I’ve taken some authorial liberties with some of the timelines in the story for dramatic purposes, and I hope any Elizabethan aficionados will forgive me.
The line between criminal and police in the Elizabethan world was a very fine one, often crossed by both the forces of justice and the forces of criminality, as demonstrated by the illegal but wholly accepted practices carried out by the Black Dog. Elizabethan prisons were notorious for their squalid and desperate conditions, unless you had the money to bribe the Keepers, who seem to have been an avaricious lot. If you were sentenced and imprisoned, you were very likely to die in prison.
There was effectively no police force in Elizabethan London at the time, only a Watch which was more known for avoiding trouble than seeking it out (see Shakespeares’ constable Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing for a good example). Prison rookers and private “thief-takers” served a needed role however they were notoriously undependable and often corrupt.
The infamous Tyburn Tree triangular scaffold was as described. Erected in 1571, the scaffold saw numerous famous and infamous personages hung, including oddly enough, the posthumous hanging of Oliver Cromwell in 1661. Cutting Ball eventually made his own appearance on the scaffold but not until much later than purported in my fictional tale.
Cutting Ball and Em Ball were real historical personages, both linked to the London theatre world via Robert Greene, one of the “university wits”, a group of university-trained playwrights. Em Ball served as Greene’s mistress and her bother Cutting apparently worked as Greene’s bodyguard. I’ve shifted them back a few years to suit my fictional timelines. Such are the footnotes of history.
Christopher Tyburn, his friends (and enemies) are strictly fictional although Worcester’s Men were a real Elizabethan playing troupe. The members as portrayed here are fictional characters loosely based on their real world counterparts.
As a final note, there was apparently a dog slaughter yard of some ilk located in the proximity of Fetter Lane and St. Dunstan-in-the-West Church. The dogs were used to supply ready meat for hawking. It was the subject of legal action sometime in 1622 due to complaints about noise and stench.
As for the Black Dog of Newgate, the stories of the shadowy creature that drags the souls of those to be executed to Hell has existed almost as long as the disreputable prison has haunted the west end of the City.
For Tyburn, his adventures are only just beginning. . . .For more of his tales, check out my first novel "The Jesuit Letter" available on Amazon.com and Chapters/Indigo.
Thanks for reading!
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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