No time to watch the grass grow

Here I am at the Chesterfield and District Family History Society Open Day at the Proact Stadium, home of Chesterfield football club, but there is no time to turn around and enjoy my rather impressive view of the stadium.

With around 35 stalls the event is proving a great success and enquiries into DRO collections and services are flooding in.

We attend this event every year along with many family history societies and local history organisations.  This year the theme is Crime & Punishment, so I have given those attending a rare treat and brought along one of the favourites from our collections – the volume of criminal portraits from 1888.  It doesn’t get out much as at nearly 130 years old it’s showing its age, but I thought it was worthy of an outing just this once.

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Accompanying the volume is the almost compulsory parish register (I never attend a family history event without one!). This example is the very earliest register for St Mary & All Saints Parish in Chesterfield, dating from 1558 to 1634, and is one of the best surviving examples of a plague era register in the country.

Some Calendar of Prisoners have also come along and feature very interesting and sometimes unexpected crimes, including Nathaniel Walters, 65, who on the night of 23rd July 1849, at Ripley “feloniously stolen two hives containing honey and bees” and Henry Widdowson, 29, who on the 15th day of August 1849 at Killamarsh, “feloniously and fraudulently milked a cow.”

Wonderful stuff.

Here are a few more examples of photographs from the Volume of Criminal Portraits.  At the beginning of the volume there are examples of professional portraits by photographers operating in Chesterfield – the two I have found are Seaman & Sons and S. Whiting.  The volume provides a wonderful opportunity to study the development of criminal photography as the style changes from traditional portraiture to, what appears to be, more functional and taken by the police themselves?  As we move through the volume we see examples of prisoners with and without their hat, holding slates with their details written on , handcuffed to police officers, showing hands (so show any missing fingers or scars etc), with mirrors attached to their shoulder – an early example of taking a profile shot, and not to mention the occasional nonchalant pose.

Want to look through all the images in the volume?  Visit us and ask for the Volume of Criminal Portraits ref. D3376/OS/7/1 – to protect the original we have scanned it in it’s entirety so you’ll use the CD version.


4 thoughts on “No time to watch the grass grow

  1. Thank you, Karen. That’s very interesting. I’ve come across reports of photographers being contracted to provide services like this, so it’s good to see the evidence (so to speak). I’d love to come in and see the album, but since I’m in New Zealand, it may have to wait until I’m in the vicinity.
    Regards, Brett Payne, Tauranga, New Zealand

  2. Hi gluepot, thanks for your comment. On reading it I thought I’d go back to the volume and take few more images. I have updated my original post with what I have found – hope it answers your query.

  3. Is there any indication in the volume of criminal portraits which photographer might have taken the portraits?

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