United Kingdom

Pictures of Victorian jewel thieves are among 800,000 crime records in new digital archive

Wearing identical jackets and with their hair cut short, two brothers pose for prison mugshots after being jailed for grievous bodily harm.

The brutal men, Albert and Thomas Billingham, who were aged 22 and 19 respectively, were sentenced in 1875 to five years hard labour for beating and stabbing a park warden.

Their photographs are among more than 800,000 crime and punishment records which have been digitised by ancestry website findmypast.co.uk, in association with the National Archives.

The Billingham brothers were just two convicts in the newly-available records – which date from 1784 to 1939 - who served part or all of their sentence at London's Pentonville prison.

Britons can search the archive themselves to see if their ancestors committed a criminal offence, along with any sentence they received.

Wearing identical jackets and with their hair cut short, two brothers pose for prison mugshots after being jailed for grievous bodily harm. The brutal men, Albert and Thomas Billingham, were sentenced to five years hard labour for beating and stabbing a park warden in 1875

A mugshot of jewel thief George Bellamy, who was sentenced to transportation for seven years for stealing items worth £4,000 - including three rings and five bracelets – is another highlight of the archive.

Also seen are both men and women who have been sent to a 'certified inebriate reformatory' for drinking too much.

Under the Inebriates Act 1898, people were sent to the institutions if they had been convicted of drunkenness four times in one year.

The new collection also contains details of criminal cases, jails and prison ships.

As well as Pentonville, other famous prisons covered in the latest release include Wormwood Scrubs and Newgate.

Built between 1840 to 1842, Pentonville housed criminals who had been sentenced to imprisonment or were waiting to be transported to Australia, which was then a British colony.

The Billingham brothers served part of their sentence at Pentonville prison (depicted above in 1842)

George Bellamy (left) was sentenced to transportation for seven years for stealing items worth £4,000 - including three rings and five bracelets. David Dumpleton (right), then aged 32, was sentenced to 12 years at Pentonville in 1876 for manslaughter after the brutal killing of his wife Eliza

Thomas Wiffen (left) was sentenced to 10 years hard labour in 1876 for stealing 'five live fowls and 21 ducks'. He boasted nine previous convictions, including for domestic assault. Violent serial offender Timothy Dignum (right), from Liverpool, was sentenced to seven years hard labour and five years of police supervision for a string of offences in 1876

Prisoners were held in their own individual cells and were forbidden from speaking to each other when out exercising.

The records show that the Billingham brothers, who were chain makers from Stafford, were sentenced to hard labour after 'unlawfully and maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm' upon Emmanuel Flavell.

Flavell, the keeper of the Saltwells Woods in Netherton, in the West Midlands. suffered what were described in contemporary newspaper reports as 'severe injuries' in the attack and was too weak to attend the trial of his attackers.

Other Pentonville inmates in the archive include the jewel thief Bellamy, who was sentenced to transportation after stealing jewellery from his mistress, Anne Goodwin, who he had once served as a footman.

Violent serial offender Timothy Dignum, from Liverpool, was sentenced to seven years hard labour and five years of police supervision for a string of offences in 1876.

This included the theft of trousers and a purse and one count of assault.

French serial book thief Charles Frontdier (left and right), who worked as a schoolmaster, was convicted in both 1876 and 1882 for stealing valuable books. It was in the second stint that he was sent to Pentonville and had his mugshot taken

Mary Ann Berringer, 64, was sent in 1910 to a 'certified inebriate reformatory' for three years due to her problem with alcohol. Under the Inebriates Act 1898, people were sent to the institutions if they had been convicted of drunkenness four times in one year

Lucy Anderson, aged 28, was also sent to for three years to a certified inebriate reformatory

David Dumpleton, then aged 32, was sentenced to 12 years at Pentonville in 1876 for manslaughter after the brutal killing of his wife Eliza.

Local newspaper reports revealed how Dumpleton had believed his wife was unfaithful when he killed her.

French serial book thief Charles Frontdier, who worked as a schoolmaster, was convicted in both 1873 and 1875 for stealing valuable books. 

It was in the second stint that he was sent to Pentonville and had his mugshot taken.

Thomas Wiffen was sentenced to 10 years hard labour for stealing 'five live fowls and 21 ducks'. He boasted nine previous convictions, including for domestic assault.

Wiffen had also survived an earlier stint on board the notorious prison hulk 'Europa', which was moored off the coast of British territory Gibraltar

Hulks were essentially floating prisons, often converted warships left over from the Napoleonic wars.

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