Henry Pierrepoint

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Henry Pierrepoint
Henry Pierrepoint 1909.jpg
Henry Pierrepoint in 1909
Born Henry Albert Pierrepoint
Normanton on Soar, Nottinghamshire, England
Died 14 December 1922 (aged 44)
Citizenship British
Occupation Executioner
Years active 1901–1910
Spouse(s) Mary Buxton
Children Albert Pierrepoint
Parent(s) Thomas and Ann Pierrepoint
Relatives Thomas Pierrepoint (brother)

Henry Albert Pierrepoint (1878 – 14 December 1922) was a British executioner from 1901 until 1910. He was the father of Albert and brother of Thomas.[1]

Early life[edit]

Pierrepoint was born in Normanton on Soar,[2] Nottinghamshire, the fourth child and second son of Thomas and Mary Pierrepoint.

By 1891, he and his family had moved to Clayton, near Bradford, where he was employed in a worsted mill.[3] Henry was unhappy working there, and so in 1893 his father arranged an apprenticeship for him at a large butchers in Bradford.[4] Three years later he left the apprenticeship and moved to Manchester where his sister Mary was one of the managers at a cabinet making firm.[4] Not long after this he met a local girl, Mary Buxton, and toward the end of 1898 they were married at St Anne's Church in Newton Heath, Manchester.[5][6][7]

Career as a hangman[edit]

In 1901, Henry was appointed to the list of executioners after repeatedly writing to the Home Office to offer his services. He participated in his first hanging on 19 November, as an assistant to James Billington.[8]

Over the next few years, he worked primarily as an assistant to William and John Billington before becoming the principal executioner of Britain in 1905. In 1906, he carried out all eight hangings in the country.[9]

Pierrepoint later persuaded his elder brother Thomas to join the family business, and reputedly trained him in a stable with a rope and sacks of corn.[10] Later, an interview he gave, published in a local newspaper, inspired his son Albert to do the same.[11] In his nine-year term of office Henry carried out 105 executions. His career was finished when he arrived the day before an execution at Chelmsford Prison "considerably the worse for drink", and fought his assistant John Ellis. Ellis reported the incident to the Home Office which decided, after receiving confirmation by the warders' account of the matter, to strike Henry from the list of approved executioners.[12]

Henry was never officially "dismissed", but he was removed from the list of executioners and invitations to conduct executions ceased to arrive.[citation needed]

Throughout his career as an executioner, Pierrepoint occupied various other jobs, such as a position in Huddersfield gasworks,[11] to supplement the relatively low pay English hangmen received.[citation needed]

Henry had been suffering from a terminal illness for several years and died on 14 December 1922, aged 44,[13] although he was incorrectly registered as 48.[14]


  1. ^ A grisly family tradition. BBC Nottingham. Retrieved on 17 October 2009.
  2. ^ 1881 Census: Sutton Bonington; RG11; Piece 3149; Folio 26; Page 3.
  3. ^ 1891 Census: Clayton; RG12; Piece 3646; Folio 38; Page 8.
  4. ^ a b Fielding 2008, p. 3
  5. ^ "Marriage Index entry:Pierrepoint, Henry Albert". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Marriage Index entry:Buxton, Mary". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Lancashire BMD - Marriages.
  8. ^ Fielding 2007, pp. 264
  9. ^ Fielding 2007, p. 266
  10. ^ "Daily Mail". Hangman sacked for drinking on the job reveals tricks of his trade as diaries go up for auction. 3 Nov 2008. Retrieved 7 Jul 2016. 
  11. ^ a b Pierrepoint, Albert (1974). Executioner: Pierrepoint. Kent: Eric Dobby Publishing. pp. 22, 27, 37. ISBN 978 1858 820613. 
  12. ^ Fielding 2008, pp. 96–98
  13. ^ Fielding 2008, p. 112
  14. ^ "Death Index entry:Pierrepoint, Henry A". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 


  • Fielding, Steve (2008). Pierrepoint: A Family of Executioners. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84454-611-4. 
  • Fielding, Steve (2007). The Executioner's Bible: The Story of Every British Hangman of the Twentieth Century. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84454-422-6.