Back when you got three months hard labour for stealing a loaf of bread: Website sheds light on Vale’s criminal past (and VERY tough sentences)


A family history website has launched a new collection of more than half a million criminal records dating from 1817 to 1931. teamed up with the National Archives and spent two years scanning and transcribing original records.

Included in the records are many past crooks from the Vale – and what is noticeable is how tough the sentences are compared to those which are handed out today.

A roll from 1868 lists 26-year-old labourer John Newman, who was sentenced to three months hard labour for stealing a pair of boots and a loaf of bread from a house in Bierton.

Another labourer sent down for three months was John Payne, 44, who was convicted of ‘stealing two fowls, the property of Joseph Elliott, his master, at Wendover’.

In 1880 John Kimble pleaded guilty to ‘unlawfully and by false pretences obtaining from George King 4oz of tobacco, value 11d’ in Winslow. He was sentenced to six weeks hard labour.

A notable inmate of Aylesbury Prison is also listed in the records.

Florence Elizabeth Maybrick was convicted of murdering her violent husband James in 1889 and was sentenced to penal servitude for life having originally been sentenced to death.

In an interview printed in The Bucks Herald after she had served seven years at Aylesbury she described how she was not allowed to touch any visitors, even her mother. She was woken at 5.30am and worked in the prison library repairing books. Her only food was dry bread.