Jack Upperton’s Gibbet
This is a fasinating chapter in the past history of an English Highwayman by the name of JACK UPPERTON, who made his final stand against a mail delivery coach with his accomplice (believed to be his brother by some) and robbed the coach of its contents. The villain was quite quickly captured and taken to East Grinstead Assizes (a notorious courthouse where many felons were sentenced to the ultimate end. Which was to be DEATH…).
Having been found guilty as charged Jack Upperton was transported then to the infamous Horsham Gaol where he was to be hanged by the neck, and duly was.
Uppertons Gibbet can be found (not very easily I might add) on the west entrance to Angmering Park Estate just a few miles east of Arundel in a place called Blakehurst. The reason for the interest to the site was I have to say is paranormal. An accomplice of mine Mr Charles Walker (Paranormal Investigator) who is the main force behind the Clapham Wood investigations in respect to disappearing dogs, UFO’s and other strange occurrences in the wood, Brought my attention to the site and after a few investigations of our own. We found that we had some pretty powerful results on camera and strange happenings to our electrical equipment. This then prompted me to find out what may have went on here and try and work out the circumstances leading up to this event. After much internet research and picking out bits, checking some facts out from East Grinstead assizes and Horsham museums, grabbing a few pictures of the Skarfolkes centre (today known as Carfax), we build up a fairly reasonable and accurate account of what probably happened to this character Jack Upperton.
A gibbet was a particularly horrid looking affair in which a tight fitting cage would be constructed for the felon who was due to be executed, sometimes before he was due for execution or afterwards. Often according to Tyburn accounts it was before. The condemned would have to stand fast while the blacksmith simply measured him up. After the Hanging was complete the body was to be dipped in hot tar in order to make the corpse last a long time so that the public had longer to take in what had happened at that particular point in history, then placed into the cage and hung high from a gallows shaped jig. Jacks body was reputed to have hung around for 2 years before the remains being dispersed into a woodland grave somewhere around. This was the wish of King George at the time for many felons to be dealt with in this way and was a grizzly tradition carried on from past centuries of crime and punishment.
As mentioned above it was customary then to take the body to the place of the said crime after the local blacksmith had fabricated an iron cage to fit snugly around the corpse, and a substantial eye on top to hang the hardware up from, and hung on the side of the road to show all passers by what happens to people who rob on the Kings highways. So was it done and the body of Jack Upperton was transported back to the scene of the crime and suspended from a heavy wooden frame which was known to be the gibbet. Gibbet sites were common over the entire country and many are still remembered today. Sussex was not noted for its sites but its clear that they were around all the same.
The gibbet post at this site remained in the ground until it rotted away and apparently was still just about visible till the 1920,s. The hole was visible until fairly recently when a huntsman’s horse broke a leg by stepping into it and the estate had the hole filled in.
This is the rough summary of what Jack Uppertons Gibbet is about. We will be covering in detail any points of information that are relevant to this interesting chapter of the year 1771, the year when Jack met his nemeses.
THE KINGS MAIL DELIVERY ROUTE
King George III was new to the throne at the time of Jack Uppertons time in 1770 the year before Uppertons fate. There was no A24 or A27 as we know today but a narrow woodland track in poor condition, and this would then have been the kings highway.
Note: King Charles II was reputed to have used this same road to flee the country after a battle was lost. This path is today effectively known as monarchs way.
The mail delivery man at this time would have been on his usual route from Steyning in Sussex to Portsmouth, from Steyning calling at Findon Post House which today would be identified as The Gun Inn public house, here more mail would be picked up. Then from Findon past the grand mansion of Michelgrove he would then pass through what today would be Angmering Park Estate woods which incredibly would have been part of the Kings main route along south and much of Gibbet Woods would not have been around and corn with other crops would be grown in fields surrounding. The mail coach would then carry on to Arundel and then eventually onto Portsmouth. The stage coach was believed to have been of simple design and pulled by 2 horses. It was not to long after when the design was was replaced more substantial model and would have a team of 4 horses.
Michelgrove mansion would have been owned by the Shelley family in those days as would be verified by the Demonic Connection (by Toyne Newton, Charles Walker and Alan Brown – published 1987) and indeed is mentioned on many occasions in the book.
The mansion would have had something in excess of 50 rooms and was indeed a grand place, this place would have been a major landmark on the journey to Arundel. There was a folly a little way from the house and the remains are very visible today and this little piece of decretive feature had a fairly large and substantial clock installed which was clearly the main focal point of the folly.
As a point of interest when the folly was grown tired of and decided that its presence was no longer desired the item was left to decay in the elements and the foliage to take over. The clock was sold from it and that clock can still be seen today in Steyning High Street. (Not mentioned in the dem con). Today the building (Michelgrove) is no longer standing, only a section of the west wall still remains in place.
Our post delivery man of this day was thought to have used Michelgrove as a stop off point for a lunchtime refreshment with the staff of the manor kitchens where some bread and cheese might have been a typical choice of food with a flagon of ale to wash it down with perhaps. It also may have been used as a horses change over point and the horses would also have been given a feed during the rest period. Once refreshed sufficiently he would then be on his way and Arundel would be his next stop off point and of course past the point where one day he would be robbed. It has not been said if he ever continued to ride past Jack Uppertons Gibbet after it was erected.
THE VIOLENT PAST TIMES OF HORSHAM TOWN.
Horsham town was a barrack town in those days of the 1700’s. The gaol was full to the brim with felons and criminals awaiting the death penalty. Uppertons imprisonment would have been chiefly held in Horsham especially while awaiting execution. For as far as I can make out the gaol would have been in the Carfax as it is today but it has since been built on top of and is now according to references now the post office. The town square (the Carfax) in them days was called SKARFOLKES, and was a notorious spot of the county of Sussex as this was punishment square. It had the gallows, stocks and pillories, whipping posts, and a pressing slab. Although pressings often used to take place at any part of the town. (A wooden slab placed over a person and large heavy rocks piled on top until death occurred). A very crude execution form indeed. These were often carried out after illegal Kangaroo court style hearings took place. Possibly a bit of sport for the military looking for a person to take their frustrations out on. Or a religious style crime e.g.
(A text taken from a website from York history).
A Lady by the name of Margaret Clitherow lived in the Shambles in York city.
On March 14, 1586, Margaret Clitherow’s case came before the court. As a large crowd gathered outside, she was asked for her plea. She replied, “I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty. Having made no offense, I need no trial.” The penalty for refusing to plea was extremely harsh and many begged her to change her mind, but she refused to allow a trial at which her children would be forced to testify against her.
The judge pronounced Margaret guilty of having “harbored and maintained Jesuits and seminary priests, traitors to the Queen’s majesty and her laws.” Because she refused to stand trial, the penalty was death by crushing. She was told. You must return from whence you came, and there, in the lowest part of the prison, be stripped naked, laid down, your back on the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days without meat or drink, and on the third day to be pressed to death, your hands and feet tied to posts, and a sharp stone under your back.
Ten days later, the sentence was carried out. A board was placed on her and huge stones were laid on top. She was dead within 15 minutes.
Once every year Horsham town used to hold the ASSIZES WEEK where all the top judges, lawyers and witchfinder generals in the country would descend on Horsham and mass trials would take place followed by multiple hangings and tortures etc. Once again the Gaols would be overflowing with candidates facing the Gallows and whatever else they could think of to make the week a success for them. Professional executioners offering their services. Court hearings carried out by the scores and unfair and incorrect verdicts being handed out. Must have been like an early and primitive political party conference. This would attract huge crowds and people paying money for front seats, taverns stacked out with beer and spirits. The money generated must have been excellent for the local traders who I am sure would use this grizzly part of history to there full advantage. This would have been on a similar par with the Tyburn Tree spectacles in London. The unbelievable thing was after the executions take place the body would or may have been put up for auction to the highest bidder (normally a surgeon or similar) and used for scientific research and dissection in surgeon training leaving the grieving relatives in total despair being unable to bury their loved ones as they want. Often fighting over the bodies were common because of this and the military guards would favour the buyers of the corpse’s. This was the normal code of practice at Tyburn and would not be surprised if this was to be the case in Horsham. The victims may have been allowed to employ helpers to pull down the hanging bodies to induce a quicker death. This was also a recognised practice in an execution scene. (Tyburn was held at Marble Arch in London and was a monstrous gallows arrangement where three large bows protruding out from a central pivot allowed six people or more to be hung at one time.)
Today in Horsham town square a sign showing that the Skarfolkes was what that particular place was called had been changed to Carfax. This can be located on a building on the north side of the square next to the Carfax shopping centre, that particular building was around at the time of Jack Upperton’s demise. Towards the centre of the square is a replica of the stocks and whipping posts erected by a local museum body group and should be the exact place where it would have been in the 1700’s. The bandstand erected in the square is known by most locals to be on top of the site where the Gallows would have stood. Having stood there looking at this with that information in mind actually made my blood run cold. Horsham was not the place to be for to long a period and in fact best not be there at all in the days of old.
SEPTEMBER 1770, JACKS NIGHTMARE BEGINS.
One morning of an unknown date during September of 1770 The Postman set of for his routine job of Driving the stage postal wagon from the important town of Steyning and continuing through various points of pick up and I suppose drop off’s as well. Of course he would of had no idea that on this particular day he was going to be Shanghaied for his contents of the stage coach.
Findon village was to be the major drop off point before he went on from there onto Michelgrove mansion, by which time the time was approaching lunch. I imagine that he was a welcome sight at the house and the staff took him into the kitchen where friendly banter and food was exchanged. A fill of food may have been put in front of him with a croft of fine ale maybe. The post will have been given to the man of the house in charge. The horses would of been fed and watered. It was beloved that at that time a 2 horse stage would have been favoured but later replaced by the better arrangement as post demand increased. So our Postman would then be on his way and all his friends waving goodbye to him. Of out the Michelgrove grounds and of up the hill which took him onto the road into what would be known as today as Angmering park estate. The A27 would have not yet even be drawn up so that would have been the Kings Highway as it was. About 2 miles down the road as the woodland section was ending and the Castle of Arundel would have been in sight he was met by two figures blocking the Highway I would imagine with at least one flintlock pistol. A villainous character and his accomplice Jack Upperton. They then demanded the contents of the coach mainly the postal collection. I would have thought that Jack Upperton may of been the one who collected the sacks from the coach while the main villain was the gunman, but I don’t know that, its just a hunch but probably not far wrong. So the robbery was completed and of course the crime would have been reported to the powers to be at Arundel. The post delivery man will now have no further part to play in this story as his work was done.
It was always thought that Jack Upperton was not the main culprit of the robbery but his accomplice who some say was Jacks brother got clean away with this. It was not known how long it took to establish that Jack was the one who committed his crime as such but he was arrested and taken to Horsham Gaol to await trial at East Grinstead assizes. Jack was never to protest his innocence nor did he turn informer on his accomplice which was the main part of his downfall. King George III was at the throne at the time and was to carry on the tradition of the death penalty and gibbeting at the convenient spot of the scene of the crime as a reminder for people not to rob on the Kings highways. So Jack Upperton was in it up to his neck and his neck was the part that the law required of him to pay for his crimes according to the law.
Some time had passed since September 1770 and it was now March 1771 before Jack Upperton appeared at East Grinstead Assizes. A place where so many felons were handed out over harsh penalties in the past. He would be lead to the dock before the Judge Barron Perret. There would have been a brief silence before the charges were read out and a buzz of disapproval after what they heard. The hearing would have been short as Jack appeared to offer no defence as he would not turn informer against his accomplice. ( A local clergyman was said to have visited his cell and asked Jack for his reasons, all jack would say is ”it was a scrambling sort of affair”). So it was not long before Judge Perret came to an easy verdict of guilty and passed sentence. To be taken to a place of execution and hanged by the neck till dead. Then have his body taken to a convenient place on the south downs and displayed on the gibbet near the scene of the crime. So once again Horsham Gaol would be beckoning him back to its solid walls where the gallows would await. Probably the following day or the next.
On the day of the execution in Skarfolkes square in Horsham. The crowds were awaiting the arrival of Jack Upperton the local county Highwayman. He would have been led out from the Gaol almost opposite the gallows site to make the final short walk to the gallows. (Today that gaol house building is the actual main town post office also in the carfax square). The accused arrives from the Gaol walking the passageway made by the military guards, the crowd are jeering and pelting him with rotten vegetable matter and insults. The local taverns are doing a roaring trade. House holders would charge top dollar for ringside seats at their windows. Jack would have been led to the gallows itself no doubt by military men. and up the steps to the scaffold. (You could not or would not want to experience the feeling he must of had going to such a daunting end). The rope was placed around the neck, Last rights were probably read. Any bartering for the dead corpse would have been useless as he was destined for the gibbet. Then Jack Upperton was suspended from the hangman’s knot….. A cheer goes up.
Notes taken from The Tyburn Executions read of that the body would die from slow strangulation style effect due to the much favoured short drop technique at that particular time. This could take as long as 20 minutes for death to be completed. The body would certainly go into unconsciousness quite soon and the windpipe slowly collapsing. The crowd would remain totally silent during this period with watchers monitoring the body. When the trickles of urine flow down the leg and off the end of the shoe then the execution was completed and the victim had expired, the sign would have been given and the crowd once again give out a cheer of approval. It is also mentioned at Tyburn the accused would have been given a cheer for any mockery towards the hangman or the officials and it had been known in some cases for the condemned to be allowed a few ales before his end. This was known at times to make an execution even more entertaining…. Jacks body would have been taken down with military escort and taken to be prepared for gibbeting by the town Blacksmith. He would have been dipped in tar and then had the gibbet cage made for him. Then suspended from a more than substantial gallows style construction at the place of the crime and so was this done and the body was suspended there for 2 years before being buried in the woods.
The gibbet post remained in the ground until it finally rotted away in the 1920’s but the hole remained there until a Huntsmans horse stepped in it and broke its leg and was finally filled in completely.
His reign was over and was quickly forgotten about but they would not have reckoned on him becoming a legend in the years 2000. Today Uppertons gibbet is a place of great interest for Historians and has many ghost stories attached to it. In the paranormal world we know better than that don’t we.
40 years after the Jack Upperton chapter had closed and the Shelley’s mansion of Michelgrove was sold to a certain Mr Walker who was a travel company owner. Walkers aim was to make a road joining the Portsmouth route to the main London road making a fast travel route to the England Capital. This was to be a toll road charging travellers a small fee to pass through and the toll houses are easily visible today. Construction of the road one day was brought to a standstill through the discovery of a female body/skeleton who was undoubtly murdered due to a severe head injury. A surgeon was called from Storrington to verify the findings but no further action was taken as complete lack of evidence was around. The body was identified as indeed, one of the staff of the Michelgrove house who had gone missing some years back.
After the discovery many years onwards at a Workhouse at East Preston in Sussex a stage coach arrives and an inmate by the name of Upperton was admitted having become to ill to work after making a reasonable living for himself in Kent in his life. Soon the man became bed ridden and death was imminent. A local vicar visited Mr Upperton regularly. It came to the day when Upperton made a confession to the clergyman telling of the girl who was murdered at the site of the road construction, was in fact his handiwork. She met him one night after he decided to make his life elsewhere and latched onto him against his wishes and became a complete pest in the bargain. He hit her with a shovel for want of a word in a fit of temper killing her. He then buried her on the spot and she lay there for many years. He told the vicar that never a day went by where he didn’t think of her and how the guilt lived with him always. He asked for forgiveness for his sins and that he may die without unrest on the subject. On his death the vicar had provided a place in East Preston church in an unmarked grave it was said. Was this the accomplice of Jack Upperton do we wonder. The dates just about match…..
Uppertons Gibbet! A known Public Execution Site.
It would appear that during our research into this site that there is circumstantial evidence that another victim known as William Baldry (by all accounts liked to be called Bill) was executed on the gibbet site which re-enforces the theory that it was in its time a place of public executions. Weather or not these were legal is unknown but it is looking increasingly like this was the case. After a visit to East Grinstead Assizes and getting some access to records we find that Bill Baldry was executed and gibbeted at Blakehurst. It would appear that The site of the Gibbet was indeed an execution site. From a Paranormal point of view this has been confirmed by visiting mediums and other paranormalists to the site as well.
Ghost fans….. Having carried out many night time visits to Uppertons gibbet we are willing to share our findings with you. Charles Walker and myself have visited with various mediums in the past. We also have unusual readings from equipment and strange behaviour from electrical devices such as Digital cameras and Camcorders. Batteries go flat almost instantaneously. The batteries then completely regenerate when coming away from the site.
We bring out an EMF meter. With a mild medium present we get the feeling of a spirit presence, we then get a strong zap on the EMF which goes off the scale. Charles then decides to ask the spirit questions, this is successful we are communicating with a spirit at Uppertons gibbet on a yes /no answer basis. This we managed to capture on camcorder. A few weeks later we return with another member of OAP. Again we contact the same spirit using 2 EMF meters and both going of at different intervals to yes/no questions.
Note::: An EMF (electro magnetic field) meter is a device for measuring electrical energy. If energy is present then you get a constant uninterrupted buzz. In this case we were getting two short blasts or one depending on the question asked.
Charles and myself we decided to invite other interested members to the site as we mentioned above to see for themselves that the site is haunted and the results were surprising to say the least. On one occasion we even received threats to stay away from the site (Believed to have come from potential satanic groups) but the threats turned out to be limp wristed for what it was worth, also many Ouija messages were received about the place and some we have found in the past have to be taken with a pinch of salt as we have found in the past due to info being untrue. But again some things were pretty close to the truth we found. A spirit on Ouija (translated ‘’Oui ‘’French for yes and ‘’Ja’’ being German for Yes) cannot always be taken as gospel hence one of the many reasons for people being scared of the boards because of Idle threats being made by spirits deliberately trying to unbalance you. Charles is a great fan of the Ouija and being the great paranormal expert that he is knows how to handle them to be fair. But they do have to be given a great deal of respect on the whole. Teenagers are typical of people who abuse the system with their somewhat outrageous approach to the matter often fuelled by drunkenness and eventually upsetting the spirit with comments and unnecessary silly questions ending up with disaster and stuff getting thrown at them and eventually possession. But its amazing to me that toy companies actually market these things as toys for kids. Now what are they saying? Ghosts don’t exist? Then if they don’t then these boards are safe…. Yet everyone is terrified of the things…What’s going on? However, many other visits to the site yielded many other strange encounters such as strange lights seen on video film and not visible to the naked eye. Many many orb pictures to which we have actually grown tiresome of now as that is now such an expected sight when we go there. There has been many occasions when we have been there and found it to be very dead and gone away to look at potential pictures taken and have seen part manifestations of spirits on the screen. Cold spots are common and witnessed by many and on the whole the site was depicted as positive by many and that is what we thought. Until the arrival of a very charged up sensitive friend of mine.
Video evidence of this was taken…. The lady who’s name will not be mentioned was taken to the site, and she had almost immediate contact with the inhabitants of the Gibbet site and in fact felt and heard herself being beckoned to the site as we approached. She was greeted by a spirit called Bill Baldry (who according to assizes records was hung and gibbeted at Blakehurst, the actual village to where gibbet wood was attached to as mentioned earlier). Also she picked up another who suffered the same fate. This we did not know until the revelations of this lady and was actually backed up with records. There was more than one gibbeting at this site. Whilst in full contact with the spirits and Jack himself who was present and by all accounts was pleased with his publicity, was being hounded by other spirits and was actually being pushed/led to a spot. After some time and confusion we realised that we were upon the spot where the gibbet post was erected. Soon after this we started to get harassed by other surrounding spirits. The lady’s chest was getting tight and she was getting uncomfortable. She then encountered something that she was unable to identify and decided to make a quick exit. Moving the camera about desperately trying to capture what she was running from I looked back at her only to see her get lifted off the ground and flung down. I did not manage to get the camera on to her in time but did have the image of her on the floor after the fall. We then left the sight in great haste. On reflection later that day she had made the decision that both Jack and Bill were Ok people and had actually made an attempt to stop the bullying on our sensitive. Next day we noted a burn/red mark around the neck of our lady who said it was not painful and in fact could not even be felt, but we were alarmingly surprised when we could not get a picture of it.
We soon realised after these back up records from East Grinstead assizes and the revelations of our lady medium that the gibbet site was the nemeses for many others and in fact was a known public execution site. Some months later we took a paranormal team up there on a paranormal tour/day out and another medium named Alan pointed out similar things and was completely unprompted on this. Other members were taking pictures came up with a photo of a person in the background who seemed to be 20-30 yards away and was in a white shirt with his hair tied up. I don’t have immediate access to this picture at this moment (Website moving has caused this due to MSN terminating their groups). This figure in the background was not present to us with the naked eye and we were the only people about, also the quality of the picture had mysteriously gone all lined. (Another trade mark of the Gibbet site when activity was present). In between the visits of the site Charles and myself do a quick visit to the gibbet on the way to another site it appeared to be dead and completely silent in desperation I just let the audio button on my camera go for about 30 seconds. Later we processed it to see if anything had come through, not expecting anything,,, there was a whamming sound followed by what can only be described as Rope Under Tension and creaking. After many hearings and inviting other site members and anyone else who remotely showed an interest we found ourselves with a unanimous verdict that it sounded like rope under tension. Now that kind of sound from an early execution site is pointing towards one thing in our eyes and the wham noise at the start??? A trap door maybe? I am not aware of the hangings those times having that style of release but maybe it was another type of release. Today many more reports of particular hardware batteries continue to come our way, and the regeneration of them upon leaving the vicinity of the site.
by Paul Figg and Charles Walker. (Occult and Paranormal).