Thomas Pierrepoint

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Thomas Pierrepoint
Born
Thomas William Pierrepoint

1870
Died11 February 1954 (aged 83)
CitizenshipBritish
OccupationExecutioner
Years active1906–1946
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Binns (m. 1891)
Parent(s)Thomas and Mary Pierrepoint
RelativesHenry Pierrepoint (brother),
Albert Pierrepoint (nephew)

Thomas William Pierrepoint (1870 – 11 February 1954) was an English executioner from 1906 until 1946. He was the brother of Henry Pierrepoint and uncle of Albert Pierrepoint.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Pierrepoint was born in Sutton Bonington,[2] Nottinghamshire, in 1870,[3] the second child and eldest son of Thomas and Mary Pierrepoint. The Pierrepoint family were still living in Sutton Bonington at the time of the 1881 census,[4] but by the 1891 census they had moved to Clayton, near Bradford, Yorkshire, where Thomas and his father were employed as stone quarrymen.[5] He was married to Elizabeth Binns on 5 December 1891.[6]

By 1914, Pierrepoint had taken on a number of "sidelines",[7] including a carrier service founded by his brother,[7] a small farm, and an illegal bookmaking business.

Career[edit]

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,[8] 203 of which were civilians executed in England and Wales,[9] 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"[10] 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.[11][12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A grisly family tradition". BBC Nottingham. 13 November 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  2. ^ Public Record Office. "Thomas W Pierepoint". FamilySearch. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 6 July 2016. England and Wales Census, 1871, Sutton Bonington, RG10, Piece 3259, Folio 92, Page 11.
  3. ^ "Birth Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 6 July 2016. Sutton Bonington was one of the sub-districts of the Loughbro' Registration district.
  4. ^ 1881 census: Sutton Bonington; RG11; Piece 3149; Folio 26; Page 3.
  5. ^ Public Record Office. "Thomas William Pierrepoint". FamilySearch. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 6 July 2016. England and Wales Census, 1891, Yorkshire (West Riding), Clayton, RG12, Piece 3646, Folio 38, Page 8.
  6. ^ West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935 - Ancestry.co.uk
  7. ^ a b Pierrepoint, Albert (1974). Executioner: Pierrepoint. Kent: Eric Dobby Publishing. pp. 13, 16. ISBN 978 1858 820613.
  8. ^ Fielding 2008, pp. 288–294
  9. ^ Clark, Richard. "English Hangmen 1850 to 1964". Capital Punishment UK. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  10. ^ Milmo, Cahal (31 May 2006). "Hangman 'nearly killed assistant by mistake'". The Independent. London. Retrieved 6 July 2016.
  11. ^ Fielding 2008, p. 257
  12. ^ "Death Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 6 July 2016.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Fielding, Steve (2008). Pierrepoint: A Family of Executioners. London: John Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84454-611-4.