The Hangman’s Noose


On 9th November 1965 a Private Member’s Bill to suspend the death penalty for murder was introduced. The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act suspended capital punishment in the case of people convicted of murder in favour of a mandatory life imprisonment. In Great Britain it was made permanent in 1969.

The noose used by the hangman was made from Manila (abaca) hemp rope, boiled to take out any likelihood of stretching during use. It was formed into coils and waxed, soaped or greased to assure that the knot slid easily. Britain used a simple noose consisting of a loop worked into one end of the rope with the other end passed through it. 

My response to the 1965 Act was to utilise the small piece of W. S. Hodgkinson paper and refashion it into a long continuous piece reflecting the hangman’s rope.

I started by boiling the paper piece for 30 minutes in plain tap water. Then cut it into 2mm wide strips and joined them into one continuous length by overlapping and sandwiching between sheets of fine Abaca paper with PVA. While still damp it was wrapped around a cylinder to retain its shape. Approximately half was waxed with beeswax and the Abaca paper trimmed. This length was bound into a coil using a length of Abaca fibre tied with a hangman’s knot. The remainder coated in liquid graphite left loose.