Bilstone Gibbet Post

 John Massey  1801

Click Here to Add a Title

”This oak gibbet post was erected here in March 1801, a quarter of a mile from the scene of a murder committed by John Massey in February 1800.

The incident which led to Massey’s downfall took place when he became involved in a violent argument with his second wife, Lydia, while the pair were out walking by Bilstone Mill with his wife’s 10 year old daughter. He brutally battered his wife and kicked her and his step daughter into the mill stream. His wife subsequently died of her injuries several weeks later. However, unfortunately for Massey the girl survived and went on to give evidence against him.

He was sentenced at Leicester Assizes to be hanged and gibbeted. The hanging was carried out at Red Hill, Birstall on the 23rd March 1801 and as was the custom of the day after the execution, the body was transported to the Parish where the crime had been committed. The body would be wrapped in chains and hung from a metal ring on the gibbet post and left as a public spectacle. Even as late as 1818 it was reported that the skeleton of John Massey still existed as a grim reminder to other would be homicides.

Born around 1750, Massey had been a local celebrity and renowned wrestler often defeating his opponents by throwing them over his head giving rise to the nickname Topsy Turvey. He worked in the fields at Bilstone as an agricultural worker and was reputed to be punctual and industrious. However, he acquired a reputation for heavy drinking and was given to violent outbursts of temper and cruelty to his wives, Sarah, who died in 1797 and Lydia whom he murdered.”