Friday, 23 March 2012

regency crime

Regency England refers roughly to 1811 to 1820, although the term more broadly includes 1800 to 1830. When George III, stricken by illness, could no longer function, his eldest son, the Prince, became Regent in his stead. "The Regency took its tone from the larger-than-life figure of the Prince of Wales...The age bred a lively underworld of scandal, criminality, gambling and personal notoriety. Embezzlement and fraud flourished then as now. The war against France caused further instability and led to the breakdown of law and order."

Authors of crime stories, and mysteries-- must needs delve into the dangerous world of this time. Low says that London, England, "surpassed the rest of the British Isles in crime and vice." (Low, p. xi) No police force, as such, existed until the Victorian period, adding to this instability. The growth of the underworld had begun in the eighteenth century (Georgian period). In London, Henry Fielding became a salaried Chief Magistrate for Westminster in 1749. He established the Bow Street group, whose men became known as the Bow Street Runners. Henry's brother, Sir John Fielding, carried on the work, and by the time of the Regency the work of the Runners had expanded considerably.

London embodied a complex world in the Regency. Crime abounded in many forms and areas. From gambling hells frequented by the wealthy, who also used the services of the deminondaines, or better class prostitutes, to the prostitutes who haunted the area of the Drury Lane and Covent Garden theaters, the area of murderers and escaped convicts--crime held precedence. Dark streets encouraged thieves and pickpockets, (gas lighting was installed on a few streets in Pall Mall in 1807) so that the public was targeted, and gently bred females did not go about at nights without the protection of men. Few from the West End traveled to the East end without good reason, and a fully loaded pistol, or two.Ad Banner R

Thieves came from the East End 'Rookeries,' or criminal districts such as St. Giles and Whitechapel. In these dens of criminality, 'flash houses' flourished. These were numerous pubs haunted by criminals who taught childlren thievery, pickpocketing, burglary and worse crimes. Bribery, extortion, and blackmail were rampant. While the gangland bosses ruled this part of the city, the brothel keepers ruled young, unfortunate women, who found their way to them.Ad Banner R

South of the Thames River, the home of wild gin-drinking orgies of prostitutes and drunkards, was the home also, of the 'Resurrection Men,' who sold cadavers to surgeons, and were not averse to killing to accomplish it, although grave robbing was their 'forte.' The Thames itself, was plied by seamen, called 'River Men,' who pilfered warehouses, docks and ships.Ad Banner R

All of this crime kept the Bow Street Runners on their toes, since the night watchmen were ineffective. In CTNB600 Cut Away Frock Coat1800 the Thames CT5635 Napoleonic Officers Vest Silk/satinRiver Police Act was established. In 1805, a Bow Street Horse Patrol of sixty men rode on Hounslow Heath--a notorious center for Highwaymen, who terrorized travelers. Many wanted reform, butAd Banner R Bills put forward were slow coming into effect, so crime continued high until the Victorian period when a Police force came into being. You can see what my heroes and heroines had to deal with as they battled crime.Ad Banner R

Another time I will talk about how the magistrates functioned in the country areas. The Regency truly was a Gentlemans Outfit c1830's dangerous world. Many books have been written about this period. I quote from the preface of : The Regency Underworld, by Donald A. Low, 1982. J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.; Sutton Publishing Limited, 1999.

Copyright by Audrey Moorhouse
 JOHN BOSTON and JAMES CLARK were indicted for stealing, on the 24th of February , 1 handkerchief, value 2s. 6d., the goods of a person unknown, from his person .

THOMAS JOSEPH WEST . I am a Police-constable. On the night of the 24th of February I was in company with Hobbs, in St. James-street , about nine o'clock - the two prisoners were pointed out to me by a person, named Dorrell - I saw a gentleman and lady there - Boston went behind the gentleman, and drew a handkerchief out of his left-hand pocket, took it in his left-hand, and put it behind him to the other prisoner - I put my arms round them, and called to Hobbs, "They have got it;" Hobbs came and took one - I took the other, and the handkerchief laid on the ground at their feet - it was an illumination night, and owing to the gangs that were about, it was impossible to get the gentleman without losing the prisoners.
THOMAS HOBBS . I am a Police-constable. I was with West - I saw the prisoners going up against gentlemen's pockets; we watched them some time - West called to me; I went up, put their feet on one side, and took up the handkerchief between the two prisoners.
GEORGE DORHELL . I saw the prisoners together on the night of the 24th of February - they attempted several pockets, and I mentioned it to the officers; I saw Boston take hold of a gentleman's pocket, put his hand into his pocket, and take out this handkerchief.
THOMAS HOBBS. This is the handkerchief. I asked Boston what was on it - he said he did not believe there was any thing on it, but there is J. C. on it.
Clark's Defence. There was a mob of two thousand people - the handkerchief was picked up behind two women; I was two yards from this young man - I had not been in the crowd two minutes before I was taken.
Boston's Defence. The officer caught hold of me first, I asked what he wanted, and he let me go - the J. C. are the initials of my second father's name.
JAMES COSGROVE . I am step-father to Boston. I have known him since he was three months old - he never knew his own name till lately, as he was always reared with me and served his time to me - he always went by my name till he was taken, and then he gave his right name.
JURY. Q. Had you any silk handkerchiefs? A. Yes, of different colours, but it is seldom I wear one - my son has taken them when he thought proper; I do not know whether I lost one or not.
BOSTON - GUILTY . Aged 18.
CLARK - GUILTY . Aged 17.
Transported for Life

No comments:

Post a Comment