Samuel Ainge was born c.1820 in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. He married Frances in 1840 and was a schoolmaster in Stafford in 1841. By 1855 he was living a prosperous life, being listed in the Stafford ‘Post office Directory’ as a member of the gentry. By the 1860s he had entered the business world, setting up as a coal and coke merchant in Smethwick.
His political views against the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864-1869 led to him becoming the secretary of the Midland Counties’ Electoral Union for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and he published an anti-Act pamphlet in 1873.
By 1876 Samuel was a partner in J.E. Rogers & Co., a steam-pump manufactory in Smethwick. When this partnership ended he set up a new engineering business alongside his nephew.
Seemingly a well-established, respectable businessman, Samuel spent 20 years as elected Secretary of the Smethwick and District Building Society. Yet, the former schoolmaster’s business acumen faltered in the 1880s. He was arrested in Queenstown, Ireland, as he was boarding a ship for America. He was transferred to West Bromwich Magistrates’ Court and charged with embezzling Building Society funds amounting to £49 10s. He later admitted to stealing £500, but the figure was reportedly nearer £2,000.
He was sentenced to five years’ penal servitude, serving four years before being released on licence in May 1887. The 1891 census documents him as a hardware merchant in Birmingham. In 1894 he and Joseph Leake applied for a patent for a new design of adjustable spanner. Nevertheless, he died in 1901 in modest circumstances, leaving a will of £70 1s. 3d.
Source: Victorian Convicts: 100 Criminal Lives, eds. Helen Johnston, Barry Godfrey & David J. Cox (Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2016) pp.12-13.