by Dick Hunter

This article examines petitions arising from convictions at Yorkshire courts in the mind-nineteenth century, with a case study of events surrounding and following the conviction of Sarah Ann Hill who, in December 1851, was sentenced to death for the murder of her new-born child.

The principle of petitioning for clemency or redress was well established, sometimes to reduce a death sentence to transportation, or to lessen the term of transportation, or to allow a convict to serve a term in Britain rather than overseas.

The article draws attention to neglect of this topic by local historians even though uniquely detailed evidence may be given. The circumstances in Yorkshire are then analysed, with tables showing conviction rates at York Assizes and the nature of the sentences handed out (death, transportation for life, transportation for differing lesser terms, and imprisonment in any one of seven penal establishments in the county). There is analysis of the impact of petitioning, which ranged from free or conditional pardons to other mitigation (though it is noted that 79 per cent of petitions were unsuccessful).

The case study of Sarah Ann Hill recounts her tragic case in detail, with analysis of how and why her death sentence was commuted to transportation. The final section of the article places this in the context of the increasingly vigorous campaign against the death penalty, or at least in favour of its much-reduced use.

 

Dick Hunter is a member of the outreach committee of the British Association for Local History and coordinated its First World War centennial activity. He is reviews editor of the journal Family & Community History, and chair of Clements Hall Local History Group in York. His interest in criminal petitions arose from a realisation of their valuable as an under-used source for voices that may not otherwise be found in the historical record.


Read the full article

Latest Updates on Twitter

New content from ⁦@HistoryWM⁩ ‘Not a penny off' - Birmingham and The General Strike 1926 https://historywm.com/articles/the-1926-general-strike-in-birmingham

We might not have a coastline here in Shropshire but there are plenty of other places to get into the holiday vibe. Can't afford a yacht on the French Riviera? Why not don a bikini and hike a lift on a supplies barge? [Blists Hill PH/M/1/4/128] #HolidayFashion

A house of correction in the 19th century and a women's prison in the 20th, the largest in Western Europe. Holloway Prison needs a fitting legacy. A women's building, with specialist services & accommodation for vulnerable women would be ideal. Read more https://tinyurl.com/277h6yz4

The greatcoats our #Nightwatchmen wore had gone up in price by 5 shillings in 1833 since they’d last been bought in 1828 for 28/5 each – about £100 in today’s money. Fascinating to see how the costs are broken down, such as ‘Altering capes to fit the neck’.
#Textilehistorians

3

Lovely postcard from the collection showing #Manchester Assize courts. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in 1864 they were demolished in 1957 & suffered heavy damage during the Blitz.

We hold some calendars of prisoners for the Assizes in our collection.

#SecretsOfTheMuseum @V_and_A @BBCTwo female convict prisoners made mosaic tiles which make the beautiful floor in Cast Courts, Room 46 of V&A. Made by women held in Woking convict prison around 1870s/1880s #prisonhistory #prison @prisonhistoryuk @Victorian @YvonneJewkes

New article out now on 'flash houses' - pubs alledgedly used by members of the 'criminal underworld' in 19th-century London: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09526951211024561

Have you ever wanted to stand inside a Kiln?

Well, at Coalport China Museum, you can!

Come and take at these amazing brick structures from inside and out 👀

Book your tickets now: http://www.Ironbridge.org.uk/plan/ticket-prices

#Museum #EngineeringMarvel

3

Development Manager, National and Networks @SampsCaroline wrote a blog about the Research Resilience event we ran with @history_uk, where she calls for more conversations between historians and archivists to shape future ways of working.

Read it here: https://www.history-uk.ac.uk/2021/07/19/reflections-research-resilience/