Christmas In Prison - 1872


Photographed in Wandsworth Prison, London in December 1872, these images show the faces of the people arrested just before Christmas, with many arrested for stealing food and clothing over the cold 'festive' period.


Ellen Smith, 52, was convicted of stealing an umbrella in 1872 - she was given 10 days hard labour over Christmas

The fascinating images show Thomas Mackett, 24, handed one month's hard labour for stealing 9lbs of beef on Christmas Eve.

In another, Julia Killey, 30, was handed 21 days labour for robbing 2lbs of bacon on the same day.

Other heart-breaking examples include 18-year-old Henry Marsh, sentenced to six weeks of gruelling work for stealing a coat on 23rd December 1872.

Poor 17-year-old James Ealing was arrested for thieving a half pint of milk and a tin can on Christmas Eve.


Robert Graham, 16, stole 11 pairs of stockings on New Year's Eve in 1872 - he was given one month of hard labour

Harry Williams, 42, was convicted of stealing lumps of coal to keep warm - he was given 14 days hard labour

John Kitchenside, 20, stole oats worth three shillings on 23rd December 1872 - he was given six weeks hard labour

Henry Marsh, 18, stole a coat to keep warm two days before Christmas - he was given six weeks hard labour

Rhoda Leaf, 30, stole a shirt from her master on 2nd December, landing her six weeks of hard labour at Wandsworth Prison

Other heart-breaking examples include 18-year-old Henry Marsh, sentenced to six weeks of gruelling work for stealing a coat on 23rd December 1872.

17-year-old James Ealing was arrested for thieving a half pint of milk and a tin can on Christmas Eve.


Meanwhile baby-faced John Sullivan, 17, clearly just wanted to stay warm over the winter when he was convicted for stealing a coat and lumps of coal on 16th December 1872.

The teenager was given one month's hard labour for his petty crime.

Other poignant shots show 22-year-old Mary Baxter who was incarcerated for robbing a tablecloth during the festive period.

Ellen Smith, 52, was locked up on Christmas Day after she was given ten days hard labour for stealing an umbrella on 17th December.

Edward Poller, 17, was convicted of stealing a tame pigeon - he was given one month's hard labour

Caroline Lightfoot, 51, stole a drinking glass in early December 1872 - she was given two months' hard labour

John Hanks, 16, stole a woollen shirt to keep warm - he was given 14 days hard labour

Daniel Kelly, 16, stole half a cut of iron two days before Christmas 1872 - he was given 14 days hard labour

Agnes Rose Flowers, 44, stole a short worth two shillings six pence - she received one month of hard labour

Meanwhile baby-faced John Sullivan, 17, clearly just wanted to stay warm over the winter when he was convicted for stealing a coat and lumps of coal on 16th December 1872.

The teenager was given one month's hard labour for his petty crime.

Other poignant shots show 22-year-old Mary Baxter who was incarcerated for robbing a tablecloth during the festive period.

Ellen Smith, 52, was locked up on Christmas Day after she was given ten days hard labour for stealing an umbrella on 17th December.

James Ealing, 17, stole a tin can and a half pint of milk on Christmas Eve 1872 - he got one month of hard labour at Wandsworth

Mary Baxter, 22, stole a tablecloth on 13th December 1872 - she was given 14 days hard labour

John Powers, 15, stole fabric on 10th December 1872 - he was given one month of hard labour

William Ethrington, 19, stole an axe and other tools on 21st December 1872 - he was given six weeks hard labour

Sidney Lowman, 17, stole a can and a half pint of milk - he was given six weeks hard labour

The crime seems understandable given that the December of 1872 was exceptionally wet – the wettest on record for England and Wales.

The Victorians were very worried about crime and, following the development of the camera, police realised they could use the new technology to their advantage and took images of repeat offenders.

As the use of cameras became more common taking mugshots became the norm until it was made compulsory for everyone to be photographed after they were arrested.

Catherine Flynn, 63, was convicted of stealing six shillings from someone - she was given a month's hard labour

John Sullivan, 17, was convicted of stealing a coat and lumps of coal in 1872 - he was given one month of hard labour

Mary Sowerby, 69, was convicted of stealing a sheet on 21st December - she was given one month's hard labour