Harry Worsfold (1839 -1939): The Life and Times Of a Gentleman Of Surrey

Janet Hilderley’s biography of her great grandfather is a poignant tribute to a man who lived his life against a backdrop of intense social change. Born in 1839 Harry Worsfold witnessed a public hanging, recalled throwing stones at passing coaches and ringing the bell at his local church when the Duke of Wellington’s state funeral was held. He lived through World War 1 and died in 1939, sixteen days shy of his one hundredth birthday.

Paperback: 176 Pages

Language: English

Format: Paperback

Reviewed By Juliette Foster
“Janet Hilderly’s affectionate biography is a touching portrait of an extraordinary man”


Harry Worsfield, who died in 1939, was an ordinary, everyday man whose life was replete with memories of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

At the age of eleven his parents took him to the Surrey village of Albury for a day out to witness the execution of the convicted child killer John Keene. Such was the strength of feeling about the case that one of Harry’s older brothers applied for the hangman’s job! Reminiscences like this were typical of a man who lived through the First World War, and who rang the bell at a local church when the Duke of Wellington’s funeral was being held in London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Harry’s prodigious memory along with his great age (he missed his one hundredth birthday by sixteen days), made him a legend in his home and community. Janet Hilderley, his great grand-daughter, has done an impressive job telling the story of a fascinating man who lived his life against a backdrop of powerful social and economic change. A book that will appeal to anyone with an interest in English social history.

Reviewed by Juliette Foster

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