Monday, January 26, 2015

Crime and Punishment in 1864

James Crute was a chimney sweep but it seems could not resist helping himself to some of his employer's equipment, which presumably he sold on.

He was on trial at Aylesbury at the beginning of January 1864 charged with stealing a chimney-sweeping machine, valued at £2 and a sack, valued at 6d, from his employer Adam Sherwood, a master Chimney sweep of Wolverton. (I take it that the chimney sweeping machine was the name given to the kit that chimney sweeps used - a circular brush and a set of connecting rods which could be poked up the chimney)

Crute had form. It was revealed at his trial that he had stolen a chimney sweeping machine from a former employer in Northamptonshire and was sentenced to 3 years of penal servitude for that offence. He was released on July 4th 1863 and after only three months of "going straight" stole Sherwood's machine on October 24th. I assume he had been in custody from that time until his trial.
His sentence was a heavy one: four years, with an exhortation from the Chairman of the magistrates, that on his release he lead a more honest life.

James Crute was a mug. If he was able to sell on each machine at half price, say £1, this would only have represented two weeks wages for an unskilled worker. (Skilled workers in Wolverton Works were earning at least £1 a week in that period.) So for  a month's worth of extra cash he landed himself seven years in prison!

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