The Pierrepoint Collection

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2015-06-26 10:26:38

The Pierrepoint Collection is a collection of memorabilia relating to the family of famous British hangmen, in particular Albert Pierrepoint.

 

About the Pierrepoint family

Albert Pierrepoint (1905-1992), was the longest serving and most famous hangman in Britain.

Pierrepoint was preceded in his time as executioner by his uncle and his father.

After pursuing the Home Office for some time, the elder Pierrepoint, Henry, was eventually granted the opportunity to follow his unusual ambition to be an executioner.

After establishing himself as a dedicated and proficient employee, Henry encouraged his brother Thomas to train as an executioner. This career path suited Thomas well and he continued working until his seventies.

At the age of eleven, Albert Pierrepoint professed his desire to follow in his father's footsteps, writing at school:

"When I grow up…I should like to be the official executioner"

Ten years after Henry's death, Albert trained under his uncle Thomas, assisting him with hangings throughout the 1930s.

In total, the three men were involved in some 800 hangings. They were respected for their serious application to the post, administering the death penalty in a humane and dignified manner.

Albert Pierrepoint died in July of 1992, aged 87.

His legacy has influenced modern culture, most notably a 2005 film release based on his life and centred on the execution of Ruth Ellis.

Executions

There has always been some doubt as to the exact numbers of those executed by Pierrepoint, especially considering his reluctance to speak on the topic.

The execution ledger that is held in The Pierrepoint Collection provides the definitive answer to the number of executions carried out.

Pierrepoint notes that he was engaged in approximately 606 executions, including some 200 convicted Nazi war criminals after World War II. Of all the names listed, approximately 173 were reprieved.

Many concentration camp guards and staff were put to death at the hands on Pierrepoint, including the 'Beast of Belsen', Josef Kramer, convicted after the Belsen Trial in 1945.

Traitors John Amery and 'Lord Haw-Haw', William Joyce, also met their end under Pierrepoint's gaze.

Joyce was a fascist politician, Nazi propaganda broadcaster and writer who distributed propaganda leaflets to British prisoners of war. The term 'Lord Haw-Haw' was the nickname for pro-fascist English-speaking broadcasters from 1939, but by 1945 it came to denote Joyce exclusively.

The Collection

The Pierrepoint Collection includes Plaster of Paris casts of Albert Pierrepoint's face and both hands. The plaster casts have preserved an incredible level of detail.

The collection also includes an amber and ivory cigar holder measuring 3.2" in length. It comes with its original leather, silver velvet-lined, case, 3.5" long, which has some age marks to its exterior clasp. The item belonged to Henry A. Pierrepoint.

A fine silver watch chain worn by Albert, his father and his uncle, at hundreds of executions between 1900 and 1956 is also included. It measures 17" in length, including the silver bar.

Documents and photographs relating to Pierrepoint's term as executioner include: the "Memorandum of Conditions to which any Person acting as Executioner is required to conform"; a letter from the War Office; and photographs of the Pierrepoint men, Robert Fabian (Fabian of the Yard), John Ellis, and JRH Robertson (Assistant General to Albert).

The letter of thanks from the War Office refers to the case of Golby, Hensmann and Smith, three men who, in 1950, were charged with murdering an Egyptian night-watchman. Only Hensmann pulled the trigger, but all three were sentenced to death. The letter, 8"x6.5", written by Lieut-Colonel JRH. Robertson, R.E. Assistant Adjutant General, reads:

"Dear Mr. Pierrepoint, I wish to convey my sincere thanks for your willing co-operation in the case of Hensmann, Smith and Golby. I hope you were well looked after in HELF and led (apart from business) an enjoyable trip."

No witnesses appeared in their two-day trial. No appeals were allowed and a plea to King George for clemency was ignored. This treatment greatly affected the troops serving in the Suez and they rioted. The executions took place in a secluded area in the desert, away from the hyped media attention.

Henry Pierrepoint's execution book, 6.75"x4.5", includes personal details of those hanged from 1 November 1901 to 14 July 1910. The prisoner's name, age, height, weight and drop are documented. The sites of the executions, along with remarks, are recorded. Remarks detailed the physical frame of the prisoners and calibre of their necks, for example: very heavy body, ordinary neck; wirey, very thin neck; strong neck, little flabby.

Albert Pierrepoint's large execution ledger, 6"x9.5", is leather bound and embossed with his name, "A. Pierrepoint". Like his father's execution log, personal details are included, with some additional notes of some prisoners, such as : the German, Dutch and Belgium spies; French Canadian; Jew; USA Negro; IRA; Cypriot; German POW; British Soldier; etc.

From 29 December 1932 to 27 July 1955, hundreds of names are recorded. Among them, some notable names are listed, including Lord Haw-Haw, Ruth Ellis, Mahmood Hussein Mattan, Elizabeth Volkenrath and F. E. Hensmann.

A note on the last recorded hangings betrays the awareness that the last ever execution would be of great significance. Rather than have one man stand as the last executioner, two hangings took place at the same time and date, so that the legacy would be split in two, perhaps to divide its potency.

Ownership

The collection is currently offered for sale by Paul Fraser Collectibles, a company which specialises in unique, high-end pieces of memorabilia.

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