Five Interesting Crimes in 1843

The year 1843 was a year of exciting events in the United Kingdom. William Wordsworth accepted the office of Poet Laureate on April 4th. In November, the statue of the inspirational British flag officer of the Royal Navy, Horatio Nelson, was placed atop Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square in London, and Charles Dickens publication,  A Christmas Carol, was published on 17 December, released on 19 December, and sold out by Christmas. However, 1843 involved more than just pleasant events. There was also a number of crimes, with “one-fourth of all criminal offenders … [noted to be] at the quinquennial period of life, 20 to 25.”[1]  Moreover, it was discovered that “while 1 in every 336 of the male population [was] yearly guilty of a criminal offence, in the female sex the number [was] 1 in every 1581 only.”[2]

Drawing of Charles Dickens in 1842 and crimes, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Drawing of Charles Dickens in 1842. Courtesy of Wikipedia.[1]

The crimes committed in the United Kingdom in 1843 varied and included five rather interesting ones. The first story involves an unhappy, elderly cellarman, the second, a gamekeeper, the third, some miscreants and an elderly couple, the fourth, a nefarious servant and laudanum, and the fifth and final story, is about an unexpected twenty-year-old discovery. 

Thomas Rowe was a 75-year-old clerk who had worked twenty-four years as a cellarman for a wine merchant named Thomas Waller. Apparently, Waller decided to let Rowe go because of poor work performance. Rowe was unhappy about his dismissal and appeared at Waller’s door. Although Waller did not want to see Rowe, he let him in and a discussion ensued. Unsatisfied with the result, Rowe walked up to Waller and fired his pistol several times. Rowe then ran off and Waller called the police. However, while waiting for the police, he noticed extreme stiffness in his chest. About the same time that he noticed the stiffness a servant girl cried, “You’re [covered] all over [with] blood, sir.”[3] Unbeknownst to Waller, Rowe had shot him on the left side, and another bullet had left a hole in Waller’s coat and waistcoat without penetrating his body. Medical assistance was immediately procured for him and he recovered. Later, after Rowe was apprehended and taken before the judge, although “his drooping figure and white hairs excited general commiseration,”[4] he did not say a word in his defense.

Matthias Bailey, father of four, was a gamekeeper for George Wilbraham, Esq. of Delamere House. Bailey had been employed by Wilbraham for a dozen or so years. During Bailey’s employment there had been several problems with poachers on Wilbraham’s land, as well as poachers infesting the general area. One morning, Bailey was out looking after the game, when it was reported that a gun shot was heard and two notorious poachers — Samuel and John Maddocks — who were also brothers, were seen running from the scene. The person who found Bailey’s body said Bailey must have died quickly because he was shot with small shot in the back of the neck and was “much disfigured.” The brothers were charged with “Wilful Murder.” In January, the case went before the jury. Half an hour after the jury went out, they returned with a verdict of “Not Guilty” despite one witness claiming that he saw Samuel Maddock level his “gun and shoot the deceased.”[5]

George Wilbraham, Esq., Courtesy of Wikipedia

George Wilbraham, Esq., Courtesy of Wikipedia

One shocking crime occurred in Ireland in April of 1843. It involved a poor industrious man named Lyons and his wife. Lyons was involved in milling wool and had just acquired employment with a man who owned a woolen mill in Ballyhooley. However, before Lyons could even perform one day’s work, two miscreants broke into his house, dragged he and his wife out of their bed, and beat them senseless. After beating them, the miscreants poured vitriol (sulfuric acid) on the Lyons’s faces and bodies. As the Lyons’ lay suffering, the criminals then rifled through their belongings and gained nothing more than 3l for their troubles. As for the victims, Mr. Lyons, although exceedingly injured, was not nearly as bad off as his wife. She had her eyes burned out and her skull crushed and was not expected to survive. Fortunately, police located the culprits: “Two fellows from the neighbouring townlands of Gurtroche.”[6]

In Wales, another sort of crime happened that had far-reaching effects and worried parents. It was reported that many servant girls regularly gave their young charges laudanum on Saturday nights. Saturday was “the usual time of courting, or bundling, as it [was] called,”[7] and the laudanum allowed the courting or bundling to proceed uninterrupted. Among the servants who used laudanum on her charges was a young girl named Ellen Griffith from Carnarvon. She worked for a commercial traveler named Rogers. Rogers had two children — a 4-year-old and an 18-month-old. Griffith purchased a pennyworth of laudanum and administered it to the children, giving a larger portion to the older child. Griffith’s intention was to cast “them into a deep sleep.” However, signs of trouble began when later that evening one of the children began to have strong convulsions and then both died. When Griffith was brought before the judge for manslaughter, she confessed to her crime and was committed to the county gaol, to await trial.

Another publicized case, actually involved a death that happened some twenty years earlier. It began when laborers in the village of Berwick St. John, Wilts, were hired to remove the thatch from an old cottage that once belonged to a widower named Mary Dimmer. Mary was deceased but had lived in the house for over forty years. After removing the thatch, the laborers exposed a cavity between the roof and the ceiling, which is where they discovered the body of a mummified infant. Mary had a daughter named Ann, who was also deceased, and, who, according to neighbors, had been pregnant about twenty years earlier. Apparently, Ann delivered the baby “without anyone knowing what had become of the child.”[8] Neighbors reported the birth to police, who made a search, but both Mary and Ann denied that any child existed or that Ann had even been pregnant. Because of their denials and no evidence, the police dropped the matter. However, with the discovery of the tiny mummified body, wrapped in a waistcoat said to have been worn previously by an illegitimate son of Ann’s, neighbors recalled the birth and surmised that someone in the household likely killed the child.


  • [1] Neison, F. G. P., “Statistics of Crime in England and Wales for the Years 1842, 1843, and 1844,” in Journal of the Statistical Society of London, Vol. 9, No. 3, October 1846, p. 2.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] “Attempt at Murder,” in North Devon Journal, 19 October 1843, p. 4.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Winter Assizes, in Morning Post, 6 January 1844, p. 4.
  • [6] “Accidents and Offences,” in Northern Whig, 29 April 1843, p. 4.
  • [7] “Accidents and Offences,” in Leicestershire Mercury, 28 October 1843, p. 1.
  • [8] “Singular Discovery,” in Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 3 August 1843, p. 4.

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