Patrick Low 2021

Independent researcher

“In one custom we are more barbarous than our ancestors in bygone days. It is the toll of the Felon’s Plot”: A study of the exhumation of executed prisoners at Newcastle Gaol

The 1925 closure of Newcastle gaol presented the local authorities with a major dilemma, namely the Home Office’s request for the proper reinterment of the bodies of 15 executed criminals. The highly secretive operation, the exact reinternment location of the remains is still unknown today, became the subject of great speculation in the local newspapers and was the cause of much local debate. Through a study of the Home Office and Prison Commission correspondence regarding the exhumations, this paper argues that the handling of the operation pays testament to the lasting power of the criminal corpse long into the twentieth century. Alongside this the details revealed in the burial arrangements highlight the extent to which prison burial remained a post-mortem punishment, long after the removal of gibbetting and hanging in chains.


The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract