The history of the Besfords

Samson Besford

Sunderland Strongman Joseph Samson Besford

Joseph “Samson” Besford lived at 24 Henry Street in Hendon, Sunderland.

A self-styled strongman, Samson’s hobby was collecting and lifting mangles.

Samson Besford holding mangles
Samson Besford

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.

Mural of Samson Besford
Mural of Samson Besford, Athol Road, Hendon, Sunderland by Grafters’ Gables

A number of Sunderland figures have had streets named after them, and Besford Grove in Hendon pays tribute to Samson Besford.

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