A life spent in death sentences - the Albert Pierrepoint collection

Albert Pierrepoint was the most famous of a family of executioners in Britain, having carried out 600 death sentences in his career as the UK's longest serving hangman. He followed his uncle and father into the role in 1931.

Pierrepoint managed to keep his part-time job under wraps for a number of years. He worked in a grocer's (later running a pub) as his main job and received invitations to carry out executions.

By the time his sideline became public, those to have died by his hand included a number of Nazi war-criminals including Bruno Tesch, co-inventor of the insecticide Zyklon B used in the Holocaust and 'Lord Haw-Haw', William Joyce, and so Pierrepoint was seen by many as an avenging hero.

Other famous executions carried out by Pierrepoint include those of the Acid Bath Murderer, John Haigh and serial killer John Christie, as well as some particularly controversial cases including Derek Bentley and Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

Pierrepoint resigned in a dispute with the Home Office in 1956 and published an autobiography. He claimed to have concluded that capital punishment solves nothing. His life inspired a 2005 film.

Plaster of Paris Mask, Albert Pierrepoint
Plaster of Paris Mask, Albert Pierrepoint

Recently, Albert Pierrepoint's archives have come onto the market, including a remarkably accurate set of casts made of Pierrepoint's face and both hands.

There is also an execution book and a large ledger feature the personal details of those hanged by Henry and Albert Pierrepoint, and a silver watch chain worn by all three members of the Pierrepoint family at countless executions.

Held in private hands since it was sold by Christie's in 1992, the collection has recently changed hands and some of the details have come to light.

For more on the collection, click here.


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