Author Archives: conviction19c

Very poor and respectable

Sarah Martin’s sitting room. New Year’s Eve, 1839 Eleanor Simmonds looks tired but chatters away as Miss Martin bounces her baby daughter on her knees, trying to coax a smile. She’s left the Factory and gone back to binding shoes. The money’s not so good but she can work at home while she minds the […]
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From Caister to Yarmouth Gaol

August 1818 I follow the dressmaker as she slips quietly out of the house and heads towards the coastal path that will take her to Yarmouth Gaol. She has longed for this day when her vocation will begin. The project seems such a visionary one. She dares not admit to anyone her desire to visit […]
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The smuggler’s return

5 February 1840 Charles Lewis Redwood stands at the helm, steering the St Leonard into the Yare. He remembers the tightening of his stomach the last time he watched Yarmouth coming into view, shackled with his men aboard the Admiralty cutter as his sloop, the Nancy, was towed into port. Deftly, he slips the St […]
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Style, Story, History

  ‘Crafting metaphors is dangerous for historians’ proposes Will Pooley. We are wary of metaphor—and other stylistic devices too—because the ‘clarification and illustration’ we use to build historical analysis might ‘fade into simplification and emplotment’—into chronology and cliché—narrative history, God forbid, rather than conceptualization and nuanced interpretation.   But Will is being provocative, for even […]
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The image of grief

Great Yarmouth Quarter Sessions, the Tolhouse, 23 June 1841 Head bowed, William John Jarvis grips the wooden stand to steady himself. His legs almost give way as the Recorder reads out the charges for embezzling letters from the Postmaster General. The postman has dreaded the trial since his arrest in March.[1] Yet he has longed for […]
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“I have a right to think as I like”

Great Yarmouth Borough Gaol. The Men’s Ward. 2 February 1841 Why are your lessons not learnt? The prisoners shuffle sullenly. Francis James can bare it no longer. She knows the reason. They’ve had no pens or paper. Not since the note was thrown into the female ward three days ago.[1] He leaps to his feet. I want […]
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Mewing like cats

The Infirmary, Great Yarmouth Gaol May 1837 The Gaoler catches the two young women leaning out of the infirmary window, flirting with the men in the airing yard below. They jump down hastily when he shouts their names.[1] It’s three weeks since Elizabeth Humphrey complained of being sick and was dispatched to the infirmary room, […]
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Plain work and stolen finery

February 1837 They find Sarah Rands in the taproom at the Sir Samuel Hood, laughing and drinking with a group of girls, teasing their jovial admirers. Her hazel eyes sparkle under a green velvet bonnet that frames her flushed cheeks, tied at the chin with silk ribbon bows. A few dark curls escape and nestle […]
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Have mercy on your dear child

Sunday 2 August 1818 Jemima Emmerson takes time between chores to sit on her step, cradling baby George in her arms, and soaking in the warm afternoon sunshine streaming into the yard. She listens out for her husband John to come strolling back from the alehouse, rested and jolly after a hard week labouring. Little […]
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Conviction: opening scenes

Great Yarmouth Borough Gaol, House of Correction dayroom February 1842   Have you never heard the words “Thou shalt not steal?” The young boy will not meet the teacher’s gaze. His eyes drift across the prison ward to the other boys, burying their faces in their books and suppressing the urge to giggle. Her voice […]
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