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Mugshot photographs of Yorkshire criminals of yesteryear uncovered by heritage project


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A Leeds Beckett University academic is calling on the public to help identify and discover the stories behind Yorkshire criminals pictured in a mugshot book held by Teesside Archives.

Racecourse pickpockets and conment

Dating from the early 20th century, the images were found as part of on-going research by Leeds Beckett historian, Dr Tosh Warwick.  The History Lecturer and Middlesbrough Heritage Development Officer had been researching the crime and policing records held at the Middlesbrough-based archives as part of the Middlesbrough Town Hall Refurbishment and Restoration Project, supported by a £3.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).  

Alongside mugshots of a number of Leeds pickpockets dating from the 1920s, other photographs include British and Australian wartime criminals operating in France during the First World War, murderers, Middlesbrough deviants, racecourse pickpockets and two figures ‘believed to be the first men to attempt to steal an aeroplane’.

Randal Hargrave Mugshot 1923 

Two of the mugshots belong to Randal Hargrave and Walter Gudgeon, who were reported in the Yorkshire Post for theft on 20 February 1923. An article in the Leeds Mercury on 16 December 1923 also described Hargrave as having a substantial career of housebreaking in Leeds, Headingley, Ilkley, Ben Rhydding and Horsforth areas. 

The photographs were recently displayed to the public at a workshop held at Teesside Archives by leading crime historian and Leeds Beckett Reader in History, Dr Heather Shore, which provided guidance on carrying out local and family history research.

Leeds Mercury newspaper report 1926 

A call is now being made for any information on the criminals pictured in the mugshots which will help researchers put together the pieces of their story.  It is hoped the material will be made available digitally to help develop stories and learning opportunities as part of renovation and enhanced access to Middlesbrough Town Hall’s former police cells and court room, currently under renovation as part of the on-going HLF project.  

Dr Tosh Warwick said: “This unique material provides a fascinating insight into criminal activity across a wide geographical range and spanning varying degrees of severity and nature, ranging from Leeds pickpockets to would-be aeroplane thieves.  We hope to understand more about the stories of those individuals featured in the mugshot book rather than simply labelling them as criminals.”

1920s racecourse pickpockets

Ruth Hobbins, Teesside Archives Manager said: “The crime and punishment records held at Teesside Archives provide a rich insight into historic deviance and policing but also provide a window into the social history of the area including the people who policed the town, the changing uses of buildings such as Middlesbrough Town Hall and wider developments over the centuries.” 

Anyone with information on any of the individuals featured can email history@middlesbrough.gov.uk.  More information on the HLF Middlesbrough Town Hall project can be found here.  More information on Teesside Archives can be found here.

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