James Berry, 1852-1913, was on the Home Office list of executioners from 1884-1891, and carried out 131 hangings. He was the first British executioner to write his memoirs: My Experiences as an Executioner and had a waxwork in Madame Tussauds.
Q Who would he have handed his business card to?
A In the early days of his career, whenever
a murderer was condemned to death,
hangman James Berry would offer his
services to the county sheriff, enclosing a
printed statement of his terms and conditions.
These left no room for misunderstanding.
Travelling expenses covered
second-class return railway fare from his
native Bradford and cab fare between railway
station and gaol, plus hotel expenses.
Once established, Berry considered it no
longer necessary to apply for work in
England as he was so well known, but
whenever an execution in Ireland was
announced he sent one of his simple
address cards, as illustrated in Valerie’s
Berry considered his calling “an honest
trade to provide a living for my family”.
He retired young in 1892, aged forty, and
after his lecture engagements petered out
he took various jobs including innkeeper
and salesman. He died in 1913, having
devoted his latter years to evangelistic
and temperance work. Berry’s biography,
My experiences as an executioner,
was published by Percy Lund & Co of
Bradford in 1892.