On a trip out to Glossop today went browsing in a second hand book shop and came up with a couple of Gems .

No. 1 Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner.

This is the only known genuine Autobiography of a Bow Street Runner (who later became Chief Constable for the County of Northampton!). This book falls quite nicely on the period we are studying and shows the perspective of the times from the Police point of view.

No. 2 Londons Underworld
This book is based on Henry Mayhews works dealing with conditions among the London proletariat first begun in 1851 and updated and reissued over the next eleven years when an additional vollume was produced dealing with prostitutes, thieves, swindlers and beggars. The book edited by Peter Quennell is full of facinating contempory details of the times and is spot on the "Times of Charlie Peace"

I will bring both books with me to the next couple of session for anyone who is interested in looking at them.


Good Evening All - Hope you are all well. Whilst we were doing our "Posters" I shot a few pictures being as they were in available light and hand held at 800ASA (technospeak excuses) brilliant they are not - but I thought you might like to see them :)


Spring into action

If you are interested in any further reading for this course relating to crime history, the following titles contain some of the major debates related to 19c. crime, policing and penal reform.

Some of these are now considered to be 'outdated' but do contain lots of interesting detail.

If I were to select one author as a starting point then I would probably plum for Elmsley.

Crime and Society in England, 1750-1900.

Crime and Authority in Victorian England.

Crime and Industrial Society in the Nineteenth Century.

Crime, Policing and Punishment in England, 1750-1914.

White-Collar Crime in Modern England; Financial Fraud and Business Morality 1845-1929.

'Popular Protest and Social Crime; the Evidence of Criminal Gangs in Rural Southern England,' Southern History (1991).

'The London Garrotting Panics of 1856 and 1862,' Social History (1987).

C. McQuoid

'"Don't let him loose or he'll murder me intirely"; Domestic Crime on Wearside 1841-1901,' North East History, 2001.

'Heroes or Villains? The Irish, Crime and Disorder in Victorian England,' Albion, (1997).

The English Police

The New Police; Crime, Conflict and Control in Nineteenth Century England.

'The Plague of Blue Locusts; Police Reform & Popular Resistance in Northen England, 1840-57', Int. Rev. Social Hist. (1975).

'The Policeman as Domestic Missionary; Urban Discipline and Popular Culture in Northern England, 1850-80', Journal of Social History, (1976).

'The London Garotting Panics of 1856 & 1862,' Social Hist. (1987)
M. J. Weiner

‘The Sad Story of George Hall: Adultery, Murder, and the Politics of Mercy in mid-Victorian England,’ Social History, (1999).

A Just Measure of Pain; the Penitentiary in the Industrial Revolution.

'Civilising Punishment: the End of Public Execution in England,' Journal of British Studies (1994).

'A Powerful Sympathy: Terror, the Prisons, and Humanitarian Reform in Early Nineteenth Century Britain', Journal of British Studies (1986).


CHARLES PEACE, after the habit of his kind, was born of scrupulously honest parents. The son of a religious file-maker, he owed to his fathernot only his singular piety but his love of edged tools. As he neverencountered an iron bar whose scission baffled him, so there never wasa fire-eating Methodist to whose ministrations he would not turn arepentant ear. After a handy portico and a rich booty he loved nothingso well as a soul-stirring discourse. Not even his precious fiddle occupied a larger space in his heart than that devotion which theignorant have termed hypocrisy. Wherefore his career was no lesssuitable to his ambition than his inglorious end. For he lived the kingof housebreakers, and he died a warning to all evildoers, with a prayerof intercession trembling upon his lips.
The hero's boyhood is wrapped in obscurity. It is certain that noglittering precocity brought disappointment to his maturer years, and hewas already nineteen when he achieved his first imprisonment. Even then'twas a sorry offence, which merited no more than a month, so that hereturned to freedom and his fiddle with his character unbesmirched.Serious as ever in pious exercises, he gained a scanty living as strolling musician. There was never a tavern in Sheffield where thetwang of his violin was unheard, and the skill wherewith he extorted music from a single string earned him the style and title of the modern Paganini. But such an employ was too mean for his pride, and he soongot to work again--this time with a better success.
The mansions of Sheffield were his early prey, and a rich plunder rewarded his intrepidity. The design was as masterly as its accomplishment. The grandstyle is already discernible. The houses were broken in quietude and good order. None saw the opened window; none heard the step upon the stair; in truth, the victim's loss was his first intelligence.
A Book of Scoundrels, by Charles Whibley available online at:


Half Term

Apologies but there will be no session running this week, this is due to half term holidays and 'The Circle' is not booked for this week. Sorry but I only became aware of this today. I will contact everyone today to ensure people are made aware of this.
I would be grateful if you could acknowledge through the blogsite or by e mail that you are aware of the half term holiday.
Thanks for your support.



Here are a few more book references. Some of these are available online and I have included the web address for these works:
Birkenhead (Earl of.), Frederick Edwin Smith, Famous Trials of History. Garden City, N.Y.: The Sun Dial Press, Inc. 1937.

Hall, Angus. Crimes and Punishment: A Pictorial Encyclopedia of Aberrant Behavior. London: BBC Publishing. 1973.

Irving, H. B. A Book of Remarkable Criminals. Westport, Conn.: Hyperion Press, 1975, c1918. (Project Gutenberg Edition,

Jeffers, H. Paul. Bloody business: An anecdotal history of Scotland Yard. New York: Pharos Books, 1992.

Whibley, Charles. A Book of Scoundrels. Edinburgh, Scotland: T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty at the Edinburgh University Press (Project Gutenberg Edition,


Human Rights

We have discussed torture aspects of the 'bloody code' and unfortunately, torture is still a feature of human relations today. If you were interested in aspects of human rights, then Amnesty International is one of the leading organisations that campaigns in this area.

Amnesty's website can be found at:

Torture, Lags and Cop Killers

Very interesting session this week and notable by the intelligent insights and comments from everyone regarding the written and picture sources - well done to all !

We began by examining Foucault's work on the changing nature of crime and punishment pre and post enlightenment. For more works on the 'bloody code' and crime in the period 1450 - 1850, please see the link of works available on Amazon here:

We then chartered Peace's early criminal career and the resulting incarceration at the Wakefield House of Correction.

Here are a few links for the History of Wakefield prison for you to explore:

A Short History of Wakefield Prison

Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush

Further Information

Wakefield Prison - Historic Maps

We moved on to examine the penal reform changes and examine the prison system in the mid nineteenth century. To place into context what Peace would have experienced at Wakefield in 1851.

It was good to see people have been reading around the subject and been scouring the book shops and online book providers for works on Peace, 19 century crime, economic/social historical accounts. This is great to see!

Final point - on my 'pals' course we have organised fieldwork that investigates the Redmires archeology in Sheffield. I have tried to organise fieldwork for this course also - a tour of the Black Museum at New Scotland Yard but unfortunately this venue is only open to serving police officers.

Would people be interested in fieldwork for this course? Has anyone ideas or suggestions for a possible day visit to connect in with the themes of this course? Jim mentioned the tour of Lincoln Prison - would this be something people would be interested in?

Perhaps a visit over to Lincoln by train, a tour of the prison and then lunch somewhere? I would welcome your thoughts on this at the next session or by e mail.

Next week - Peace as 'cop killer'

Discipline and Punish

Michel Foucalt - 'Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison' (Penguin Books 1995)
Although it was published nearly 40 years ago, Michel Foucalt's book on the 'History' of 19th century prison 'reform' is still a highly provoking read. If you are interested in the context to the Peace story - then this account of penal reform is worth reading.
Foucalt's classic opening to the book, detailing the 'bloody code' is often quoted:
On 1 March 1757 Damiens the regicide was condemned "to make the amende honorable before the main door of the Church of Paris", where he was to be "taken and conveyed in a cart, wearing nothing but a shirt, holding a torch of burning wax weighing two pounds"; then, "in the said cart, to the Place de Grève, where, on a scaffold that will be erected there, the flesh will be torn from his breasts, arms, thighs and claves with red-hot pincers, his right hand, holding the knife with which he committed the said parricide, burnt with sulphur, and, on those places where the flesh will be torn away, poured molten lead, boiling oil, burning resin, wax and sulphur melted together and then his body drawn and quartered by four horses and his limbs and body consumed by fire, reduced to ashes and his ashes thrown to the winds" (Pièces originales..., 372-4).
"Finally, he was quartered," recounts the Gazette d'Amsterdam of 1 April 1757. "This last operation was very long, because the horses used were not accustomed to drawing; consequently, instead of four, six were needed; and when that did not suffice, they were forced, in order to cut off the wretch's thighs, to sever the sinews and hack at the joints...
"It is said that, though he was always a great swearer, no blashemy escaped his lips; but the excessive pain made him utter horrible cries, and he often repeated: 'My God, have pity on me! Jesus, help me!' The spectators were all edified by the solicitude of the parish priest of St Paul's who despite his great age did not spare himself in offering consolation to the patient."
Bouton, an officer of the watch, left us his account: "The sulphur was lit, but the flame was so poor that only the top skin of the hand was burnt, and that only slightly. Then the executioner, his sleeves rolled up, took the steel pincers, which had been especially made for the occasion, and which were about a foot and a half long, and pulled first at the calf of the right leg, then at the thigh, and from there at the two fleshy parts of the right arm; then at the breasts. Though a strong, sturdy fellow, this executioner found it so difficult to tear away the pieces of flesh that he set about the same spot two or three times, twisting the pincers as he did so, and what he took away formed at each part a wound about the size of a six-pound crown piece.
"After these tearings with the pincers, Damiens, who cried out profusely, though without swearing, raised his head and looked at himself; the same executioner dipped an iron spoon in the pot containing the boiling potion, which he poured liberally over each wound. Then the ropes that were to be harnessed to the horses were attached with cords to the patient's body; the horses were then harnessed and placed alongside the arms and legs, one at each limb.
"Monsieur Le Breton, the clerk of the court, went up to the patient several times and asked him if he had anything to say. He said he had not; at each torment, he cried out, as the damned in hell are supposed to cry out, 'Pardon, my God! Pardon, my Lord.' Despite all this pain, he raised his head from time to time and looked at himself boldly. The cords had been tied so tightly by the men who pulled the ends that they caused him indescribable pain. Monsieur le [sic] Breton went up to him again and asked him if he had anything to say; he said no. Several confessors went up to him and spoke to him at length; he willingly kissed the crucifix that was held out to him; he opened his lips and repeated: 'Pardon, Lord.'
"The horses tugged hard, each pulling straight on a limb, each horse held by an executioner. After a quarter of an hour, the same ceremony was repeated and finally, after several attempts, the direction of the horses had to be changed, thus: those at the arms were made to pull towards the head, those at the thighs towards the arms, which broke the arms at the joints. This was repeated several times without success. He raised his head and looked at himself. Two more horses had to be added to those harnessed to the thighs, which made six horses in all. Without success.
"Finally, the executioner, Samson, said to Monsieur Le Breton that there was no way or hope of succeeding, and told him to ask their Lordships if they wished him to have the prisoner cut into pieces. Monsieur Le Breton, who had come down from the town, ordered that renewed efforts be made, and this was done; but the horses gave up and one of those harnessed to the thighs fell to the ground. The confessors returned and spoke to him again. He said to them (I heard him): 'Kiss me, gentlemen.' The parish priest of St Paul's did not dare to, so Monsieur de Marsilly slipped under the rope holding the left arm and kissed him on the forehead. The executioners gathered round and Damiens told them not to swear, to carry out their task and that he did not think ill of them; he begged them to pray to God for him, and asked the parish priest of St Paul's to pray for him at the first mass.
"After two or three attempts, the executioner Samson and he who had used the pincers each drew out a knife from his pocket and cut the body at the thighs instead of severing the legs at the joints; the four horses gave a tug and carried off the two thighs after them, namely, that of the right side first, the other following; then the same was done to the arms, the shoulders, the arm-pits and the four limbs; the flesh had to be cut almost to the bone, the horses pulling hard carried off the right arm first and the other afterwards.
"When the four limbs had been pulled away, the confessors came to speak to him; but his executioner told them that he was dead, though the truth was that I saw the man move, his lower jaw moving from side to side as if he were talking. One of the executioners even said shortly afterwards that when they had lifted the trunk to throw it on the stake, he was still alive. The four limbs were untied from the ropes and thrown on the stake set up in the enclosure in line with the scaffold, then the trunk and the rest were covered with logs and faggots, and fire was put to the straw mixed with this wood.
"...In accordance with the decree, the whole was reduced to ashes. The last piece to be found in the embers was still burning at half-past ten in the evening. The pieces of flesh and the trunk had taken about four hours to burn. The officers of whom I was one, as also was my son, and a detachment of archers remained in the square until nearly eleven o'clock.
"There were those who made something of the fact that a dog had lain the day before on the grass where the fire had been, had been chased away several times, and had always returned.


Cancellation of Session

With the current weather forecast predicting more snow for Weds and Thurs it would seem best that we cancel the session for this week. I realise that a number of people are travelling long distances to attend the course and it would be dangerous to drive in the evening as roads freeze up.
If you read this please inform friends of yours who are travelling to the course



If you are new to Peace story, a good starting point for your research would be David Ward's book: 'King of the Lags, The Story of Charlie Peace'.

This has long been out of print but it is available through Sheffield City Libraries.

The book can still be bought on Amazon for around £4 in hardback, which is a bargain - these are usually old library copies.

Click on the link below for more details.

King of the Lags: Story of Charles Peace (Classic crime) by David Ward (Hardcover - 25 May 1989)

The DVD which we viewed made by the History Channel - anyone know how to put this on to Youtube? I have reached my technology threshold but it would be nice to put a 3/4 minute clip on to this public site


I will look at the forecast for this week and post on the blog - if it is feasible to run a session this week in light of all the snow. People will be travelling after 6pm and we will take counsel from the met office.


Great to see people posting on the blog - with some great pieces of information and drawings.

If you are new to blogging - this is a further tutorial to help you


Charlie's fascination to the population of the times was very wide spread even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took notice! The famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes in the story The Adventure of The Illustrious Client whilst discussing brilliant criminals remarked "A complex mind all great criminals have that, my old friend Charlie Peace was a violin virtuoso"