AN unusual event will aim to put names to the faces of 10 death masks on display in the medical museum of Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

The plaster heads -  although two are thought to be of the same man, probably Thomas Wyre, hanged in July 1888 for throwing his son “Little Jimmy” down a well at Wolverley, near Kidderminster –  will be under the spotlight.

Phrenology expert Louise Robinson outlines how and why the death masks were made, while Worcester author Bob Blandford draws on extensive recent research for his latest book Worcestershire Bird, telling the inside story of the lives and crimes of prisoners held at Worcester County Gaol in Castle Street to suggest their likely identities.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

Louise Price, curator of the George Marshall Medical Museum at the hospital’s Charles Hastings Education Centre, said: “It’s not every day you come face-to-face with an executed criminal, but  now you can have the unique experience of not only meeting nine, but also hearing the tales of how and why they remain preserved for history.”

Between 1814 and 1919, 38 Worcestershire criminals were executed at Worcester, at least 12 of them being quickly trundled across, or more likely under, Castle Street to the infirmary for anatomical research.

That process also included taking casts of their heads as an aid for the then-popular pseudo-science of phrenology.

These casts were rescued from the basement by surgeon George Marshall for his own collection, and donated to the Charles Hastings Education Centre before his death in 2001. They have been on display in the museum named after him ever since.

Kidderminster Shuttle:

Bob Blandford explained that once the anatomists and sculptors had done their work, the criminals’ bodies were returned to the gaol and buried in unconsecrated ground within the walls of the gaol.

He added: “All twelve were exhumed in 1925 as the former gaol was demolished, and re-buried at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham.”

The hour-long presentation in the 180-seat lecture theatre at the Museum will take place this Thursday (December 5) at 7pm and admission, although free, is strictly first-come, first-served.

The museum will also be open from 9am to 7pm. There is also free but limited parking at the Charles Hastings Education Centre after 5pm for visitors.

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