Today's Object of the Week recalls a murder - and one of Britain's most brutal punishments.

St Mary’s Island with its beautiful lighthouse is on of the North-East's most serene attractions and a perfect picture postcard view.

But a plaque on the small headland which is linked to the island by a causeway across the rocks at low tide tells a gruesome tale.

It is known as Curry’s Point and is named arfter a Michael Curry, who worked at a glass works in Seaton Sluice.

He was executed in September 1739 for the murder of Robert Shevill, landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn at Hartley to the north.

It was common practice to hang, and leave to rot, the tarred bodies of executed murderers in full site of the place at which their evil deed took place.

This was a practice known as gibbeting and the headland here came to be called Curry's Point in recollection of Curry’s gibbet that once stood here - overlooking the scene of his crime.

The plaque was erected on the September 4, 1989, to mark the 250th anniversary of the macabre happening.

The plaque reads: "On 4th September 1739 Michael Curry was executed for the murder of the landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn, Hartley. His body was afterwards hung in chains from a gibbet at this spot within sight of the scene of his crime. Ever since that gruesome event this headland has been known as Curry’s Point."

The Northern Echo: St Mary's Island, Whitley Bay, is a beautiful spot - but a gruesome sight once stood on the causeway leading to itSt Mary's Island, Whitley Bay, is a beautiful spot - but a gruesome sight once stood on the causeway leading to it (Image: DAVID SIMPSON)

The Murder Act 1751, which made gibetting into a regulated procedure, stated: "In no case whatsoever shall the body of any murderer be suffered to be buried" - meaning the corpse of the executed murderer had to be either publicly dissected or left to rot hanging in chains.

It was most often used for traitors, murderers, highwaymen, pirates, and sheep stealers.

One of the last two men in England to be gibbetted was also from the North East -  William Jobling, in 1832.

Jobling was a miner hanged and gibbeted for the murder of Nicholas Fairles, a colliery owner and local magistrate, near Jarrow - although present, he had not actually taken part in the assualt.

Jobling was sentenced to be hanged and gibbeted. After passing sentence Mr Justice Parke said: "I trust that the sight of that will have some effect upon those, who are to a certain extent, your companions in guilt and your companions in these ‘illegal proceedings’ which have disgraced the county. May they take warning by your fate."

After being hanged, the body was taken off the rope and loaded into a cart and taken on a tour of the area before arriving at Jarrow Slake, where the crime had been committed.

Here, the body was placed into an iron gibbet cage.

It remained there for some 25 days until the guard was removed, after which Jobling’s friends stole the body and gibbet irons - they have never been found.

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A replica of William Jobling in his gibbet irons is on display at the South Shields Museum & Art Gallery.

The practice of gibetting was finally formally repealed by statute in 1834.

  • Thanks to local historian David Simpson for his help in compiling this feature.

For more on the history and culture of the North East visit his website at