History of Bocking
Bocking, Cane's Mill 1902
Reproduced courtesy of The Francis Frith Collection.
History of Bocking >> Bocking Snippets
When researching for this website we often find a little snippet of information on a location or subject which may be of interest. Some are quirky, some show that there is nothing new in this world, and some about the attitudes and morals of the time. [index to snippets] Here is one for Bocking about a juvenile criminal.
Researching Essex court cases I found an interesting case from the Essex Assizes which deserved more investigation. It gives us a brief glimpse into how persistant juvenile offenders were dealt with in the mid-Victorian period.
Frederick Matthews, aged 10, described as a labourer, appeared at the Essex Assizes on 31st March 1864 charged with stealing a half sovereign and a purse from the person of a Joseph Shelley in Bocking. The offence sounds like pickpocketing. But it was his previous convictions which caught my attention.
Even at this tender age of 10, Matthews was already a convicted criminal. In March 1862, at the age of 8, for stealing a knife he was placed in a juvenile prison for 3 days and whipped. In June 1863 he stole a blackbird (perhaps a pet). He was given one month's hard labour. Finally, in August 1863, he was sentenced to 21 days' hard labour for an assault. 
This offence of theft in Bocking resulted in 14 days' imprisonment, then he was to be whipped with a birch rod with 12 strokes, and then to spend 3 years in a reformatory. 
In November 1867 he was back in front of a court. Described as a hawker, he was sentenced to 12 months' hard labour for a theft at Stisted. 
At his next appearance before a court in February 1869 the authorities seem to have lost their patience with him. For an offence of theft of a horse blanket in Black Notley he was sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment. The judge remarked that as reformatory had failed, then "mercy could be extended to him no more, for he was so hardened an offender that it was absolutely necessary that he should be removed from society, to whom he was a danger and a pest." 
He was sent to Millbank Prison in London, and by the time of the 1871 census he was incarcerated in the infamous Dartmoor Prison. 
Sources:  Calendars of prisoners for Essex Quarter Sessions, Essex Assizes and Special Sessions of Gaol Delivery, 1864 Q/SMc 9, at the Essex Record Office
 The Essex Standard 27November 1867
 The Essex Standard 24 February 1869
 1871 census. Class: RG10; Piece: 2144; Folio: 77; Page: 31.
[End of article]
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Bocking - Cary's New and Correct English Atlas, 1798
Bocking - First Series Ordnance Survey Map 1805
This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth. Licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-4.0
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Postcard of St Mary the Virgin's Church, Bocking.
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