Help us save this Derby police album!

A criminal portrait album created by the Derby police between 1890 and 1920 has come up for auction and we have only a week to raise the money to buy it!

If you’re not familiar with criminal portrait albums, they came about after a law was passed in 1871, that required police to take a photograph of every person they arrested.  These photographs were pasted into special albums that also recorded physical characteristics and criminal histories.  The information these albums contain is unique – if your ancestor was arrested, not only can you see their photograph, but you know their hair and eye colour, and even what moles, scars and tattoos they had!

We hold another similar portrait album for Chesterfield in the Derbyshire Constabulary archive which is one of our 50 Treasures. Before this Derby album came up for auction, we thought the Chesterfield one was a rare survival, so it’s really exciting to know that this Derby album survives.  We want to bring it back home to be reunited with the Derbyshire Constabulary archive. 

Derby Evening Telegraph newspaper article from 3 February 1917 titled 'The Great Conspiracy Charge.  Proceedings before the Magistrates. The Attorney-General prosecutes'
Derby Evening Telegraph 3 Feb 1917

What makes this album particularly special are the portraits of Alice Wheeldon, her daughter Winnie, and son-in-law Alfred Mason, who were convicted in 1917 of conspiring to murder the prime minister, David Lloyd George. Alice Wheeldon and her family were socialists who supported the women’s suffrage movement and conscientious objection in the First World War.

Their conviction was considered by many at the time to be based on their political views rather than real evidence. Alice is now considered a Derby hero and is commemorated by a blue plaque and a star in Derby’s ‘Walk of Fame’.

Newspaper photograph of Alice Wheeldon

The only known photographs of her in the public domain are newspaper pictures like this one, so it would be really exciting to have the original photographs.

If we’re successful in buying the album, we will digitise and transcribe it with the help of our volunteers, so that it will be easy for anyone to search it for whatever information they’re looking for.  A copy of the digital images and transcription will be held at Derby Local Studies and Family History Library, so the people of Derby have easy access to it.

If you would like to help us secure this fantastic album for the Record Office and help us prevent it disappearing back into private hands, please donate now.

2 thoughts on “Help us save this Derby police album!

  1. Fingers crossed. Although, wouldn’t say I hope I have criminal ancestors, but on this occasion…..LOL. It would be a brilliant resource and have made a small donation.

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