YOUNG
OFFENDERS

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THE STORY OF ANNE READ, AGED 12

Females, young or old, were "rare birds” in Buckingham Old Gaol. 

 

One suspects, though, that it housed a few overnight, held whilst they dried out, having imbibed a tipple too many.

An Anne Read, aged 12, spent a month “inside” after surrendering her £20 bail and appearing at the Buckingham Quarter Sessions two days before Christmas in 1875.

 

At her trial, Anne was described as being born of good parents. They despaired of ever stopping her habit of obtaining goods by deception.

In November, 1875, Anne had handed Misses M. and Louise Simmons, who ran a Fancy Repository next to the Post Office in West Street, a piece of paper purporting to come from Mrs Hudson, requesting that Anne be supplied with two skeins of wool, one purple, the other yellow.

 

Louise Simmons handed the wool to Anne telling her it would cost Mrs Hudson 8d, but that the order could be changed if the colours were wrong.  

 

Harbouring suspicions caused by the juvenile scrawl on  he note, Louise Simmons took the piece of paper to Mrs Hudson. Anne Hudson was horrified and hoped that Anne should be prosecuted as she had heard that Anne had “previous” which her parents had “corrected” but to no effect.

Anne’s situation was aggravated when Supt. Howe revealed to the Court that, since being bailed on the false pretence charge, Anne had stolen money from a man who was lodging with her “very respectable” parents in their home on the Chewar which backed on to the Bucks and Union Bank whose manager was Anne Hudson's husband, Thomas.

The Court quickly convicted Anne and, in announcing its punishment, the Recorder told Anne that she would be confined in the Borough Gaol for one calendar month and then transferred to a Reformatory School for four years. He hoped that on her release she would come out a better sixteen year old girl and grow up to be a respectable woman.

Anne, who cried loudly at her sentence, was led away to spend a miserable Christmas and New Year in our inhospitable Old Gaol. Meanwhile, Supt. Howe was toasting the Mayor, Mr. Bennett, who had given him a fine, fat goose for Christmas plus 5s. for each constable in the Borough Police force.

Note: Reformatory Schools had been established in the 1850s , thanks to a campaign by Ms Mary Carpenter. On the whole, they were successful and forward-looking institutions. Few of them were for girls, but one hopes that the worst part of Anne's sentence was the one lonely, cold Christmas in Buckingham Borough Gaol.

THE TALE OF JOSEPH BLISS, AGED 13

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Hearn & Nelson Solicitors, present day(ish); image source unknown

Hearn and Nelson’s Solicitors became news in April 1867 when it suffered an apparent break-in that developed into a break-out.

Money and valuables worth around £40 were removed from cash boxes, including those of Buckingham Burial Board, and the County Court.

A young junior clerk named Joseph Bliss, who was responsible after the premises were secured at the end of working days for taking its keys to Mr Hearn’s home across West Street in Castle House, failed to do so one evening. He remained in situ to unlock the solicitor’s personal office. Under cover of darkness, but not unobserved, he stole away with the valuables through a hole he had hewn in the wall of office.

The “break-in” was discovered the next morning, and Borough police were summoned. Inspector Howe, noting that “County” cash was involved, asked for support from an excellent sleuth: Inspector Breene of the Aylesbury police.
 

Acting on intelligence gained from Emma Grantham, a cook in Dr. Haslop’s house that lay opposite Hearn’s premises, the thief was identified as Joseph Bliss, the most junior clerk in Hearn's Solicitors.

Out went the call, “Where’s Bliss (he had not reported for work) and where’s the money?”

 

The police became certain that Bliss was “their lad” after they searched his lodgings and found the loot under his bed.

Bliss, not yet 14 years old, was soon apprehended, and at the Borough Quarter Sessions he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to one month in Buckingham Borough Gaol whilst a reformatory place was found where he might serve a further five years. 

The Bucks Herald quoted the boy’s boss, Henry Hearn, “I would rather have lost all of the money than he should have done it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFTERWORD:

It is probable that Joseph led a miserable life after release. He had a string of menial jobs and ended up in Newport Pagnell Workhouse.

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Henry Hearn, the boss of Joseph Bliss

'I would rather have lost all the money than he should have done it.'