Embezzlement, theft, burglary, pickpocketing and begging: all these crimes and more are to be found in the records of Bath prisoners whose portraits have just been put online by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Record Office.
This ‘rogues gallery’ of photographs was created by Bath Police between 1892 and 1922 to help them recognize known criminals and repeat-offenders in our city. Other details are given such as offenders’ age and physical appearance.
So in 1911 we find “Oliver Love: medium build, dark brown hair and moustache, successively convicted of stealing ducks & fowl; a pair of boots; an overcoat; a fowl (again); and finally an umbrella.” For each of these crimes he was sentenced to several months hard labour in prison.
Fraudsters and confidence-tricksters were also at large in Bath society until brought to book and their ‘mug-shots’ added to Police files. In 1894 Frank Albert Smith was charged with embezzlement; his photograph, bizarrely, shows him dressed as a knight in armour.
Many offenders were smartly dressed, and were convicted of ‘false pretences’. No doubt their apparent respectability helped them lure their prey. Among those convicted are Alfred Mitchell, mining engineer; Cyril Dudley Vincent, music-hall artist; and Samuel Zucker (alias Edward Von Dalwick and Baron Jules Mercy).
Colin Johnston, Principal Archivist at Bath & North east Somerset Council’s Record Office, comments: “People researching their family history are very excited by criminal ancestors. They would far rather find a ‘black sheep’ than aristocracy or royalty. We hope this new online resource on our website will be a big hit with anyone looking at family or social history in Bath.”
You can search for your family name and see photographs from the Prisoners Portraits on the Bath Ancestors database via the Council’s Bath Record Office website www.batharchives.co.uk.