Thursday 21 January 1663/64

Up, and after sending my wife to my aunt Wight’s to get a place to see Turner hanged, I to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon going to the ’Change; and seeing people flock in the City, I enquired, and found that Turner was not yet hanged. And so I went among them to Leadenhall Street, at the end of Lyme Street, near where the robbery was done; and to St. Mary Axe, where he lived. And there I got for a shilling to stand upon the wheel of a cart, in great pain, above an houre before the execution was done; he delaying the time by long discourses and prayers one after another, in hopes of a reprieve; but none came, and at last was flung off the ladder in his cloake. A comely-looked man he was, and kept his countenance to the end: I was sorry to see him. It was believed there were at least 12 or 14,000 people in the street. So I home all in a sweat, and dined by myself, and after dinner to the Old James, and there found Sir W. Rider and Mr. Cutler at dinner, and made a second dinner with them, and anon came Mr. Bland and Custos, and Clerke, and so we fell to the business of reference, and upon a letter from Mr. Povy to Sir W. Rider and I telling us that the King is concerned in it, we took occasion to fling off the business from off our shoulders and would have nothing to do with it, unless we had power from the King or Commissioners of Tangier, and I think it will be best for us to continue of that mind, and to have no hand, it being likely to go against the King.

Thence to the Coffee-house, and heard the full of Turner’s discourse on the cart, which was chiefly to clear himself of all things laid to his charge but this fault, for which he now suffers, which he confesses. He deplored the condition of his family, but his chief design was to lengthen time, believing still a reprieve would come, though the sheriff advised him to expect no such thing, for the King was resolved to grant none. After that I had good discourse with a pretty young merchant with mighty content. So to my office and did a little business, and then to my aunt Wight’s to fetch my wife home, where Dr. Burnett did tell me how poorly the sheriffs did endeavour to get one jewell returned by Turner, after he was convicted, as a due to them, and not to give it to Mr. Tryan, the true owner, but ruled against them, to their great dishonour. Though they plead it might be another jewell for ought they know and not Tryan’s. After supper home, and my wife tells me mighty stories of my uncle’s fond and kind discourses to her to-day, which makes me confident that he has thoughts of kindness for us, he repeating his desire for her to be with child, for it cannot enter into my head that he should have any unworthy thoughts concerning her. After doing some business at my office, I home to supper, prayers, and to bed.

40 Annotations

First Reading

Michael Robinson  •  Link

... at least 12 or 14,000 people in the street.

Public execution as edutainment by Hogarth; probably similar to today's, though later, 1747.…

Michael Robinson  •  Link

... he delaying the time by long discourses

The speech and deportment of Col. Iames Turner at his execution in Leaden-Hall-street, January 21. 1663. Who was condemned for felony and burglary, in breaking up the house and robbing of Mr. Francis Tryon merchant, living in Limestreet, London. Licensed.
London : printed by William Godbid for Nath. Brook at the Angel in Cornhill, and Henry Marsh at the Princes Arms in Chancery-lane, 1663 [i.e 1664]
22 p. ; 4⁰. Wing (2nd ed.), T3293

There appear to be two separate editions with the same imprint

PHE  •  Link

'Come on, come on, hang the man - my feet hurt!'

tonyt  •  Link

Public executions. Hogarth's picture shows that in 1747 Tyburn was still on the edge of the countryside (though he has exaggerated the hills in the background) whereas Turner was executed right in the middle of the City of London. Even today, I do not see how 12,000 - 14,000 people could witness an event in Leadenhall Street (or anywhere else in the City). In the 1660s the streets were more restricted so the actual number present was surely much less than this.

Maura  •  Link

"for it cannot enter into my head that he should have any unworthy thoughts concerning her"

Except it just has.

alanB  •  Link

Uncle Wight has cleverly hooked Sam. His antennae seem to be out of tune to Bess' mighty stories. While Sam was busy doing cartwheels in the street,Elizabeth presumably enjoyed a window box. Why did he not join her?

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"...upon a letter from Mr. Povy to Sir W. Rider and I telling us that the King is concerned in it..."

Kind warning from the kind and gentlemanly Thomas.


"...for it cannot enter into my head..." You've hit the nail, Maura. Clearly Sam is nervously trying to ignore warning signs in his greedy hopes. In fact it's a little disturbing that he keeps throwing Bess Uncle's way, leaving her
with him...Despite Aunt Wight's no doubt eagle eye...Rather unprotected.

Does seem though that Bess regards ole Unc as easily dealt with...She certainly seems an eager team player in "Operation Butter-up". It's never very clear but I sense she enjoys these times when Sam brings her into his plots for familial gain as partner..And I suspect he consults her advice on such more frequently than the Diary gives out.

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"But it was all just a..." Turner tries, his words coming to an abrupt end.

"And we all enjoyed the jest, Cap't. Eh, people?" the hangman addresses the crowd who cheer.

As Eric Idle notes in "The Bright Side of Life" just remember that the last joke is on you, Cap't.


"My God, Sam'l...The view we had." Bess notes eagerly. "I could see his tongue hanging out, going purple. Did you get away to see it?"

"Too far...Ended up on a cartwheel, damn near killed my feet."

"Oh, that reminds me. His feet were dangling and kicking about like eels fresh out of the water."

Paul Dyson  •  Link

And there I got for a shilling to stand upon the wheel of a cart...

Sam was keen to see this event, although it forms only one episode in quite a busy day, and has referred to the case several times. His description is fairly restrained with some sympathy evident for the condemned man, but clearly it wasn't just the idle or rougher elements of the population who were attracted to the spectacle. It isn't clear (to me at any rate) why the execution was carried out at this particular place, right in the city, rather than at Tyburn.
Extract from…
Executions took place at Tyburn between 1571 and 1783. About 1100 men and almost 100 women were hanged at Tyburn in the eighteenth century. Londoners were also executed at Smithfield and Tower Hill. After 1783, because the government's fears of public disorder and rioting were so great, executions took place at Newgate, where security was easier to manage. Even then they remained a spectacle available to Londoners, with some paying up to £10 for a seat at one of the windows overlooking the gallows. The last public executions in London were in 1868.

Although we now have other major entertainments to divert us and can watch endless mock deaths (and occasional real ones) on the small screen, can we doubt that, if similar events were available today, there would be plenty of people who would find reason and time to attend as well as to make everything available to the world at large via mobile phone cameras?

language hat  •  Link

I expect there will be televised executions during my lifetime.
And I expect the ratings to be huge.

dirk  •  Link

"A comely- looked man he was, and kept his countenance to the end: I was sorry to see him."

A fine touch of humanity -- in spite of the spectacle/sensation.

Mary  •  Link

Public executions.

In the late 1980s these were a very popular form of Saturday morning 'entertainment' on Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria.

A. De Araujo  •  Link

Yes Language Hat, most likely on Pay Per View.

Glyn  •  Link

Paul, according to this website:…

"Most defendants sentenced to death were to be hanged at Tyburn (where Marble Arch stands today) ... (but) .... Some of the most serious offenders were hanged near the place of their crime, as a lesson to the inhabitants of that area."

This Diary has an entry for exections if anyone wants to add anything to it:…

Bradford  •  Link

"sending my wife to my aunt Wight's to get a place to see Turner hanged":

"Just put your coat down in the seat next to yours and I'll be there as soon as I can."

Paul Dyson  •  Link

See the link below, and several others if you Google "Halifax Gibbet", for an unusual provincial mode of public execution in England, only a few years before the time of Pepys' Diary.…

Conrad  •  Link

Bradford, I think he sent his wife off to Aunt Wight's house & then he tried to find a place to watch Turner swing, but as nothing was happening he went off to work.At noon he noticed the crowd of people gathering to watch the execution, so he joined in & watched, after which he went off to work once again. He picked up Bess from Aunt Wight's on the way home.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

televised executions

It has already happened. See (if you wish to -- I don't) the widely distributed video, available on the Web, of the hanging of Saddam Hussein, surreptitiously taken by camera phone.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

"he repeating his desire for her to be with child"


Come, RG, fill in the unreported part of this conversation between childless Elizabeth (who may well suspect that it is her husband's impotence that denies her) and the 50ish and presumably vigorous uncle (who may also have the same suspicion, and who fathered, then lost, his own children).

Robert Gertz  •  Link

Sometimes truth is better than fiction...

Coming soon, the exciting conclusion to the mystery of Uncle Wight...

But I have to picture our good Unc as rather rotund, somewhat bumbling and coarse, though pontifical at times, with a gimlet-eyed Aunt Wight watching his every move...Not exactly a young woman's dream date.

Laura  •  Link

Public executions in your lifetime, LH?
As Hamilton pointed out, Saddam's hanging was captured by camera phone, and was shown here in Texas repeatedly on local newscasts. I suppose in Texas we're a little jaded about executions as punishment, so the local newscasters felt it appropriate to broadcast almost the entire video. It was truly sickening. Enough for me to keep the news off for the next couple of nights for fear they'd show it again!

A. Hamilton  •  Link

La belle et la bete

"Not exactly a young woman's dream date"?

depends on the pheromones, doens't it?

Sean Adams  •  Link

"her husband's impotence"?
No evidence for impotence and a lot against. Sam is the prime candidate for infertility and the lack of children although Bess has her GI problems too.
This business with Uncle Wright is creepy.

jeannine  •  Link

January 22 entry
Looks like Phil may be behind. Here is the entry for the 22nd for those in withdrawl (although you may want to post when Phil loads the actual day).

[Entry removed, 16 January 2017, to avoid confusion now the 22 January post is there.]

Bradford  •  Link

Conrad, you're quite right: Sam's flexible syntax-of-the-time led me astray, piquant though the thought is.

Creepy perhaps Uncle is, but straight out of a yet-to-be-written novel (a yet-to-be-developed genre).

"So home, reading all the way a good book"---how provoking, and how unlike him, not to clue us in to his recommended title.

language hat  •  Link

"the local newscasters ... broadcast almost the entire video"

OK, my prophecy has come true. And I'm gladder than ever that I don't watch TV news.

Ruben  •  Link

Pepys 2007:
Up early and to the office, etc. ...and so home and to the TV where I saw some Globes from the Beach Girls' Watch and then to the news eating at the same time some french fries that almost stucked to my throat when I saw the King of Mesopotamia being hanged by his Royal neck.

Ruben  •  Link

Pepys 2007 cont.
I promise myself to keep to my DVD collection, that is always so messy. I will have to drive to IKEA and buy one more cupboard for them.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Sam's infertility v. impotence

You are quite right. I used the latter term when I meant the former.

Glyn  •  Link

The major execution site was at Tyburn (now Marble Arch) but many executions were held near the scene of the crime as a deterrent for local people, as in this case (“near where the robbery was done”). Being thrown from a ladder or a cart was as likely to lead to a death by strangulation as by a broken neck.

Colonel James Turner had been condemned to death for felony and burglary in breaking into the house of and robbing a Mr Francis Tryon, merchant, who lived in Lime Street. I’m not sure what “Colonel” means in this context – does anyone have any ideas?

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Glyn wonders: "I’m not sure what “Colonel” means in this context – does anyone have any ideas?"

A background post by Bill says he'd been a lieutenant-colonel of the city militia…

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"at last [Turner] was flung off the ladder in his cloake"

After the latter part of the century ladders were no longer used (at Tyburn at any rate) for the 'drop'. The noose was tied around the victim's neck as he stood in the cart in which he had traveled from prison, and the hangman them drove the cart away, leaving him suspended. (L&M note)

Louise Hudson  •  Link

This is odd. The Wikipedia entry on James Turner […] who I assume is the same James Turner Pepys is referring to--unless there was anothet similar James Turner of the same time. But the Wikipedia article says, he "appears to have died soon after 1685, although the exact date of his death is unknown." It says nothing about an execution. 1685 is long after Pepys says he witnessed his hanging in 1664. Can anyone straighten this out? Am I barking up the wrong tree?

Background Lurker  •  Link

Louise, the article states that James Turner, the Scottish soldier, was in southern Scotland in the 1660s having a jolly time suppressing Presbyterian Covenanters. He was far too busy being a loyal soldier of Charles II to be hanging around London. So, yes, your tree was not well-chosen.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Thanks, BL. It appears that Pepys' James Turner doesn't rate a Wikipedia article.

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