Criminal Women: Jane Stanway & Isabella Griffin

By Jo Faulkner, Record Assistant

It is clear from many of the cases involving women, described in Quarter Sessions records, that a common motive of theft was poverty. Jane Stanway seems to have lived a life of poverty, compounded when her marriage broke down. While we may understand this, it is perhaps more difficult to understand why a young woman in employment, such as Isabella Griffin would commit this crime against her employer.

Jane Stanway

Jane Stanway appeared at Quarter Sessions in 1873 after failing to return a cask, the property of brewers, Thomas and James Barnard. Jane instead sold the cask, to be used as a poss tub. There seem to be no records of previous offences in surviving Quarter Sessions records. Unlike many female offenders, who were illiterate, Jane signed her own statement.

QSB 1873 4/8/10 Evidence in the case of Jane Stanway, with her signature

North-Riding of Yorkshire to wit }

Jane Stanway stands charged before us… this Fourth day of September 1873 for that she… on the Eleventh day of August last at Skelton aforesaid then being the Bailee of a Beer Cask the property of Thomas and James Bernard fraudulently did take and convert the same to her own use contrary to the statute in such case made.

And the said Charge being now read over to the said Jane Stanway and the Witnesses for the Prosecution John Boynton, Elizabeth Smith, Frederick Blount and Robert Haw being severally examined in her presence, the said Jane Stanway is now addressed by me as follows…

whereupon the said Jane Stanway saith, as follows:-

I am not guilty I have no witnesses here.

Signed: Jane Stanway

Taken at Gisborough aforesaid

Signed: Thos Chaloner and James Lowther

Jane suffered an unhappy marriage to Thomas Stanway an ironstone miner of Skelton. He appears in the records for a quantity of offences, largely involving theft of game and on occasion, for violence. In 1864, Thomas put a notice in the Whitby Gazette absolving himself of any financial responsibility for his wife.

Later that year, after 14 years of marriage, Thomas was charged with assaulting Jane. A dispute over maintenance ensued, the Magistrate stating that Thomas was bound to maintain his wife ‘although it was clear her language was aggravating’.

QP Photograph of Jane Stanway from the Police Charge Book

At the time of this photograph from 1873, Jane was about 49 years old. She was a charwoman with three lodgers at their home in Skelton in 1871 when the census was taken; her husband was not part of the household.  In 1872, Thomas was indicted for assaulting Jane.

In 1874, he was convicted for refusing to maintain his wife, leaving her chargeable to the Guisborough Poor Law Union. By the 1891 census Jane was a widow and a pauper living alone at Loftus.

QSB 1874 3/10/5/85 Summary conviction of Thomas Stanway

North-Riding of Yorkshire to wit }

Be it remembered, that on the Fourteenth day of April 1874 at Gisborough, Thomas Stanway is convicted before the two undersigned of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, for that he the said Thomas Stanway on the Fourth day of April instant at Skelton in the said Riding unlawfully did neglect and refuse to maintain his wife Jane Stanway whereby she has become and still is chargeable to the Common Fund of the Gisborough Poor Law Union contrary to the statute in such case made and we adjudge the said Thomas Stanway for his Offence to be imprisoned in the House of Correction at Northallerton, and there kept to hard labour for the space of Twenty one days.

Isabella Griffin

Isabella Griffin lived in St Hilda’s, an impoverished part of Middlesbrough, with her mother and five siblings.  She belonged to one of the many Irish families who migrated to the town during the mid-19th century.

In 1868, as a minor, Isabella had been convicted of stealing coals from the North Eastern Railway Company. As a consequence, she was fined one shilling and six pence and ordered to pay eleven shillings in costs to the Railway Company, or face fourteen days’ hard labour at the Northallerton House of Correction.

QP Photograph of Isabella Griffin from the Police Charge Book

Isabella, aged 18 years, was photographed before appearing at Quarter Sessions for the theft of a watch and locket, the property of her employer, Mr Oliver, the proprietor of the Albert Park Hotel, Linthorpe. She was also alleged to have stolen several ‘valentines’ belonging to his wife and children.

QSB 1872 2/8/12 Deposition of William Oliver

Deposition of Witnesses

Borough of Middlesbrough to wit }

The Examinations of William Oliver of the Borough of Middlesbrough in the North Riding of the County of York Innkeeper, of Warden Wildon… Labourer, of Elizabeth Oliver… Juvenile, of Catherine Booth… Singlewoman, and of Robert Thorpe… Police Inspector

taken on Oath, this Twenty-ninth day of February 1872… in the presence and hearing of Isabella Griffin of the said Borough Singlewoman

who is charged this day before us, for that she the said Isabella Griffin on the Twenty-first day of February 1872 at the said Borough of Middlesbrough, being then a servant to the said William Oliver Did feloniously steal take and carry away One Gold Watch, One Gold Guard and One Gold Locket of the value of nineteen pounds ten shillings the property of her said Master and Did also on the same day… feloniously steal take and carry away Four Valentines of the value of one shilling and four pence the property of the said Elizabeth Oliver against the Peace of our Lady the Queen Her Crown and Dignity.

Isabella had previously stolen a pair of boots belonging to a fellow servant, which she was wearing when apprehended. The sentence handed down was six months imprisonment.

QSB 1872 2/8/13 Deposition of Elizabeth Atkin

Deposition of Witnesses

Borough of Middlesbrough to wit }

The Examinations of Elizabeth Atkin of the Borough of Middlesbrough in the North Riding of the County of York Singlewoman, and of Robert Thorpe Police Inspector

taken on Oath, this Twenty-ninth day of February 1872… before the undersigned two of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace… in the presence and hearing of Isabella Griffin of the said Borough Singlewoman

who is charged this day before us, for that she the said Isabella Griffin on or about the Sixth day of January 1872 at the said Borough of Middlesbrough, Did feloniously steal take and carry away One Pair of Boots of the value of nine shillings and six pence the property of the said Elizabeth Atkin against the Peace of our Lady the Queen Her Crown and Dignity.

Further reading:

See our previous posts for an introduction to Criminal Women in Victorian North Yorkshire and the stories of Hannah McKay and Caroline Griffiths.

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