We sent them to the Colonies

Convicted criminals arriving in the Colonies
Convicted criminals arriving in the Colonies

Currently, there is much concern over the theft of lead from old buildings, in particular, churches. At St. Martin’s, Brighouse, lead has twice been stripped from the roof in the past year (Courier, 3rd Oct.).

This type of thievery is nothing new, as old records may remind us. In 1837, Joseph Luty of Halifax was charged with stealing lead from Joseph Crossley and others. The quantity stolen was apparently not great, and he was sentenced to six weeks in jail.

At the Wakefield Summer Sessions in July 1839, James Wilson of Halifax, aged 26 was charged with stealing lead from William Hoyland, painter, of Gibbet Street, a churchwarden at the Parish Church. Wilson was acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence. But at the Wakefield Quarter Sessions in January 1842, a James Wilson was sentenced for stealing lead at Halifax. His sentence was Transportation for seven years. This may have been the same man.

In July 1863, at Halifax Borough Court, George Brear, a slater, was sent to jail for three months for stealing a quantity of lead-flashing from Frank Foster’s new houses in New Road.

An interesting case came up at the West Riding Quarter Sessions in April 1893, when George Henry Chapman, a Halifax groom aged 40, was charged with theft of several items the previous December. The items taken included 47 lbs. of lead, and 72 rabbit skins - a fascinating combination! Chapman was sentenced to three years’ penal servitude.

These are just a few examples of court cases involving lead theft in Halifax during the 19th Century. It seems little changes, except that we do not transport convicts to the Colonies these days.

David C Glover