Source: Crimes and Misdemeanours 1/1(2007) – PERSISTENT OFFENDERS IN THE NORTH WEST OF ENGLAND, 1880-1940: SOME CRITICAL RESEARCH QUESTIONS David J. Cox, Steve Farrall and Barry Godfrey Institute of Law, Politics and Justice, Keele University – page 81 to 82
Peter Court, an Irish migrant to Crewe was an established fishmonger by 1881. He was prosecuted for a number of work related offences – not cleaning his stall (twice); not paying his market fees and council rates (six times); fighting with rival stallholders (three times) selling bad fish (twice); and assaulting the Market Inspector. Other offences included not sending his children to school (six occasions) and drunkenness (three times). According to the Crewe Chronicle in 1903, he was ‘one of the most conspicuous members of society in the town’ and a character of the court. Peter was also a victim of crime. He suffered larcenies from his stall, from being assaulted by dissatisfied customers and rivals, and in 1897 his eleven-year-old daughter was raped by Joshua Tolley. Joshua (aka James, Chalkey and Chorgy) was born in Crewe in 1863 and had begun his offending career by the age of eight, when he was sent to Bradwall Reformatory School for an unspecified offence. His father was charged in 1871 with being in arrears for his maintenance there, and Joseph remained at the school until 1873/4. In 1874, aged 13, he was sent to reform school for a further four years for stealing a jacket in Crewe High Street. In 1879, Joshua left reform school and began at the Works as a apprentice on 4s. per week. The following year he was sacked for losing time and also charged with a felony against Thomas Walker. The offence was probably of a sexual nature and resulted in Tolley spending the next few years in Pentonville Prison. By 1887 he had been released and returned to Crewe, where he was convicted of larceny, stealing calf-skins from Crewe Market. The following year he was convicted of a misdemeanour, and in 1889 he was convicted of housebreaking. In the 1891 census he is recorded as being an inmate of Knutsford Prison following convictions for burglary and larceny at Crewe Market. In 1896 he assaulted John Leigh (probably a young lad) and in the following year committed his most serious offence; the rape of Norah Ada Court. He was sentenced to a further term in prison and spent the next seven years in Dartmoor Prison. In 1903 he returned to Crewe as a vagrant (his parents having both died in 1899) and was convicted of vagrancy, two charges of obscene language and failure to report to the police as a convict on licence.
The Crewe Chronicle carried a detailed report on Tolley with regard to his obscene language in front of a funeral procession, where ‘there were about 100 boys collected around the prisoner. There have been numerous complaints about [Tolley, who]… had a terrible record’. Similarly, with regard to his failure to report, the newspaper reported that ‘In 1897 he had been sentenced to seven years penal servitude for an assault on a child’.
According to the report, at the beginning of that present year he had been ‘liberated from Dartmoor and had reported regularly to the police until recently, when he disappeared’. He had been traced to Sandbach where ‘he was living with a girl under the age of 16, an imbecile. The prisoner said he meant to marry her, and that the banns were being arranged for. The girl’s mother had given information to the police’. Tolley’s abuse of children continued for the rest of his life; in 1904 he was convicted of an indecent assault on an eight-year-old boy; in 1907 of a similar assault on a seven-year-old girl; in 1910 he was convicted of the unlawful carnal knowledge of a 13-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy. Finally, in 1918 he received two months’ in gaol for assault and gross indecency against a young boy. He died in 1920, leaving no family, and (one imagines) few friends behind him.
Two eight-year-old boys, Peter Barratt and James Bradley, killed two-year-old George Burgess, a child they had never laid eyes upon before. On the 11th of April 1861 the toddler was abducted from and smothered in a pool of water near the Love Lane. He was last seen by his father, a power loom weaver near the Star Inn in Higher Hillgate and was being looked after by a nurse when he went missing. The Peter and James, had taken the toddler stripped him, beat him with sticks and then suffocated him in the brook. They had been challenged but not stopped by two residents and in court admitted to it, blaming each other. There had been only one precursor to this incident, on 31 March the pair had be suspended from Stockport Sunday School when they had ripped up two bibles and other children’s caps, and appears not to understand why this was wrong. James Bradley served 4½ years in the Bradwall Reformatory School, and Peter Barrett was sent to a Reformatory in Warwirkshire. George Burgess was buried at Christ Church, Heaton Norris.