Eye Spy Glasgow: The square where Glasgow's killers were taken to die

They haven't hanged people in Glasgow since the days of the notorious serial killer Peter Manuel in the late 1950s.

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Manuel wasn't the last to be executed in Glasgow - that dubious honour fell to Anthony Miller who was hanged at Barlinnie prison in 1960.

It seems incredible that such gory events could be public spectacles.

But rewind the clock a century or two and there was nothing to beat a good hanging, it attracted spectators in their hundreds.

Before executions were held in Duke Street jail and later Barlinnie, they used to be held just at the entrance to Glasgow Green, facing what is now the High Court building in Saltmarket.

The area is called Jocelyn Square and if you check the flagstones in front of the impressive McLennan Arch, you will see one that commemorates the area's gruesome history.

An inscription reads: "Jocelyn Gate. This area, formerly known as Jocelyn Square, was the site of both the famous Glasgow Fair and, until 1865 of public executions."

The first executions at the spot were in 1814 and over the years 67 men and four women were hanged there.

The story goes that, for some reason, the men and women who went to the gallows were hanged with their backs to the court and facing the Nelson Monument in Glasgow Green.

When Dr Edward Pritchard became the last person to be hanged in Jocelyn Square in 1865, it was such a sensation that the execution turned into one of the year's greatest tourist attractions.

Pritchard was a respectable doctor with a practice in Sauchiehall Street but had been convicted of poisoning his wife and mother-in-law.

By all accounts thousands of people travelled to the square and filled the surrounding streets drinking and celebrating the doctor's demise.

People who owned rooms overlooking the hanging site hired them out at three guineas a time so spectators could have a grandstand view and street vendors did a roaring trade.

It was, as expressed by one 19th century writer, the "last great hanging" in Glasgow.

The name Jocelyn Gate commemorates Bishop Jocelyn, a Cistercian monk who was Bishop of Glasgow in the 1100s and who was one of the founding fathers of Glasgow.

In the 1170s Jocelyn persuaded King William the Lion to grant Burgh status to Glasgow, enabling it to hold an annual fair.

Hence the reason Jocelyn Square became the site of the now famous Glasgow Fair.


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