The English hangmen from 1850 to 1964

The post of hangman became much sought after in the mid 19th century and remained so until capital punishment ceased in 1964 with large numbers of applicants (including women) for each vacancy. It would probably attract just as many applicants today if capital punishment were to be reintroduced. Swaziland had more than 50 applications for the post in 1998 from people from all over the world.

When William Calcraft retired it ceased to be a salaried position and in fact fees barely increased at all from the 1870's to the 1960's. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that most of those who held the post of executioner did it not for financial gain but for other, more personal, reasons.

George Smith from Dudley in the Midlands 1805 - 1874.

Period in office - 1849 - 1873
Smith hanged the famous Rugeley poisoner Dr William Palmer at Stafford prison on the 14th of June 1856 for the murder of John Parsons Cook. Dr. Palmer was suspected of having committed other murders.
He is also credited by some as being Calcraft's assistant at the execution of Mary Ann Cotton the Durham serial poisoner who was hanged at Durham Castle on 24th March 1873.
He assisted Calcraft at the first private hanging (of Thomas Wells see below) in August of 1868.

Robert Evans (Anderson) - North Wales 1874/75

Acted as executioner on several occasions, including the treble hanging at Gloucester on 12/01/1874 of 19 year old Mary Ann Barry and her common law husband Edwin Bailey for the murder of their illegitimate child and Edward Butt who had strangled his girlfriend.

George Incher - Dudley 1875-1881

Acted as executioner on several occasions.

William Calcraft - Little Baddow near Chelmsford Essex 1800 - 1879.

Period in office - 1829 - 1874.
Calcraft was the longest serving executioner of all and was noted for his "short drops" causing most of his victims to strangle to death. It is not known precisely how many executions he carried out but it is estimated at between four hundred and four hundred and fifty, including those of at least 35 women, making him the most prolific British executioner. He officiated at the last public hangings in Britain - those of Francis Kidder (the last woman) at Maidstone on 2nd April 1868 for the drowning of a friend's daughter and Michael Barrett - a Fenian (what we would now call an I R A terrorist) for the Clerkenwell prison explosion which killed 12 people and injured over 100, outside Newgate prison on 26th May 1868.
The Government then passed The Capital Punishment Within Prisons Act of 1868 which transferred all executions inside prison walls. The press and witnesses were still permitted to attend although executions were no longer the great public spectacles that they used to be.
The first hanging within prison was that of 18 year old Thomas Wells at Maidstone on 13th August 1868. Wells was a railway worker who had murdered his boss, the Station Master at Dover. Although the execution was in "private" there were reporters and invited witnesses present and the short drop was used so that they would have been treated to the sight of Wells taking 3-4 minutes to die.
Calcraft was the official hangman at Newgate and also carried out floggings inside that prison. He received 1 guinea г1.05) a week retainer and a further guinea for each hanging at Newgate and half a crown (12.5p) for a flogging. His earnings were greatly enhanced by executions at other prisons where he could charge higher fees, typically г10 - г15.
He also held the same post at Horsemonger Lane Goal in the County of Surrey and received a similar fee from there. In addition to these earnings he was also allowed to keep the clothes and personal effects of the condemned which he could sell afterwards to such as Madame Tussaud's for dressing the latest waxwork in the Chamber of Horrors. The rope which had been used at a hanging could also be cut into inch long sections and sold to the public at up to 5 shillings an inch if the criminal had been particularly notable.
He claims to have invented the leather waist belt with wrist straps for pinioning the prisoners arms and one of the nooses he used is still on display at Lancaster Castle. It is a very short piece of 3/4" rope with a loop worked into one end with the free end of the rope passed through it and terminating in a hook with which it was attached to the chain fixed to the gallows beam. This particular noose was used for the execution of Richard Pedder on 29th August 1857.
On the 20th April 1849 Calcraft hanged seventeen year old Sarah Thomas at Bristol for the murder of her mistress who had maltreated her. This was one job which greatly affected him on account of her youth and good looks.
Frederick George Manning and his wife Maria were hanged side by side on the 13 November 1849 on the roof of Horsemonger Lane Goal. The Mannings had murdered Patrick O'Connor - Maria's erstwhile lover for money. A husband and wife executed together was very unusual and drew a huge crowd. Marie wore a black satin dress which caused this material to rapidly go out of fashion.
Dr Edward William Pritchard drew a crowd estimated at around one hundred thousand when was hanged in Jail Square in Glasgow on the 28th of July 1865 for the murders of his wife and mother-in-law.
1867 bought the triple hanging of three Fenians who had murdered a policeman in Manchester. William O'Meara Allen, Michael Larkin and Michael O'Brien (alias Gould) were hanged together on the 23rd of November 1867 outside Salford Prison. Afterwards they became known as the Manchester Martyrs and a monument was erected to them in Ireland which can still be seen today. Calcraft received the princely sum of г30.00 for this job.

His last hanging was that of John Godwin at Newgate on 25th May 1874 after which he retired on a pension of 25 shillings - г1.25) per week provided by the City of London in 1874. He died in December 1879.
Most of Calcraft's early work came from London and the South East as the Midlands had Smith of Dudley and Thomas Askern operated in Yorkshire and the North. With the advent of the railway system in the mid nineteenth century Calcraft was soon able to operate all over Britain and apparently loved travelling.

Thomas Askern of York ? - 1878

Period in office 1853 -1877
Askern carried out the last public execution in Scotland when he hanged 19 year old Robert Smith on the 12 May 1868 at Dumfries Prison for the murder of a young girl. Askern mainly officiated at hangings at Leeds and York. He also hanged Pricilla Biggadyke at Lincoln in 1868, the first private female hanging. She was later found to have been innocent and was pardoned. He is also credited with assisting Calcraft with Mary Ann Cotton.

William Marwood of Horncastle Lincolnshire 1820 - 1883.

Period in office - 1874 - 1883

Marwood was a cobbler by trade who had, over the years taken a great interest in the "art" of hanging and felt that it could be improved. He had never hanged anyone or even assisted at an execution but at the age of 54 persuaded the authorities at Lincoln prison to let him carry out the hanging of William Frederick Harry (or Horry) on 1st April 1872 which went off without a hitch and impressed the governor of that prison.

He is credited with inventing the "long drop" (which was, in fact probably invented by surgeons in Ireland) and was certainly responsible for its introduction in England. He realised that if the prisoner was to have a drop of six to ten feet depending upon his weight and with the noose correctly positioned death would be "nearly instantaneous" due to the neck being broken. Actually this form of hanging leads to comatose asphyxia i.e. the prisoner still dies by asphyxiation but is unconscious at the time. When done properly there is no visible movement of the condemned after the drop.
The long drop removed all the gruesome struggling and convulsing from the proceedings and was, undoubtedly far less cruel to the prisoner and far less trying to the governor and staff of the prison who, since the abolition of public hangings, had to witness the spectacle at close quarters.
He was duly appointed as official hangman by the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex and received a retainer of г20.00 per annum plus г10.00 for each execution but unlike Calcraft got no actual salary. He also was able to keep the condemned persons clothes and received travelling expenses. The rail system was so advanced by this time that he could travel anywhere in the Country with ease thus making it possible for him to carry out most of the executions within England and in Ireland.
There was a famous rime about Marwood at the time which went "If Pa killed Ma who'd kill Pa - Marwood". Marwood was something of a celebrity and had business cards printed - "William Marwood Public Executioner Horncastle Lincolnshire" and the words "Marwood Crown Office" over the door of his shop.
In his nine years of service he hanged 176 people, including 8 women, before dying of "inflammation of the lungs" in 1883.
Four of Marwood's notable cases were :
Charles Peace was a burglar and murderer whom Marwood hanged on the 25th of February 1879 at Armley Goal Leeds. Peace was the archetypal Victorian criminal who struck fear into the hearts of everyone at the time.
Kate Webster. an Irish servant girl who murdered her mistress with an axe was hanged on the 29th of July 1879 at Wandsworth Prison.
Percy Lefroy Mapleton murdered Isaac Fredrick Gold on a train on the Brighton Line so that he could steal Gold's watch and some coins. He was arrested almost immediately but managed to escape from custody before being arrested again, convicted and finally hanged on the 29th of November 1881.
Marwood traveled to Ireland from time to time and had the job of executing Joe Brady and four other members of The Invincibles gang for the murders in Phoenix Park Dublin of Lord Frederick Cavendish and Thomas Harry Burke the Permanent Under Secretary for Ireland. These hangings took place in 1883 at Kilmainham jail in Dublin.

Bartholomew Binns

Period in office - - 1883 - 1884, sacked as chief executioner but later assisted Tommy Scott on several occasions in 1900/01.
Binns was perhaps one of the least successful British hangman only holding the job as principal for a year although he had assisted Marwood at executions. After complaints about his work and his character he was removed from the list of hangmen.
His first "solo" execution was that of Henry Powell on the 6 November 1883 at Wandsworth Prison.
He also dealt with Patrick O'Donnell an Irish Republican who murdered the chief witness in the Phoenix Park murder case (see above).

James Berry of Heckmondwike Yorkshire 1852 - 1913

Period in office - 1884 - 1892
Berry carried out 134 hangings in his eight years in office, including those of 5 women and was the first British executioner to write his memoirs "My experiences as an executioner" which is still available in libraries. He was, like Marwood, proud of his calling and both had their own waxworks in Madame Tussaud's. Berry had previously been a policeman in Bradford and had met Marwood and become acquainted with his methods.
Berry worked out a proper table of drops based upon the prisoner's weight and these were steadily refined over the succeeding years.
His eight years were not without event.
One of his most famous (non) jobs was the strange case of John Lee ("The man they could not hang") on the 23rd February 1885 at Exeter prison. 19 year old John Lee was convicted of the murder of his elderly, wealthy employer Ellen Keyse for whom he worked as footman.
All the normal preparations were made on the gallows in the coach house at Exeter prison but when Berry pulled the lever nothing happened. Berry stamped on the trap but to no avail and Lee was then taken back to his cell whilst the gallows was tested. It worked perfectly.
The process was now repeated but with the same result and yet again the trap worked perfectly after Lee was removed. After the third unsuccessful attempt the governor stayed the hanging whilst he obtained directions from the Home Office. Lee was later reprieved.
Various theories abound as to why the trap would not open with Lee on it, ranging from divine intervention through the wood swelling in the damp weather to the more believable one of one of the prisoners who had helped to erect it placing a wedge between the leaves of the trap which he removed again as soon as Lee was taken off and reinserted at each new attempt.
Another unfortunate experience concerned the execution of Robert Goodale at Norwich Castle on 30th November 1885. Goodale who weighed 15 stone (95 Kg.) but was in poor physical condition was decapitated by the force of the drop. (The only recorded instance of this in Britain although two other of Berry's victims, Moses Shrimpton at Worcester and John Conway at Kirkdale were nearly decapitated by the drop) The last case led to Berry's resignation as he blamed the prison doctor Dr. Barr for interfering with his calculations.
The opposite problem occurred in at least three of Berry's other hangings when the condemned clearly strangled to death due to the length of drop being insufficient. These were David Roberts hanged at Cardiff on the 2nd of March 1886, Henry Devlin, executed September 23 1890 in Glasgow for murdering his wife, and Edward Hewitt who was executed at Gloucester in June of 1886.
By a strange coincidence Mr. Berry was called upon to hang Mrs. Berry who had poisoned her 11 year old daughter for г10 life insurance. The execution taking place on the 14th March 1887at Kirkdale prison Liverpool.
Not only did the executioner and the prisoner have the same surname but although not related, they actually knew each other having danced together at a police ball in Manchester some years previously.

Thomas Henry Scott - Huddersfield.

Period of office 1892 - 1901
Acted as executioner on several occasions.

James Billington of Farnworth near Bolton in Lancashire 1847 - 1901.

Period in office - 1884 - 1901
James Billington had a life long fascination with hanging and had unsuccessfully applied for Marwood's post but managed to secure the Yorkshire hangman's position. He succeeded Berry as the executioner for London and the Home Counties in 1892.
Billington hanged Henry Fowler and Albert Milsom on the 9 June 1896 at Newgate Prison for beating to death of 79-year-old widower Henry Smith.
Thirty three year old Louise Masset went to the gallows at Newgate on the 9th January 1900 for the murder of her illegitimate son, the first person to be executed in the new century.
Billington also hanged Amelia Dyer at Newgate for the murder of 4 month old Doris Marmon a baby who had been entrusted to her care, having received г10 to look after her.
This particular form of murder was known at the time as "Baby Farming" and it is thought that Dyer had murdered at least six other babies for money. Each baby had been strangled with white tape. As Mrs. Dyer said, that was how you could tell it was one of hers. At 57 she was the oldest woman to hang since 1843.
Perhaps his most interesting execution was that of the poisoner Dr. Thomas Neil Cream on the 15th November 1892 at Newgate. Cream waited till the very last moment as he felt the mechanism under the trap begin to move to utter the words "I am Jack the...." It is highly unlikely that Cream could have been Jack the Ripper but it certainly caused a stir at the time.
James Billington died of pneumonia contracted after the hanging of Pat McKenna at Manchester in December 1901. Henry Pierrepoint assisted at this execution which was the 147th carried out by Billington. He was succeeded by his two sons William and John who had assisted him at various hangings.

Thomas Billington 1872 - 1902.

Period in office 1897 - 1901
(possibly assisted his father from 1894 under the name of Thompson)
Thomas Billington was James Billington's eldest son.
Thomas assisted his father and brother William at some hangings but died of pneumonia aged 29 in 1902.

William Billington 1873 - 1934

Period in office - 1902 - 1905
The second of James Billington's three sons, William took over from his father and was assisted by his younger brother John.
He executed Mrs. Emily Swan and her boyfriend John Gallagher who died together at Armley prison Leeds on the 29 December 1901. Hooded and noosed on the gallows Emily said "Good morning John" to which he replied "Good morning love". Emily replied "Goodbye, God bless you" before the drop fell ending any more conversation.
William carried out the last execution at Newgate hanging George Woolfe on the 2nd of May 1902. After which the gallows was transferred to Pentonville.
He also dealt with Annie Walters and Amelia Sach who were hanged at Holloway prison on the 3 February 1903 for baby farming. (the first executions at Holloway).
Assisted by Henry Pierrepoint he also carried out the first hanging at Pentonville on 30th September 1902 when they executed James MacDonald and another man who had stabbed one Mr. Henry Greaves to death.

John Billington 1880 - 1905

Period in office - 1902 - 1905
John was also on the Home Office's approved list of executioners and assisted his brother William. He also carried out 16 executions as principal, including those of Henry Starr for the murder of his wife at Walton prison Liverpool on the 29th December 1901 and Samuel Holden at Winson Green prison in Birmingham on the 17th August 1904 while his brother was dealing with John Thomas Kay on the same day at Armley prison in Leeds.

Henry Pierrepoint 1874 - 1922 from Bradford Yorkshire.

Period in office - 1901 - 1910
Henry Pierrepoint carried out 107 executions in his nine year term of office. He took great care in his work and calculated the drops most carefully - he is said never to have had a single bungled hanging.
His first job was at Newgate assisting James Billington with the execution of Marcel Fougeron on the 19th November 1901. Between January 1902 and March 1903 he assisted at a further fifteen hangings and is thought to have carried out some of them as principal.
Henry, assisted by his brother Tom, hanged Rhoda Willis at Cardiff on the 14th of August 1907. Willis, (also known as Leslie James) was executed on her 44th birthday for the murder of a day old baby whom she had agreed to look after for г6.00 paid to her by its unmarried mother.
She was thus, in effect, another baby farmer although her good looks and golden hair made a big impression on Henry.
Like James Billington, Henry Pierrepoint was the founder of a family dynasty persuading his older brother Tom and son Albert to follow in his foot steps.

John Ellis of Rochdale Lancashire 1874 - 1932

Period in office - 1901 - 1923
John Ellis was a notably mild mannered man who ultimately committed suicide possibly through the stresses incurred by his job as hangman and possibly through the effects of the slump on his business as a barber. He had a particular dislike of hanging women for reasons that will become apparent.

He executed several famous criminals notably:
Herbert Rowse Armstrong who he hanged on the 31st May 1922 at Gloucester prison for the murder by arsenic poisoning of his wife. There is some doubt now over Armstrong's guilt and new evidence has been unearthed by another, present day solicitor, who acquired Armstrong's practice in Hay on Wye and works in his old office and bought his house.
Dr Hawley Harvey Crippen is perhaps the most famous criminal to come Ellis's way. He was hanged on the 23rd November 1910 at Pentonville prison for the murder of his wife Cora Crippen. Crippen was the first person to be caught by the use of the new wireless telegraph system allowing him to be arrested aboard the S. S. Montrose on which he had sailed to Quebec in Canada with his lover Ethel Le Neve. At the time it was seen as the "Crime of the Century" and has held a fascination for many ever since.
George Smith was the famous "Brides in the Bath" murderer whom Ellis hanged on the 13th August 1915 at Maidstone prison. He had drowned Alice Burnham, Beatrice Constance Annie Mundy and Margaret Elizabeth Lofty for financial gain.
Sir Roger Casement was unusual in that he had been convicted of treason, having tried to get the Germans to send arms and equipment to Ireland to start a rebellion. He was hanged at Pentonville on the 3rd of August 1916.
In 1923 Ellis had the worst job of his career when he and Robert Baxter hanged Edith Jessie Thompson aged 28 on the 9th January at Holloway for her part in the murder of her husband Percy who was stabbed to death by Frederick Bywaters. (see below). She had to be carried to the gallows and it was reported that her underwear was covered in blood after the hanging. After this all other women were made to wear canvas underpants.
They also hanged Susan Newell at Duke Street prison Glasgow on the 10th October 1923. 30 year old Newell had strangled newspaper boy John Johnston who would not give her an evening paper without the money. She was the first woman to hang in Scotland for over fifty years and on the gallows refused the traditional white hood.
He resigned due to poor health in March 1924 having executed 203 people. Before his suicide Ellis wrote his memoirs "Diary of a Hangman" which have been reprinted recently.

William Willis from Accrington Lancashire. 187? - 1939

Period in office 1906 - 1926
Willis had assisted at more than 100 executions, helping Ellis and Henry and Tom Pierrepoint and Robert Baxter.
While Ellis was hanging Edith Thompson, Willis was doing the same to Frederick Edward Bywaters at Pentonville Prison.
He carried out 13 executions before resigning in 1926 due to ill health.

Tomas Pierrepoint 1870 - 1954

Period in office - 1906 - 1946
Tom was six years older than his brother Henry and worked as a hangman for 37 years before retiring in 1946 in his mid seventies. He is credited with having carried out around 300 hangings although no exact figure has been verified.
Some of his famous cases were :
Ethel Lillie Major hanged on the 19th of December 1934 at Hull Prison for the murder of her husband.
Nurse Dorothea Waddingham who was hanged for poisoning one of her elderly patients on the 16th of April 1936 at Winson Green prison in Birmingham.
On the 10th of March 1930 Pierrepoint executed Alfred Arthur Rouse at Bedford prison for the murder of an unknown man. Rowse had killed the man and then put him in his (Rowse's) car and set it ablaze in an attempt to fake his own death for the insurance money.
Charlotte Bryant went to the gallows at Exeter on the 15th of July 1936 for the murder of her husband by arsenic poisoning.

Robert Wilson from Manchester.

Period in office - 1920 - 1936.
William Henry Kennedy was hanged on the 31st of May 1928 at Wandsworth for his part in the shooting of police constable George William Gutteridge.

Robert Baxter of Hertford

Period in office - 1915 - 1935
Baxter (assisted by Willis and Phillips) hanged Jean-Pierre Vaquier at Wandsworth prison on the 12th of August 1924 for the poisoning, using strychnine of his lover's husband.
At the same moment that Robert Wilson was executing Kennedy (see above) Baxter hanged Frederick Guy Browne for his part in P C Gutteridge's murder at Pentonville, double hangings having become very unusual by this time.

Alfred Allen - Wolverhampton

Period in office 1928 - 37
Acted as chief executioner on several occasions.

Thomas Mather Phillips

Period in office 1918 - 1941
Acted as chief executioner on several occasions.

Stanley William Cross

Period in office 1932 - 1941 (referred to by AP as SID COLLINS)
Acted as chief executioner on several occasions.

Albert Pierrepoint of Clayton Nr. Bradford Yorkshire 1905 - 1992

Period in office - 1932 - 1956
Pierrepoint was by far the most prolific hangman of the twentieth century having executed an estimated 433 men and 17 women in his twenty four years of service in this country and abroad. He learnt his trade assisting his uncle Tom and is credited with the quickest hanging on record when he, assisted by Sid Dernley, executed James Inglis in only 7 seconds on the 8th of May 1951 at Strangeways in Manchester. He became Chief executioner in May 1940 at the age of thirty three.

Some of his notable executions were :
Neville George Heath who was hanged on the 16th of October 1946 at Pentonville Prison for the sexual/sadistic murder of Margery Gardner who was found dead in a hotel bedroom. When discovered she was lying on her back, in one of the single beds nearest to the door. She was naked and had her ankles bound with a handkerchief. She had a lot of bruising to her face and her nipples had been almost bitten off. Something had been inserted into her vagina and sharply rotated. On her back were seventeen criss-cross lash marks. Cause of death had been suffocation but only after the horrific injuries had been inflicted.
During World War 2 Pierrepoint was called upon to hang 7 of the 16 American soldiers executed for murder and rape at Shepton Mallet military prison in Somerset.
After the war Albert went to Germany and on the 13th of December 1945 hanged 13 German war criminals at Hamelyn jail including Irma Greese, Elizabeth Volkenrath and Juana Boreman and ten men including the "Beast of Belsen" Josef Kramer. He continued to visit Germany periodically and is thought to have hanged around 200 Nazis in all.
Another famous case was that of "Lord Haw-Haw" - William Joyce whom Pierrepoint hanged at Wandsworth for treason on the 3rd of January 1946.
John George Haigh the famous "Acid bath murderer" came Pierepoint's way on the 10th of August 1949 at Wandsworth prison for the murder of Mrs. Durand-Deacon. Her gall stone and dentures were not dissolved by the acid in which he had dissolved the rest of her body and remained to convict Haigh.
Derek Bentley was hanged on the 28th of January 1953 at Wandsworth Prison for his part in the murder of PC Miles. Even though Bentley was actually in custody at the time the fatal shot was fired they were both seen as equally guilty under the law. Craig was, at 16, too young to hang but Bentley, at 19, was not. The case has been the subject of books and the film "Let him have it" and efforts for a pardon for Bentley continue to this day. (He was finally found to have been innocent in1998)

Another controversial case was that of Timothy John Evans whom Albert hanged on the 9th of March 1950 at Pentonville for the murder of his wife at 10 Rillington Place the home of John Reginald Christie. Christie was later convicted of murder and admitted killing seven women. He was hanged on the 15 July 1953 at Pentonville Prison. In 1966 Evans was granted a posthumous pardon.
On the 13th of July 1955 at Holloway Prison Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be hanged.
He resigned over a disagreement about fees in 1956. He had gone to Strangeways on a cold day in January 1956 to hang Thomas Bancroft. He arrived at the prison only to find that Bancroft was reprieved. He claimed the full fee of г15, (more than г200 at today's prices), but was offered г1 in out-of-pocket expenses by the under-sheriff of Lancashire.
Pierrepoint appealed to his employers, the Prison Commission, who refused to get involved. The under-sheriff sent him a cheque for г4 in final settlement. But to the Chief Executioner this was the end of the road.
He also wrote his autobiography "Executioner - Pierrepoint" which is still available

Harry Kirk from Huntingdon

Period in office - 1941 - 1950
Harry Kirk had worked as an assistant to Stan Cross and both Tom & Albert Pierrepoint and had a very short career as a hangman. When he executed Norman Goldenthorpe at Norwich on the 22nd of November 1950 for the murder of 66 year old Emma Howe at Yarmouth snorting sounds were heard coming from the trap. This was apparently due to the hood becoming stuck in the eyelet of the noose. This was thus Kirk's first and last hanging as principal.

Steve Wade from Doncaster

Period in office - 1941 - 1955
Steve Wade worked as an assistant to Tom & Albert Pierrepoint on 31 occasions and carried out 28 executions in his own right.
His last job was that of Alec Wilkinson whom he and Robert Stewart hanged at Armley jail on the 12th of August 1955.

Harry Allen from Manchester 1911 - 1992

Period in office - 1941 - 1964
After Pierrepoint's resignation Steve Wade and Harry Allen took over the job as joint Chief Executioners. However business was slowing down with a general reduction in hangings partially due to the Homicide Act of 1957. Allen performed 29 executions and assisted at around 40 others. He also worked in Cyprus on a number of occasions.

John Vickers became the first man to die for a murder committed under the provisions of the Homicide Act of 1957 when he was hanged at Durham on the 23rd July 1957.
Allen hanged George Riley on the 9th of February 1961 at Shrewsbury Prison for the murder of his neighbour, Adeline Mary Smith.
Perhaps his most controversial case was that of James Hanratty who was convicted of the A6 murder and hanged at Bedford prison on the 4th of April 1962. There have been serious doubts raised over Hanratty's guilt and attempts to win him a pardon continue to this day.
Allen's last job was the hanging of Gwynne Owen Evans at Strangeways Prison at 8.00 a.m. on the 13th of August 1964, whilst his accomplice, Peter Anthony Allen, was suffering the same fate at Walton. (See below) Allen and Evans were the last men to be hanged in Britain.

Robert Leslie Stewart from Edinburgh 1918 - 1988.

Period in office - 1950 - 1964
Stewart shared the distinction of carrying out one of the two last hangings in Britain when he executed Peter Anthony Allen at Walton prison Liverpool at 8.00 a.m. on the 13th of August 1964 for his part in the murder of John Alan West a 53 year old laundryman who was killed during the course of a robbery carried out by Allen and Evans.

Assistant executioners.

There were many more names on the Home Office list of approved executioners over the period covered but they only acted as assistants and are, thus, not always recorded. Amongst the better known of these was Sid Dernley who assisted at 25 executions between 1949 and 1954 and also wrote a book called "The Hangman's Tale" detailing his experiences. Sid Dernley died in 1996.

With thanks to Steve Fielding, the of the author of The Hangmen's Record 1868-1964 (published by Chancery House Press) for his assistance with this page.

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