I am starting a bit of history research as background material for a group social walk along the Greenwich Peninsula I am organising next month for Thingbox members. There is tons of history in the area, and thanks to a few signs dotted along the riverside, I am aware of what most of the key points to write up are.
However, I have come across one which I was unaware of – and seemingly not signposted on the route itself.
During the 17th century, at the very tip of the Greenwich Peninsula – where the O2/Dome currently resides – was a custom of hanging river pirates out in cages after their execution as a deterrent to other pirates on the River Thames!
This was not the only spot for such grizly displays as prisoners who were executed at the aptly named Execution Dock were also displayed at Cuckold’s Point (near the Thames Barrier) as well.
According to a quote from the Victorian Dictionary, published in 1860 – “opposite Blackwall on the banks of the Thames a good many pirates usually hung in chains, looking like scarecrows.” It should be noted that the patch of land is known, confusingly as “Blackwall Point”, and at the time was a marshy island during high tides.
The same point was later used as a river police station with the final hanging apparently occurring in 1834 – about the same time as the police station was probably built. I guess they didn’t appreciate the neighbors.
There is a cage in the Museum of Docklands and the area around the cage is reputed to be haunted by one of the executed pirates.
The picture is of an iron gibbet which was used in the USA to display pirates – I presume the UK version would be similar, but I shall pop into the Museum of Docklands to have a look shortly.