Anthony Castor was one of the convicts tried for the rioting at Dartmoor Prison in 1932. The riot followed complaints by the inmates of harsh treatment by the warders and also the poor quality of food they were being served at meal times.
Anthony, who was born in Lewisham in 1896, was very young when he had first encountered the criminal justice system, having been found guilty of stealing a coat from a schoolboy when he was the ringleader of a juvenile gang. At just 12 years old he was sentenced to nine strokes of the the birch for his actions.
Anthony’s home life appears to have been a troubled one. His father had described him as ‘unmanageable’, and in July 1909 he received a three year sentence at Bolton Industrial School. He also spent time at St Pancras Union Workhouse.
At Liverpool Sessions in 1913, the same year that his father died, Anthony was sentenced to three years in Borstal on charges of larceny.
Anthony, who was a bugle player, did briefly serve in the 2nd South Lancashire Regiment, but this ended badly when he was sentenced to six months’ hard labour for stealing £22 and cigarettes at the Thornton army camp.
He continued his life of crime, committing burglary and larceny in the years following his brief and unsuccessful spell in the army. Anthony faced a more serious charge of manslaughter and was found guilty at the Old Bailey in 1922 of strangling a woman with a silk stocking following an argument over a broken light fitting.
Although he was released on licence in 1928, Anthony continued to offend and eventually found himself in Dartmoor Prison
However, although he was tried as one of the 32 individuals who participated in the prison riot, he had actually assisted the authorities, playing ‘Fall in’ on his bugle to warn the prison warders. He was subsequently cleared of all charges relating to the disturbances.
Source: Victorian Convicts: 100 Criminal Lives, eds. Helen Johnston, Barry Godfrey & David J. Cox (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2016) pp.50-51.