Category Archives: Offending

Artful

Theatre Royal, Launceston Tasmania, Monday 27 July 1874 Joshua Artis elbows his way through the milling bodies to stake his place in the centre of the pit. Expertly he balances his beer without spilling a drop, winking at the ladies in their fancy frocks and ribbing the fellas he meets down the taverns.[1] Cheers and […]
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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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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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Reading between the Lines

3 December 1839 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. John King is chanting a verse from Matthew 5. His words disappear into the drone of a dozen boys and men, as the prisoners mumble their lines, heads bent over passages copied for them in the teacher’s careful letters. […]
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Convict Lads 1836-46: Friendship and Survival

This is a version of papers I gave at the European Social Science History Conference (Vienna 2014) and the British Crime Historians Symposium (Liverpool 2014). It explores what we can learn from multiple historical records about the friendship networks and survival strategies of boys and young men, transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1830s […]
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