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13 November 2014

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You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > A grisly family tradition

Hangman's noose

A grisly family tradition

In the history of British execution a Nottinghamshire family became the most notorious in the business.

Henry Albert Pierrepoint was born in Normanton on Soar, Nottinghamshire, in 1878.

His older brother Thomas William Pierrepoint was born eight years earlier in Sutton Bonington.

Henry had worked as a butcher and a cabinet maker before applying to become a hangman.

Albert Pierrepoint

Albert Pierrepoint

He was finally added to the list of executioners in 1901, after pleading with the home office. He then persuaded Thomas to join him.

Henry and Thomas took great pride in their work, believing that it was their responsibility to be humane to the condemned by ensuring that death occurred swiftly.

Like many executioners they believed in justice and what they were doing would be beneficial to society as a whole.


Henry carried out 105 executions within nine years and became well respected within the business.

Some of Henry's more high profile executions included baby killers Amelia Sach and Annie Walters, as well the Stratton brothers - who were convicted of murder.

The Pierrepoints

Henry Albert Pierrepoint (1878 – 1922) - Normanton on Soar, Notts
Executioner from 1901 - 1910

Thomas William Pierrepoint (1870 – 1954) Sutton Bonington, Notts
Executioner from 1901 - 1946

Albert Pierrepoint (1905 - 1992) Clayton, West Yorkshire
Executioner from 1932 - 1952

Henry kept a diary with details about the victims including the name, age, height and weight, as well as a description of the condemned prisoner's neck.

Henry's career ended in 1910 when he turned up for work drunk.

Poisoners and Nazis

Thomas Pierrepoint lasted in the business much longer, he did it for 37 years and carried out 294 hangings.

He executed Frederick Seddon and Charlotte Bryant, who were both excused of poisoning their victims.

Albert was Henry's son, as a child he was fascinated by the family business and expressed a desire to be an executioner at just 11 years-old.

In his hangman career it's believed Albert executed 433 men and 17 women, including Nazi war criminal Josef Kramer and Ruth Ellis - the last woman to be hanged.

In 1974 Albert came to the conclusion that executions solved nothing and it simply arouse out of a desire for revenge.

However, two years later Albert admits in an interview with Radio Merseyside, that he could have been an executioner again - particularly with vile murder cases.

The public were recently reminded of the family's legacy when Henry Pierrepoint's diary, along with a tape measure and letters, sold for £4,600 at an auction.

last updated: 20/11/2008 at 11:31
created: 19/11/2008

You are in: Nottingham > History > Local history > A grisly family tradition

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