Crimes in 1843: Five Interesting Ones

There was a number of crimes in 1843, with “one-fourth of all criminal offenders … [noted to be] at the quinquennial period of life, 20 to 25.”[1] It was also 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] Although both men and women were committing crimes in the United Kingdom there were five rather interesting ones that happened.

The first of these crimes in 1843 involved an unhappy, elderly cellarman. His name was Thomas Rowe and he 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 his poor work performance. Rowe was unhappy about his dismissal and appeared at Waller’s door. Although Waller did not want to see him, he let Rowe 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, Waller 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 and was convicted.

The Chatsworth’s cellerman, Edmund Marsden in 1835. Courtesy of

The second of the interesting crimes in 1843 involved a gamekeeper named Matthias Bailey. He was a father of four and worked for George Wilbraham, Esq. of Delamere House. Bailey had been employed by Wilbraham for a dozen or so years. During Bailey’s employment with Wilbraham there had been several problems with poachers on his 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. Bailey was dead and the person who found his 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” of Bailey. 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]

crimes in 1843

George Wilbraham, Esq., Courtesy of Wikipedia

The next of the crimes in 1843 involved miscreants and happened in April to a poor industrious man named Lyons and his dear wife. He was involved in milling wool and had just acquired employment with a man who owned a woolen mill in Ballyhooley, Ireland. However, before Lyons could even perform one day’s work, two lawbreakers broke into his house, dragged he and his wife out of their bed, and beat them senseless. After beating them, they used the same poison that the Widow Gras had used on one of her victims. It was vitriol (sulfuric acid) and the men poured it onto the Lyons’s faces and bodies. Then as they lay suffering, the crooks rifled through their belongings only to gain 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]

The fourth of the crimes in 1843 involved a practice used by nefarious servants. In Wales, it was reported that many servant girls regularly gave their young charges laudanum on Saturday nights. That was because 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 the drug on her charges was a young girl named Ellen Griffith from Carnarvon. She worked for a commercial traveler named Rogers, who 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. Her intention was to put 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 suddenly 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.

crimes in 1843

Laudanum Flask. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The fifth of the crimes in 1843 was a highly publicized case and involved a death that happened some twenty years earlier. It happened in the village of Berwick, St. John, Wilts about forty miles or so from where Jane Austen grew up. It began when laborers in that village were hired to remove the thatch from an old cottage that once belonged to a widower named Mary Dimmer. She 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. According to neighbors, Ann had been pregnant about twenty years earlier but apparently 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.

Close up of a thatched roof. Courtesy of Wikipedia.


  • [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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