19 May 2008
By Richard Benson
Court room proceedings of over 197,000 trials that took place in our nation’s central criminal court – the Old Bailey - have been placed online for public consumption in larger quantity than ever before.
Left: A street leading up to the Marshalsea prison
The curators describe the Old Bailey Proceedings online as being: “the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published.” The cases span over two centuries from 1674 all the way up until as recent as 1913.
While the categories of crimes searchable upon the website, including murder, robbery, breaching of the peace and forgery, may show little change in the world that we live in, the punishment for these crimes have certainly changed over time. Searchable punishment for the crimes ranges from being drawn and quartered at one end of the scale, to a branding of the cheek or enforced military naval duty at the other.
The project is a result of collaboration between the Universities of Hertfordshire and Sheffield, and the Open University and was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Big Lottery Fund.
Thanks to the expansion of this online crime bible, that was initially established in 2004, we are now able to see what the good folk of Southwark were accused of being up to all those years ago…
Killed with a fatal blow from wooden stretcher
James Scott, resident of the Parish of St. Olaves, Southwark, was accused of the murder of one John Barnes, on the 29 June 1694. He was indicted for striking him on the right side of the head, near to the forehead, with a wooden stretcher. The blow was fatal and the victim died of his wounds the same day.
The incident took place on the Thames, whilst the victim was rowing some women across to St. Mary Ovaries. The accused claimed that he was only acting in retaliation to being hit with an oar by the victim.
Mr Scott said that he was ‘heartily sorry’ for what he had done and that he had no intent of malice towards Mr Barnes. The jury found him guilty of manslaughter on 28 August 1695, punishable by branding.
‘Intended to maim and disable the victim’
John Cussell, 48, went before the Old Bailey, on 15 June 1835, accused of three counts of breaching the peace by wounding.
On the first count Mr Cussell was charged with ‘unlawfully, maliciously, and feloniously’ cutting the hand of Mary Brown, with the forethought to murder her. On the second count he was charged with stating his intent to maim and disable the victim. And on the third count stating his intent to do her some grievously bodily harm.
The incident took place in a passage by St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Bermondsey, on 28 May of the same year. Mr Cussell had been drinking when he used a piece of brick to wound the victim. He admitted having a vicious dispute with Ms Brown, but denied attempting to cause her such harm. He pleaded with the court for mercy but was sentenced to death on the third count of breaching the peace.
Deserted his colours by getting ship to Holland
Richard Cane, of the Parish of St. George Southwark, was tried on 6 April 1687 for the royal offence of deserting his colours, whilst in the Company of Capt. Brewer and in the Regiment of the Honorable Sir Edward Hales.
He was accused of desertion by boarding a ship bound for Holland, on 28 October 1686, whilst enjoying the ‘Cloaths, Arms, and the advantage of the Kings Pay’.
Mr Cane pleaded that he was ignorant of the law in this case and that he knew no better. He was found guilty by jury and sentenced to death.
Causing nuisance with his manure factory
William Burgess, a manure factory owner in Bermondsey, was accused on 6 July 1857 of three counts of causing a common nuisance to the public.
John Chalice, medical officer for the parish of Bermondsey, reported that after several visits to the factory between March and April he certified that the property and consequently its owner Mr Burgess were a nuisance that was ‘injurous to health’.
Heaps of dried bones including ears, tongues and nosepieces of animals were found on the sight. Also, vapour, created by the process of extracting meat from the bones, was seen to be ‘hanging over the ground for a considerable distance from the premises’, to the detriment of the surrounding environment.
The accused was acquitted of the first two counts, but found guilty on the third - with the jury recommending that the extractors be made perfectly airtight. Sureties were ordered to be paid.
It’s not bigamy - he is a hermaphrodite
Katherine Jones, otherwise known as Katherine Nowland, was accused in court, on 3 September 1719, of bigamy for marrying Constantine Boone in April 1718, whilst still being married to John Nowland.
The accused was married to Mr Nowland, by Dr Talbony, on 27 April 1713, at a private house in Blue-Ball Alley, Southwark, and later to Mr Boone in April 1719 at the same location.
Ms Jones did not deny her two marriages, but claimed in her defence that the first she married ‘was no Man, and therefore could not be a Husband.’ John Nowland was a hermaphrodite, and according to Nowland’s birth mother, her child was more predominantly male than female.
Ms Jones was acquitted.
No comments have been posted.
RAILTON ROAD SE24,
Leasehold, For Sale
TEA TRADE WHARF SE1, £1,295,000 , For Sale
TOWER BRIDGE WHARF E1W, £550 , per week, For Sale
PROVIDENCE SQUARE SE1, £1,600,000 , For Sale