Crime and Punishment

In my many travels throughout the UK I have often encountered oddments that relate to “Crime and Punishment”, many of these would be considered barbaric in our politically correct times, but way back then it was a total different ballgame. The most obvious artefacts that tend to stick out are the village stocks. I have seen 4 sets (that I can remember) and they are interesting curiosities that are often very old. 

The stocks at St Nicholas Parish Church in Ashchurch, Gloucestershire

You have to admit they look like reasonably benign articles of punishment, but the opposite is true. Attitudes were very different in those olde days, when you were bunged in the stocks it was not seen as some idyllic rest period. Perpetrators locked into them faced all manner of additional torments, ranging from weather, children, drunks and the real threat of mob justice. You could also have your clothing stolen and of course could have been pelted with vegetables, faeces, dead animals and of course verbal and physical abuse would have been the norm, especially if you were a well known miscreant. 

The stocks in Evesham, Worcestershire

However, many of the people bunged into the stocks were anti-social, or thieves or somebody on the receiving end of a grudge, and of course pissing off (and on) the church/mayor/town hall/local lord etc. would have brought the might of the “law” onto your head.  They were also not restricted to men; women and children could also spend some time being on the end of justice. There was no such thing as “extenuating circumstances” either. 

The stocks in Winchombe

England’s Statute of Labourers 1351 prescribed the use of the stocks for “unruly artisans” and required that every town and village erect a set of stocks. Sources indicate that the stocks were used in England for over 500 years and have never been formally abolished. 

Stocks in Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire

Another chance discovery I made in Salisbury one morning on my way to work really left me scratching my head. 

Some investigation revealed a plaque close by, although it was not all that easy to read.

And of course Salisbury also had a reminder of the bad olde days affixed on the side of one of the walls of a local building

And in Lichfield I spotted the plaque below.

and I spotted the following in Oxford:

Of course London has a grim past and if you know where to look it is often right in public view. One of the many macabre sights that I recall was close to Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial.

 

I was recently in Liverpool and was able to visit the local holding cells associated with the Assizes court that was in the building and it was an interesting aside to my visit. But I also came up close and personal with a items used in punishment, namely:

A whipping chair
A flogging frame

Birching was a common punishment handed down to young offenders, and a flogging with a light cane or a heavy cane was actually quite a common punishment in South Africa until it was abolished too. The barbarity of the act of flogging or caning should really be seen from the position of the one being caned or flogged or the person committing the act.  

Women were often on the receiving end of punishment, and the use of the “Brank” or “Scold’s Bridle” was an easy way to silence what were seen as nagging women, it was really about power though and subjugation of females. I have seen two examples in the Clink Prison Museum in London, but it is doubtful that this pair were ever used and they are probably reproductions. 

Children were equally at risk from “the law” and there is a good example in the old castle/prison in Oxford:

Julia Ann Crumpling, aged 7,  was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour at the prison in 1870. She allegedly had stolen a pram from a Mr and Mrs Edmund Smith of Witney, who had left it outside while going into a shop. She would have been housed in the B wing that housed women and teenagers.  Did she just make a stupid mistake by taking the pram? or was she really just a rebellious child? and what effect did the sentence have on her? Back in those days prison was not seen as a holiday rest camp and justice was served to young and old. The Victorians believed that prisons should deter people from committing crimes, with the punishment of hard labour dished out to crush inmates’ spirits.  You did the crime you did the time!

So far I have managed to visit 3 prisons/jails in the UK:

And they have all been grim places, and as a curious visitor I got to go home at the end of the day whereas this was “home” to the inmates. Many of those inmates were there because they deserved to be there; unfortunately rehabilitation is not always as successful as the authorities would like to admit.  

The military however had it’s own set of rules known as the “The Kings Regulations” and they were the official policy and were used as the  basis for “justice” in the military and to “enforce discipline”. A number of men were “shot at dawn” for offences relating to military law, and in many cases the trials were a travesty of justice.  Of over 20,000 who were found guilty of offences carrying the death penalty, 3000 soldiers received the death penalty and 346 were carried out.  The circumstances of many of the offences were often ignored by those who sat on the courts martial, and often the accused would have very little inkling of what was waiting for him once he faced the wrath or indifference of those in charge.

The British Army also used what was known as “Field Punishment # 1” which consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters and handcuffs or similar restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day. Of course that was preferable to being shot at dawn. As an aside, the former South African Defence Force was well known for it’s iron discipline, and while there were no cases of execution by firing squad there were many cases of abuse by detention barracks staff and of course daily abuse by “instructors” of national servicemen. It was rumoured that there was an unofficial acceptable body count allowed for in training.  Had the SADF been allowed to use a firing squad you can bet they would have!

Our so called “liberal world” cringes at the idea of shooting or flogging anybody, but in some parts of the world these are still in daily use. 

However, in some “civilised countries” the “rights” of the offender seem to be overtaking those of the victim, and in the UK even slaps on the wrist would bring out a horde of lawyers and organisations dedicated to preventing the punishment of those found guilty of crime. Had poor little Julia Ann Crumpling been around in 2019 she would have probably have been sent for counselling and paid compensation for having been arrested because she was a minor. The people who left the pram outside would have been fined for littering.     

Crime will always be with us. There will always be those who consider themselves above the law,  and of course those who get a vicarious thrill from violence and murder. There will always be corrupt politicians and policemen, and alcohol and drugs will always remove any sense of right or wrong when used incorrectly. Thankfully a lot of the draconian punishment has fallen by the wayside and a lot fewer innocent people end up incarcerated, and these relics from bygone ages should serve as a reminder that in many 3rd world countries things are still in the dark ages and justice can be harsh and the dungeons of the past are still the dungeons of the present  

DRW © 2018-2019. Finally completed 13/07/2019

HM Prison Gloucester

It was time to go to jail; although in this case I am innocent I tell you! I was framed! call my lawyer! 

HM Prison Gloucester had recently unlocked it’s doors to the public and was accepting visitors to the disused facility. It was then added to my bucket list and it was one of the reasons I was in Gloucester yesterday.

The prison lies on the east bank of the Severn and was built on the site of a 12th century castle. The keep was demolished in 1787 and a prison was built in it’s place in 1879 while a debtors prison was added in 1826. A new wing was added in 1884 and the governors house was built 1850’s, although it is outside the walls.  

Once past the front door of the prison there was a labyrinth of passages to navigate, fortunately one of them led to the toilet! The first area I explored was where “closed visits” were conducted. There were 3 cubicles where the prisoner was able to talk to his visitor without having physical access to them. 

This is a holding cell, and it would be where arriving prisoners could be kept while they were booked in or until such time as they were allocated a cell, or if there was a shortage of space. It is a temporary solution though, and ideally overcrowding in this space would be avoided as much as possible. 

Once I had cleared the admin block I entered into what was known as a “sterile area” which was really a fenced in area behind the block with gates leading to an exercise yard.

Make no mistake, you will not be able to scale that fence easily because it may look flimsy but it is not. I expect the sterile area is used to cordon off the gate house from the rest of the the prison. There is a vehicle entrance in this sterile area and I suspect it was from here that prisoners were removed from vehicles for processing. 

For some reason prisoners always walked in an anti-clockwise direction in the exercise yards. There were three yards in total and this one leads into B wing. However I did not go into B wing immediately but went to the debtors prison instead. This was originally built to house people who could not pay their bills although this area has changed a lot since the Georgian era when it was built. In fact there was not all that much to see.

Entrance to the Debtors Prison

It was now in use as the healthcare centre, so was in a reasonable condition and the only real way you would know it was part of a prison would be the many lockable doors and barred windows.

Opposite the old debtors prison was the A&B wing which is probably the most spectacular part of the prison. Photography in there was difficult because of the varying light conditions and small cells, but I have to admit some of the images I took were stunning. Let us go inside before the screws find us….

To the left is the “A” Wing, and to the right is “B” wing. 

“A” Wing.

“A” Wing is probably where the general population were housed. The cells that I went into had a double bunk and a washbasin and toilet in them. These facilities were only installed into the cells in 1995/96. Prior to this prisoners would have to “slop out” at the start of the day. 

The cells are small, even with such a narrow bed frame in it. The toilet is out of frame but is on the other side of the washbasin in the left hand photograph. Imagine being locked in here for a long time, staring at the same walls day after day.

The wing has 3 levels to it and there is access to “C” block via an overhead walkway on the 2nd floor of this wing. The 3rd level was roped off so I could not investigate it.

There is one curiosity that is not immediately obvious and I did not take too much notice of it at the time. Outside each cell is a coiled serpent and they represent evil. Above them are lion claws which represent justice bearing down on evil. It seems to be just the sort of symbolism that the Victorians would have used. 

Returning to the central entrance I went into “B” Wing/Segregation. Two levels of this wing housed remand prisoners, and one housed “VP” prisoners and the segregation unit. 

Unfortunately I could not go into the chapel as the access to it was closed off. Instead I crossed over into “C” Wing and explored there for awhile. It was built in the 1970’s, and in the 1990’s was a “young offenders” unit until it was closed in 2013. It does not have the heaviness that I felt in the other block, although I am sure it must have been a rough place when occupied.

Having had a look at the interiors it was time to look at the exteriors. The only view you have of the outside is the sky; a very high wall surrounds the prison and there was no getting over it too easily. 

It kind of reminded me of the garden walls in South Africa. 

The execution shed is long gone, but it was built at the end of “A” Wing, the Governor able to watch it from the luxury of his home. The last hanging in this prison took place in 1939. It is thought that there are over 100 prisoners buried in unmarked graves under the prison.  

And then it was time to leave. I have to admit the prison is an interesting place to visit, and they offer guided tours too. Personally I prefer doing my own thing and having a post mortem afterwards.  Make no mistake, this place is not a holiday camp, it is a grim cold building that must have been noisy, crowded and violent. It is the nature of the inmates that they tend to be amongst the worst of the human race. 

I have visited two other prisons: the first is the “Women’s Jail” as well as the old “Number 4” Jail in Johannesburg, but it appears as if I never did blogposts for them (since retrospectively rectified). 

Random Images. 

DRW © 2017-2020. Created 04/07/2017. Repaired missing attachment marker. 28/12/2017

Galloping around Gloucester

Looking at my handy index page for 2015, I was last in Gloucester in August and September of 2015, and in those visits I took in the Cathedral, the Jet Age Museum and I saw lots of dudes with odd shaped balls.. I had really intended to return one day but it has taken me over a year to do that. 

Actually I had two reasons to be there. The first was to go look at a hobby shop, the second was to take a look at the recently opened HM Prison Gloucester as well as take a closer look at the harbour/docks. This particular post does not deal with that aspect of my visit, it will have a post all of it’s own once I have completed this post and added images to some of my other posts. Realistically I am going to amalgamate some of the images I took way back in 2015 with this one. 

The weather was a deciding factor for this trip, I was not really in the mood for an expedition, but the sun was shining and it wasn’t too cold so I grabbed my camera and headed for the City of Gloucester. For a change I did not go via Cheltenham but took the 71 bus straight from Tewkesbury. (£6.50 return). My planning for the trip really was based around finding the prison and shop, but as I was there early I decided to hit the harbour first. I will be honest though, I am not too much of fan of the city, but then I haven’t done too much exploring. The map on the left pretty much sums it up. The bus station is out of the picture but would be in the top right of the map.   

 On one of my previous visits I did go to the local cemetery and looked around the harbour, but it was a grey day so not too much came of those visits. From what I can see the city really is formed around a cross of streets and spread outwards from there. As usual there is a mixed bag of old and new and all manner in between.

The hobby shop I was after is much further along and on the left hand side. I visited it on my way back. At the point where I am standing now I turned 180 degrees and headed in the general direction of the harbour.

Amongst the odd things I spotted were large customised statues of pigs. Unfortunately there was no mention of what the campaign was about, or who was responsible for the customisation.  Ah well they did make for interesting oddments to photograph and the images of the ones I saw are on the relevant page.

This is not the only street art in the city, there is this interesting depiction called “Spirit of Aviation” by Simon Stringer from 1999.

 And oddly enough, a Roman on a horse! 

Gloucester was founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva (that’s him on the horse) as Colonia Glevum Nervensis, and was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II. Parts of the Roman walls can be traced, and a number of remains and coins have been found, though inscriptions are scarce. In Historia Brittonum, a fabled account of the early rulers of Britain, Vortigern‘s grandfather, Gloiu (or Gloyw Wallt Hir: “Gloiu Long-hair”), is given as the founder of Gloucester. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloucester  In Brunswick Place there are two bronze reliefs set against the wall, and one shows the Romans doing what Romans did well.

Continuing on my stroll I encountered “St Michael’s Tower” which was once used as a tourist information centre. The tower was built in 1465 on the site of the nave of the previous church of St Michael the Archangel.  In the 1840s the old church was demolished, apart from the tower, and a new St Michael’s Church was constructed in 1851, it too closed in 1940, The main part of the church was demolished in 1956, but the tower was spared.

This area is also known as “The Cross” because it is the intersection of Northgate, Southgate, Eastgate and Westgate Streets. 

There are a number of church spires poking out above the rooftops, and one I returned to was St Mary de Crypt in Southgate Street. it was first recorded in 1140 as “The Church of the Blessed Mary within Southgate”. 

It still has it’s churchyard attached and that is a destination all on its own.

One really stunning item I saw was this wonderful scene set up against the wall of a “practical watchmaker”. I am not too sure what happens where the time comes for them to chime but you can bet it is awesome.

By now I was within smelling distance of the harbour, and I have dealt with it in better detail on it’s own blogpost. 

And, I dealt with the Prison on it’s own page too. 

My walk along the Severn took me to the site of the ruins of Llanthony Secunda Priory. Realistically it is a shell of a building and there was not much to see.

 A bit further on is the old Victorian farmhouse that is under conservation. It is a very pretty building and was part of what was then Llanthony Abbey Farm. 

Within the harbour you will find “Mariner’s Chapel”.

 I visited it in 2015, and it was really typical of a chapel that you would expect to find in a harbour. 

It is a simple building but you can feel the call of the open water within it’s walls.  

On my bucket list from 2015 was the War Memorial, and I visited that in 2015.

Then it was time to find out where the Prison was and I asked a passing policeman who had worked in the prison, and he said it was a very grim place. He also solved the one question that had been bugging me since I first photographed it in 2015. “What is this in aid of?”

It turns out that is not a drinking fountain but a urinal! That could explain the lack of a tap. It is marked “Gloucester Board of Health 1862” on the base, and I suspect it was walled when it was in use. 

Crossing out of the harbour area I passed the locks that would have led into the Main Basin of the harbour with it’s gates and bridge.

I found my hobby shop without too much looking, although it did not have what I wanted.

and that wrapped up my trip and it was time to head for the bus station and home. Gloucester was “in the bag”, but I suspect I will return one day, I really need to revisit the cemetery and of course take a look at the museum, but that may never happen. 

Random Images 2017 

Random  Images from 2015

DRW © 2015-2020. Created 03/06/2017