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Posts Tagged ‘Crime in the Regency Era’

George Barrington, Convicts Arriving at Botany Bay

In the Regency Underworld, written by Donald A. Low, there is a detailed and poignant description of the thousands of poor young boys and girls encouraged to thieve for a living by corrupt and older individuals. Many tiny, but hardened criminals that were caught were transported to penal servitude in Botany Bay in Australia, but many were sentenced to death while still in their teens. In some ways, today’s children in third world countries lead very similar lives.

Thomas Vance, a magistrate from the Union hall police office, whose district include Bermondsey, Brixton, Tooting, and Vauxhall, claimed that many children were deserted by their parents, or badly neglected; poverty was partly to blame, p. 59.

Philip Holdsworth, Marshal of London, responded to this question by Grey Bennet’s committee:

What are the offences that are principally committed by the children? —

Picking pockets; taking things off, on their hands and knees, from shops, such as haberdashers and linen-drapers,; in the winter-time, with a knife at the corner of the glass starring it, and taking things out, which has occasioned the tradespeople having so many guard irons; but still there are shops not so guarded, and they can find opportunities of continually robbing: Boys upon all occasions, when there is any thing which excites a crowd, are very active, and many of them extermely clever; they are short and active, and are generally attended by men, p 60.

To read more on the topic, go to:

Crime and Punishment in Durham, 1750-1900

The History of Crime in England, 1550-1914

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“The Bow Street Runners were the earliest form of detective force operating from the courts to enforce the decisions of magistrates… In 1763 John Fielding introduced the Bow Street horse patrol to make the highways around London safer. Funding lasted for only 18 months. He also became responsible for street lighting and lamp posts in an eighteenth century initiative similar to more modern moves to link street lighting with crime prevention.” Click here for more on this topic.

“One other action which brought about a reduction in crime was the revival in 1805 of the Bow Street Horse Patrol. This consisted of about sixty men whose duty it was to protect travellers on the principal roads whithin sixty miles of London. They were selected with care, and many had previously served in a cavalry regiment. On the main roads, as far out as Epsom, Romford, Enfield and Windsor they created confidence with their clearly spoken greeting, ‘Bow Street Patrol.’ Their single most successful achievement was to rid Houndslow Heath of highwaymen.” From The Regency Underworld, by Donald A. Low.

Quoted from: The Bow Street Runners, Devon and Constabulatory Site:

“When Henry Fielding retired, his half-brother Sir John Fielding took over at Bow Street Court. Sir John had been blind since birth and was known as ‘The Blind Beak’, but despite being blind he was reputed to have known over 3,000 criminals by the sound of their voices. Sir John formed the Bow Street Horse Patrol, men armed with truncheon, cutlass and pistol. These men patrolled London in an area within six miles of Charing Cross and became a familiar sight in their leather hats, blue coats with brass buttons, blue trousers and boots. They too were very successful at their job and eventually rid London of highwaymen. The government decided that they were no longer needed so the Horse Patrol was disbanded – with the result that the Highwaymen returned!”

More about Bow Street Runners

Book Reviews: High and Low in Regency England

Policing in London Before the Bobbies

The History of Policing: The Bow Street Runner

More about Bow Street Runners on the Jane Austen’s World site

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