Esoteric London

No. 525: Iverson Road, NW6

Posted in Crime and Punishment by esotericlondon on March 2, 2012

Iverson Road, London, NW6. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

London in the Sixties, (With a few Digressions) – ‘One of the Old Brigade’ (Donald Shaw), 1908:

The scene on the night preceding a public execution afforded a study of the dark side of nature not to be obtained under any other circumstances.
Here was to be seen the lowest scum of London densely packed together as far as the eye could reach, and estimated by The Times at not less than 200,000. Across the entire front of Newgate [Prison] heavy barricades of stout timber traversed the streets in every direction, erected as a precaution against the pressure of the crowd, but which answered a purpose not wholly anticipated by the authorities.
As the crowd increased, so wholesale highway robberies were of more frequent occurence; and victims in the hands of some two or three desperate ruffians were as far from help as though divided by a continent from the battalions of police surrounding the scaffold.
The scene that met one’s view on pulling up the windows and looking out on the black night and its still blacker accompaniments baffles description. A surging mass, with here and there a flickering torch, rolled and roared before one; above this weird scene arose the voices of men and women shouting, singing, blaspheming, and, as the night advanced and the liquid gained firmer mastery, it seemed as if hell had delivered up its victims. To approach the window was a matter of danger; volleys of mud immediately saluted one, accompanied by more blaspheming and shouts of defiance. It was difficult to believe one was in the centre of a civilised capital that vaunted its religion and yet meted out justice in such a form.
The first step towards the morning’s work was the appearance of workmen about 4 a.m.; this was immediately followed by a rumbling sound, and one realised that the scaffold was being dragged round. A grim square, box-like apparatus was now distinctly visible, as it slowly backed against the ‘debtors’ door’. Lights now flickered about the scaffold – the workmen fixing the cross-beams and uprights. Every stroke of the hammer must have vibrated through the condemned cells, and warned the wakeful occupants that their time was nearly come. These cells were situated at the corner nearest Holborn, and passed by thousands daily, who little knew how much misery that bleak white wall divided them from.

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