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Vile Eight

1888 Table of Drops

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The 1888 Official Table of Drops

The career of an executioner is steeped in history and is one of the oldest employments. In England after a series of gruesome and ineffective methods of execution, in 1888 an official table of drops was drawn up to figure out the length of the rope that was needed to cause an instant death to the accused by snapping the vertebrae in the neck. Methods before this included hanging from trees or sat on horseback, to which the horse was led away and tightened the rope. These methods often led to a long and agonising death as the hanged person would slowly suffocate sometimes over the period of hours. Therefore early modern and medieval hangings often resulted in the persons legs being pulled or a weight added to end the suffering.

The table of drops presented in this artwork was the original calculation of weight vs length of rope used in England, there were methods of how the noose should be tied, in this case a ‘hangmans knot’ or ‘hangknot’ which was replaced by a more effective eyelet noose. The official table of drops was subsequently updated in 1892, and 1913 after a few unsavoury events such as the drop being too long resulting in decapitation.

The 1913 table of drops was used up until the last British execution in 1964 and by this point the process of ‘being hanged until dead’ had become an act of speed and precision with famous hangman Albert Pierrepoint claiming the record of fastest hanging, entering the chamber to deceased in seven seconds.

This artwork is engraved on solid distressed wood, measuring 42cm x 30cm