Thursday 6 November 2014

The Local Press.

Back in the day when Margaret Thatcher was on the throne  I studied Arthur Miller's "Crucible" for my degree. One of the things that struck me, aside from the whole travesty of the affair, [rather akin to the Pendle Witch trial methinks] was the excruciating way Giles Corey was executed. In 1692 he was pressed to death by stones being laid upon his chest. It must have been a prolonged and agonising death.

To be honest, since then, other than a fleeting visit to Salem on my honeymoon in 1993, I haven't given the matter any further thought...until earlier this year when I made the time to make a decent length visit to my town's museum and really explore the displays. In passing I notice a reference to a pressing of this nature and that our town has the dubious record of being the last place in the country to carry it out. Fast forward to last week and a sculpture in the window of a local deli caught my eye. Reading the information about it I found that it related to the same individual.

Known as Peine Forte et Dure [somehow even something so horrific sounds more charming when said in French!] it was a rare form of punishment. John Weekes, along with his three accomplices and a young boy, was charged with the murder of one Elizabeth Symonds and robbery. Yet despite stolen goods being found on the men, he refused to speak at his trial. For this he became known as the "dumb man". According to the Wikipedia entry there is a school of thought that says he may have been a mute but eight witnesses testified in court that he could speak. He was not convicted of murder but found guilty of "standing mute through malice instead" and publically executed in 1735. The practice was outlawed in 1778.

Many thanks to Crates of Horsham for both allowing me to use their information and photo [mine were completely rubbish] of the fantastic sculpture by Catherine Weekes.


Footnote: the sculpture has now taken up residence in Horsham's museum so everyone can see it for themselves.

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