Criminal activity did not stop during the Great War; both the Oswestry Court and the assizes were kept very busy, but it would seem that a new range of offences became common. Here are some of the women who fell on the wrong side of the law:
Doris Clayton (born 1896)
Doris was working as a forewoman in the WAAC at Park Hall Camp when she was charged with stealing milk, bacon, marmalade and mincemeat to the value of 25 shillings. The food belonged to the King’s Liverpool Regiment. Doris had parcelled up the food and addressed it to her mother in Blackpool who was in very poor circumstances. Colonel Shute from the camp spoke up for Doris and the case was dismissed. She did have to pay 15 shillings costs.
Source: Llangollen archives online 8 March 1918 pg 3
Elizabeth Wilson & Jane Davies (6 Oswald Place)
Elizabeth and Jane were charged with keeping a disorderly house between the 12 February 1917 and 6 March 1917. Evidence provided by the police stated that on 2 separate occasions 4 soldiers had been found on the premises along with a large quantity of alcohol. A statement from a neighbour also supported the fact of soldiers going in and out of the house. Both women had convictions for drunkenness and using bad language. They were sentenced to 3 months hard labour.
Source: Oswestry Advertiser May 1917
Emily Lovell (26 Gate Street)
Emily was charged with child neglect after police and an inspector from the NSPCC found her 4 children dirty and hungry. She was described as drunk and dissolute living in a dirty house with alcohol and broken bottles scattered around the room. Her house was known to soldiers. Things came to a head on the 21 December 1917 when a ‘drunken orgy’ was heard and reported to police. The children were taken into the care of the NSPCC whilst Emily was found guilty of child neglect and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment. Emily’s husband was missing in action in Egypt.
Source: Llangollen archives on line 4 January 1918 page 5
Esther Hughes (born 1874, living at Cripplegate, Oswestry)
Esther was charged with using bad language in her house. As she had been charged before with this offence, she was fined £1. Living in a 4 roomed house with her husband, William – a plasterer – and 10 children is enough to make anybody swear!
Source: Llangollen newspaper archives 1 February 1918 page 5
At Shropshire Assizes Mary Jones and her unmarried daughter Lilian were both charged with the wilful murder of a male infant on the 5 January 1915. Evidence provided by the police and next door neighbour revealed that the body of Lilian’s baby was found buried with a piece of tape around his neck and wrapped in a coarse apron buried in the back garden of her mother’s house. Death was found to be caused by suffocation and strangulation.
Evidence from Lilian herself was muddled and conflicting. She stated that the child was only of 3 months gestation; however the post mortem indicated a full term infant. The jury found them both guilty of wilful murder but requested mercy. Judge Avory donned the black cap and pronounced that both women would be taken away and hanged by the neck until dead and their bodies burned. Their fate is not available at this time as records are sealed.
Sources: Liverpool Echo Saturday 13 February 1915 & Oswestry Advertizer Archives online 17 February 1915
Beatrice Alice Roberts (born 1887, died 1964, living at Holyhead Road, Chirk Bank)
Mrs Roberts, wife of Silas since 2010, was charged with child neglect after leaving her child (Cecil Aged 7) alone in a room with an unguarded fire on 29 December 1917. Superintendent Taylor from the NSPCC gave evidence of this crime. Mrs Roberts pleaded guilty and was fined 8 shillings costs.
Sources: Llangollen advertiser online 1 February 1918 pg 5 & www.ancestry.co.uk
Nina & Elsie Mary Wilkinson (born 1902 & 1903, living at 9 Boot Street, Whittington)
Nina Aged 16 and her sister Elsie aged 15 were both charged with stealing flowers from gardens. They both pleaded guilty and were each fined 10 shillings. Nina and Elsie lived in a 3 roomed house with their father, John (a platelayer), their mother and 6 siblings.
Source: Llangollen archives 7 June 1918 page 5 & www.ancestry.co.uk
Ann was charged under the Cultivation of Land Order and the Defence of the Realm Regulations with not cultivating a quarter acre of garden. The Shropshire War Agricultural Committee requested that the garden be set with certain seeds and the weeds removed which were causing damage to other cultivated gardens. Ann was fined £2 and £1 6 shillings costs.
Llangollen Archives 7/12/17 pg 3
Anne Vaughan and Gertrude Moran (living at 72 York Street)
In December 1916 Anna Vaughan and her daughter Gertrude Moran were charged under the Reserve Forces Act with aiding a soldier to conceal himself from being called up to fight in the war. They were fined £2 each for concealing Private James Pownell of the Cheshire Regiment.
Eva Jones (living at 28 Llwyn Road)
Eva Jones was also charged under the Reserve Forces Act in December 1916. She was fined £1 and ordered to pay costs for concealing Private James Nolan from being called up to fight in the war.
Llangollen archives online
Drunkenness became a big issue as the war progressed as men and women turned to alcohol to cope with the trials of war. Women, who started to work outside the home, many for the first time in their lives, found they had money to spend on themselves. In 1915 King George V announced he would abstain from alcohol and urged people to sign the Patriotic Pledge:
“In order that I may be of the greatest service to my country at this time of national peril I promise by God’s help to abstain from all intoxicants until the end of the war and encourage others to do the same.”
The fact that the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith decided not to sign the pledge didn’t help the cause.These ladies obviously sided with the Prime Minister and were charged with being Drunk and Disorderly in the town
In 1916 Annie Arnold, a Hawker from LLanfyllin, was fined 21/-.
In December 1917 Agnes Browne from Cripplegate, Oswestry was bound over to keep sober and to keep the peace for 12 months under the care of Rev Father Rooney. Unfortunately, Agnes was charged again in 1918 and fined £1.
In August 1917 Sarah Roberts of Orchard St, Oswestry was fined 1 Guinea for being drunk and disorderly on Beatrice Street. Interestingly John Jones, a labourer from Morda, was also charged but only fined 10/-.
Oswestry Advertiser online, Oswestry and Whitchurch in the Great War by Jan Johnstone
Emily Ada Gittins
In May 1917 Emily Ada Gittins, wife of a farm labourer from Oswestry, was charged with ‘wandering abroad without any viable means of subsistence’ at Shrewsbury Borough Police Court.
Emily was found by P.C. Davies at 1.10am on a public seat in Ellesmere Rd. She told the police officer that she had no money for lodgings. She received money from her lawyer every 6 months in respect of a little property left by her parents.
Emily agreed to return to Oswestry and the court provided money for railway fare and food.
Llangollen advertiser on line 11/5/17
In October 1917 the people of Oswestry were told that 65 extra street lamps would be lit. This came along with the reassurance that, in the event of an air raid, the lamps would be quickly extinguished.
A time table for subduing lights from buildings in the town was listed every week in the Oswestry Advertizer. This was closely monitored by special constables and people charged if found to be breaking the restrictions.
The Light Restrictions were a problem for traders in the town. One trader reported a fall in takings despite the open sign being on show when the blackout blind was in place. He wondered ‘what prospect is there of an enemy aeroplane coming all this way at the cost of petrol and enormous personal risk to drop a bomb on Oswestry?’
The proprietor of the Queen’s Hotel faced charges for allowing bright lights to shine from his windows. He blamed a member of staff but never the less was fined £1 10/- and costs for the special constable on duty at the time.
Lily Matthews Assistant to Messrs. Harris and Wilcox of Cross St, Oswestry was fined 5/-
Ada Birch who worked at a Decorators shop in Bailey St, Oswestry was fined 10/-
Florence Barnes from Bailey Head was fined 15/-
Llangollen archives 1/2/1918, Oswestry and Whitchurch in the Great War by Jan Johnstone
Emily Philips (living at 6 Lower Hengoed)
In 1917 Emily Philips, aged 16, was charged with the theft of a bicycle valued at £3. Emily maintained she had found the bicycle in a coppice. The Petty Sessions court did not believe her and she was fined £1 and bound over for 6 months.
Oswestry advertiser archives on line
Mary Elizabeth Williams
Also in 1917 Mary Elizabeth Williams, aged 23, a dressmaker from Oswestry stole electroplated articles from her employer and pawned them. She was bound over for 6 months and had to pay £2 costs.
Oswestry advertiser archives on line
School attendance officers monitored the children who failed to attend school on a regular basis. In 1916 Mr R T Gough summoned these parents to court for failure to make sure their children attended school:
Florrie Thomas, living at 101 York Street, was fined 2/6d.
Mary Thomas, living at Church Street, was fined 2/6d.
Harriet Edwards, living at Cripplegate, was fined 10/-.
Jennie Vaughan, from Middle Hengoed, was fined 10 shillings
Sarah Jane Owen, from Gobowen, was fined 5 shillings
Mrs Edith Pritchard, from Twmpath, was fined £1
Emily Morris, living at Willow Street, Oswestry, was fined 10 shillings
Jemima Evans, living at Beatrice Street, Oswestry, was fined 5 shillings
Llangollen advertiser online
Amy and Emily Margaret Jones
In 1915, Amy Jones of Glyn Ceriog and Emily Margaret Jones of 13 Orchard Street, Oswestry were both charged with misconduct in a public place. Amy was fined £2 and Emily Margaret was fined £2.
Llangollen archives online 1915
Another crime that seemed to be very much on the increase during the war was bigamy. Both men and women came up before the court regularly- as reported in the Border Counties Advertiser.
Florence Louisa Dew met Frederick Joseph Ramscar in the spring of 1917. She became pregnant and they married in Oswestry in June 1917. But Frederick had married Sarah Annie in 1915 and had 2 children in Salford. The judge was concerned about the increase in the number of bigamy cases and despite Frederick offering to go straight back to the Front Line, the judge gave him 6 months hard labour before sending him back.