A fascinating insight into crime and punishment in Victorian Sheffield has been revealed for the first time by a dedicated team of city historians.
Visitors to Sheffield Archives can go back in time to an era when horse-drawn carriages clattered through the streets, ‘ye olde’ inns were filled with drunkards and pickpockets, Queen Victoria ruled England and Jack the Ripper terrorised Whitechapel.
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The grisly fates of 7,000 thieves and fraudsters are revealed in an online ‘Calendar of Prisoners’ compiled by the Sheffield and District Family History Society.
It looks at prisoners who appeared before the notoriously unforgiving Court of Quarter sessions between 1880 and 1910.
Following each court session – usually held in January, April, July and October – details of the victim, the defendant’s age, address, their crime and punishment were publicised.
Crimes such as theft, assault, receiving stolen goods and fraud were rife and hard labour was often imposed for the smallest misdemeanour.
Senior archivist Cheryl Bailey said: “The Quarter Sessions and magistrates’ court heard thousands of cases every year and our records provide a fascinating insight into the hardships everyday families faced in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, where children were forced to work in factories, adults toiled in workhouses, and prostitution and petty crime was rife.
“We hope they inspire people to think about researching Sheffield’s rich history or to look into their family tree. You never know what, or who, you might find.”
Cases include Joseph Badger, a 21-year-old silversmith, who stole two boxes of crab and kippered herrings from Mark Athey in 1880 and was jailed for 18 months with hard labour.
Table blade grinder Isaac Leasley, 22, was found guilty at his trial in 1881 of stealing a goose, and imprisoned for seven years.
Anne McQueen, secretary of the Sheffield and District Family History Society, said: “This has been a fascinating project for us to work on.”