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HER Number MWB1576
Record Type Monument
Name COMBE GIBBET

Grid Reference SU 364 622
Map Sheet SU36SE
Parish Combe, West Berkshire
Inkpen, West Berkshire
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Summary

Iconic wooden post, one of a series of replicas of the 17th century original, sited on top of long barrow in a landmark position

Other Statuses and Cross-References

  • Berkshire SMR No. (pre 2000): 01054.02.000

Monument Type(s):

  • GIBBET (Built, 17th century to Early 21st century - 1676 AD to 2050 AD)

Full Description

The landmark tall post is called Combe Gibbet, but is often presumed to have been used as a gallows (Although source <1> claims differently) and is the hill it is sited on is named Gallows Down on historic Ordnance Survey mapping <9>.

Combe Gibbet is a modern replica (the fifth such) of a wooden gibbet originally erected in 1676. The wooden post is about 4m (30 feet?) tall with a braced cross bar and is visible for several miles, being sited on the top of the downs near the minor road between Inkpen and Combe. It was erected on top of a Neolithic long barrow, a funerary monument dating from c3500 BC, and the parish boundary between Combe and Inkpen runs along this mound. At one time (when the gibbet was erected) Combe was part of Hampshire, hence this was the county boundary.

An account in the Western Gaol Book (period 22 to 29, Charles II), now in the Public Record Office, gives details of the original crime and court case, tried in Winchester. A local man called George Broomham, together with his mistress Dorothy Newman, were convicted of murdering George's wife and son. There is no evidence that the gibbet has been used at any other time apart from in 1676, but there is conflicting evidence whether it was used for hanging George and Dorothy (ie as a gallows) or just to display the dead bodies as a warning. The records say that the accused were "ordered to be hanged in cheynes, neere the place of the murder".

The first gibbet eventually rotted away, but was replaced several times in the 19th and 20th centuries, people wanting to preserve such a landmark. The details of each gibbet are as follows (date of erection, followed by reason for disappearance)
I 1676 - rotted away
ii 1816 - struck by lightning between 1835-1852
iii 1835-1852 - rotted and blew down in gale in October 1949
iv 1950 - cut down in May 1965, iv a - attacked in August 1965, but survived. Cut down October 1969, repaired and reerected
v 1969 - cut down September 1991
vi 1992

Inkpen's saw mills built the fourth gibbet <2>.

The film director John Schlesinger (Far from the Madding Crowd, Midnight Cowboy and many other films) made his first film in 1948 while he was a student at Oxford, about the story of the murders and hanging. It is a silent film called 'The Black Legend', and was filmed using many local people.

Sources and further reading

<01>Edwards, A F. 1951. Wood from the third gibbet. [Unpublished document / SWB13029]
<02>Martin, E A. 1993. Inkpen Yesterday. p46-55. [Monograph / SWB12746]
<03>Wessex Archaeology. 1992. Combe Gibbet Long Barrow, Gallows Down, Inkpen, Berkshire. WBC Network. [Unpublished document / SWB12747]
<04>Wessex Archaeology. 2006. Combe Gibbet Long Barrow, Walbury Camp Hilltop Enclosure - Conservation Statements and Management Plans. Partially digitised. [Unpublished document / SWB147676]
<05>Newbury District Field Club. 1875-86. TRANS NEWBURY DISTRICT FIELD CLUB 1875-86 VOL 3. p102-3. [Article in serial / SWB11187]
<06>Watson, M. 1996. Curiosities of Berkshire - A County Guide to the Unusual. p85. [Monograph / SWB146924]
<07>Ordnance Survey. 1817. Ordnance Survey Drawing of Hungerford; BL OSD 78,7. Two inch to the mile. Marked 'Gibbet'. [Map / SWB147234]
http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/ordsurvdraw/h/002osd000000007u00054000.html (Accessed 29/11/2021)
<08>Driscoll, F J. 1945. Inkpen and its Church. p13. [Monograph / SWB13129]
<09>Landmark. 1912-24. Digital Ordnance Survey Mapping Epoch 3, 1:2500 (25 inch). Digital. 25 inches to a mile. Marked 'Combe Gibbet' and 'Gallows Down'. [Map / SWB14456]

Related Monuments

MWB1574COMBE GIBBET - Long barrow and wooden post (Monument)
MWB21200Site of Saw Mill, Inkpen (Monument)

Associated Excavations and Fieldwork

EWB1096Combe Gibbet Long Barrow & Walbury Camp Hilltop Enclosure - Conservation Statements and Management Plans (Ref: 61710)
EWB166Combe Gibbet Long Barrow, Gallows Down, Inkpen (Ref: W538)