'A Pirate hanged at Execution Dock'

An engraving with the title, below image, 'A Pirate hanged at Execution Dock'. This is the best (if not the only) known 18th-century print of this subject, and has consequently been reproduced many times in piracy literature since books began to have photographic plates - now well over a century. Despite or perhaps because of this, its original source is no longer obvious, though it was probably itself done as a book illustration. It has also been suggested that the pirate is Captain James Lowry, hanged in 1762. The man on horseback to the left holds the silver oar-mace of the Court of Admiralty, under whose jurisdiction the crime of piracy was tried and those convicted usually hanged. In London this was traditionally at Execution Dock, Wapping, where the gallows stood between the high and low watermarks on the Thames foreshore and the body was left hanging until three tides had at least partially submerged it. The corpse was then either often sent for anatomical dissection (ostensibly for medical training purposes) or in the case of notorious pirates coated in tar to preserve it as long as possible and hung in an iron gibbet framework at a prominent point on the Thames as a warning to others, until it rotted away. Customary positions were Tilbury and Greenwich Marsh opposite Blackwall (just west of the modern O2/Dome (see PAD1370). The church in the background of the print is St Mary's, Rotherhithe, just east of Wapping on the opposite (south) side of the river. [PvdM 7/13]

Object Details

ID: PAJ0887
Type: Print
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Lieutenant Page; Dodd, Robert Page
Places: Wapping
Date made: circa 1795
People: Lowry, James
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 175 x 110 mm; Image: 152 x 92 mm; Mount: 573 mm x 376 mm
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