A Young Incorrigible

Victorian children had a reputation for good behaviour, but there were plenty of orphans on the streets, and Dickens’ fiction had a lot of troubled children. Here’s an item from the 1853 Staffordshire Advertiser, a report on the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions. It seems the magistrates had run out of options for this child, but the child had run out of choice long before:

THOMAS HANSBRY, a very little ragged boy, 12 year’s old was found guilty of stealing a cod fish, 12lbs weight, the property of Joseph Elborough Bailey, fishmonger, Wolverhampton, on the 23rd February. In conjunction with his mother he was convicted of felony at the Midsummer sessions in last year, and sentenced to be imprisoned 3 months and whipped; and also under the Juvenile Offenders’ Act in December 1850, in August 1851, and in December 1851, for which of which he served a term of imprisonment. He was sentenced to be transported for 7 years, the Chairman remarking that it was the most merciful course he could adopt.



8 thoughts on “A Young Incorrigible

  1. I hate unfinished stories so I couldn’t help having a bit of a dig through the records for Thomas Hansbury. He was born in Ireland and living with his parents in Wolverhampton in 1851. It appears that he served the sentence mentioned in England and was sent to the “Farm school at Reigate”. He did not serve the full sentence due to his ‘subsequent good conduct’. By 1858 he was working as a ropemaker and was convicted for Larceny of shawls. He was sentenced to a further five years but was eventually discharged on Licence. He couldn’t keep himself out of trouble though; in 1863 he was again convicted of larceny and in 1864 transported to Western Australia. His convict record states that his character was ‘good’ despite a number of charges of public drunkenness, assaulting police and one of ‘immoral conduct (whatever that was in 1874). I was hoping to be able to tell a tale of a man who eventually settled down with a wife and family in the sunshine, as so many transported did, but unfortunately Thomas Hansbury died in the Freemantle Prison Hospital on 4 June 1879 as the result of an attempt to amputate his arm following an accident on the Jarrahdale Railway line. He was intoxicated at the time and, I suppose mercifully, he had ‘had been helped to a large quantity of liquor after he received the injuries’.


    • So he was sent to Reigate instead if to Oz? Interesting. But what a sad life. So much depended on good conduct referrals. Once you fell you stayed fallen. People I spoke to who grew up after the war spoke of needing a recommendation from the vicar to get a good job, and tat depended on going to church regularly so church attendance records had nothing to do with piety. Thanks for the extra infi


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