On this day … 28 February 1846

Mugshots of a Victorian child offender
Similar punishments were still being meted out to children at the end of the century: https://victorian-supersleuth.com/the-plight-of-a-child-housebreaker/

The Preston Chronicle carried a report of a day’s proceedings before the county magistrates in the town that opens a window on how justice was meted out in Victorian Preston. Among the JPs on the bench was the vicar of Preston, the Rev John Owen Parr.

Interestingly, the paper recorded the level of literacy of the persons charged, placing them in one of four categories: illiterate, poor literacy, literate, or possessing a ‘superior education’. Twenty six individuals were brought to court that day. Fourteen were illiterate, eleven had poor literacy, none was deemed to have good literacy skills. The literacy level of one individual was not recorded.

Some of the sentences, which were all for petty offences involving property, are shocking by today’s standards. Robert Blezzard, aged just eleven, was sentenced to a month’s solitary confinement and a whipping for stealing a pair of shoes. John Hacking, who the court accepted was insane, was jailed for a year for stealing two cruets and two spoons.

Four persons were sentenced to seven years’ transportation for stealing the following: a flannel singlet; some linen; seven shillings and six pence; a coat. All the jail terms save one were with hard labour, several included the addition of a whipping or solitary confinement, or both.

The Preston House of Correction was often cited as a model prison at this period and its chaplain, the Rev John Clay, hailed, then and now, as a prison reformer. Yet, he was the man who accused Preston’s working class mothers of murdering their babies to claim the insurance money.

The Preston Chronicle report

(Explanation. n. neither read nor write; imp. read, or read and write imperfectly; well. both well; sup. superior education.)

Andrew R. Rennie, 45 (imp.), pleaded not guilty to a charge of having stolen … a coat, a waistcoat, a knife and a piece of iron … Guilty. Two months’ hard labour …

Joseph Jackson, 29 (n.), and Catherine Stephenson, 28 (n.), were charged with stealing a horse cloth [and] … Stephenson pleaded guilty and Jackson not guilty. … Not guilty on the first indictment, and guilty on the second. Jackson two months, and Stephenson four months’ hard labour …

John Calderbank, 21 (n.), pleaded guilty to … stealing … 19s. 4d. and one handkerchief … four months’ hard labour …

Robert Bleazard, 11 (n.), pleaded guilty, to … stealing … a pair of shoes, … One month solitary confinement and to be once wipped.

Sarah Egerton, 22 (n,), pleaded guilty to …stealing … a palr of stockings, a silver teaspoon, a night shirt, a towel, a piece of calico, a bunch of keys, a quantity of fruit, two dried tongues, two pieces of ham, a quantity of dripping, … Two months’ hard labour

Ann Pollard, 26 (n.), pleaded guilty to stealing, … two blankets, a cloak, an umbrella, a shirt, and a pair of boots. Six months’ hard labour …

Daniel Tattersall, 19 (imp.), pleaded guilty to … stealing, … a duck, … three months’ hard labour …

William Whittaker, 16 (imp.), pleaded guilty to stealing two trowels … Two months’ hard labour, the first and last three weeks in solitary confinement.

Henry Yates, 59 (n.), pleaded guilty to stealing 26 brass steps … Two months’ hard labour …

Mary Duerden [literacy not recorded] pleaded guilty to stealing a cloak … Two months’ hard labour …

Whittaker Taylor, 16 (n.), pleaded guilty to breaking into and entering [a] dwelling-house … and stealing therefrom 4½d. One month solitary confinement, and to be once severely whipped.

John Slater, 22 (n.), pleaded guilty to obtaining some articles of mourning, under false pretences … Four months’ hard labour

James Wilson, 32 (imp.), pleaded not guilty to … stealing an oil cloth cart cover… not guilty.

John Hacking, 49 (imp.), pleaded not guilty to … stealing two cruets and two spoons … he was at times subject to fits of insanity, and was in one of those fits at the time of the commission of the felony. The Chairmen … remarked to the jury, that whatever verdict … the prisoner would most likely be sent to the Lunatic Asylum. Verdict, ‘Guilty,’ 12 months’ imprisonment in Lancaster Castle.

Thomas Higgins, 26, (n.), and Charles Hodson, 16, (imp.), pleaded guilty to having stolen … some Jewellery … 2 months each …, the first and last weeks solitary confinement, and each to be severely whipped

Lawrence Lord, 34, (imp.), charged with stealing … one penny belonging to John Driver, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment … the first and last weeks solitary confinement, and during that time to be severely whipped.

John Gaskell, 35, (n.), pleaded guilty to … stealing … a shirt …, 2 months’ imprisonment … the first and last weeks Solitary confinement, and to be severely whipped

John Robinson, 26, (n.), was transported for7 years, for stealing a flannel singlet, the property of William Grundy, of Preston.

Ann Marshall, 17, (imp.), was transported for the space of 7 years, for stealing some linen, the property of Richard Balderston, of Blackburn.

Thomas Kelly, 29, (imp.), pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing a pair of boots … 1 month solitary confinement and to be once severely whipped

John Smith, 17, (n.), pleaded guilty to … stealing seven shillings and six-pence, the property of Thomas Shorrock, of Blackburn, transported for 7 years

Mary Catton, 58 (n.), was found guilty and sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment, with hard labour … for stealing a piece of Linsey …

Robert Isherwood, 22 (imp.), pleaded not guilty to breaking and entering the shop of Thomas Booth, and stealing therefrom two pieces of cloth. Verdict—guilty. Six months’ imprisonment … once whipped.

Joseph Cooper, 31 (imp.), pleaded not guilty to stealing a coat. Guilty. Transportation for 7 years

Jane Brown, 59 (n.), pleaded not guilty to … receiving and concealing a quantity of cloth, knowing the same to have been stolen. Verdict—not guilty.

Image source: https://victorian-supersleuth.com/the-plight-of-a-child-housebreaker/

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