Joseph “Samson” Besford lived at 24 Henry Street in Hendon, Sunderland.
A self-styled strongman, Samson’s hobby was collecting and lifting mangles.
In 1935, Pathé News came to film him eating lightbulbs, having a concrete block smashed over his head with a mell [a wooden mallet as used by masons], and having two tug-of-war teams pull at either side of his neck with a rope. This was uploaded to YouTube in 2014 by British Pathé:
Samson Besford was even featured in The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday 12 December 1950.
Much-run-over Strong Man Gets Damages
LONDON, Dec. 11.
Joseph (“Samson”) Besford, 51-year-old Durham strong man, who used to let a three-ton lorry full of men run over his chest has been awarded £85 compensation because a lorry ran over him accidentally.
Before the accident Besford Iet people break bricks on his head with hammers, allowed 16 men to play tug-o-war with a rope twisted round his neck, and ate electric light bulbs, according to the “Sunday Pictorial.”
Now he has written to radio star Wilfred Pickles asking help in finding a wife.
“No woman need be afraid,” he says. “A real strong man can be twisted round the little finger of any woman.”
In 2015, a mural was painted on Athol Road in Hendon, Sunderland, depicting Samson Besford. The boys being lifted are other local figures who were part of his story.
A number of Sunderland figures have had streets named after them, and Besford Grove in Hendon pays tribute to Samson Besford.