Georgian justice at Whitby Abbey for February half term

Time Travellers Go… Gruesome, Saturday 16 February to Sunday 24 February 2013

Whitby Abbey will be providing no sanctuary for those being pursued by the Georgian justice system this February half term holiday (16 – 24 February), as Thomas Turlis, the public hangman, holds court within the hallowed ruins, for a week of gruesome tales of torture and the gallows!

Visitors will be invited to hear the hangman’s stories of 18thcentury crime and punishment from the perspective of the man charged with handing out the ultimate sentence to wrong-doers. He follows the ‘Bloody Code’, a list of over two hundred offences, each of which would potentially earn the criminal a trip to the gallows for public execution.

“In the 18thcentury, the English justice system changed significantly – as did public perception of crime – as, for the first time, the exploits of some criminals became almost legendary, with highwaymen like Dick Turpin being transformed from ruthless thieves into dandy folk heroes,” explains English Heritage’s events manager, Jon Hogan. “However, behind the stories developed a harsh system of localised justice, with crimes as relatively minor as poaching or criminal damage punishable with the death penalty!”

Indeed, at a time before the English justice system sentenced convicts to incarceration – until the late 18thcentury, jail was the place you were held whilst awaiting trial or execution – the punishments tended to be meted out very quickly, and on public display. Alongside hanging, sentences from whipping and branding to transportation to the American colonies meant that early 18thcentury criminals paid a harsh price for their misdemeanours.

Alongside regular presentations throughout the half term break, families can explore a fun ‘crime and punishment’ trail around the site – a fun way to find out what sanction you might be facing for different acts of law-breaking!

Whitby Abbey’s visitor centre, set across two floors in the old Cholmley mansion house, will provide a fascinating insight into the history of the site, from the founding of the first abbey by Northumbrian princess, St Hild, to the fall of Whitby Abbey during the Reformation under Henry VIII, and the acquisition of the now ruined Abbey by the Cholmley family.

Whitby Abbey is open daily throughout the February half term from 10.00am to 4.00pm, with the event running from 11.00am to 4.00pm. Admission prices are £6.20 for adults, £5.60 for concessions and £3.70 for children, with a family ticket (two adults and up to three children) available for £16.10. English Heritage members get in free. There is an addition £1 fee for each child (member and non-member) to help fund the Time Travellers activity.

Whitby Abbey also remains open every weekend throughout the winter, from 10.00am to 4.00pm, with daily opening resuming from Easter. For more details, please visit or call 01947 603568.


For further media information, please contact:

Jay Commins – PRO English Heritage (Yorkshire)

Tel: 01904 500698

Mob: 07810 546567