Britain's Most Notorious Hangmen
A breathtaking history of Britain’s executioners—from the seventeenth court of King Charles II to the UK’s last official hangman of the twentieth century. In 1663, Jack Ketch delighted in his profession and gained notoriety not only because of those he executed—dukes and lords—but for how often he botched the job. Centuries later, in 1965, after nearly six hundred trips to the gallows, Albert Pierrepoint retired as Britain’s longest-running executioner. Between them are three hundred years in a fascinating history of crime, and the “turn-off men” who handled the penalties—many of them criminals themselves, doing the grim work to save their own necks. Britain’s Most Notorious Hangmen tells the stories of the men who plied their deadly trade at Tyburn tree or at the scaffolds in the prison yards across the country, including such notable “neck-stretchers” as Throttler Smith and the celebrated James Billington. But true-crime historian Stephen Wade explores the lives and crimes of many of the infamous killers that were hanged, as well. He also sheds light on the changing social norms of the country, and the moral dilemmas that arose for hangmen tasked with performing what was once considered the most crowd-pleasing free “entertainment” ever offered to the public.
- 2009 Stephen Wade
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