Crime historian, Angela Buckley (the Victorian Supersleuth) delves into the world of Victorian policing, covering both coppers and criminals in this week’s episode of #TwiceRemoved. Sharing stories from her own family tree, Angela brings Victorian criminal history to life.


Minute Notes:

[00:37] I ask Angela what led her to trace her family tree. Angela details her own family history including her links to Wiltshire, Manchester, America and Italy and we discuss the impact that the publication online of the 1901 census had on us both.

[03:00] Angela shares her stories about her favourite ancestors, including a pioneering female relative that emigrated to the USA.

[04:56] We discuss the connection we feel we have to our ancestors and our emotional response to their lives.

[06:15] Angela shares stories about in person reunions with cousins found via Ancestry. The last time the family had been together was 100 years ago.

[08:14] What started Angela’s interest in crime history? Angela explains her discovery of an ancestor within a Calendar of Prisoners. This ancestor stole potatoes but what really interested Angela was that his step-mother was the person that informed the police of his crime. Angela became fascinated with the impact that poverty and breaking the law had upon the family.

[12:00] We discuss the Victorian era and why we love it so much!

[15:42] What was Victorian policing like? Angela explains the initial voluntary nature of rural policing and the combination of day and night watchmen alongside constables in cities. Angela explains the formation of the MET in 1829 and the four types of police forces that existed right up until the 1960s/70s. Angela explains the various changes that started taking place around the mid 19th Century and the similarities between the organisational structure of policing in the 19th and 21st Century.

[21:42] What happened when there was a very serious crime, like murder?

[19:31] Who decided which crimes needed to be investigated and how did they make those decisions? Angela details the rise of detectives and explains watch committees, the role and influence of the public and private policing. She explains the response to serious crimes such as murders, a spate of garrotting and the sad rise in baby farming.

[23:52] We discuss my criminal ancestors and my discovery of a botched police investigation and unreliable witnesses.

[26:25] What tools did police have at their disposal to investigate a crime? How did they gather proof? Angela explains the reliance on observation, common-sense and witness testimonies. She explores the use of police sketches, plaster casts, chemical analysis and the use of experts. We discuss the slow professionalisation of the police and the use of science, such as finger printing.

[29:37] Are there crimes that were more prevalent during Victorian period, compared to today? Angela discussing stealing, particularly of clothing and fraud.

[33:07] What punishments might our ancestors have faced, if they were found guilty of committing a crime? Angela explains that the death penalty and transportation were not common and describes some of the types of hard labour that might accompany imprisonment. The blueprint of prisons and it’s regimes are discussed.

[41:22] Which cases have you found most interesting? We discuss the influence of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold and how it has led us to recognise the importance of telling the stories of victims of crime. Angela explains her interest in the lives of individuals and her work on the victims of infamous baby-farmer, Amelia Dyer.

[41:47] What would you say to someone considering tracing their family tree? Angela explores her own genealogy journey and the benefits it has provided.

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