A new series of apps from The University of the West of England (UWE) plunges users into the barbaric world of Georgian capital punishment.

“We wanted to provoke an emotional response from visitors, rather than simply relate the dry facts of each case”


The innovative apps, which incorporate the secluded fields and hilltops where historic hangings originally took place, will guide users through the unique 18th century practice of hanging and even gibbeting (presenting criminals to the public in iron cages). Gibbeting culprits at the scene of the crime, was intended to send a very coherent message to small settlements, and sometimes, they were presented in remote locations, like a theatrical event in front of large crowds.

Working in conjunction with Satsymph, a company which creates GPS-triggered audio experiences for the smartphone, the Regional History Centre at UWE has created walking tours at four select locations where these inhumane public demonstrations took place. History enthusiasts will be able to download the apps free of charge and then walk the site while gaining a captivating, full sensory experience.

Unconventional historical experiences

Professor Steve Poole, Director of the Regional History Centre, said: “These are not conventional guides to historical events but artistic responses to past traumas in quiet places which may seem tranquil on the surface, but whose history is very much darker.

“The impact made by these extraordinary executions centuries ago was intended to be emotionally shocking and leave a permanent mark on the collective memory of local communities.”

Steve adds; “We’ve approached the project from an artistic angle because we wanted to provoke an emotional response from visitors, rather than simply relate the dry facts of each case.”

The financial support gifted from the Higher Educational Initiative Fund has allowed the work – which is part of a project called Romancing the Gibbet – to be developed. The four apps have been developed for use at:

  • A hillside above Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire (the hanging and gibbeting of William Keely in 1772)
  • Arn Hill above Warminster, Wiltshire (the hanging of George Ruddock and George Carpenter in 1813)
  • A hill above Over Stowey, Somerset (the hanging and gibbeting of John Walford in 1789)
  • Bristol harbourside and the mouth of the Avon (the hanging and gibbeting of Matthew Mahony in 1741).


The Over Stowey app, The Ballad of Johny Walford, can be downloaded here. Apps for the other three sites will be available from the same web address. If you would like more information, a short film made specifically about this case can be found here.