Strange Happenings at Gibbet Hill, Coventry

Gibbet Hill Road sign, 2019. The gallows were sited near there, on the opposite side of the road, towards Stoneleigh.
Image courtesy of Gary Stocker

Gibbet Hill (or Gallows Hill as it was originally known) is on the outskirts of Coventry and bisects the Kenilworth Road. It has been used as a place of execution since 1765. In days of yore, three soldiers of Lord’s Pembroke’s Regiment of Dragoons (some say two soldiers and one weaver), Robert Leslie, Edward Drury and Moses Baker (who may have been the weaver) wearing disguises, mugged three farmers returning from Coventry market. One of the farmers, Thomas Edwards from Stoneleigh, died. They were arrested, found guilty at Warwick Assizes and sentenced to publicly hang at Gibbet Hill.

A spot of folklore

At that time there were a couple of well known Coventry soothsayers. One of them said that if a hare ran out from under the scaffold, a reprieve would be on the way from Warwick Assizes. The three prisoners were transported by cart from Warwick to Gallows Hill for execution. Word about the prophecy got around and the spectators watched for the hare. Sure enough it happened! The crowd got very restive and the sheriff delayed the execution, did his best to calm the crowd and sent a messenger to Warwick to see if there was a reprieve. There was not, so they hung.

Their bodies were taken down after they had died, tarred, wrapped in chains, and rehung. They were left there for 45 years, before being removed. The gibbet was removed, sometime in the 19th century. Although the site was reputed to be haunted, nothing specific survives. The only thing is that some say that for years after the gibbet had been removed, the ghostly rattling of chains could be heard.

Terror and resolution!

Shortly after the execution and the bodies being rehung, a group of people were discussing it in a pub. A bet was laid on someone having the courage to approach the gibbet and ask its three occupants how they were getting on. Someone did take the bet. Approaching the gibbet, in the dark and rain, he asked in a loud voice how they were getting on. The reply came back, “very wet and cold”. Not surprisingly the asker scarpered in terror! It turned out though, that one of his drinking “mates” had got there before him, hid in a bush and gave the answer. I do hope that he got the bet money!


Haunted Warwickshire by Meg Elizabeth Atkins, page 177-178.

Haunted Coventry by David McGrory, page 49.

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