Playing detective – Researching Victorian crime objects

Police truncheon made by Howell of Leeds
I have been researching objects in the collection relating to Victorian crime and punishment for next year’s exhibition at Abbey House Museum.Some of the objects I researched were equipment used by 19th Century police constables, such as police truncheons, a policeman’s rattle and a warrant card.
I researched the owners, manufacturers and dates of the objects. This led me to social history section at Leeds Central Library, where I researched the identities of the people who owned or made the objects using trade directories and reference books. On websites such as I found birth and death records of the police constables who owned the objects.

Police rattle made by J Wood, Leeds

Researching past police officers

In order to research the police constables further I went to the West Yorkshire Archives, where I found a detailed account of the careers of the police constables from such sources as a register of police constables from the early 19th to the early 20th century. I also found the identities of the police constables in the police code of conduct book which logged any promotions and any disciplinary actions the police constables faced.

Uncovering court cases

I also researched some of the 19th Century court documents in the collection, such as a document that summoning a woman named Emma Jarrett to court as a witness to testify against a man named Harry Earnshaw. He was later found guilty and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for stealing two horses in 1880.
I also found other interesting court cases. There was a jury summons for the Leeds Assizes in May 1926, during which one of the trials involved Louie Calvert, who was one of the last women in Britain to be hanged.
By Bradley Hilton, Level 5 work placement, Leeds Trinity University

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