Crime and Punishment in 1864

James Crute was a chimney sweep but it seems could not resist helping himself to some of his employer’s equipment, which presumably he sold on.

He was on trial at Aylesbury at the beginning of January 1864 charged with stealing a chimney-sweeping machine, valued at £2 and a sack, valued at 6d, from his employer Adam Sherwood, a master Chimney sweep of Wolverton. (I take it that the chimney sweeping machine was the name given to the kit that chimney sweeps used – a circular brush and a set of connecting rods which could be poked up the chimney)

Crute had form. It was revealed at his trial that he had stolen a chimney sweeping machine from a former employer in Northamptonshire and was sentenced to 3 years of penal servitude for that offence. He was released on July 4th 1863 and after only three months of “going straight” stole Sherwood’s machine on October 24th. I assume he had been in custody from that time until his trial.
His sentence was a heavy one: four years, with an exhortation from the Chairman of the magistrates, that on his release he lead a more honest life.

James Crute was a mug. If he was able to sell on each machine at half price, say £1, this would only have represented two weeks wages for an unskilled worker. (Skilled workers in Wolverton Works were earning at least £1 a week in that period.) So for  a month’s worth of extra cash he landed himself seven years in prison!

Wolverton Works and WWII Aircraft

Just as had happened in the 1914-1918 War. Wolverton Works was requisitioned for more important work than building railway carriages. Technology and engineering had moved on over 20 years and greater skills were required of Wolverton workers. Carpenters shaped and framed the wings for Horsa gliders and repaired the wings of Hawker Typhoons. Machinists built gun sights and parts or tanks, including the large tank wheels, something the works could easily adapt to. Woodworkers shaped rifle butts.

Larger projects included the building of Bailey Bridges. These bridges, named after their designer, came in component parts which could be transported and assemble quickly over streams and rivers. Wolverton also built over 8,000 assault landing craft for the D Day invasion.
The Horsa gliders, shown in this photograph, were built for D Day to carry  men and equipment across the Channel. They were substantial aircraft with a wing span of 67 feet, Some concept of the scale is shown here. They were towed into the air by airplanes. The craft was named after the 5th century Saxon invader Horsa.
This last photograph show men and women who worked on the repair of a Whitley bomber. The wings have been cut (presumably to be reassembled later) to allow the huge aircraft into the narrow workshop designed only for railway carriage manufacture. A number of women in the photograph are in overalls, presumably doing mechanical work. Such an idea may not have been imagined in pre-war years.

These photographs are on display at the Milton Keynes Museum. They were probably taken circa 1943-4, prior to the D-Day invasion of France.