Born: William Stukeley, antiquarian, 1687, Holbeach, Lincolnshire; Leopold Frederick, Count Stolberg, miscellaneous writer, 1750, Bramstedt, Holstein.
Died: Caius Cilnius Maecenas, patron of literature and art, 8 B.C.; Sir Martin Frobisher, naval explorer, 1594 A.D., Plymouth; Gaspar Tagliacozzi, celebrated surgeon, 1599, Bologna; John Kyrie, 'The Man of Ross,' 1724; Jean Andre Deluc, geologist and natural philosopher, 1817, Windsor; Karl Gottlieb Reissiger, composer (Weber's Last Waltz), 1859, Dresden.
Feast Day: St. Prosdecimus, first bishop of Padua, confessor, 2nd century. St. Werenfrid, priest and confessor. St. Willibrord, confessor, first bishop of Utrecht, 738.
JOHN KYRIE, 'THE MAN OF ROSS'
John Kyrie, an active and benevolent man, whose good deeds ought to win the admiration of all, irrespective of fame derived from other sources, has become notable because Pope called him 'The Man of Ross', and wrote a poem in his praise. Few who visit the pleasant town of Ross, in Hereford-shire, fail to inquire about John Kyrie; and their interest in his kind doings mingles with the delight which that beautiful neighbourhood always imparts to strangers. The picturesque church, with the pew in which the good man sat for so many years; the bust and the monumental inscription within the church; the beautiful avenue of trees, called the Prospect, or the Man of Ross's Walk, in the rear of the church; the house which he built for him-self; his arm-chair in the club-room of the little inn-all remain objects of interest to the present day.
John Kyrie was a gentleman of limited means, possessing a small estate in and near Ross, in the latter half of the seventeenth century. A friend from another county once called him 'The Man of Ross;' and Kyrie liked the name, because it conveyed a notion of plain, honest dealing and unaffected hospitality.' He formed a terrace, or pleasant walk between a field of his and the river Wye, and planted it with trees. He was always ready to plan walks and improvements for his friends, who were glad to avail themselves of his skill in such matters. Expensive undertakings he could not indulge in, for his income was limited to £500 a year. The town being insufficiently supplied with water, Kyrie dug an oval basin of considerable extent in his field, lined it with brick, paved it with stone, and caused the water from the river to be forced into it by an engine, and conveyed by underground pipes to fountains in the streets.
This was the work noticed by Pope in the lines:
From the dry rock, who bade the waters flow?
Not to the skies, in useless columns tost,
Or in proud falls magnificently lost;
But clear and artless, pouring through the plain,
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
Kyrie next headed a subscription for making a causeway along the low ground between the town and the bridge. It was so well planned that the county authorities afterwards adopted and extended it as part of the high-road to Hereford and Monmouth. The beautiful spire of the church being in an insecure state, Kyrie devised a mode of strengthening it, procured an assessment to pay for the repairs, contributed himself beyond his share of the assessment, and superintended the execution of the work. Pope was wrong in attributing to him the actual building of the spire:
Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise;
and even of the church itself:
Who builds a church to God, and not to fame.
To the renovated church Kyrie presented a great bell, which was cast in his presence at Gloucester; he threw into the crucible his own large silver tankard, having first drunk his favourite toast of 'Church and King!' There was at Ross a grant, renewed by successive lords of the manor, of certain tolls on all corn brought to market; the grant was bestowed as a weekly donation of bread to the poor. Kyrie acted as the almoner to the lords of the manor, and won golden opinions by his manner of fulfilling the duties of that office:
Behold the market-house, with poor o'erspread;
The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread.
A multitude of other kindly actions endeared him to his townsmen; and when he died (November 7th, 1724), the inhabitants felt that they had indeed lost a friend. It is wonderful what he did with his £500 a year, aided by the liberality which he was the means of developing in other persons.
Many pleasant anecdotes are told of the Man of Ross. When he was planting the elm-walk, it was his wont to sally forth with a spade on one shoulder, and a wooden bottle of liquor for a labourer and himself. On one occasion, this labourer, drinking out of the bottle, did not cease till he had emptied it. Kyrie said to him: 'John, why did not you stop when I called to you?' Why, sir,' said the man, 'don't you know that people can never hear when they are drinking?' The next time Mr. Kyrie applied himself to the bottle, the man placed himself opposite to him, and opened his mouth as if bawling aloud, till Kyrie had finished. The draught ended, Kyrie asked: 'Well, John, what did you say?' 'Ah, you see, sir,' said the man, 'I was right; nobody can hear when he is drinking!'
The Man of Ross lived and died a bachelor, under the housekeeping care of a maiden cousin-Miss Bubb. He disliked crowds and assemblies; but was very fond of snug social parties, and of entertaining his friends on market-days and fair-days. His dishes were plain and according to the season. He liked a goose on his table, liked to carve it, and liked to repeat the well-worn old joke about 'cooking one's goose,' and so forth. Roast-beef he always reserved for Christmas-day. Maltliquor and Herefordshire cider were his only beverages. His 'invitation dinners' comprised nine, eleven, or thirteen persons, including Miss Bubb and himself; and he did not seem satisfied unless the guests mustered one of these aggregates.
At his kitchen-fire there was a large block of wood, in lieu of a bench, for poor people to sit upon; and a piece of boiled beef, with three pecks of flour made into loaves, was given to the poor every Sunday. He loved a long evening, enjoyed a merry tale, and always appeared discomposed when it was time to separate. At his death, at the age of eighty-four, he had neither debts nor money, so closely did his income and his expenditure always agree. He left £40 to the Blue Coat School of Ross, and small legacies to the old workmen who had assisted him in his numerous useful works. About a year after John Kyrle's death, a tradesman of the town came to his executor, and said privately to him: 'Sir, I am come to pay you some money that I owed to the late Mr. Kyrie.' The executor declared that he could find no entry of it in the accounts.' Well, sir,' said the tradesman, 'that I am aware of. Mr. Kyrie said to me, when he lent me the money, that he did not think I should be able to repay it in his lifetime, and that it was likely you might want it before I could make it up; and so, said he, I wont have any memorandum of it, besides what I write and give you with it; and do you pay my kinsman when you can; and when you show him this paper, he will see that the money is right, and that he is not to take interest.'
This celebrated place of execution, which figures so prominently in the records of crime, is said to have been first established in the reign of Henry IV, previous to which 'The Elms' at Smithfield seems to have been the favourite locality for the punishment of malefactors. The name is derived from a brook called Tyburn, which flowed down from Hampstead into the Thames, supplying in its way a large pond in the Green Park, and also the celebrated Rosamond's Pond in St. James's Park. Oxford Street was, at an earlier period, known as Tyburn Road, and the now aristocratic locality of Park Lane, bore formerly the name of Tyburn Lane, whilst an iron tablet attached to the railings of Hyde Park, opposite the entrance of the Edgeware Road, informs the passer-by that here stood Tyburn turnpike-gate, so well known in old times as a landmark by travellers to and from London.
The gallows at Tyburn was of a triangular form, resting on three supports, and hence is often spoken of as 'Tyburn's triple tree.' It appears to have been a permanent erection, and there also stood near it wooden galleries for the accommodation of parties who came to witness the infliction of the last penalty of the law, such exhibitions, it is needless to state, being generally regarded by our ancestors as interesting and instructive spectacles. Consider-able disputation has prevailed as to the real site of the gallows, but it now appears to be pretty satisfactorily ascertained that it stood at the east end of Connaught Place, where the latter joins the Edgware Road, and nearly opposite the entrance to Upper Seymour Street. A lane led from the Uxbridge Road to the place of execution, in the vicinity of which, whilst excavating the ground for buildings, numerous remains were discovered of the criminals who had been buried there after undergoing their sentence.
Among remarkable individuals who suffered death at Tyburn, were the Holy Maid of Kent, in Henry VIII's reign; Mrs. Turner, notorious as a poisoner, and celebrated as the inventress of yellow starch; John Felton, the assassin of the Duke of Buckingham; the renowned burglar Jack Sheppard, and the thief-taker Jonathan Wild; Mrs. Brownrigg, rendered proverbial by her cruel usage of apprentices; and the elegant and courtly Dr. Dodd, whom pecuniary embarrassments - the result of a life of extravagance and immorality-hurried into crime.
The last malefactor executed here was John Austin, on 7th November 1783, for robbery with violence. At that period the place of execution for criminals convicted in the county of Middlesex, was transferred from Tyburn to Newgate, where, on the 9th of December following the date just mentioned, the first capital sentence, under the new arrangements, was carried into effect. We are informed that some opposition was made by persons residing around the Old Bailey to this abandonment of the old locality at Tyburn, but the answer returned by the authorities to their petition was, that ' the plan had been well considered; and would be persevered in.' Our readers do not require to be informed that the place thus appointed is still the scene of public executions, now happily of much less frequent occurrence than formerly.
Those curious documents, called Tyburn Tickets, were certificates conferred under an act passed in the reign of William III, on the prosecutors who had succeeded in obtaining the capital conviction of a criminal. The object of the enactment was to stimulate individuals in the bringing of offenders to justice; and in virtue of the privilege thus bestowed, the holder of such a document was exempted 'from all manner of parish and ward offices within the parish wherein such felony was committed; which certificate shall be enrolled with the clerk of the peace of the county on payment of 1s. and no more.' These tickets were transferable, and sold like other descriptions of property. The act by which they were established was repealed in 1818, but an instance is related by a contributor to Notes and Queries of a claim for exemption from serving on a jury being made as late as 1856 by the holder of a Tyburn ticket.
The conveyance of the criminals from Newgate to Tyburn by Holborn Hill and the Oxford Road, afforded, by the distance of space traversed, an ample opportunity to all lovers of such sights for obtaining a view of the ghastly procession. A court on the south side of the High Street, St. Giles's, is said to derive its name of Bowl Yard, from the circumstance of criminals in ancient times on their way to execution at Tyburn, being presented at the hospital of St. Giles's with a large bowl of ale, as the last refreshment which they were to partake of on this side of the grave. Different maxims came ultimately to prevail in reference to this matter, and we are told that Lord Ferrers, when on his way to execution in 1760, for the murder of his land-steward, was denied his request for some wine and water, the sheriff stating that he was sorry to be obliged to refuse his lordship, but that by recent regulations they were enjoined not to let prisoners drink when going to execution, as great indecencies had been frequently committed in these cases, through the criminals becoming intoxicated.
One of the most vigorous drawings by Hogarth represents the execution of the Idle Apprentice at Tyburn-a fitting termination to his disreputable career. Referring to this print, and the remarkable change which has taken place in a locality formerly associated only with the most repulsive ideas, Mr. Thackeray makes the following observation in his English Humorists: 'How the times have changed ...
On the spot where Tom Idle (for whom I have an unaffected pity) made his exit from this wicked world, and where you see the hangman smoking his pipe as he reclines on the gibbet, and views the hills of Harrow or Hampstead beyond-a splendid marble arch, a vast and modem city-clean, airy, painted drab, populous with nursery-maids and children, the abodes of wealth and comfort, the elegant, the prosperous, the polite Tyburnia rises, the most respectable district in the habitable globe!'