Disembowling at Southsea Common

HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

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On this day in 1782, a crowd reported to be somewhere between 20,000 and 100,000 strong gathered on Southsea Common, many of them having walked great distances to be there.

They had come to watch David Tyrie, who had been convicted of high treason, be hanged, decapitated and disembowelled.

But, when Tyrie arrived from Winchester prison, it was realised that nobody had thought to bring a rope. The executioner, with great presence of mind, acquired some from a lugger moored offshore. This gave Tyrie extra time to read his bible.

The Hampshire Chronicle reported that Tyrie was hanged for 22 minutes, his head severed from his body, his heart taken out and burned, his genitals cut off and his body quartered.

The same account reported that after the body parts were buried on the beach some sailors dug up the coffin and cut the body into 1,000 pieces to distribute as souvenirs.

Another account said that ‘such was the singular avarice of many who were near the body, that happy was he who could procure a finger or some relick [sic] of the criminal’ – John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.