The crimes of Hartlepool’s 1900s - including ‘damage to growing turnips’

The Central Library team, Jane Downer, Christine Clarke and  Amanda Watson-Ruthford, have researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS
The Central Library team, Jane Downer, Christine Clarke and Amanda Watson-Ruthford, have researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

An intriguing study on crime in Victorian Hartlepool has been compiled by hard-working library staff.

And any inquisitive member of the public - with an interest in the history of the town, or in genealogy - can take a look.

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

Central Library staff, in York Road, have spent weeks examining everything from criminals of the early 1900s, to the implements used to arrest them.

They looked at daring crimes, newspaper cuttings, old photographs of convicts and street maps of the town.

Library Officer Sandra McKay said: “We did it as a project. There was a display in the town and we thought we would do our own research on it.

“It proved to be popular with the public. Crime sells.”

We did it as a project. There was a display in the town and we thought we would do our own research on it. It proved to be popular with the public. Crime sells

Sandra McKay

She said the new information is available for anyone to view and the library has its own reference section. “We do get quite a lot of people who say things like’that’s my great grandfather. Where can I get a copy of it?’

The Mail has taken its own look at some of the research and here are a few highlights;

* A Northern Daily Mail cutting from 1907 looks at a “daring burglary” at the Grand Theatre, West Hartlepool.

Thieves hid under seats until the theatre shut and then raided the safe, drawers and every dressing room. As well as the takings, they took one actor’s stage trousers and scattered chocolates everywhere.

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

But more astonishingly, they left behind their own boots becuse they found some which were better.

They attacked their old boots with a knife before arranging them in a neat pile outside the manager’s office.

Eight days later, three men appeared in court charged with warehouse-breaking after one of them tried to sell the clothes at a Hebburn pawnbrokers.

* Research showed prisoners used to be punished by walking a tread wheel.

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

This looked like a water mill but prisoners had to walk up each paddle as the step below fell away. They would do it for 15 minutes and then rest for five before starting again.

They would complete up to 16,000 ft a day - more than half the height of Mount Everest.

* Three juveniles aged 12, 12 and 11 appeared at West Hartlepool Juvenile Court in July 1913 charged with theft of trousers from a rag and bone merchant. passing sentence, the Mayor said the main culprit should have six strokes with the birch rod.

The boy’s mother said her son was errant and shouted ‘give him ten!’ as a deterrent.

* Another excerpt looked at some of the crimes listed before magistrates between 1900 and 1916.

They included ‘being a wandering lunatic’, ‘damage to growing turnips’, and ‘assaulting a bailiff.’

An excerpt from the Northern Daily Mail on the "daring burglary" at the Empire Theatre, Hartlepool.

An excerpt from the Northern Daily Mail on the "daring burglary" at the Empire Theatre, Hartlepool.

Anyone wanting to take a look at the research for themselves should contact the reference library on (01429) 242909.

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

The Central Library team has researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

The Central Library team, Jane Downer, Christine Clarke and  Amanda Watson-Ruthford, have researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS

The Central Library team, Jane Downer, Christine Clarke and Amanda Watson-Ruthford, have researched Hartlepool crime from around 100 years ago. Picture: TOM BANKS