For decades the high walls of Durham gaol have contained some of the countrys most infamous criminals. Until hanging was abolished in the 1960s it was also the main centre of execution for convicted killers from all over the north east. The history of execution within the walls of Durham Gaol began with the hanging of two labourers side by side in 1869, by the notorious hangman William Calcraft. Over the next ninety years a total of seventy-seven people took the short walk to the gallows - including poisoner Mary Cotton, who for over a century was the worst mass murderer in Great Britain, Gatesheads copycat Jack the Ripper, William Waddell, army deserter Brian Chandler, nineteen-year-old Edward Anderson, who murdered his blind uncle, a Teeside dock worker hanged on Christmas Eve, Carlisle muderer John Vickers, the first man hanged under the 1957 Homocide Act, and a South African sailor who preferred death to ten years in prison. Infamous executionors also played a part in the gaols history - Calcraft, who preferred slow strangulation, Marwood, the pioneer of the 'long drop', bungling Bartholomew Binns, the Billingtons, the Pierrepoint family, and Doncaster hangman Stephen Wade.
Steve Fielding's highly readable new book features each of the seventy-five cases in one volume for the first time and is fully illustrated with photographs, news cuttings and engravings. It is bound to appeal to anyone interested in the darker side of County Durhams history.
Steve Fielding is a former professional musician who toured Europe on many occasions, notably with 70s punk band The Stiffs. After several spells touring with an Elvis Presley stage show, he formed The Lost Boys in 1992, a band he still performs regularly with in and around Bolton. As a writer he has contributed to a number of crime publications including The Criminologist, True Crime and Master Detective. His first major work was The Hangman's Record, a trilogy detailing the history of capital punishment in the UK between 1868 and 1964. The best-selling Murderous Bolton was released in 1994 and he has also had six other books published, including four in the Countryside Books 'Murder Casebook' series and most recently Pierrepoint: A Family of Executioners (Blake, 2006). After taking time out from writing to study for a degree in creative writing and training to become a teacher, in 2004 Steve featured in the Discovery Channel series The Executioners (just released on DVD) on which he worked as script consultant. Steve currently teaches literacy and numeracy to adults, alongside his writing.