THE HIGH SHERIFF OF STAFFORDSHIRE AND THE
This article first
appeared in the journal of the Staffordshire
History group (Volume 41, Spring 2005). It appears
on our website with the permission of both the group and
the author. I want to thank both for giving me permission
to reproduce the article. Please visit the group's website
for more information on their activities.
Stafford Gaol was very
important to the Black Country as it was one of the prisons
where those offenders who committed crimes in the area
were incarcerated, either while they were awaiting trial,
or following conviction at their trial at Stafford Assizes
(now Stafford Crown Court).
The association of the office of High Sheriff of the County with
the function of the County Gaol is not one of which people nowadays
may readily be aware. Indeed the connection is now perhaps slight,
but over several centuries until reforms of recent times altered
matters, the gaol, or more accurately the prisoners within it,
were the responsibility of the High Sheriff.
When from the Assize of Clarendon, held in 1166, there was issued
the instruction that in every shire where there was no gaol one
was to be made at the king's expense, it was to enable the sheriff
of the county to detain those persons who had been arrested by
officials and ensure that such accused would in fact stand trial
(1). The control of these gaols, however, was
not necessarily a matter for the sheriff. In some cases the gaoler
may have held his office by inheritance. Nevertheless, under an
Act of Edward III, the sheriff of each county was to have the
keeping and charge of every of the king's common gaols in the
county where he was sheriff and for the term of his office (2).
The sheriff of those days had a high responsibility for law and
order within the county, having charge of the county court, twice-yearly
tours of the hundred courts, and was often associated with the
king's justices when they were sent to the county on their various
commissions. Additionally he had many administrative duties dealing
with coinage, highways, commerce, Exchequer debts and other matters
One of the powers that the sheriff held between the visits of
the king's justices was the exercise of bail. Under the common
law of the land it was not always clear who, or for what offence,
was bailable, but this was remedied by the Statute of Westminster,
issued in the reign of Edward I. This statute clearly defined
those prisoners that could be allowed bail and, other than the
king's justices, the sheriff was the officer responsible for authorising
such release (4).
With the development of our present legal system others became
involved in duties that had been the sheriff's. The introduction
of the justices of the peace (5); the office
of Lord Lieutenant (6); the prohibition of any
stranger on the bench when the king's justices held court (7);
the decline of the County Court in favour of the king's courts
and the transfer of the sheriff's tourns to the justices of the
peace (8). Each of these contributed to change,
but while the sheriff's power may have fluctuated, his term of
office and his term of office reduced to a single year (9),
the responsibility of the office holder towards the county gaol
The introduction of imprisonment for debt under the Statute of
Merchants further added to the duties of the sheriff (10).
This Act was aimed at protecting the interests of commerce. Although
by no means the fault of the sheriff of the day, the consequence
of the Act was the imprisonment of many persons who may otherwise
never have seen the inside of a gaol. Various temptations to circumvent
the legal process arose and inevitably there was legislation to
amend deficiencies in the system. This came in the form of 'The
Statute of Negligent Escapes, For Keeping of Gaols' during the
reign of Henry VII, when the sheriff's control of the gaol in
his county and responsibility for the prisoners therein was restated
(11). The liability of the sheriff and gaoler
respectively in relation to the security of the prisoners was
firmly set out, with fines and penalties stipulated in cases of
negligence. Neither sheriff nor gaoler, however, had any responsibility
in respect of feeding or clothing the prisoners. If prisoners
were unable to provide for themselves, or if their relations and
friends did not do so, it was left to the Christian charity of
the community. During the reign of Henry VIII the justices of
the peace were given authority to have gaols 'edified and made'
with the specific consideration that this should be where there
was a greater number of people dwelling, not only to help prevent
escapes but also that sufficient charity was more likely to be
forthcoming in more populous areas. Later the Elizabethan Poor
Laws allowed for the prisoners to be provided for from the county
rates and at Stafford some £20 annually was given to the
gaoler in quarterly instalments for this purpose (12).
At the end of the seventeenth century an additional allowance
was granted to the debtor prisoners and the sums in respect of
both felons and debtors was increased later (13).
Details of the gaol at Stafford in early times are vague. The
county gaol was established after the Assize of Clarendon. Stafford
Borough, by a charter of Edward II, was also granted the right
to have and maintain a prison (14). How long
both establishments continued in existence is not clear. There
were times when two gaols were in being with the Borough gaol
at the North Gate and the County gaol at the end of Crabbery Lane
near to the Broadeye (15), but detailed information
on them is not readily available. When Elizabeth I passed through
Stafford in 1575 however, only one gaol was in use, that of the
borough at the North Gate, which was being used by the county
as well, so perhaps a sensible compromise had been reached (16).
Another aspect of the relationship of the High Sheriff and the
gaol was that concerning the gaoler and how that official acquired
the office. The gaoler held a post that was an office of profit
under the Crown (17). He received no salary
as such, his returns coming from the prisoners in his charge by
means of fees imposed for admission and discharge and for supplying
them with beer, spirits, beds and bedding. The gaoler may not
personally have conducted the day-to-day routine of the gaol.
Even if he did, he would have required assistance from under-officers,
who may also have paid for their post in return for what they
could gain (although that arrangement may well have been more
appropriate in the establishments of much larger towns and cities).
Yet the sheriff had to approve the gaoler holding office as the
gaoler gave security to the sheriff for the prisoners in his charge.
Again, the exact situation at Stafford is vague. The Act of Negligent
Escapes, by laying down minimum fines for the escape of prisoners
in accordance with the offence for which committed, tied sheriff
and gaoler firmly to each other in their duty. Litigation may
have resulted in any situation where the conduct of the gaoler
was unlawful or the sheriff place at financial harm. Yet legally
the office of gaoler could be bought and sold. It seems that so
long as the gaoler could give proper security, that was sufficient
There was a case at the end of the sixteenth century when the
keeper of Stafford of Gaol was Ralph Sneyd, which may to a degree
illustrate matters. At the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions in 1597,
during the shrievalty of William Crompton, a writ of Distringas
was tested by Robert, Earl of Essex, requiring Ralph Sneyd to
appear before the justices of the peace at the following Epiphany
Sessions, to answer touching the escape from the gaol of John
Massye and Ann Tydd. Ralph Sneyd was required to enter into sureties
for his appearance, these being John Doo and Richard Roo. At the
Epiphany Sessions 1597/8, Ralph Sneyd appeared and was pardoned,
on payment of 3s 4d (19).
Edward Lee was gaoler in 1600/1, when William Chetwynd was sheriff.
Certainly by this time and very possibly for some time before,
the gaoler entered into a formal obligation to the sheriff for
the time of his shrievalty, in which he undertook to keep all
prisoners in fast custody without escape, until they had been
delivered or executed according to the laws and statutes of the
realm; to save harmless the sheriff, his heirs, executors and
administrators, as well against the Queen as every other person.
The gaoler was to attend personally upon the sheriff, his under-sheriff
or other ministers at the execution of any person condemned to
die, or to be otherwise punished, the gaoler to find a sufficient
topman or hangman or other executioner; provide halters, boxes
and all other engines and instruments necessary as occasion should
require; bury or cause to be buried the dead bodies of prisoners,
and was required to undertake not to suffer any prisoner to go
at large or be at free bail without the licence of the sheriff
or under-sheriff first had in writing. The gaoler was to carry
- without escape - such prisoner or prisoners as required before
the sheriff or a justice of the peace within the County of Stafford
to be examined at any place within the county appointed for the
arraignment or deliverance of prisoners. The gaoler was to well
and truly preserve and keep all manner of chains, shackles, bolts,
irons, locks and keys and all other instruments and employments
belonging to the gaol and not to let go at liberty or suffer a
prisoner to escape out of his custody after acquittal or discharge
until all fees due had been fully satisfied. There was one small
additional item, perhaps associated with the County using the
Borough's gaol, namely that the gaoler was, at his own expense,
to cause the gates of the gaol to be cleaned and painted as often
as need should require (20).
Robert Sneyd was gaoler when in January 1614/5, following an
escape of prisoners, he was criticised by the sheriff, Robert
Fox, as prisoners had escaped through a window that was not sufficiently
secure. The sheriff considered that the gaoler should have anticipated
this eventuality. As the gaol belonged to the Borough of Stafford,
the sheriff sought the assistance of the mayor to improve security
immediately, assuming that there would be a proportionate increase
in rent as a result of this episode. Mr Fox also requested that
additional watch be provided for the gaol and that if the gaoler
would not defray the charge then he as sheriff would. Richard
Fox also sought a meeting with Robert Sneyd's sureties that they
might join in bond for him, implying that Sneyd had not met with
his obligation to date and that such a state of affairs was not
acceptable. There is indication in Fox's letter that Robert Sneyd
was connected with the principal Sneyd family at Keele (21).
The overall difficulties posed by the county using the borough
gaol, as in this last instance, may have led the county authorities
to order the erection of a new gaol. This was indeed in hand by
the Michaelmas Sessions of 1615, although it may not have been
finished until 1620. While the sheriff had the legal responsibility
for the gaol and the prisoners, the justices of the peace had
to raise the necessary money and supervise the work (22).
How the gaoler came by his post at this time is uncertain. Thomas
White was granted the office of Keeper of the Common Gaol at Stafford
in September 1622, according to an official record (23),
although White actually appears to have acquired the position
by virtue of a lease from James Almond, the previous keeper. Later
there was a dispute between the two men over arrears of rent and
the condition of the gaol, the matters being referred to the justices
of the peace at their sessions meeting. James Almond returned
to office as a result. Almond, incidentally, was also keeper of
the Stafford house of correction (24).
Burton Goodwyn had been the gaoler at Stafford - certainly from
1636 and throughout the difficult period of the Civil War, when
for part of that time the whole town of Stafford was under the
authority of a Parliamentary Committee with a Provost Marshall
given control of the gaol and such other places as were used for
confinement - when he died during the early part of 1645. His
widow, Mary, handed over the prisoners in the gaol to Simon Rugeley,
then sheriff, on 1 April 1645. Rugeley signed for eight prisoners.
These included one man detained under various suits of debt; two
men held for murder; a husband and wife charged with burglary;
a man charged with sheep stealing; one for theft and one for horse
stealing and manslaughter. Who the sheriff handed the prisoners
over to is not clear but the next person to be mentioned as the
gaoler was Thomas Cowper in 1649: he could have held office following
Goodwyn without record of his appointment having survived (25).
Mary Alport had continued as keeper of the county gaol on the
death of her husband in 1688, but in those uncertain times leading
up to the downfall of James II, a local panic concerning Papists
led to rioters breaking open the gaol and releasing all of the
prisoners. It was upon the gaoler that the onus fell and Mary
Alport lost over £675 in suits and expenses. Mary petitioned
the county justices for financial aid and they supported her plea
duly recommending to the Crown that letters patent be granted
for a collection to be made for Mary throughout such counties
as considered appropriate (26).
The medical treatment of prisoners at Stafford is first recorded
in 1728 and was in connection with prisoners held for transportation.
The expense was borne by the county but when in 1733 a man named
Parrott, presumably a debtor prisoner, sought to have a nurse
attend him in gaol, the justices approved his request but nevertheless
stipulated that it was conditional upon him giving security to
the satisfaction of the sheriff (27).
When each year the outgoing sheriff handed over to his successor,
it was done on the formal basis of an assignment duly attested
by both parties. This may well have been an age-old practice,
but the earliest document that seems to have survived is one of
1743/4, when Sir Robert Lawley handed over to Thomas Webb. The
document however only contains the names of the prisoners in the
gaol held for debt or some similar suit, not criminal prisoners
There is little difference in the indenture entered into by Thomas
Hackett, gaoler, and Charles Bosvile, sheriff, in 1745, and the
available preceding obligation of Edward Lee. The later document
is longer and perhaps more formal, but the general requirement
seems the same. This time however, the gaoler was additionally
to supply the sheriff on demand with a true and perfect calendar
of all the prisoners within the gaol showing the cause of their
imprisonment. The sheriff could also, on six days notice, require
further security of the gaoler, while the gaoler in turn is shown
formally to be allowed all lawful perquisites or fees due to him
William Scott, the gaoler, had three sureties to support him
in his obligation to Sir Edward Littleton in 1762. Whether this
was the first time these had been required or a continuation of
a previous practice is perhaps a matter of conjecture. Thereafter,
where such records survive, it is a customary procedure for at
least two sureties to be shown, the gaoler entering into a bond
for £500 (30).
In 1782 when Charles Tollett was sheriff, he engaged with Littleton
Scott, then keeper of Stafford gaol, for the period of the shrievalty.
The body of the deed remained very similar to that cited above,
but there was now reference to an Act of Parliament which came
into force in 1759, dealing with legislation against exactions
by gaolers upon debtor prisoners and which, by its very inclusion,
shows also that the sheriff was conveying to his servant what
was required by law (31).
During the latter part of the eighteenth century and into the
nineteenth, transportation had become increasingly impractical
following the American War of Independence and there was a need
to replace it (32). It was hoped that the more
constructive policy of hard labour would do this and with this
came the concept of penitentiaries (33). While
transportation did resume, mainly to Australia, the distance and
cost involved led to it being reserved more for longer sentences
rather than for the shorter terms (34).
At this time there was an overall increase in population (35)
and this fact may well have been reflected in the crime rate,
as towards the end of the eighteenth century it was found necessary
to replace the gaol at Stafford with a new establishment, significant
overcrowding being one of the major contributory factors in this
decision. The new prison opened in 1793 (36).
Significantly, while the justices of the peace appointed Littleton
Scott as governor of the penitentiary and house of correction,
which were technically separate institutions, they did not trespass
upon the office of sheriff by making mention of the gaol itself,
even though by this time the gaoler was receiving a salary in
lieu of fees funded from the county rates (37).
Increasingly the justices of the peace had become involved in
the gaol and in 1823 another Act of Parliament gave them authority
to make rules for its governance, subject to the approval of the
Assize judges. The Act required them to set apart different parts
of the gaol for different classes of prisoners, and to improve
behaviour and training. In general it was the responsibility of
a panel of justices, known as the visiting justices, to see that
these requirements were carried out. The visiting justices reported
back to Quarter Sessions at its regular meetings. These changes
were to be binding on the sheriff, although he retained the right
to remove a person from office in that part of the gaol which
remained under his authority. Thus if debtor prisoners were to
be removed from the gaol because of building work or the outbreak
of contagious disease, for example, the justices were required
to give the sheriff sufficient notice in writing. By and large
the Act left the sheriff with the responsibility for carrying
into effect capital punishment and for those prisoners who were
in custody for civil actions (38).
The Prison Act of 1865 abolished houses of correction or Bridewells,
incorporating them into the prison and revised the definition
of a prison to include what had been the gaol or the penitentiary.
Justices of the peace were now to appoint the governor of the
gaol. All prisoners were now deemed to be in the custody of the
gaoler, with the exception that nothing contained in the Act was
to affect the jurisdiction or responsibility of the sheriff in
respect of prisoners under sentence of death, or the sheriff's
jurisdiction over the prison and the officers of the prison, so
far as it was necessary for the purpose of carrying out the sentence
of death! Security was still given to the sheriff in respect of
debtor prisoners (39).
When in 1868 Parliament abolished the public execution of condemned
felons, requiring instead that executions be carried out within
the walls of the prison where the condemned person had been held
during and after trial, the sheriff's responsibility remained
unaffected apart from the fact that a declaration, signed and
dated by the sheriff (or his under-sheriff), a justice of the
peace, the gaoler and the chaplain, was to be forwarded to the
Secretary of State. Nevertheless the Act also allowed the Secretary
of State to make rules for the execution of prisoners. Issued
separately from the Act, these were that for the sake of uniformity
it was recommended that executions should take place at 5am on
the first Monday after the intervention of three Sundays from
the day on which sentence was passed; that a black flag be was
to be hoisted at the moment of execution upon a staff place on
an elevated and conspicuous part of the prison and to remain displayed
for one hour; and that the bell of the prison, or if arrangements
could be made for that purpose, the bell of the parish or other
neighbouring church, was to be tolled for fifteen minutes before
and fifteen minutes after the execution. An official notice that
the execution had taken place was also to be pinned to the gate
of the prison (40).
Imprisonment for debt, with its long history of misery for those
caught in its clutches, came to a virtual end by the Debtors Act
of 1869. This further reduced the role of the sheriff in connection
with the gaol although there were those who could still be imprisoned
through debt, but only in default of payment of a penalty (though
not a contractual one); or a sum summarily recoverable before
a justice or justices of the peace; or where fraudulence was involved
In 1878 the newly-formed Prison Commission took over responsibility
for local prisons -the county gaols - from the justices of the
peace for the respective counties (42). By this
development, justices of the peace were therefore also eased into
the background of events.
In 1882, perhaps influenced by a case at Chelmsford prison in
1865, when Ferdinand Kohl was hanged, prison governors were instructed
to notify the Home Office of all instances where a person was
sentenced to death, in order that the Home Secretary, as dispenser
of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, could obtain some knowledge
of the particular case should it be necessary for him to intervene
(43). There was further consideration given
to the question of insanity where capital cases were concerned
in the Criminal Lunatics Act of 1884. This required the Home Secretary
to order a medical examination, by two qualified medical practitioners,
of any prisoner under sentence of death, where two justices of
the peace considered that there was reason to believe that the
prisoner was insane (44).
The rules for the conduct of executions were modified in 1888,
with a request from the Home Secretary that all sheriffs would
observe his latest recommendation that for the sake of uniformity
executions should be carried out in the week following the third
Sunday after the day on which sentence had been passed, on any
weekday but Monday, and at 8am. The other arrangements previously
required were to remain (45).
With the removal of the local authority from the administration
of the prison, there had come about a greater degree of control
via the central authority as to what information might be given
to the public by prison staff. A policy was also introduced of
denying members of the press access to the execution of prisoners.
The first occurred at Stafford in 1901, at the execution of James
Shufflebotham for the murder of his wife near Leek. Whether this
decision was a personal one of the sheriff of the day, RP Cooper,
or taken to conform to a policy originating by or through the
Prison Commissioners, was not stated at the time. Under the 1868
Act, both the sheriff and the visiting justices had authority
to allow persons, including relatives of the condemned, to be
present at executions. This was consistent with the situation
that existed before the passing of the Act. That power of the
visiting justices had passed to the Prison Commissioners in 1878,
so why the sheriff should of his own volition suddenly have broken
with tradition is unclear. The Staffordshire Advertiser was critical:
...the High Sheriff, in the exercise of his discretion,
decided to depart from the practice observed at Stafford ever
since the passing of the Act relating to private executions
and did not allow any press representatives to be present. While
the reporters were thus relieved from a painful and distasteful
task, the duty which they felt they owed to the public was not
thereby made more easy of performance. We have always endeavoured
to avoid sensational descriptions of unpleasant incidents in
life's drama, but we do feel that the public have a right to
know something more as to the carrying out of the extreme sentence
of the law than transpires at the purely formal post mortem
proceedings, which the Coroner himself describes as of a perfunctory
nature. We think therefore that it should be an obligation upon
one of the officials present at the execution to communicate
to the Press officials present at the execution such information
as may with propriety be made known to the public. On this occasion
the Governor (Capt.Smail) when approached by a deputation from
the reporters on duty declined to make any statement or to be
interviewed. Let executions by all means be conducted with as
much privacy as possible, but in that case the mouths of the
prison officials responsible for the carrying out of the law
should not be closed to the representatives of the public
The practice of hoisting the Black Flag at the time of execution
was discontinued in 1902. Later the practice of tolling the prison
bell - or that of a neighbouring church - was also discontinued.
When William Frederick Edge was hanged for the murder of an infant
child in 1905, it was later said that when the bell started to
toll signalling that he was about to be hanged. Edge sent up piercing
shrieks that could be heard all over the prison (47).
With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914,
the role of the prison at Stafford changed, with part requisitioned
as a military prison and detention barracks. By 1916, with the
number of civilian prisoners drastically reduced, the prison was
taken over fully by the military. Not until 1923 was it handed
back to the Prison Commissioners. By then its normal function
had been absorbed by other establishments and the decision was
taken, much against local opinion that it should not re-open.
This remained the situation until 1939 when war broke out once
more, but then the prison only took on a limited role, that of
special local prison with the function of relieving the strain
on other prisons. It did not deal directly with the courts and
so was not involved with any further instances of the death penalty
- later abolished. From time to time there may have been the occasional
'civil' prisoner, that is a person held in connection with the
office of sheriff, but with the return of peace-time conditions
and the further development of the penal system, the Stafford
prison was given a role as a training prison and this it continues
to fulfil. The involvement of the sheriff with the prison was
consequently reduced considerably but the legal link nevertheless
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1 The Assize of
Clarendon, 1166. See Stubbs, Select Charters and R.Trevor Davies
Documents Illustrating the History of Civilisation in Medieval
England In general such gaols became known as county gaols.
2 14 Edward III, cap. 19.
3 See Bellamy Crime and Public Order in England
in the Middle Ages.
4 3 Edward I, Statute of Westminster, 1275. That
there were inconsistencies in the execution of this order is without
question. The power to admit to bail was extended to justices
of the peace by cap. 10,17 Richard II (1393). The subject of bail
is really an extensive study on its own.
5 The office of justice of the peace dates from
1361 but officials known as keepers of the peace were appointed
during the'reign of Henry III and justices of the peace appeared
to have succeeded the. See Bellamy, op.cit., F.Milton In Some
Authority and B.H.Putnam Proceedings before the Justices of the
6 The lord lieutenant of the county was an appointment
made by the Crown, its need being found in the difficulties experienced
by the government of the day in getting together sufficient forces
to put down local rebellion.
7 20 Richard II, cap.3. This was to stop any powerful
person being seen to influence the decision of the judges.
8 1461. See Bellamy, op.cit.. The county courts
appear to have declined gradually almost out of existence until
revived by the County Courts Act, 12/13 Victoria, cap. 101.
9 14 Edward II, 1340. Statutes of the Realm. Mention
should also be made of the office of coroner, originating in 1194,
which also acted as a curb on the sheriff. See T.F.T.Plunkett,
English Constitutional History.
10 13Edward 1 and 25 Edward III, cap. 17. This
last Act gave the creditor the power of imprisonment over the
11 19 Henry VII, cap. 10, 'For Keeping of Gaols'.
12 23 Henry VIII, cap.2. 'An Act concerning where
and under what manner the Gaols within this realm shall be edified
and made. 14 Elizabeth 1, cap.5, 'An Act for the Punishment of
Vagabonds, and for the Relief of the Poor and Impotent'. 39 Elizabeth
I, cap.3, allowed money to be collected for prisoners of the King's
Bench and Marshalsea Prisons. James Almond having being gaoler
petitioned the county justices to be reimbursed the sum of £5
'gaol money' that he had distributed amongst the prisoners in
the previous quarter in 1626. (SRO MPQ1 Michaelmas 1626).
13 The charitable allowance for debtors at Stafford
began in 1699 and was continued thereafter (SRO QSMe/1 f.64).
14 John Bradley, The Royal Charters and Letters
Patent granted to the Burgesses of Stafford AD 1206-1828.
15 Victoria History of the County of Stafford,
16 SRO D1323/E/1 f.20. Allowing the county to
use the borough gaol was also a means of ensuring that the profit
to be derived from the Assizes and Sessions meeting went to Stafford-based
17 F.E.Smith describes this subject in Famous
Trials, The Wardens of the Fleet.
18 19 Henry VII, cap. 10, 'For Keeping of Gaols'.
19 Michaelmas 1597; Epiphany 1597/8. Stafford
Historical and Civic Society.
20 SRO Hand Morgan D 1798 Chetwynd, bundle 113.
22 SRO QSR/138 Easter 1616.
23 CSPD 1619-1623, p.451. The practice of the
office of gaoler being sold was prohibited by Act of Parliament
in 1730 (3 George II, cap. 15).
24 SRO QSR/186 Michaelmas 1627; SRO QSR/194 Epiphany
1629/30. SRO QSR/198 Epiphany 1630/1 andSROD1323/E/l f. 188. In
my view that house of correction was a borough establishment unconnected
with the county authority. See also VCH, op.cit..
25 SRO QSR/222 Easter 1636. Goodwyn states in
this petition that he has been lately admitted and appointed gaoler
by the high sheriff of the county. SRO QSR/262 Easter 1648. SRO
MPQ/2 Michaelmas 1649.
26 SRO MFQ/2 Epiphany 1698/9.
28 SRO D 1798/618/88, D1798/HM39/12.
31 SRO D 1798/598 Under-sheriff's memorandum
32 Transportation came from the concept of banishment
from the realm provided for in the Act of 39 Elizabeth 1, cap.4,
'An Act for the Punishment of Rogues, Vagabonds and Sturdy Beggars'
(although its roots may well have grown from the concept of 'Abduration
of the Realm - see Leon Radzinowicz A History of English Criminal
Law, Vol.!) and became used to help develop America. By the Act
of 4 George 1, cap.l 1 'An Act for the more effectual Transportation
of Felons' those ordered for transportation were removed under
contract. It seems likely that this then placed a responsibility
upon the county to support those held in gaol awaiting removal.
Transportation was originally viewed as an act of clemency.
33 A great deal of philosophical argument appears
to have taken place. Members of the Society of Friends, with the
many experiences of their immediate ancestors to draw upon, may
well have influenced considerations. At this time, John Howard,
the prison reformer (1726-1790), had become active in this field
and was united in his aims with Alexander Popham, MP for Taunton.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) held to the theory of Utilitarianism,
the doctrine that whatever was done was correct if it was useful
and led to the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Cesare
Beccaria (1738-1794), author of an essay on crime and punishment,
was another contemporary reformer.
34 Transportation to Australia began in 1787,
sailing from Spithead in the April, arriving January 1788 and
continued until eventually phased out and replaced by sentences
of penal servitude, the last convicts reaching Australia in 1868.
See Bateson, The
Convict Ships. Transportation was ordered for other places such
as Gibraltar, Africa, Canada and the West Indies, but the vast
majority of offenders went to Australia.
35 See C.P.Hill, British Economic and Social
37 SRO MFQ/6 Michaelmas 1785. The gaoler's salary
was paid to him in lieu of profits derived from the sale of liquors.
38 4 George IV, cap.64. 'An Act for consolidating
an amending the Laws relating to the building, repairing and regulating
of certain Gaols and Houses of Correction in England and Wales'.
39 28/29 Victoria, cap. 126, 'An Act to consolidate
and amend the Law relating to Prisons'. The Staffordshire county
houses of correction were at Uttoxeter (1627-1643), Walsall (1617-1740),
Stafford (1649-1793) and Wolverhampton (1745-1821). There was
also another county house of correction at Stafford between 1598
and 1626, and also a borough house or correction.
40 31 Victoria, cap. 24, 'Capital Punishment
41 32/33 Victoria, cap. 62, 'An Act for the Abolition
of imprisonment for Debt; for the punishment of fraudulent Debtors,
and other Purposes'.
42 40/41 Victoria, cap. 21, 'Prison Act'. Passed
in 1877, the Act took effect from 1 April 1878.
43 Essex Record Office, A.J. Standley, "Chelmsford
Prison - An Account" (unpublished manuscript).
44 47/48 Victoria, cap. 64, 'Criminal Lunatics
46 William Salt Library, .AJ. Standley, "Stafford
Prison 1793-1916" (unpublished manuscript).
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