Justice Tree

July 1, 2007 at 9:29 am (Church of England, hanging, Rochester)

“Bully or Boley Hill. From the Roman urns and lachrymatories found on this spot there is no doubt but it was the burying place of the Romans during the time of their being stationed at Rochester.”

This was the site of the last “Justice Tree” in the county of Kent – the ‘justice’ being meted out by the Court Leet – and consisting in the most serious cases of hanging on the gallows or Justice Tree (Also known as the ‘Grief Tree’, the ‘Gallows Tree’, the ‘Justice Tree’ or simply ‘The Tree’.) On the 3rd February 1820 the last public hanging took place in Rochester – that of a busking bagpipe player Duncan Livingstone who murdered his 10yr old assistant. His body is interred under the castle walls.

The last public hanging in the Medway Towns took place on the Lines in Chatham

In July 1834 Private Benjamin Gardiner of the 50th Regiment was hanged on Chatham Lines for the murder of a sergeant. He was the last of the soldiers executed at their regimental headquarters as a warning to their comrades. The sergeant, Patrick Feeney, had been shot by Gardiner because he was friendly with the private’s wife.

As the hanging was started, a storm blew up and it was as dark as night. Some of the people watching thought that God was angry and ran to hide.

This may be viewed with some humour by some – the thought that people in 1834 should run and hide from bad weather because they thought it an indication of the anger of God. It seems however that in 2007 there are many who still find this an appealing thought:

The summer floods are God’s judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, claim senior Church of England bishops.

One, the Bishop of Carlisle, even said that the introduction of pro-gay laws had provoked God to send the storms that have left thousands homeless.

The bishops argued that while those affected are innocent victims, the flooding was a result of western civilisation’s decision to ignore biblical teaching. The Rt Rev Graham Dow, said that the floods were not only a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment for decadence.

“This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,” he said. “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.”

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, previously seen as a future Archbishop of Canterbury or York, said: “People no longer see natural disasters as an act of God. However, we are now reaping what we have sown. If we live in a profligate way then there are going to be consequences.” God is exposing us to the truth of what we have done.”

The Bishops spoke as flood-hit communities were warned to expect up to two inches of rain – this weekend.


This is perhaps the Anglican Church’s attempt at the sort of populism that encouraged evangelicals in America to suggest that the near destruction and subsequent flooding of 80% of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina was an act of vengeance by an angry God.

Repent America’s director, Michael Marcavage, suggested that ‘this act of God destroyed a wicked city. New Orleans was a city that opened its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same.’ This public celebration of sin was the Southern Decadance Gay Pride event.

These men of the cloth have a shuddering hatred of same-sex relationships that they don’t share for the other admonitions of Leviticus. For instance Leviticus 19:19: “Do not mate different kinds of animals.” – When is the church going to come out against the monstrous hybrid that is the mule? Or indeed the Hebra – a hybrid between a zebra and a horse recently displayed in Germany. It’s all very queer.

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