Michal Morey

Michal Morey was a woodcutter who lived at Sullens, near Downend on the Isle of Wight. He was executed in Winchester and gibbeted on the Isle of Wight in 1737 for the murder of his orphaned grandson, James Dove, who was in the care of Morey and his wife Beth. It is said that, in order to destroy evidence of Dover's murder, he burnt his cottage. The road is now known as "Burnthouse Lane" and the woods as "Burnthouse Woods".

Death of James Dove

James Dove of Morrison's Newport, aged 14, went missing shortly after coming into a small legacy and was last seen going to the woods with his grandfather. Michal Morey absconded for several days and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was apprehended towards the end of July 1736 and held in Winchester awaiting trial.

Three months later, the dismembered and decomposed remains of James Dove were found in the woods. They were in two leather bags, together with a billhook and bloodied gloves. Identification was made from the victim's clothes.[1]

Trial and execution

Morey was tried at Winchester Assize in March 1737. The evidence was circumstantial. Morey, being inarticulate and taciturn by nature, pleaded not guilty and presented a poor defence. He was sentenced to death and hanged an hour after the trial at Winchester public gallows. His body was then taken to the scene of his crime and hung in chains from a gibbet erected in his home parish of Arreton.

The gibbet was built at a cost of six pounds and five shillings by local wheelwright, John Phillips. It was positioned on a Bronze Age barrow (since known as Michal Morey's Hump[2]) near a crossroads on Gallows Hill at the end of Burnthouse Lane.

Legacy

The gibbet-post now forms a prominent roof beam, over 22 feet in length, in the original tap room of the nearby Hare and Hounds tavern, with the date 1737 carved on it. Beneath, in a glass box, is exhibited a skull said to have been unearthed in 1933 and formerly supposed to be that of Morey. Research has subsequently identified it as belonging to a Bronze Age woman who died in her late teens,[1] as stated on an accompanying notice.

The following rhyme was popular with local children for many years and is displayed, along with contemporary accounts painted in black letters, at intervals around the Hare And Hounds.

Michal Morey is dead.
For chopping off his grandson's head.
He is hung on Arreton Down.
For rooks and ravens to peck down.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b Michal Morey: The Legend of the Skull--Myth & Reality Archived 2013-05-05 at Archive.today at wightonline.co.uk
  2. ^ a b Michal Morey's Hump at Ridgeriders website

General references

  • Harriet J Kent: On Gallows Hill AuthorHouse, UK 2007. Fiction based on the Morey case.
  • Kenneth S Phillips: For Rooks and Ravens (The Execution of Michal Morey of Arreton in 1737) Isle of Wight County Council, Cultural Services Dept 1981. ISBN 0-906328-14-4
  • Sibley, Patricia: Discovering the Isle of Wight Hale, London 1977. ISBN 0-7091-6063-1

See also

Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight (; also referred to informally as The Island or abbreviated to IoW) is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the English Channel, between 2 and 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent. The island has resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times, and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and verdant landscape of fields, downland and chines. The island is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The island has been home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. It has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat-building, sail-making, the manufacture of flying boats, the hovercraft, and Britain's space rockets. The island hosts annual music festivals including the Isle of Wight Festival, which in 1970 was the largest rock music event ever held. It has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.

The isle was owned by a Norman family until 1293 and was earlier a kingdom in its own right. In common with the Crown dependencies, the British Crown was then represented on the island by the Governor of the Isle of Wight until 1995. The island has played an important part in the defence of the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, and been near the front-line of conflicts through the ages, including the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Britain. Rural for most of its history, its Victorian fashionability and the growing affordability of holidays led to significant urban development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Historically part of Hampshire, the island became a separate administrative county in 1890. It continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire until 1974, when it was made its own ceremonial county. Apart from a shared police force, there is now no administrative link with Hampshire, although a combined local authority with Portsmouth and Southampton was considered, this is now unlikely to proceed.The quickest public transport link to the mainland is the hovercraft from Ryde to Southsea; three vehicle ferry and two catamaran services cross the Solent to Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth.

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