Victorian Child Criminals: Mugshots

These colourised and enhanced photos paint a picture of how society treated children from poor backgrounds during the Victorian Era. For petty crimes such as stealing daily necessities such as food and clothing, they have faced hard labour and jail. And these haunting photographs show the stern and haggard faces of Victorian criminal children who were sentenced to tough punishments in the 1870s, with many looking remarkably older than their actual ages.

The children in the shots were all from poor backgrounds. The pictures show a range of children who were sentenced to punishments from ten days of hard labour, to five years in a reformatory prison. This shows the real people behind ‘official’ histories – people that are from the lowest levels of society, those really struggling to survive. The original black and white pictures were found when Newcastle jail in Carliol Square was demolished.

Henry Leonard Stephenson, aged 12. He went to prison for two months after breaking into a house.

Mary Catherine Docherty was 14 when she got seven days of hard labour for stealing an iron.

Michael Clement Fisher, who went to jail aged just 13 for breaking into a house.

Henry Miller was a convicted thief after he was caught stealing clothing, aged 14. He got 14 days of hard labour for his crime.

Aged just 12, Jane Farrell stole two boots and was sentenced to do 10 hard days labour at Newcastle City Gaol.

Mary Hinningan was 13 when she stole an iron and got seven days of hard labour.

Aged 13, James Scullion was sentenced to 14 days hard labour at Newcastle City Gaol for stealing clothes.

Aged 15, John Reed was handed 14 days hard labour and five years reformation for stealing money in 1873.

Rosana Watson, aged 13. She was also part of the girl gang that stole an iron and she also got hard labour.

Stephen Monaghan, 14. He was convicted of stealing money on 25 July 1873 and was sentenced to 10 days hard labour and three years in Market Weighton Reformatory.

52 thoughts on “Victorian Child Criminals: Mugshots

  1. Most of them look curiously old-young. Aged before time by their experience, but hardship must have affected their growth and ability to mature. What a tough time to be a child, especially one in need!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They all look younger than their actual ages to me, due to stunted growth. I hope that their lives improved at some point (they’d have been just past middle age in the 1920s).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a feeling that they might have continued in a life of crime or prostitution, as they were unlikely to be able to read and write, and would have had criminal records.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  3. I imagine a sentence of 5 years meant 5 years no time off etc
    Many years ago I saw a plaque on a very old bridge next to some carved graffiti. The plaque stated the young boy was identified and sent to Australia.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. The young ones today will think this all fiction.
    Pete, Aussie got the adults & nothing changed with them over there!
    As WB says the Tories here (which are likely to be the govt in a year in NZ) are to have boot camps for young offenders. The only comparison I can make with the above pics is today they do ram raiding.and get counselling.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. If you think that’s bad don’t read about what the Tudors did to people arrested and taken to dungeons under King Henry’s orders.. it was horrific!

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Children as young as 6 were working in full-time jobs back then. Young criminals received no sympathy, and no understanding or compassion.
      The dark side of the marvellous ‘British Empire’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And here in the US, this type of person – with no options in life – would be blamed on the liberal Democrats for not being tougher on crime…a sad cycle that gets politicized rather than fixed here

        Liked by 1 person

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