William Marwood's powder flask, England, 1850-1880

Made:
1850-1880 in England

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Conical leather powder flask, personal relic of William Marwood, unknown maker, probably English, 1850-1880.

William Marwood (c. 1818-83) once owned this flask for gunpowder. Marwood was a shoemaker, occasional preacher... and executioner. He was from Lincolnshire, England. He is best known for developing the ‘longdrop’ method of hanging in the 1870s. This snapped the person’s neck, instantly causing death. The criminal’s weight was assessed and the correct length of rope used. The neck then snapped once the body descended through a trapdoor in the floor. Previously, the criminal choked to death. Marwood deemed this method inhumane because it could take a long time. He oversaw nearly 200 executions during his career. Marwood was a well-known figure. He inspired the popular pun, “If Pa killed Ma, who’d kill Pa? Marwood.”

Marwood’s personal possessions were highly sought after by the public when he died. He was still a powerful draw for collectors in the 20th century, including Henry Wellcome.

Details

Category:
Wellcome (general)
Object Number:
A652041
Materials:
brass (copper, zinc alloy) and leather
type:
flask
taxonomy:
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
  • vessel
  • bottle