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Hangman's Stone


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There are over a dozen places in England with a large boulder called the Hangman's Stone, or a gate called Gallows Gate, all explained by the following tale:—a sheep-stealer was carrying a live sheep home with its legs tied together, when he stopped to rest against the boulder (or gate); the sheep slipped and struggled, causing the rope to twist round his neck and throttle him. Thus fate ensured that he would be hanged for his crime.

The earliest record is in Thomas Westcote's A View of Devonshire in 1630 (1845), referring to Combe Martin. Other sites include Boxford (Berkshire), Beer (Devon), Hampnett (Gloucestershire), Rottingdean (Sussex), Barnborough (Yorkshire), and Allandale (Northumberland), where the boulder is called the Wedderstone (from ‘wether’ =‘castrated ram’), and there is a rhyme:When ye lang for a mutton boneThink on the Wedderstone.

Leslie Grinsell, Folklore 96 (1985), 217–22.


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