells and was seated on the sledge with a hurdle thereon and a barrel of pitch. “She was dressed in a black gown and had a black hood placed over her head. From thence she was taken to the place of execution and being brought to the stake spent half an hour with a clergyman in prayer. She was then set upon the stool in order to put the halter about her neck to strangle her. She prayed very fervently and begged for mercy and standing two or three minutes then dropped a black handkerchief which she held in her hand as a signal and was executed at about 25 minutes after five o’clock.



Soon after she was launched into eternity the faggots were placed around her and a barrel of pitch set under them. Two hoops of iron were put around her body and nailed to the stake to keep it up while it was consuming. Before she was quite dead the faggots were set upon the fire and they burnt for nearly an hour with a great fury by which time she was consumed to ashes. There was a small coffin to put her remains in. A prodigious concourse of people appeared as spectators of this dismal scene.”



Mr Welch thanked Mark and James Vear of Vear Construction for providing the stone and building this splendid plinth.



“Also Jon Jefferies who did much of the work including the planning application, Clare Blackmore and David Mather for helping with the research.”



Blue Plaque map, City of Wells
Wells Gallows is at location 18, on the Glastonbury Road leaving Wells


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