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Crime and Legal Articles

Church Courts

Church Courts

The Church Courts exercised great power over rural life until 1860. They dealt not only with church affairs, but with matters affecting the whole life - marriage, -slander, drunkenness, schools, witchcraft, trading on Sundays and failing to observe Holy Days. Offenders were brought to the notice of the Church Court by a presentment made by the churchwarden, and the Court possessed the power of enforcement.......


An Eccentric Magistrates

An Eccentric Magistrates

Sir Thomas Phillips of Broadway.

'The worlds greatest book collector' In 1843, Sir Thomas, himself a magistrate, was fined at the local sessions for assaulting a tax collector. Shortly afterwards he was invited to appear in an engraved portrait group of Worcestershire Magistrates, by Richard Dighton. He wrote....


The Justices of the Peace

The Justices of the Peace

The chief agents of local government were the Justices of the Peace. They were unpaid, local gentlemen with considerable power and position. They dealt with all aspects of daily life, from crime and its punishment, through the endless disputes over poor relief, bastardy, unlawful gaming and drunkenness, to the licensing of  alehouses and the state roads and bridges. From Tudor times they played the central..... 


Changes in Police Uniform

Changes in Police Uniform

The top hat and swallowed-tail jacket were disregarded in favour of a helmet and tunic like those worn today. Re-equipment started in 1864, but not completed until the following year. The original uniform was chosen to be as .... 


Queen Street Police Station

Queen Street Police Station

In 1838, the old Militia Depot on the corner of Queen Street and St Nicholas Street was converted into a proper police headquarters. It had police hoses for an inspector and a constable, but parts were let out to tradesmen as a warehouse. There was little sanitary arrangements, and not until the second Cholera scare in 1849 were water closets erected in the depot. It appears that County prisoners were brought....


The First Police Force

Under the Worcester Improvement Act of 1823, which dealt with the lighting, paving and watching of the City, eight watchmen were appointed to work in parishes, all operating from the Watch House which was adjoined to City Gaol in Union Street, under the direction of the Gaol Governor, William Griffiths, who regarded his post......


Police Raid in 1822

Police Raid in 1822

That some attempt was made to clear the City of undesirables is shown in a report of 1822: 'Police made a raid at an early hour and visited certain obscure lodging houses in the City, and apprehended .... 


The Watch, or Charlies & the 'Lambs'

The Watch, or Charlies & the 'Lambs'

In most towns, night-man, known as 'Charlies', with warning rattles, kept an effective watch. They were often old, and always poorly paid, and there were complaints that when trouble started they were quick to avoid it and go to the other way. In rural districts the public .....


The Police - The Beginnings

The Police - The Beginnings

Crime in the first half of the 19th century was a very grave problem. The Watch, though called the Police, consisted of parish constables under the occasional direction of a magistrate. There was no police force in the modern sense of the word until the 1830s, and crime most went unpunished. The authorities....


Rushock Witch Trial, 1660

Rushock Witch Trial, 1660

It is recorded in the registers of Rushock Church of 1660, that Joan Bibb, at the instigation of the person, The Rev. William Shaw, was ordered to be tried and thrown into a pond as a witch, to prove...


Trial By Water

Trial By Water

Perhaps the most remarkable local survival of 'legal custom' was at Red Marley D'Abitot, a Worcestershire village before its transfer to Gloucestershire. William Lygon, the first Earl Beauchamp, was riding through his constituency in the 1820s, when he ......


A Tyrant Judge

A Tyrant Judge

The legal power of the Judge was great, and some let this be known clearly, Judge Hawkins, for instance was a tyrant in his court, and always refused to have any window open. The Mayor of Worcester was visibly... 


The Arrival of the Judge of Assize & Mrs Henry Woods 'The Channings'

The Arrival of the Judge of Assize & Mrs Henry Woods 'The Channings'

With the passing of the Courts Act of 1971, a form of justice which had existed for some 800 years, came to an end with the abolition of the Assizes. Usually twice a year, the Queen's Judge's set out from London and took the ...... 


The Arrival of the Judge of Assize

The Arrival of the Judge of Assize

With the passing of the Courts Act of 1971, a form of justice which had existed for some 800 years, came to an end with the abolition of the Assizes. Usually twice a year, the Queen's Judge's set out from London and took the ...... 


Escape from the City Gaol

Escape from the City Gaol

Version of the escape published in Berrows Worcester Journal 31.3.1951 which reads as follows:

'On one occasion a prisoner escaped from the prison. He climbed down from his cell by means of a rope of knotted blankets, and broke into the Governor's house and stole some of his silver. Years after, my grandfather met the man again, and got the whole story out of him... 


Courts at the Hundred House & at Cutnall Green

Courts at the Hundred House & at Cutnall Green

At the Hundred House at Great Witley there is still a Justices Room, for the inn occupied the site of the Hundred Courts of Doddingtree. It was built by Lord Foley, and was first used as a magistrates court in 1790. It was last used as such in 1872. The old cells under the building were later used a s a weigh-bridge. At Cutnall Green...... 


Worcestershire 'County Court' held College St. Inns

Worcestershire 'County Court' held College St. Inns

Before 1835 the parish of St. Michael's was out of the City's boundaries and jurisdiction. Both the Talbot and the Hare & Hounds were widely  used for County business, having all the amenities of the town, but officially out of it. The holding of the unreformed Court at the ...... 


The Custom of 'Borough English'

The Custom of 'Borough English'

Customs varied from Manor to Manor, and in some cases, the heir may not have been the eldest son. When this was so, the custom was known as 'Borough English', which was based on the ancient law of Mercheta, which gave to the Lord of the Manor, what was known as..... 


The Worcester Court of Common Pleas

The Worcester Court of Common Pleas

The Worcester Court of Common Pleas had its origin as long ago as 1554. The original charter of Philip and Mary gave the Court cognizance of all pleas whatsoever, and constituted a Court of Record to be held weekly. Also, a charter of James 1 provided for 'all manner of pleas', actions, suits and demands, as well ......


Courts held at Inns

Courts held at Inns

The practice of the gaoler selling drinks ceased with the building of the new Guildhall, and led to the Justices of the Peace adjoining to a nearby inn. The King's Head and the Golden Lion in High Street was widely used, but for the County Justices there was convenience in dealing with the minor cases at the Talbot Inn in the Cathedral precincts. Until 1835, the Cathedral area was outside the.....


Courts & Judges

Courts & Judges

For centuries, the Courts of Justice were held at the Town Hall, At Worcester, it was long been called the Guildhall. The original Hall was a timber-framed building with the body of the Hall open to the roof, with the Courts of Justice at opposite ends of the Hall, facing each other. Adjoining one of the Courts was the Gaoler's house, who was allowed to sell liquors to such of the prisoners as could afford to pay. The prison block was under the Hall, and was reserved for 'citizen' criminals, while .......


Ancient Assize Records

Ancient Assize Records

The earliest documents of Assize in the London Records Offices are those of Worcestershire. They date back to 1221. Assizes a word meaning sitting or session, is but a variant of a term which has been applied to judicial systems in Scotland and a number of European countries. There were Assizes of civil jurisdiction....