Derby

Historian claims to have found the oldest criminal mugshots 'in the world'

Selection of Derby Gaol Museum mug shots Image copyright Derby Gaol Museum
Image caption Historian Richard Felix said the photos were taken in the very early years of photography so must be the first ever mugshots to be taken

A historian believes he has found the first ever mugshots to be taken "in the world", dating back 150 years.

The photos were taken by the deputy governor of Derby Gaol of some of the region's most hardened criminals.

They feature the leader of a "cracksmen" (burglars) gang, a 24-year-old who had been imprisoned 12 times and a young expert pickpocket.

Richard Felix spent 12 years tracking down the photos and says he still wants to find the original album.

The photos were taken from 1857 by the governor William Garbutt and were accompanied by handwritten notes littered with Victorian terminology.

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Crimes varied from burglary, theft, stealing poultry and a "kidsman", who lured in young children to train as thieves.

Image copyright Derby Gaol Museum
Image caption The mugshots were taken with handwritten notes by Mr Garbutt about each criminal that came into Derby Gaol

Mr Felix said he first started searching for the collection of pictures when he came across three in a Victorian police book 12 years ago.

He eventually came across a magazine published in 1946 which reproduced all 63 headshots.

"He kept an unofficial photographic album which I think is still preserved somewhere," said Mr Felix.

"The book itself is still out there - it must be."

One of the photos is of Dick Thorley, who slit his girlfriend's throat and, in 1862, became the last man to be publicly executed in Derby.

"The pictures of these guys who are mainly Derby people, and also the terminology I have never heard before, is fascinating," said Mr Felix.

Image copyright Derby Gaol Museum
Image caption The language used in the notes were Victorian terms which are no longer used

Mr Felix said he thinks Mr Garbutt was good friends with William Fox Talbot, who married Constance Mundy from Derby, and became a pioneer in photography.

He said he could have been inspired to take the mugshots from him.

The historian says he wants to create a permanent display of the photos as a memorial to Mr Garbutt and his work.

Criminal historian Nell Darby said she was sceptical the photographs were the first ever mugshots, but she agreed they could be the oldest surviving ones.

"In the 1840s they [mugshots] were developed as a way of recording what criminals looked like in mainland Europe and some local forces, such as Birmingham and Liverpool, were trying to find ways of identifying criminals by taking photos, but it wasn't a standard format," she said.

"These could be the earliest examples and it is fascinating to see them - the individuals and their stories - bringing Victorian society to life."

Taking mugshots, using a standard format became mandatory across all police forces in 1871.

Victorian terms used in Mr Garbutt's notes

  • Drawing dampers - robbing tills
  • Prigging toggery - stealing clothing
  • Padding ken - a lodging house for vagrants
  • Going the jump - diving out of a window
  • Cross cove - thief
  • A little snakesman - a boy who is put through a small aperture in the building for the purpose of letting others in
  • Flies - policeman
  • Laid up in lavender - hidden from the police

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