Keepers & Prisoners
William was a casualty of the industrial revolution. Like so many skilled textile workers, he was put out of work by the new machinery and found himself siding with the Luddites – machine-breaking radicals. An informer pointed him out as the leader of a mob that raided a farmhouse for guns and William was arrested. Panicked at the exploits of such gangs, the magistrates were determined to make an example of William and his companions...
Simon was a troublemaker. Apprenticed to a wheelwright, bound for a skilled trade, he became instead a 19th century lager lout. On one escapade he and his friends broke into a house one night to steal some breakfast. He was caught with a boiled egg in his pocket, charged with burglary and found guilty. Would he hang as a thief or would the court be merciful – at least by the standards of 1829...?
Born in Essex, Dick trained as a butcher but found a more profitable career in crime. After a murder, he fled to York under an alias but he was soon back to his old ways. A drunken escapade saw him arrested and his history of theft discovered. On 22 March 1739, 'John Palmer alias Richard Turpin' was dragged, without a lawyer, before a jury and charged with horse theft...
Not all the crooks were behind bars! Thomas Ward, the Turnkey – responsible for the Prison’s daily running – was a bully and an extortionist, forcing prisoners to buy food and drink at inflated prices from him. Matters came to ahead in 1709 when prisoners signed a petition against his “inhumane and unchristian” behaviour. Would his career survive...?
Mary was accused of killing her first baby – a crime which, in 1706, would have seen her hang. While awaiting trial, however, she became pregnant again, most likely by Thomas Ward, the Turnkey. She was allowed to live in the Prison with the child, named ‘Thomas’. In 1710 Mary was pardoned and free to go, but what would happen to young Tom?
Not a convict but the Keeper, Master Woodhouse hoped to make a large profit out of running the Prison – but he was disappointed. The running costs were far higher than he expected and the final straw came with the escape of 21 prisoners in 1732. Paying for their recapture drove him deep into debt and he was forced to ask the magistrates for help...
William was a debtor… as, indeed, was his mother. In fact, they found themselves in the Prison at the same time, in 1741. By all accounts, William was a proud, touchy man with a short temper – a temper that was to bring him even more trouble when he arrived in prison...
Married to John Boardingham - a convicted smuggler - Elizabeth fell for another man. When her husband got out of prison, her lover, Thomas Aikney, murdered him. Elizabeth was found guilty of arranging the crime. In 1776 this was considered Petty Treason - and the sentence she faced was particularly brutal...