19th century book of antisocial behaviour in Belper up for auction

Jim Spencer, of Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, is to sell a nightwatchman's notebook detailing misdemeanors in Belper in 1833 at a 'gentleman's library' auction in October.
Jim Spencer, of Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, is to sell a nightwatchman's notebook detailing misdemeanors in Belper in 1833 at a 'gentleman's library' auction in October.

An auctioneer has unearthed a police book from 1833 detailing the story of a Belper man sentenced to time in jail for stealing a few pears.

The story of Herbert Spencer has been found in a Derbyshire Night Watchman’s Reports book which will come up for sale at Hansons Auctioneers on October 1, with a guide price of £200-£300.

Jim Spencer, head of Hansons’ library department, said: “When you consider how street crime has evolved across the UK with stories of moped gangs, stabbings and shootings, this book shows how a relatively minor misdemeanour, scrumping, could end in a jail sentence two centuries ago.

“The stories, which centre on events in Belper and surrounding villages, can be retold thanks to the dutiful note-keeping of W Bamford, who signed his reports after each shift.”

On August 31, 1833 Bamford wrote that Herbert was caught stealing apples from Mrs Toplis of Holly Street, Shottle, at around 3am.

The book reports: “Spencer was seized and also found to have pears in a bag – was locked up and taken before magistrates where he was sentenced to three months imprisonment.”

The book also details incidents of anti-social behaviour typically arising from alcohol consumption.

On May 28, 1833, Bamford writes: “At 3am, a great disturbance at gin shop occasioned by WM Minton pulling a man downstairs and, on Sam Windward saying that it had served him right, was immediately knocked down by a person (unknown) who ran away as soon as he had done it.”

At midnight on March 7, 1833: “A disturbance in Birkin’s Court at the house of Jacob Smith (ginger) who had a gentleman’s daughter ‘secreted for the purpose of going off to Manchester with Eliza Buckley and Elizabeth Taylor.”

Auctioneer Jim said: “It’s interesting to note the night watchman was aware of all the local families and who was causing problems.

“The loss of the bobby on the beat is often lamented and this book reminds us why.”

The book will be sold as part of a ‘gentleman’s library’ auction filled with antiquarian books, objects, photos, manuscripts, letters, furniture, snuff boxes, chess sets, games, top hats, canes, and scientific instruments.

Entries are invited until September 7, and Hansons will be offering free valuations at the Strutts Centre, Belper, on September 6, 10am-noon.

For more details, call 01283 733988.