In 1571, the Tyburn Tree was erected near the current Marble Arch and was a different form of gallows, comprising a horizontal wooden triangle supported by three legs (commonly known as a “three legged mare” or “three legged stool”). This set-up allowed several criminals to be hanged at once and so the gallows were used for mass executions, such as on 23 June 1649 when 24 prisoners – 23 men and one woman – were hanged simultaneously.
The first victim of the Tyburn Tree was Dr John Story, a Roman Catholic who refused to recognize Elizabeth I.
Among the more notable individuals suspended from the Tree were John Bradshaw, Henry Ireton and Oliver Cromwell, who were hanged at Tyburn in January 1661 on the orders of Charles II in an act of posthumous revenge for their part in the beheading of his father even though they were already dead.
The executions were public spectacles and proved extremely popular, attracting crowds of thousands. The entrepreneurs of Tyburn erected large spectator stands so that as many as possible could pay a fee to see the hangings. On one occasion, the stands collapsed, reportedly killing and injuring hundreds of people. This did not prove a deterrent, however, and the executions continued to be treated as public holidays with London apprentices being given the day off for them.