Photographed in Bath, the Victorian rogues’ gallery includes one criminal bizarrely dressed as a knight and scores of other villains from various walks of life.
The collection of convicts ranges from people charged with manslaughter to a man sentenced to hard labour for stealing a duck.
Compiled by local police during the era, the images were stored alongside details of the offenders’ age and physical appearance, in a bid to help officers identify known and repeat offenders.
The rank of vintage villains includes Reuben Davis, 55, a dental surgeon accused of obtaining a railway ticket by false pretences and schoolmistress, 40-year-old Pamela Daniels, who was found to be ‘drunk and incapable’.
In 1903 comedian John Charles Monkton was charged with ‘uttering a forged cheque’ and William St Clair, an umbrella maker accused of embezzlement.
People researching their family history are very excited by criminal ancestors. “They would far rather find a ‘black sheep’ than aristocracy or royalty
Back in 1910 safebreaker George Anderson, aged 28, was jailed for receiving stolen property and three years later George Aust, 37, was punished for neglecting children.
In 1904 Francis William Bricknell, 38, obtained £2 ‘by trick’ and in 1909 poulterer Charles Shroll (corr), 29, was convicted of using obscene language.
In 1894 Frank Albert Smith was charged with embezzlement and his photograph, without explanation, shows him dressed as a knight in armour.
Many offenders appear smartly dressed – and many were convicted of ‘false pretences’.
One crook, Oliver Lowe, was arrested in 1911 for a series of thefts.
The duck-snatcher was described as “medium build, dark brown hair and moustache, successively convicted of stealing ducks & fowl; a pair of boots; an overcoat; a fowl (again); and finally an umbrella.”
For each of these crimes Lowe was sentenced to several months hard labour in prison.
It is thought that many turned to crime in Bath, Somerset, because well-heeled residents offered rich pickings, particularly for preying conmen and thieves.
The fascinating gallery covers criminals who were locked up in the city between 1892 and 1922.
Displaying rogues as young as 17, the mugshots have been released so people interested in their family history can find the potential black sheep lurking on a forgotten branch of their family tree.
Colin Johnston, principal archivist at Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Record Office, said: “People researching their family history are very excited by criminal ancestors.
“They would far rather find a ‘black sheep’ than aristocracy or royalty.
“We hope this new online resource on our website will be a big hit with anyone looking at family or social history in Bath.”
For more information on the gallery, or to search the archives and see photographs from the Prisoners Portraits on the Bath Ancestors database visit their website www.batharchives.co.uk.