JOHN BERRY – Heckmondwike’s Own HANGMAN

John Berry was born in Blanket Hall Street (the way down to Morrisons) in 1852. Though the bulk of the book is about his career as the Nations Public Executioner or “Hangman”, the bits that I found most interesting was about growing up in Heckmondwike, his early career choices and his life after retirement when he campaigned against Capital Punishment.

The book plots his career and the innovations he made to his “trade” detailing some of his more famous executions. I know the subject is gruesome, but if you are a serious scholar of Spen Valley History a copy is essential for your collection.

Just as an aside, what is it that attracts Yorkshiremen to this profession, not counting the failed drunk from Dewsbury?

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Executioner The Chronicles of James Berry – Victorian Hangmen by Stuart P Evans

Published by Sutton Publishing in 2004, 356 pages indexed and illustrated I can despatch (no pun intended) a hardback copy to a UK address for

£12.50

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Executioner The Chronicles of James Berry – Victorian Hangmen by Stuart P Evans – Paperback

The paperback is large scale (essentially the same book as the hard back but with card covers.

£9.00

CALL BACK YESTERDAY – Mavis Roberts

Always on the look out for any “Local History Books” especially related to the Spen Valley, I came across this book on a general search for “Heckmondwike”, I had no knowledge of it’s existence prior to the search.

This book is a collection of memories of growing up in the Spen Valley (Cornmill Lane) in the 1930’s. I started reading it and read it in one sitting, not because it is short (158 pages) but because it is well written and fascinating.

SV - Call Back Yesterday by Mavis Roberts 177

My interest was heightened by the fact that she lived only a few hundred yards from my shop and home, less than 100 yards from where my mother was born (in 1919). She also went to the same junior school (Millbridge) and secondary school (Heckmondwike Grammar). I could recognise all the places she was referring to. Even without the local connections the book is a great read, I don’t know why I had not come across it previously as it was published in 1996. It was published by a Welsh Publisher and printed in Derbyshire.

I was more than pleased to find her description of a visit to my shop (in it’s original form that is).

A visit to the Berry Hill Co-op Branch (now “Not in Heckmondwike Book Shop”) in the 1930’s, as described by Mavis Roberts in her book “ Call Back Yesterday”
Inside the store were huge keg-shaped blocks of butter, lard and cheese, all open to the air and enough to give present day hygienists a collective heart attack. From these, the assistants would cut the required amount and wrap it in grease proof paper. They did not go to the lengths of slapping the butter into shape, as did the manager of the Maypole Store.

There was a stack of faded-blue paper bags, into which sugar, loose tea and dried fruits were weighed out. There were also huge sides of bacon to be sliced to the customer’s preferred thickness, on the lethal, red bacon-slicer with its rotating blade. Biscuits were also sold loose from large, square tins with glass windows on the lids, so the contents were easily identified.

SV - Call Back Yesterday by Mavis Roberts 178

Call Back Yesterday by Mavis Roberts

This book is a collection of memories of growing up in the Spen Valley (Cornmill Lane) in the 1930’s. I started reading it and read it in one sitting, not because it is short (158 pages) but because it is well written and fascinating. Delivered, or posted to any UK address

£10.00

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