Victorian values – punishment

‘Victorian values’ are something that get trotted out in British politics every decade or so, as something to aspire (back) to. This post touches on the ‘value’ they placed on certain crimes, as shown by the punishments handed out for them.

The following cases perhaps give a further idea of what you could expect if you were up before magistrates in the 1860s and 1870s.

I have touched before on sentences (punishments) for crimes in Victorian times. The post on William Pinder touches on transportation. And there is this post on the treadmill.

The two members of the Pears family named are related to each other: an uncle and nephew. Christoper Pears of the Blue Bell Inn, Penrith, was born in 1821 and died in 1879. And Benjamin Pears was born in 1841 and died in 1906. My family would have known Christopher, for sure. 


Permitting drunkeness

1860 June. Christopher Pears, landlord of the Blue Bell Inn, Penrith, was fined 10s 6d for permitting drunkeness and other disorderly conduct in his house (ie the pub). Sgt Cockburn proved the facts at Penrith petty sessions. 

Crime: permitting drunkeness/disorder in a public house.

Punishment: 10 shillings and six pence fine.

Being drunk and disorderly

1863 Dec 1. A carter called Stephen Fell, in the employ of Christopher Pears, Blue Bell Inn, was done for being drunk and disorderly in the streets, and using disgusting language. Fined 10s, in default got 7 days with hard labour in Carlisle gaol.

Crime: being drunk and disorderly

Punishment: 10 shillings fine.

Assaulting a servant

Fri, April 10, 1863. Christopher Pears, landlord of the Blue Bell Inn, Penrith, was summoned by his servant girl, Ann Steadman, for violently assaulting her by kicking her with his feet.

Mr James Scott appeared for complainant and Mr Arnison for defendant.

On Wednesday evening, a man named George Fallowfield was in the house having a glass of ale and he asked the girl to get him half an ounce of twist tobacco. Pears said: “We don’t keep waiting maids for fellows like you,” and refused to let the complainant go for it. He then went to the back door and Fallowfield remarked that he thought “that the master was in a bad humour,” at which defendant’s daughter and complainant laughed.

This roused the ire of the defendant, who came into the room and saying he would not be made game of, kicked complainant with his foot and knocked her across the room.

For the defence, it was denied any blow had been struck.

Fined five shillings and costs.

Crime: assault

Punishment: five shillings fine.

Drunk and disorderly 2

1864 Feb 23. William Ridley, a labourer, was fined 5s and costs for being drunk and disorderly in Castlegate. A charge of breaking two panes of glass at Mr Dennison’s beerhouse didn’t go ahead as the prosecutor didn’t appear.

Crime: being drunk and disorderly

Punishment: five shillings fine.


1869. July 20. Benjamin Pears, a farm servant at Bowscar (working for John Irving, West Brownrigg), was charged with assaulting Mrs Jane Arnison, residing at Maiden Hill. Complainant claimed the right to boil a kettle in her house, she refused. He took her by the throat and waist and dragged her from the room. She grabbed the doorknob so he couldn’t get her out. He gave up, but his wife, who was in the house, seized the family birch rod and lashed her knuckles till she let go. In the yard, she grabbed a wooden rail and said she’d a good mind to hit Pears with it. He doubled his fist, punched her to the side of her head, cutting her ear. Then dashed her head against the wall.

Mr Irving had agreed his workpeople should have their meals at the house (as farm house was too far), but there was no obligation to provide accommodation: he couldn’t fit 20 people in. Mr Irving had put a form and table in the barn.

Fined 5s and costs. 

Crime: assault

Punishment: five shillings fine.

Theft, assault threats

1874. Sept. A ‘rough-looking’ navvy called Henry Smith got one month for stealing five cucumbers from a garden. He got three months for hitting the police constable who arrested him, and threatening to disembowel him with a knife.

Crimes: theft, assault, threats

Punishment: prison, one month


1876 July 1. John Broughton, 50, labourer, was charged with three counts of stealing casks, in May.

The first two cases were not going into by the court. The third charge was stealing two casks from Christopher Pears, of the Blue Bell Inn. 

Defence was that Broughton had no idea about any of it: he’d found (next bit too faded)… and received £5 reward and took to drinking till it was spent, by which time he was out of his senses and had medical attention in prison. He got two months with hard labour.

Crime: theft

Punishment: prison, two months


The photo is of Little Dockray, Penrith. Sam Scotts is what used to be the Blue Bell pub.