Linton in Pictures
A History of Linton
in Photographs
Available here

There were over two hundred capital offences on the statute book in 1820 and around 35,000 British people were sentenced to death between 1770 and 1830. In reality about 20% of these were hanged, 55% were confined in prisons and 25% were transported to Australia.

From the 1830’s the number of death penalty verdicts sharply declined and almost 95% of those actually sentenced to death were given some kind of alternative sentence. The Cambridgeshire Quarter Sessions were reported in the local newspapers and there were seven cases between 1810 and 1852 which involved Linton people.

The sentence of transportation was rarely given to first time offenders and although some of the crimes appear to be trivial those convicted were usually long term offenders.

In 1810 James Cornhill of Linton received pigeons which had been stolen from Barham Hall and he was transported for seven years. Crime was rampant at this time and Pembroke College, the new owners of the Barham Estate were keen to deter local criminals.

When the new Linton Union Workhouse was built in Symonds Lane in 1836 a local 33 year old labourer called Joshua Rist stole 130 pounds (weight) of lead from the yard and was spotted by the builder’s foreman. Rist stated that he found it on the road where he believed it had fallen off a waggon ! Theft of property was regarded as a serious offence and he was sentenced to seven years transportation.

Some criminals were incredibly stupid. John Bush aged 27 years broke into the cellar of the farmhouse at Little Linton and stole meat from the tenant farmer Richard Rodwell. It was winter and snow was thick on the ground. The local Linton constable only had to follow the footprints left in the snow to trace Bush to his house in the Hadstock Road. The judge considered this a serious offence and imposed a ten year transportation sentence.

Life sentences were much rarer and tended to be given for the theft of valuable livestock or violent burglary. Thomas Wright, a 30 year old habitual offender from Great Abington stole a sheep from the local butcher Thomas Edwards in March, 1837. He was given a life sentence. In Australia this normally meant about twelve years as a convict before a prisoner was freed.

Women made up about one fifth of those transported. Ann Stinton of Horseheath was 15 years of age and was a live in servant at the home of Susannah Middleditch, a widow who lived in the house next to the former Barclay’s Bank site. She ran a high class drapery and haberdashery shop and Ann stole a piece of lace, some silk tassels, some satin ribbon and over seven pounds in gold sovereigns and notes. Her mistress forgave her when Ann confessed but further searches at her Horseheath home uncovered a wealth of stolen property. Ann was sentenced to seven years transportation in 1817. On appeal this was reduced to five years in an English prison. This reduction shows that there was an element of compassion even in the harsh environment of the first half of the nineteenth century.

Transportation to Australia ended by 1868.