Invitation to a Hanging

2003 May - Channel 4

This is a real life story of the lad born in the Georgian era who inspired the phrase “jack the lad”.
By the time of his execution Jack Sheppard had become a legend. The King owned portraits of him and he was the inspiration for The Beggar's Opera and Defoe wrote about his life.

To the King Sheppard was 'a very dangerous man', but to the ordinary people of London, he represented 'the personification of liberty' and the epitome of the dashing highwayman and robber, the outlaw as hero. One of London's working poor, Sheppard was born to live the kind of life so efficiently described by Hobbes as 'poor, nasty, brutish and short'.

This documentary recounts Sheppard's life of crime, his numerous audacious prison escapes and his imprisonment on death row. In doing so, it brings to life the world of Hogarth and Defoe (both of whom knew Sheppard) and opens the door into London's 18th Century underworld; a jungle of brothels, gin cellars, gaming dens and doss houses.

Channel 4 ▪ TX 29/04/2003 ▪ 90 mins
Directed by Justin Hardy
Executive Producer: Samir Shah