Talk about objects that evoke strong feelings and debate …. you need look no further than a simple rope which just happens to be the Hangman’s Noose .
Here at The Crime Through Time Collection, Littledean Jail we house and display several original Hangman’s Nooses including the one used by James Berry on ” The Man They Couldn’t Hang ” John “Babbacombe” Lee.
We also house and have on display several official government regulation nooses made by John Edgington , Old Kent Road, London. Some of which have the chamois leather noose and the the gutta percha on the noose ends. The gutta percha was later omitted from the regulation noose ends in 1955.
These noose’s would have possibly been used for both test drops and executions by several of Britain’s 20th Century Hangmen and Executioners, and also for executions carried out abroad . These ropes would undoubtedly have been used by the likes of Stephen Wade, Henry Kirk, Robert Lewis Stewart, John Ellis, Albert Pierrepoint and the last hangman in England Harry Allen .
Above : Original oil painting of 3 generations of the Pierrepoint family , who were all Britain’s chief executioners … Painted by local Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman , on display at Littledean Jail.
Sadly official records no longer appear to exist in regards to where and on whom these official government regulation J Edgington & Co noose’s were used . All we know is that Edgingtons were awarded the Government contract to supply all the execution noose’s from 1888 up until the abolition of the death penalty in 1964.
The only other official documentation or records that exists in regards to the storage and transportation of numbered J Edgington nooses is that which is held at HMP Wandsworth , London.
We also feature on display an array of handwritten and signed correspondence from a number of hangmen.
All in all a hopefully unique, historical and educational insight into the life and times of Capital Punishment within the UK .
ABOVE AND BELOW: VARIOUS EXAMPLES OF OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT ISSUE HANGMAN NOOSE’S WHICH WERE MADE BY J EDGINGTON & CO , OLD KENT ROAD , LONDON. THESE WERE MANUFACTURED BY THEM FROM 1888 UNTIL THE ABOLITION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IN 1965 .
BELOW IS AN INSIGHT INTO SOME OF VARIOUS HANGMEN RELATED EXHIBIT MATERIAL HERE ON DISPLAY, WHICH INCLUDES ORIGINAL HANGMAN’S NOOSE’S USED BY GEORGE SMITH POPULARLY KNOWN AS ” THROTTLER SMITH ” AND JAMES BERRY ON THE “MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG ” – JOHN “BABBACOMBE” LEE . ALSO HANDWRITTEN AND SIGNED LETTERS, BUSINESS CARDS AND RECEIPTS ETC.
GEORGE SMITH ( 1805-1874 )
George Smith, popularly known as Throttler Smith, was an English hangman from 1840 until 1872. He was born in Rowley Regis in the English West Midlands, where he performed the majority of his executions George Smith, popularly known as Throttler Smith, was an English hangman from 1840 until 1872. He was born in Rowley Regis in the English West Midlands, where he performed the majority of his executionsNOOSE’S USED BY GEORGE SMITH POPULARLY KNOWN AS ” THROTTLER SMITH “NOOSE USED BY GEORGE SMITH POPULARLY KNOWN AS ” THROTTLER SMITH “
WILLIAM CALCRAFT (1800 -1879 )
William Calcraft was a 19th-century English hangman, one of the most prolific of British executioners. It is estimated in his 45-year career he carried out 450 executions.
BELOW: Original oil painting by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman of notorious Hangman and Executioner – William Calcraft
BELOW : Original receipt for payment of the sum of £12.12 shillings dated 22 march 1856 for an execution he carried out at Manchester Gaol . It is complete with a lilac Inland Revenue 1d stamp as well as being receipted as signed for by William Calcraft …. an extremely rare historic item for sure here on display at Littledean Jail
In today’s money this would be equivalent to approx £9000 !!!
WILLIAM MARWOOD ( 1818-1883)
William Marwood was a hangman for the British government. He developed the technique of hanging known as the “long drop”.
ABOVE : Original oil painting of William Marwood by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman here on display at Littledean Jail
BELOW : An original rare official business card from William Marwood , Executioner , which he has also signed on the rear as pictured here below.
JAMES BERRY (1852-1913 )
James Berry was an English executioner from 1884 until 1891. Berry was born in Heckmondwike in the West Riding of Yorkshire, where his father worked as a wool-stapler.
Above & below : An original book about James Berry sent to Joe Mawson back in 2004 with a dedicated inscription for his help having , at the time via Andy Jones of The Crime Through Time Collection provided a copy of the original James Berry calling card for illustrated use within this book
ABOVE : Original and very rare James Berry ” Public Executioner ” business / calling cards
ABOVE: An original oil painting by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman of James Berry , here on display at The Crime Through Time Collection , Littledean jail .
ABOVE AND BELOW: THE ORIGINAL JAMES BERRY HANGMAN’S NOOSE, USED BY HIM IN THE FAILED ATTEMPT TO EXECUTE JOHN ‘BABBACOMBE’ LEE IN EXETER JAIL ON 23 FEBRUARY 1885
DISPLAYED HERE ALONG WITH THE ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN AND SIGNED AUTHENTICATION LETTER FROM JAMES BERRY DATED 3 JULY 1897 IN RELATION TO THE USE OF THIS NOOSE .
Above & below , an original James Berry Executioner business calling card privately acquired from the estate of former crime ephemera collector Joe Mawson (who passed away at the age of 86) by The Crime Through Time Collection along with an original letter from Scotland Yard’s Black Museum curator Bill Waddell sent from the Metropolitan Police Office dated 20-2-1984, previously sent to Joe Mawson with reference to this extremely rare calling card .
PICTURED HERE BELOW IS AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND MOST CERTAINALY HISTORICALLY UNIQUE ENGRAVED 1861 HALF PENNY COIN PRESENTED BY JAMES BERRY PUBLIC EXECUTIONER TO J.BREEZE, 25 JULY 1886.
THIS PERSONALLY ENGRAVED PRESENTATION COIN IS HERE ON DISPLAY, ALONG WITH AN ARRAY OF INFAMOUS HANGMAN JAMES BERRY & OTHER HANGMEN AND EXECUTIONER MEMORABILIA
JOHN ELLIS (1874 -1932 )
John Ellis was a British executioner for 23 years, from 1901 to 1924. His other occupations were as a Rochdale hairdresser and newsagent.
ABOVE: Original oil painting of John Ellis by Gloucestershire Artist Paul Bridgman , here on display at Littledean Jail
JOHN BILLINGTON HANGMAN AND EXECUTIONER
John Billington came from a family of hangmen. His father, James, was an executioner from 1884 to 1901, and his two older brothers, Thomas and William were employed in the same occupation.
In early 1902, at the age of 21, John attended an execution training course at Newgate Prison. His brother William was England’s primary executioner by this time, and the two became partners. They first worked on 18 March. John was the assistant for 10 of William’s commissions in 1902. He helped perform the last execution at Newgate and the first one at Pentonville.
Billington continued as an assistant through most of 1903. However, with his experience, he was soon promoted. On 2 December 1903, he carried out his commission as a chief executioner in Manchester, with John Ellis as his assistant. Twenty-nine executions took place in England and Ireland in 1903; the Billington brothers participated in 27 of them, including 15 as a two-man team.
John Billington worked both as his brother’s assistant and as a chief executioner for the next two years. On three separate occasions, they carried out executions in different cities on the same day. The last of these was on 17 August 1904, when John executed John Kay at Armley Prison, and William hanged Samuel Holden at Winson Green Prison.
Besides Ellis, John Billington also frequently worked with Henry Pierrepoint. In his career, Billington carried out a total of 26 hangings as an assistant and 16 as a chief executioner. He worked as a hairdresser when not performing executions.
In August 1905, Billington received a commission to hang Thomas Tattersall in Leeds. While preparing the scaffold, he fell through the open trapdoor and cracked his ribs. He died about two months later due to those injuries; the official cause of death was pleurisy.
Billington was 25 years old at the time. He was survived by his wife and one child.
ABOVE : Original oil painting of James Billington by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman here on display at Littledean Jail
BELOW: Original oil painting of Henry Pierrepoint by Gloucestershire artist Paul Bridgman here on display at Littledean Jail
THOMAS PIERREPOINT (1870 – 1954 )
ABOVE: Thomas Pierrepoint (left) and his nephew, Albert (right)
BELOW: Thomas Pierrepoint , Hangman and Executioner
Thomas Pierrepoint began working as a hangman in 1906 under the influence of his brother, Henry. His career spanned 39 years, and ended in 1946, by which time he was in his mid-seventies. During this time, he is thought to have carried out 294 hangings, 203 of which were civilians executed in England and Wales, whilst the remainder were executions carried out abroad or upon military personnel. Among those he executed was the poisoner Frederick Seddon in 1912.
During World War II he was appointed as executioner by the US Military and was responsible for 13 out of 16 hangings of US soldiers at the Shepton Mallet military prison in Somerset. In this capacity, Pierrepoint carried out executions not only for murder but also rape which, at the time, was a capital crime under US military law although not in British law. In most of these cases he was assisted by his nephew Albert – who was principal hangman for the remaining three executions.
In 1940, his medical fitness for the job was questioned by a medical officer who called him “unsecure” and doubted “whether his sight was good”. The Prison Commission discreetly asked for reports on his performance during executions in the following time, but evidently found no reason to take action, although one report said that Thomas Pierrepoint had “smelled strongly of drink” on two occasions when reporting at the prison. This, however, appears to clash with Thomas Pierrepoint’s instruction to Albert (when the latter acted as his assistant) not to take a drink if on the job and never to accept the drink customarily given to all witnesses at executions in the Republic of Ireland.
Thomas never officially retired, rather his name was removed from the list of executioners and invitations to conduct executions ceased to arrive. He died at his daughter’s home in Bradford on 11 February 1954, aged 83
ABOVE: Original oil painting of Thomas Pierrepoint by Gloucestershire Artist Paul Bridgman on display at Littledean Jail
ALBERT PIERREPOINT ( 1943 -1992 )
Albert Pierrepoint was a long-serving hangman in England. He executed at least 400 people, including William Joyce and John Amery. In Germany and Austria after the war, he executed some 200 people who had been convicted of war crimes
HARRY ALLEN – THE LAST HANGMAN AND EXECUTIONER IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
ABOVE : Harry Allen, Britain’s last chief executioner, photographed in 1969
Harry Bernard Allen (5 November 1911 – 14 August 1992) was one of Britain’s last official executioners, officiating between 1941 and 1964. He was chief executioner at 41 executions and acted as assistant executioner at 53 others, at various prisons in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and Cyprus. He acted as assistant executioner for 14 years, mostly to Albert Pierrepoint from 1941 to 1955.
ABOVE : Inspection: Hangman Harry Allen, right, examines a noose before an execution he undertook for the British Government in Cyprus
In October 1955 Allen was appointed as Chief Executioner alongside Pierrepoint, although he did not execute anyone in this role until 10 May 1956, when he hanged two EOKA members in Cyprus. Pierrepoint was no longer available because he had resigned in February 1956. Allen’s most controversial hanging came in April 1962, when James Hanratty was hanged for murder, despite efforts to clear his name. Hanratty was proven guilty in 2002 by DNA. Allen also assisted in the execution of Derek Bentley in 1953, and he performed one of the last two executions in Britain, in August 1964.
ABOVE : Original oil painting of hangman and executioner Harry Allen by Gloucestershire Artist Paul Bridgman here on display at Littledean Jail.