"taking a first row at Tyburn"
The Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn
Public DomainThe Idle 'Prentice Executed at Tyburn - Credit: William Hogarth

Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex, close to the current location of Marble Arch in London.  It was the principal place for execution of London criminals and traitors, including religious martyrs.  The first recorded execution there took place in 1196. The unfortunate soul was William Fitz Osbern, a populist leader of the poor of London. 

In 1571, a large gallows was installed, nicknamed the "Tyburn Tree."  It allowed several people to be hanged at once.  In 1649, 24 prisoners were hanged simultaneously.  Executions were public spectacles and attracted crowds of thousands. Spectator stands ensured everyone had a view, if they were willing to pay for it. 

The Tyburn gallows were last used on 3 November 1783, to hang highwayman John Austin.  The site of the gallows is now marked by a plaque on a traffic island in the middle of Edgware Road.