CrimeLocal History

1841 – Juvenile Offender – Theft & Misconduct in Service

Charles Bosely was born in Kingsclere in 1828, the son of Benjamin & Sarah1. By 1841 he’d been sent to work for William Richard Purver on his farm in Binley, he was just 13 years old. On the 4th June 1841 he found himself in front of the magistrates in Overton. The Hampshire Chronicle (first name reported incorrectly as John) reports that he had committed a felony and misconduct in service and was sent to the County Bridewell at Winchester for one month2.

Why he committed the offence is unknown but given that at such a young age he was already working, his family was likely very poor. There were not many children of such a young age formally working in the parish of St. Mary Bourne according to the 1841 census, but no doubt at certain times of the year such as harvest many helped out.

Extract from The Hampshire Chronicle, 7 Jun 1841, Pg. 1

After serving his time in the County Bridewell, he returned to his job in Binley for Mr Purver. However, it wasn’t long before he found himself yet again on the wrong side of the law, as on the 9th August 1841 he was arrested by Police Constable Henry Holdaway for theft & absconding from his employment3. This must have been a frightening experience for young Charles as PC Holdaway4 was a stout gentlemen 5ft 10ins tall with a scar on his right cheek! He was likely then taken to a local lock-up before being formally committed to the County Bridewell, Winchester the next day. The gaol committal register gives his crime as “stealing a hat”5.

Salisbury & Winchester Journal, 23 Aug 1841, Pg. 3

It isn’t until the 20th October 1841 when the Michaelmas Sessions were held in Winchester, that Charles was finally tried6 and was sentenced to one month with hard labour.

Hampshire Chronicle, 25 Oct 1841, Pg. 47

So why might Charles have decided to not just commit one crime in 1841 but two? The quote below is interesting as it suggests that for some juveniles prison was better than home.

For some juveniles, the experience of prison was a pleasant one compared with life at home. Edwin Witheford was the chief warder in charge at Dorchester Prison. He reported to the Gladstone Committee that a boy under the age of twelve had recently been sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment at Dorchester, and added that prison had not had the desired effect on the child: ‘That boy we sent out of prison last week was perfectly delighted with the treatment he got in prison. There is nothing to deter that boy from coming again. He was treated with utmost kindness: the boy was quite pleased. He was treated kinder in prison than he would be in his own home’.

Higgs, Michelle. Prison Life in Victorian England (p. 90). The History Press. Kindle Edition.

We need to remember that when he was sent to the Bridewell the first time he just received a one month sentence, no hard labour as the magistrates had decided to go easy on him on account of his young age. This indeed may have meant he got treated better there as we know that Charles he wasn’t at home prior to the offence he was working. Was life at Mr Purver’s farm that bad that risking getting caught stealing again was worth it, maybe he didn’t have a hat. Historic weather information suggests it was a wet summer so it would have been very unpleasant working long days outside with out something on his head.

A wet sequence of months from July to November inclusive across England & Wales… No individual month was exceptionally wet by this series, but the consistency of high rainfall (May & June also had above-average values) led to local flooding later in the year…

Plus thinking about the location of Mr Purver’s farm, it was in Binley the place that William Cobbett had written very unfavourably of in 1825.

Poor, half-starved wretches of Binley!

Cobbett, William. Rural Rides (p. 325). Kindle Edition.

The main focus of this study of the parish of St. Mary Bourne, is to look at what life was like for the labouring poor of the parish between 1821 and 1841, the years either side of the Swing Riots. If there is a disparity between the small hamlets such as Binley (where many of my ancestors lived and worked) and the main village this will hopefully become clear as time goes on. But for now we will never know the true reasons why Charles resorted to theft not once but twice in such a short space of time.

  1. St Mary’s Church (Kingsclere, Hampshire, England), 90M72/PR10, 157/1255, John Boazley son of Benjamin & Sarah, bap. 24 Feb 1828; digital image, ( : viewed 9 February 2024). ↩︎
  2. “At the Petty Session for Kingsclere …,” Hampshire Chronicle, Winchester, 7 June 1841, John Bosely sent to County Bridewell; digital image, Findmypast ( : viewed 6 February 2024), British Newspaper Library Collection. ↩︎
  3. “In June last,” Hampshire Chronicle, Winchester, 16 August 1841, Charles Bosely charged with misconduct in service …; digital image, Findmypast ( : viewed 6 February 2024), British Newspaper Library Collection. ↩︎
  4. HOLDWAY, Henry joined 15 Feb 1840, “200M86/6/1/1 – Examination Book 1 Feb 1840 – 31 Oct 1845,” microfiche, Hampshire Constabulary, Hampshire Archives & Local Studies, Winchester, Hampshire, England. ↩︎
  5. Charles Bosley, No. 613, committed 10 August 1841, “Q13/3/1 – Gaol committal register 4 January 1836-11 March 1848,” microfiche, County Gaol & Bridewell, Hampshire Archives & Local Studies, Winchester, Hampshire, England. ↩︎
  6. England & Wales, England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 HO27/65/98, County Assizes, October 1841, “John Bosely, Larceny, Imprisoned for one month,” 19 October 1841; digital images,, ancestry ( : viewed, 6 February 2024). ↩︎
  7. “Hampshire Michaelmas Sessions,” Hampshire Chronicle, Winchester, 25 October 1841, Charles Bosely, imprisoned for one month for stealing a hat; digital image, Findmypast ( : viewed 13 February 2024), British Newspaper Library Collection. ↩︎

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