Lost Gibbet at Gallowstree Common
13 March 2023
The ominously-named hamlet of Gallowstree Ccommon got its name from the huge oak tree that used to stand here. The oak was used to gibbet executed criminals until the early 19th century.
According to The Oxfordshire Village Book, the last person to be gibbeted here was a man executed for sheep stealing in 1825. The tree was eventually removed as a result of one of the many Enclosure Acts, but the gibbet and chains used on the tree were for a time left attached to a nearby post.
The gibbet, chains and indeed the location of the original oak tree appear to now be lost.
About gibbeting in Oxfordshire
Gibbeting was the practice of publicly displaying the bodies of executed criminals, usually hung in some sort of specially constructed cage. This typically took place close to the location where their crime was committed. Bodies were often left out for months on end until they rotted away to little more than skeletons, at which point they would be taken down and buried in unmarked graves.
Oaks seem to have been the species of tree most commonly used for gibbeting in Oxfordshire. An example of a gibbeting oak that is still standing can be found in a field to the north of Capps Lodge, near Fulbrook in West Oxfordshire. This tree was famously used to gibbet the notorious Dunsden brothers who terrorised the district in the 18th century.
- 'The Oxfordshire Village Book' (Countryside Books, 1999, ISBN: 1853065765)