Thursday, 30 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - U is for...

This is one of the harder A - Z as very little relates under the 'U' heading... however, I have come up with one that most other sites have missed...

U is for - Uttering... The act of passing or being in possession of counterfeit coins of the realm. This was a major opportunity for minor and major criminals alike, with everything from poor quality, low value coins, through to gold sovereigns...

So serious was it that a legislation past in 1741 'The Counterfeiting Coin Act' remained throughout the Victorian period, with an odd amendment, and the penalties were significant to try and deter persistent offenders...

Section 1 made it high treason to "wash, gild or colour any of the lawful silver coin called a shilling or a sixpence, or counterfeit or false shilling or sixpence," or alter such a coin to make it look like a "lawful gold coin called a guinea" or half-guinea, or to file, alter, wash or colour "any of the brass monies called halfpennies or farthings, or to make those coins look like a shilling or sixpence. The last part of this section was amended by the Counterfeiting Coin Act 1797 to extend it to all copper coins ordered by royal proclamation to be current in the realm, not just halfpennies and farthings.
Following the words quoted above, section 2 continued to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 6 months' imprisonment for uttering a false coin, knowing it to be false. On release the offender then had to provide sureties to be of good behaviour for another 6 months. For a second offence, the punishment was 2 years' imprisonment followed by another 2 years of good behaviour under surety. A third offence was a felony, punishable with death by hanging.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - T is for...

T is for - Tanky... A bit like Samson Shepherd. How could I not start of the T selection without Tanky Smith. A real copper from the inception of The Borough Police in Leicester, and who I have woven in to my stories. 

A bit about the real Tanky...courtesy of a link to 'Leicester's History' Facebook entry Francis “Tanky” Smith Baptised: 27th... - Leicester's History

T is for - Terrier crop... a short and spiky haircut which was a signature / telltale sign of a prison stint.

T is for - Toolers... slang name for pickpockets. This type of crime was rife in the murky streets and alleyways of Victorian Leicester.

T is for - Topped... to be topped was to be killed. The Borough Boys have their fair share of 'Toppings' - either murderous or exceptions.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - S is for...

S is for - Samson Shepherd. How could I not start the S selection without him, as my main character? He may be a slowly emerging 'main' character, but believe me, there is a lot more of Samson to come... So, a bit about him...

This is the commissioned artwork by Simon Marchini that forms part of the cover for my 'Borough Boys' series of novels. This is the man I wanted, just as I wanted him to look! Copyright Simon Marchini (c) 2013
Constable Samson Shepherd is the central character of my present series of stories - in my first novel he makes his initial impact on Policing in the Borough of Leicester.

At 25 years of age, Samson was brought up in Sutton Bonington, just over the Leicestershire border inside Nottinghamsire, where he lived with his parents and siblings.

His father, a heavy drinking and violent agricultural labourer, has caused Samson to learn to fight, and Samson has become a seasoned pugilist, primarily to protect himself, his mother and his siblings.

A keen artist and fisherman, he moved to Leicester, to join the Borough Police. This was as a result of the death in service of his uncle George, one of the original fifty constables in the Force, during Chartist riots in 1842.

Samson is tall, red headed (don't call him ginger!), strongly built, with a sharp brain, and hard hands. A twice broken nose gives him a noticeable appearance, young and soft, but with something more hardened suggested.

Keen to learn, quick to observe, and with an impressive memory, he is destined to become one of Leicester Police's finest.

Teamed up with his mentor, former Sergeant John Beddows, now reduced in rank for a past fondness of 'the drink', they are to make a formidable pairing. Beddows is a street hardened cop with loads of experience, and knows all the ropes.

They will learn from each other and grow into a notable crime fighting team!

Samson has a female interest, the stunningly beautiful Sally Brown, life model to local artist John Flowers. Sally is dark, sinewy and flirtatious, and has a thing about Samson.

Watch their relationship grow! 

S is for - Salt box... this is Victorian slang for the condemned cell, a normally pokey and harsh room where prisoners spend their last days or hours until they meet Jack Ketch.

S is for - sneeze lurker... a thief or robber who throws snuff into a victim's face to disorient him. 

S is for - spike... a workhouse. The old Leicester workhouse on Sparkenhoe Street became the Hillcrest Hospital. In 1976 when I joined the Force, only a single story unit remained for down and outs to get a dry bed and board - and it was always cold, smelly and dirty. It was always called 'the spike' and now I know why!

Monday, 27 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - R is for...


R is for - Rookeries... the area to the North of Belgrave Gate in Leicester was known to many as this. An area of cramped, poor housing, with many people living in 1 up and 1 down hovels, or at the other end, sharing rooms in large common lodging houses. This is the focus of books 1 and 2 in the Borough Boys series, and what a hard place to exist!

R is for - Racket... an illegal or illicit enterprise, normally attributed with gambling or cheating.

R is for - Rozzer... another slang name for a constable.

R is for - Rumbumptious... haughty or pugilistic - game for a fight. There are several such characters throughout my series.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - Q is for...

Q is for - Queen Victoria... Victorian England wouldn't have been the same without her! (Think about that one...) The expansion of the Commonwealth and Empire brought about so many of the events that shaped 1850's England, and locally, Leicester. The 'Queens Peace' was also a main part of legislation during this period and post Napoleonic War, breaches of the peace and offences against the Queen's Peace were widespread, which kept The Borough Boys busy!

Q is for - Quid... the beloved bank note became a main form of currency during the 1850s, and the new fangled bank notes that promised to 'pay the bearer on demand', rather than the old style bank order notes, began to circulate. The change happens during book three in my Borough Boys series, and high value bank notes are central to my first crime that starts the story rolling.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

An A -Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - P is for...

P is for - Peelers... the slang name given to Sir Robert Peel's new Policemen - one of the nicer slang names!  How could I not start off this selection without the originals of Leicester, with Robert Charters sitting front row, middle, surrounded by his men, in front of the Mayor's parlour at Town Hall Lane.

P is for - Punishers... the hardest of the bruisers - men who were employed to dish out the severest of beatings. Many feature in Jack Ketch's Puppets and Death lurks in Cock Muck Hill.

P is for - Perpendicular... a meal eaten standing up - often at a bar - something I spent years mastering in CID.

P is for - Palmer... a shoplifter, concealing or 'palming' his rewards from prying eyes.

P is for - Pack... a cheap and nasty lodging house. A particularly grotty one is a key feature in book three, deep in the heart of London's canal basins. London? The Borough Boys may have ventured into dangerous territory in book three!

Friday, 24 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - O is for...

O is for - 'Out of print' - a slang term for someone who had died - therefore, no longer in circulation - how quaint!

O is for - Opera House - two come to mind in Victorian Leicester, and neither was actually a legitimate Opera House. 12 Town Hall Lane, (now Guild Hall Lane) and recently re-assigned as 'The Opera House', and a similarly named enterprise on Wharf Street, on the edge of the new slums circa 1850. Both were renowned brothels or bawdy houses / abbeys / cabs - and served the sexual needs of Leicester's discerning Victorian gent.  12 Town Hall Lane features in The Borough Boys series, overlooking the Police Station.

O is for - 'Outsider' - a pair of very slim long nosed pliers, used by burglars for turning keys in locks from the outside, thus gaining access.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - N is for...

N is for - Newgate knockers. I thought I would start the day with something amusing. For those of you with a smutty mind, you will be disappointed to discover that they are actually the full and shaped sideburns in fashionable males, often waxed or greased back over the ears. Samson Shepherd displays a marvellous pair on the cover of Jack Ketch's Puppets...

N is for - Nark - a grass or police informer - a copper's nark. Not the sort of reputation you want to survive in Victorian England.

N is for - Neddy - a short cosh, either solid or a weighted sack or bag, favoured by criminals as an enforcer. Is made into a clinical weapon in book 3, as you will discover, later this year.

N is for - 'Nose in the manger' - a common complaint for most blue light responders, old and new... to eat fast and eagerly...or to eat whilst working.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - M is for...

M is for - Mug Hunter - a person who loiters intending to mug or rob passers by, hence the term 'mugging'

M is for - Mandrake - a male prostitute or homosexual, per se. 

M is for - Mobsman - a well dressed criminal, a swindler or pick-pocket, able to pass off his presence in well to do areas, and normally part of a 'flash mob' - a well heeled gang.

M is for - Mark - an identified victim / potential victim

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - L is for...

What Victorian Crime blog would be complete without...

L is for - London Particular - the thick fog / smog that encompassed the capital for years, rolling in off the Thames.

L is for - Lush - a word that seems to be very vogue at the present, but with Victorian origins - meaning an alcoholic drink.

L is for - Lushery - a place where you could acquire an alcoholic drink - legal or otherwise.

L is for - Lushington - a drunkard. It's funny how we have adapted words and how 'Lush' has replaced  lucious and yet we still call what the Victorians would have called a Lushington, just a lush!

L is for Lurker - a general criminal who would lurk or hang around for any form of opportunist crime.

Monday, 20 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - K is for...

K is for - Kidsman - an organiser or recruiter of child thieves - Fagin is Dicken's classic example...

K is for - Knap - to take or steal something, and the derivative of Kidnap is thought to have its origins in the word - originally as Kidknap.

K is for - Knob - an over and under game used to cheat gullible people out of money - often played at fairgrounds but also openly on streets.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - J is for...

J is for - Jack Ketch's Puppets - the first novel in my series about The Borough Boys... say no more!

J is for John - John Beddows - Detective Sergeant John Beddows is one of the original fifty officers employed by Leicester Borough Police in 1836.

Promoted to a Sergeant for his exemplary courage and knowledge, he was 'busted' to Constable second class due to his thirst for Ale, as was so common a curse in this period of Leicester's history.

Hard but fair, he is Sam Shepherd's mentor, and he takes Sam under his wing, demonstrating the skills Sam would need to not only thrive, but to survive, in a pretty lawless and violent emerging Industrial Town.

Stocky, craggy, battle-scarred and hard, he is a fearsome adversary, and backs down to nobody. Re-promotion is his reward by book 2.

J is for - Jack - the Victorian Slang name given to a detective.

J is for - Jolly - a fight or disturbance, as in 'we're having a jolly...'

J is for - Jemmy - a house-breaking instrument.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - I is for...

I is for - Irons or 'Barking Irons' - Victorian slang for firearms. In 1850s Leicester, they were still rather primitive, with flintlock type pistols and muskets the norm, with many 'left-overs' from the Napoleonic and Afghan wars. However, by 1854 a new breed of weapon, with rifled barrels and bullets, as opposed to musket balls will become available, and these new weapons will feature heavily in what will be Book 5.

I is for Industrialisation - 1850s Leicester was showing all the trappings of modern Industry, especially within the Hosiery trade, where large factories employing thousands were replacing the old frame knitters and 'Stockingers'. The view of many was that this was modern slave labour, with low wages for women and children, and death was the expectation of many, in thick choking dust and wriggling about under automated spinning and weaving looms. But it was to change, and employers such as the Corah family lead the way in employment rights and standards.

I is for invisible - Tanky Smith and Black Tommy Haynes were Leicester's first police detectives. Working undercover in a range of disguises, they infiltrated and brought about convictions for many of Leicester's crime gangs that were rife.  In a town of only about 60,000 or so, to be so successful, they were either as cunning and daring as history suggests, or the gangs were incredibly stupid - and thus, they achieved invisibility by their disguises...

Friday, 17 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - H is for...

H is for - Hard Labour... Most longer sentences included an element of hard labour, which was exactly what it sounds like. Adults and children were put to work on anything from breaking rock, to the crank and other similar machines aimed at breaking them by hard work.

H is for - Heavy wet... somebody who drinks excess of malt whiskey becomes wetter, heavier and more stupid with each drink.

H is for - Half inch... to pinch or steal - cockney rhyming slang.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - G is for...

G is for - Garrote - The early Victorian constables were issued with high neck leather collars to wear on duty, as the garrotte ( a length of wire or chord) became a favourite weapon, post Napoleonic wars - they were cheap, easy to make and easy to conceal. Many constables were attacked in such a way, leading to the need for this early personal protection equipment.

G is for Growler - a four wheeled carriage. The height of sophistication in Victorian travel. Luxury carriages became the norm for the wealthy, and high quality, polished and often, monogrammed carriages were the equivalent of today's luxury cars. The sound of four wheels on the cobbled roads gave it the slang name.

G is for Garden Street / Green Street - Leicester, the heart of the Rookeries, the densely populated slums of Victorian Leicester, and these two streets were notorious as the heartland of the Irish settlers in the Borough, and the dark alleyways and small courtyards that were so difficult to police. The home of criminals, bruisers galore, not a healthy place for 'The Borough Boys' to venture unless in numbers.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - F is for...

F is for - Fancy - the brethren of the boxing ring. These were the big money men and gamblers who followed the prize fighters and won or lost huge fortunes on their pugilistic skills. 'The Fancy' feature heavily in my first novel 'Jack Ketch's Puppets'.

F is for - Flash House - a public house frequented by the criminal fraternity. Guess they have never gone away. There were a great many such pubs I frequented as a copper, seeking information or suspects. 

F is for - Flimp - snatching from people's pockets in crowds. Quite interesting that in the modern era, flimping is the term used for Taxi drivers who take their trade from under the noses of the Hackney Carriages or pre-booked pick-ups. The prices can seem like daylight robbery. Perhaps there is a similarity?

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture. E is for...

E is for - Earth Bath. Writing about murder and mystery in Victorian Leicester, one of the inevitable consequences is some form of burial. An Earth Bath was Victorian slang for a grave, and there are graves a plenty required in my books...

E is for - Eternity Box - which goes hand in hand with the entry above, as this is slang for a coffin. Cheap and flimsy for many, if they could afford...

Monday, 13 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - D is for...

D is for - Dilemmas -  1850 Leicester was not a good place to be if you were poor. The choices were to work for a miserly wage, probably in a menial job where early death was likely; life in the workhouse, where you would be broken for nothing other than a bed and poor food; a life of crime, where you took the risk of being caught, with death, transportation or hard labour as likely outcomes. Which would you favour?

D is for - Do Down - or to give someone a serious beating. Many of the pubs around the borough, especially within the Irish Quarter around Abbey Street and along Belgrave Gate were full of 'Bruisers' - boxers and prize fighters who would sort out problems with their fists and boots. A hard area to play and a hard area to police. Early constables were a hardy breed if they were to survive.

D is for - Duffer - a seller of stolen or 'hot' goods - often selling covertly along the streets and alleyways, eating a living.

D is for - Derbies - the slang name for the D ring handcuffs that early coppers would use to shackle their prisoners.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and culture - C is for...

As it is Sunday and Easter has just passed, I thought this was appropriate...

C is for - Crooked Cross (to play the)... which is the term for somebody who cheats, deceives, betrays or swindles somebody... Very relevant for book 3 in 'The Borough Boys' series of novels.

C is for Church - Churching something was to remove any form of identifying marks and to render it as unidentifiable as possible.

C is for Crow - a Crow was either a lookout on a crime, or the slang term for a doctor...

C is for Crusher - a slang term for a Constable - suggested as a result of their use of their truncheon to quell or subdue their adversaries...

Saturday, 11 April 2015

An A to Z of Victorian Crime and Culture - B

B is for Borough Boys, and of course, Beddows - but you can read about them on other links on my website at

B is for Boated (or getting the boat), something that many we still had the option of today. This is the option to transport convicted felons to our Colonies... which many preferred over the thought of Jack Ketch or the Workhouse.

Many of my family (the Irish side - Crawleys, O'Crawley, O'Crowley) who had a propensity to steal horses, fight, and murder... suffered this fate. 

The last convict ship, the Hougoumont, left Britain in 1867 and arrived in Western Australia on 10 January 1868. In all, about 164,000 convictswere transported to the Australian colonies between 1788 and 1868 on board 806 ships. (Courtesy of wikipedia).

B is for bit faker - one of the curses of 1850's Leicester was the ability of so many to create counterfeit coins - a prolific offence, and with coins in 1850 having a value equivalent of 45 times those of today, to a poor man, even a counterfeit ha'penny or penny offered a profitable way of living.

Friday, 10 April 2015

An A - Z of Victorian Crime and culture - 'A'

Starting my A - Z of Victorian Crime and culture with 'A' oddly enough...
A is for Abbey - in Victorian England an Abbey was a brothel, and the keeper was known as the Abbess. Her mate or partner was known as the Abbot. In The Borough Boys, Manky Lil runs the local Abbey in Town Hall Lane.

A is for Area. When I was first taught Police Criminal Law, one of the mainstay pieces of legislation was The 1824 Vagrancy Act, which had been passed to deal with the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the begging and vagrancy that it created. One of my favourite pieces of legislation within the act was known as 'being found on enclosed premises'... where the act actually said... every person being found in or upon any dwelling house, warehouse, coach-house, stable, or outhouse, or in any inclosed yard, garden, or area, for any unlawful purpose; as a suspected person or reputed thief, committed an offence. An area is what we would probably call a basement today, and related to the sub-pavement premises which had a small 'area' from which access was gained.
I made loads of arrests using that same power in the 70s and 80s...very useful and still serving a purpose!

Those voices in my head...

The voices inside my head have finally started, once again. I have been struggling with how to adapt the work I have already under...