Coley Hall Felons' Bench
Coley Hall Felons' Bench
Theft was a major crime of the nineteenth century.  Clothes and household items were frequently pawned, so were likely targets for thieves.  In July 1875, at the West Riding sessions at Wakefield, a married woman named Ann Murray, alias Duffy, was charged with stealing two dresses from Margaret Adin Val Gelder of Hipperholme. She was sentenced to eight months imprisonment.

In April 1894, John Thomas Bush, a youthful clay miner of no fixed home, pleaded guilty to stealing a silver watch worth five guineas from John Beevers, another clay miner, while both were working at the Breakneck Pit in Hipperholme.  The court heard that Bush extracted the watch from a coat hanging in a cabin on the site and sold it later that day to a man named Murgatroyd, whom he met on the way to Halifax.  The watch was retrieved by police.  Bush was committed to prison for two months hard labour, after the court heard that he had been repeatedly convicted for loitering in the area.

In 1893 a carpet weaver called Harrison Booth was charged with stealing two blankets and a pair of shoes from Joseph Lister of Hipperholme, with whom he was lodging. He was committed to prison for a month, in default of paying a 20 shilling fine. Booth had no previous charges against him but was known to be of drunken habits.

The Brighouse Echo of 1894 tells us of two pickpocketing brothers, William and Thomas Horner, who were spotted at Halifax Station trying to pick the pocket of Frances Clay, the wife of Henry Clay of Lightcliffe.  We are told that William Horner feigned drunkenness and knocked against the lady, extracting her purse and quickly handing it to his brother.  Ticket collector Hanson Crowther and two porters witnessed the act. As the brothers were on licence from prison, they were promptly dispatched back there for six months hard labour each.

Finally, in 1891, eight-year-old Harry Scott and ten-year-old George Lee, both of Tennyson Place, Hipperholme, set fire by matches to a haystack in Bramley Lane belonging to a Mr. Shaw.  They caused £10 worth of damage but were let off without a fine because the court heard the stack was fully insured by the Lancashire Insurance Company.  Perhaps it would have been a different story if it had been the Yorkshire Insurance Company!

                                                                                                                                                                                  MB & LK

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