Punishments in 1841 – in Cumberland

Punishments in 1841 – in Cumberland

This post illustrates a few of the punishments in 1841 for ‘minor offences’. As meted out by magistrates in Cumberland.

The 1841 Easter Sessions

The Easter Sessions, held in Cockermouth in April 1841, dealt with a range of matters: from the removal of a pauper, Thomas Sayer and his three children, from Cumberland to Sunderland, to ‘county business’. This included reports by the finance committee on expenditure on repairing roads and bridges, and the salaries of people ranging from coroners to an inspector of weights and measures.

There were also a lot of criminal court cases: 

The greater number of cases were for 

“petty larcency of a common kind, which would be proved in the usual way”

Theft from Cummersdale Print Works

Among them, a Charles Brice, aged 21, and John Stubbs, 26, were indicted for stealing several pieces of printed calico, the property of Messers McAlpin and Co, of the Cummersdale Print Works.

Charles Brice and John Stubbs pleaded guilty to three separate counts, while James O’Neil, 16, pleaded not guilty to being involved.

Charles Brice and John Stubbs had worked for  Messers McAlpin and Co for two years, and while doing so, had stolen ‘quantities of printed calicoes, both in feints and in whole pieces’. 

The chairman of the bench, E W Hasell, (Edward Williams Hasell) of Dalemain, passed sentence. He told the defendants they were guilty not just of theft, but of a gross breach of trust. And as they were earning nearly £1 a week each, there were no extenuating circumstances.

The sentence of the court was that they be transported for seven years.

The trial of James O’Neil

Employee Andrew Holliday said he had seen James O’Neil leave the print works and go into the privy, with something concealed under his clothes:

“It was larger than a hat.”

Charles Brice had then gone into the privy. A few minutes later, Brice came out, with something hidden under the breast of his coat and a parcel sticking out of his pocket. Andrew Holliday had reported this to Hugh McAlpin.

Policeman Joseph Haugh spoke to James O’Neil’s mother, then went to the house of a Catherine O’Neil, and found several small pieces of calico: ‘feints’. It seems these were pieces that were some kind of scraps that workers were allowed to buy.

Edward Hasell didn’t think the case was established, but it was up to the jury to decide.

James O’Neil was found not guilty.

Other sentences that day

Other punishments in 1841 from the same hearing include:

James Donnelly, 56, for having 81 counterfeit shilling coins in his possession (he said he’d found them: 12 months in prison – six weeks in solitary confinement, the rest with hard labour.

Edward Flinn, 25, of Harrington. For stealing a box, mathematical instruments and other items, from the drawing office at Lowca Iron Works, near Whitehaven (Flinn worked in the smithy): six months in prison – three in solitary confinement, the rest with hard labour.

Thomas James, 48, for obtaining cotton goods under false pretences from the shop of Henry Rennicks (or Henry Renwix), of Great Clifton: eight months in prison, four weeks in solitary confinement, the rest with hard labour.

Cumbrian brothels

Catherine Kelly, for keeping a disorderly house in Workington: two months in prison, with hard labour.

Mary Ann Collins, 22, for keeping a disorderly house in Carlisle: had already served two months in prison, as she lacked the sureties to get bail.

Catherine Joyce, Jane Robinson, and Elizabeth Mawson, for keeping disorderly houses in Stubb’s Buildings, Carlisle:  two months in prison, with hard labour.

Edward Hasell said these places were:

“the pests of their respective neighbourhoods”

Punishments in 1841 compared

I list some of the other punishments in 1841 because while hard labour and solitary confinement were tough, no one else was sentenced to transportation.

Well, there was one: William Grant, 17, was the eldest of four teenage boys who admitted breaking into the house of Henry Graham, of Low Durran Hill, near Carlisle, and stealing ‘a pair of shoes and a variety of other articles.

While the other boys were jailed for between six and 12 months, Grant was to be transported for ten years. This was because he’d been in prison six times for minor offences and it had clearly had no effect on him.

It suggests the transportation of Charles Brice and John Stubbs was as much for ‘breach of trust’ as ‘simple theft’. 

The Cummersdale Print Works

The company that employed Charles Brice and John Stubbs still exists today.

‘Stead McAlpin has been manufacturing high-quality furnishing fabrics since 1835.

…Over our vast history, we have printed for Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, and other Royals, as well as Winston Churchill, and the Titanic. 

You can read a brief history of the firm – and learn about its present products – here.