Mark’s History: Joseph Myers and the grizzly first public hanging at Armley Gaol

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Roof work: Armley Jail. Photo: Mark Stevenson

When Joseph Myers cut his own throat he probably thought his problems were over, writes Mark Stevenson.

But the surgeon was on the ball that day and managed to sew him back up again although his stitching left something to be desired. Joseph Myers, along with James Sargisson, had both been sentenced to hang for murder. Their hanging was to be the first public hanging at Armley Gaol.

The hangings were reported in detail by The Leeds Mercury newspaper, which claimed that between 80,000 to 100,000 people had come to watch the event on that Saturday morning.

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Hanging: Armley Gaol. Photo: Mark Stevenson

At five minutes to nine, the prison bell began to toll and inside the two men were being pinioned by Thomas Askern of York. They were led out onto the gallows supported on each side by warders and preceded by the Under Sheriff and the Chaplain.

Askern pulled down the white caps over their faces but both men continued to speak, Sargisson’s last words to Myers were reportedly “Art thou happy lad?” to which Myers responded “Indeed I am.”

Askern then operated the drop which fell with a thud, their bodies being almost completely hidden from the crowd.

Myers seemed to die almost immediately, but Sargisson struggled for some minutes. As feared the wound in Myers’ throat had re-opened and there was an amount of blood on his shirt. After hanging the customary hour, they were removed from the gallows and buried within the prison.

Myers shared the same surname as the victim of the last person to be hung at Armley.


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