The Queens Jubilee and the Hangman

15 April 2013

Gepp & Sons' longest serving member of staff, Peter Davis, was interviewed by the Essex Chronicle as part of their "Darker and Lighter sides of Chelmsford" article and recalls the fact that CAPITAL punishment was still enforced when Queen Elizabeth came to the throne.

It was a gruesome ritual of the High Sherriff's office which was administered by Chelmsford solicitors Gepp & Sons and executed by infamous hangman Albert Pierrepoint. The film 'Pierrepoint' released in 2006 loosely follows the work of Britains' most prolific hangman. He was responsible for up to 600 executions between 1932 and 1956

Peter Davis, 81, had a career spanning 51 years (and 2 days) with Gepp & Sons and remembers vividly this darker side of the world of 60 years ago.

Peter recalled: "Many times have I heard the under-sheriff's secretary phone Mrs Pierrepoint at their home in Yorkshire to arrange meetings at Pentonville Prison, where many of the Essex hangings took place back then."

The under-sheriff, Gepp & Sons Mr Archibald Douglas Paxton-Thompson, would attend while Mr Pierrepoint estimated the weight of the condemned prisoner.

"Once everything was set up it would be Mr Paxton-Thomson's task to test the rope by pulling down on it," said Mr Davis. "Of course this all came to an end with the 1965 Silverman Bill which ended capital punishment."

More interesting fact on the history of Gepp and Sons and their 250 years service to the county of Essex can be found in 'The Way We Worked'.