Execution book of Britain’s most famous hangman goes up for auction

‘Very heavy body… very thin neck’: Chilling logbook detailing the hundreds of executions carried out by Albert Pierrepoint – Britain’s most famous hangman – goes up for auction

  • In a 25-year career, Albert Pierrepoint executed around 600 criminals
  • He executed Nazi war criminals and Ruth Ellis, the last British woman hanged
  • He kept a leather notebook with all of his hangings’  details including neck size
  • A collection with his death mask and the book is expected to reach £30,000 

An execution book which details the grisly details of every person Britain’s most famous hangman put to death is set to be sold at auction.

Albert Pierrepoint, whose own death mask will also go under the hammer, executed around 600 people including notorious German Nazi war criminal Josef Kramer and the last woman to be hanged in the UK, Ruth Ellis. 

During his 25-year career, Pierrepoint kept a leather notebook detailing all of his executions, which included notes of the victims including one person with a ‘very thin neck’.

Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s most prolific hangman with an estimated 600 executions, kept a book recording the details of each of his hangings

The book also contains the names and ages of every person he ever executed along with their height and weight.

The catalogue, which is embossed with his name ‘A Pierrepoint’, also outlines the date on which the individual was hanged, the town in which they died and the drop during the execution.

Further details include the physical frame of the prisoners and calibre of their necks, such as, ‘very heavy body, ordinary neck, wirey, very thin neck, little flabby’.

The book is part of a collection of items belonging to Pierrepoint which will be sold by Boldon Auction Galleries in East Boldon, Tyne and Wear, with an estimate of £25,000 – £30,000.

The book contains the names and ages of every person he ever executed along with their height and weight

The catalogue, which is embossed with his name ‘A Pierrepoint’, also outlines the date on which the individual was hanged, the town in which they died and the drop during the execution

It will be sold alongside a plaster cast of his hands and face which was created following his death in 1992.

Giles Hodges, director of Boldon Auction Galleries, said: ‘This is a good snap shot of a very dark side of life.

‘I have never even seen anything like this before, it’s definitely a first time for me.

‘It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a real insight into an individual and his work.

‘It’s fascinating to find out what this executioner did on a daily basis.

Giles Hodges, director of Boldon Auction Galleries, expects the macabre collection to fetch as much as £30,000

The lot also contains documents and photographs, including the ‘Memorandum of Conditions’ and a letter of thanks from the War Office

‘The execution book is fascinating. There’s an awful lot of people who, until you start doing further research, they are just a name, number and figure.

‘Then you have one of the most famous names, the last female to be hanged in the UK, Ruth Ellis.

‘I think it’s so unusual and strange that someone would have a death mask done in 1992.’

The lot also contains documents and photographs, including the ‘Memorandum of Conditions’ and a letter of thanks from the War Office.

Other items include an amber and ivory cigar holder belonging to Albert’s father Henry Pierrepoint who worked as an executioner between 1901 and 1910.

A silver watch chain worn by Albert Pierrepoint, his father and his uncle Thomas Pierrepoint, who also worked as a executioner, completes the collection.

Other items include an amber and ivory cigar holder belonging to Albert’s father Henry Pierrepoint, who worked as an executioner and a silver watch chain

Amongst the names in Albert Pierrepoint’s execution book is Josef Kramer, the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau and of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Mr Hodges added: ‘The letter says, “I hope you were well looked after in helf (sic) and had, apart from business, an enjoyable trip”.

‘I think the letter’s fab, I think it’s a bit tongue and cheek.

‘There’s a little bit of underlying humour there. A good bit of gallows humour.

‘It’s a very difficult one to value but for an institution or a certain collector I think it’s well within the estimate. It’s such a specialist market. It might be one for an institution or museum.’

Amongst the names in Albert Pierrepoint’s execution book is Josef Kramer, the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau and of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

He was hanged by Albert Pierrepoint on December 13, 1945. 

Actor Timothy Spall portrayed the prolific executioner in the 2005 film Pierrepoint (pictured)

Irma Grese, an SS guard at the Nazi concentration camps of Ravensbrück and Auschwitz, dubbed ‘The Hyena of Auschwitz’, was also executed by the hangman on the same day.

Also listed is the model and nightclub hostess Ruth Ellis.

She was the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom, on July 13, 1955, after being convicted of the murder of her lover David Blakely.

Albert Pierrepoint, who resigned from his job in 1956, is believed to have hanged more criminals than anyone else in Britain.

He has been acknowledged by the Home Office as the most efficient executioner in British history.

Mr Hodges added: ‘People are fascinated with things things like that.

‘We still talk about whether they should bring back hanging in this country. I think it’s one of those things that certainly splits a country.

‘At that point, whether you agree with it or not, at that time, because it was law, somebody had to do it.’

After Pierrepoint retired in 1956, there were 34 more hangings in the next eight years.

The last were carried out in August 1964 when Gwynne Evans and Peter Allen were executed for the murder of John Alan West.

The lot, which is being sold by a seller who wishes to remain anonymous, will go under the hammer on June 5.

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