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Forum Home > Other Crimes and Punishments. > Old style " Lock ups "

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Now you may wonder, as I did, what did the do with the petty crooks of old. The answer, which was alluded to in the Worcestershire section, was a House of Correction. Until 1578, the County Assizes, were a regular feature of life in Wolverhampton, the place of detention, in 1644, 1645, and 1679, (when the practice was resumed) being the Town Hall, and the Old Monastery. Staffordshire did not have a proper prison, until 1794, when one was built in Stafford.



Wolverhampton though, did have a House of correction, although exactly where, I don't know. In July 1812, it was reported, that it contained 47 prisoners, and was close to being a bit overcrowded. Not so very different from today then. Five years later, it had either expanded, or the population were being very naughty, as it was holding 65. At the same time, there were 268 petty crooks in the County Gaol at Stafford. The result no doubt, of the " Lock'um up brigade ", and quite right too. Not all of them went to this house though. Martha Rily, was found guilty of stealing some Potatoes, in 1816, and given a years hard Labour. She was sent to Stafford, because she had a young child to look after, and yes, the child went with her. This was not the age of mercy or compassion. Nor was she the only one that year, Sarah Beddowes, got the same punishment for stealing clothes, and again, her young child went with her. In complete contrast, two Soldiers, accused, and convicted of Highway Robbery, thanks to the townsfolks petition, were reprieved from a death sentence, and Transported for life instead. Now I am not going to suggest, that the Town was overflowing with petty crooks, or that a great many shopkeepers were a bit on the bent side, but in 1813, in just one week, over 40, " honest shopkeepers ", were convicted of selling short measures. The very next year, despite this crackdown, the figure was over 80. Make of that what you will, either they ignored the penalties, or many more thought that short selling was a good idea. It was inevitable, that conditions within the House of Corrections, given the conviction rate, would get worse, and they did. An Inspection, in 1820, produced a report that said the place was in a " filthy, dirty and shameful state ", and concluded with a recommendation that it should be closed. It duly was, much to the relief, I suspect, of the Towns " honest shoopkeepers ." Not to mention putting out of work, the keeper of the house, George Roberts. Mind you, he was not a well liked man in the town, being, as they call them today, " a jobsworth ".  In 1834, the Towns Court House was in Princess Street, but with no prison, alternative arrangements had to be made. The Law Officers took the decision, to use 2 or 3 rooms at some local Public Houses, ( now that I believe, would have been a popular move ) until such time, as the miscreants would be aquitted or convicted, at which they would then be sent to Stafford. Most came back and behaved themselves, especially those with the " Wooden Overcoats ".

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 10, 2011 at 11:44 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Not many of the smaller towns had a dedicated " Lock Up ", and this caused some embarrassing moments. The local Policemen sometimes used a beerhouse for the purpose of detaining someone overnight. Not a few women ( married ones as well ) found themselves chained to a firegrate, watched overnight by a big hairy copper. ( all male ) You can imagine the distress this caused the poor creature, not to mention the very angry response from a rather irate Husband. Kingswinford had a small lock up, Stourbridge had one that housed about 6 people, but in the more populated area around Brierley Hill, there was non. Even Dudley, in the mid 1800s, had nowhere to secure prisoners overnight, before they appeared before the Magistrates the next day. It was reported that Joseph Meadows, who brutally shot Mary Ann Mason in Kates Hill, had to be chained to the Pubs fireplace, prior to being taken away to Stafford. It's said that Oldbury had a small lock up in Freeth Street, but there's nothing in the records that I can see. Back in the early part of the 1800s, one town even used the old stocks, to detain a couple of violent drunks. I bet that kept the citizens awake all night.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 26, 2011 at 2:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

By far the most wide spread type of Lock-up though, were the notorious places called " Sponge Houses ". These were places to which those who owed money were sent, the " Debtors Prisons ". Arrested on a Magistrates warrant, and executed by " Bailiff's ", the unfortunate victims, some times of just bad luck, could find themselves held until the debt was paid. Deprived of any comfort of life, food, drink clothes, and flung into a filthy room, where they stayed for anything up to a month. The bailiffs would use any means possible to extract money or goods in payment, even up to the point of snatching the clothes of the backs of wives and children. It was only neccessary for some unscrupulous scoundrel to obtain a warrant, whether or not a real debt existed, to have someone committed. Large amounts of goods and property were sized under the pretext of debt, the supposed offender, vanishing into the complex system of Houses, untracable by family and friends, even with a Court order for their release. The whole system was a minefield of deceipt and cruelty in the large Cities of this country. It was no better in the provinces either, as the penalty imposed by the Bailiffs for debt, could far exceed that of Larceny and Assault. The Lock-up below, rather resembles a War Memorial, and once again, to prevent escape. it has no windows. It's location is in Deeping St James, Lincolnshire.



How some people must have howled with indignation, when the Law was changed, and simple debt was removed from being a criminal offence to a common civil matter. From the 1830s, only if the debt was through fraud, did the matter warrant a Court appearence, and the old sponge houses cease to exist. ( One example would be the case of Thomas Mountford, in 1874. His family ran a Hay and Corn business in Newcastle-under Lyme, and in that year, they went bust, and were made bankrupt. It was later learned that he had kept hidden, over £1,800, and for this blatant fruad, he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.) The Bailiffs however, did not, and continued to use methods that today would get them a stiff sentence in Gaol. Mind you, it has been alleged, that dispite regulation, there are cases today that bring into sharp focus the power that has been vested in the system of debt collection. We all know that debt today is a serious problem, and it will of course get worse, as it did in the past, but at least today they can't throw you into a dingy room and lock the door until you pay up.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

November 16, 2012 at 11:24 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Marked on a few old maps, you can come across some odd names and places. Investigating them is a pastime that quickly change into a bit of an obsession. Take just a couple of examples, The Dungeon, marked on some old maps of West Bromwich, and Dungeon Head, a place name on a bend in High Street, Cradley, Worcestershire, near the old Parish Church, and now called Colley Lane. Both names suggest, that a lock-up of sorts was located at each spot, but no evidence to support the West Bromwich site has so far turned up. The Cradley site though, has at least got a confirmation reference, as nearby stood the old village's Stocks. Most of the inhabitants lived around this area, and way back in time, when only the upper class could read, proclamations and other items of news would be conveyed to the population from this place. It has been said, that a large stone was set in the ground at the side of this Dungeon, which had other uses besides elevating the speaker above the assembled crowd. It was locally called the Upping Stone, and was where the gentry mounted or dismounted their horses, for the only way to travel without getting muddy, was by horseback. ( make a bit of a mess of an expensive pair of fancy buckled shoes or boots, would a bit of Cradley Clay.) The rough stone building though, may very well have been a Dungeon, part of it being underground, as the nearest place to lock up a mis-behaving resident, was the one at the rear of Halesowen Poor House. The site also has a place in an historical way as well, for on this spot, on Monday 19th March,1770, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, preached to the inhabitants after a rather turbulent time around Wednesbury. He wrote in his Journal that he was well received, but it was a bitterly cold day, with a sharp north wind to chill the bones. If indeed the building was used as a lockup, it continued until about 1850, when it was demolished, and the site cleared for building work. The old stocks were consigned to the yearly festival of Bonfire Night, and the upping stone left near the Baptist Chapel. Now that old lump of sandstone, possibly from the quarry at Hasbury, stood there util 1873, when the road was widened, and then faced destruction. Living a short distance away, at Windmill Hill, was a Mr Raybould, who being an educated man, realised it was the very stone on which John Wesley had preached, and prevailed upon the council, to have it saved. The story proceeds, with a local builder, Samuel Newby, obviously with a bit of help, loading it into a wheelbarrow, and pushing it to Mr Rayboulds house at 56, Windmill Hill. It again faced an uncertain future, with the coming of more developments in 1960, and was then donated by the house's then owner, to High Town Ragged School, where I understand, it still remains. Of the old Dungeon though, there is today no trace, not even a sketch remains, unless, buried deep in the records of some local family, is to be found a mention.


There's a another little story connected to this upping stone, and concerns an old women believed to be a Witch, from Blue Ball Lane. You can read about " Ode Magic ", and her antics, by just clicking on my page on Folklore.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 2, 2012 at 11:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Most of the County of Staffordshire, up to 1830, was rural. Only the larger towns had any kind of " Lock ups ", and some of these were not very secure. Old buildings tend to be un-adaptable for such purposes, and in some cases, the men charged with staffing these places, were far from honest themselves. The one below is situated in Alton, Staffordshire, and as you can see, it has no windows, but a stout door on the other side.



The sly exchange of a few high value coins, could obtain all kinds of comforts, including the comfort of a better bed, well away from a damp prison cell. For those convicted of a capital crime, and there many crimes listed in this catergory, there was at least a hope of some freedom, if they could escape from custody. Given the poor state of many lock ups, some found it very easy. In 1739, two convicted men, ( it isn't listed what they did ) John Goodwin, and Lawrence Roberts, escaped from a prison. The law called this, " being at large ", and capture would mean dangling at the end of a rope, even if the original offence wasn't a hanging matter. There are no clues as to where these men came from, and no ages given either, but their fate is certainly recorded. At the Stafford Assizies on the 1st August 1740, they were sentenced to death. Less than a week later, they were the main characters in the ' entertainment ' provided at Sandyford, south of the town. Nor was it just the men who managed to escape either, for in 1742, Henry Manwaring and Elizabeth Woodward, were finally apprehended in a twon in the County. It's believed, they were what today would be called " distraction burglars", and they ended up as an attraction on the gallows, in a double hanging. You would have thought, that once free, and on the run, these convicted felons, would have put as much distance as possible between themselves and Stafford. Not so it would seem, for Edward Perry was caught and hanged in 1743, John Taylor, suffered the same fate in 1744. They must have tightened up the system from then on, and sent the offenders directly to Staffords old building, for the next one to pay the full price was William Anderson, in August, 1755. Now as you know, Staffordshire is a big county, and those named could have come from almost anywhere. But if they appear in your family tree, you may want to search a little deeper, for everyone it seems, wants a little bit of a rogue to add to it..

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 3, 2013 at 11:41 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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