Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A prison in decline?

I just Googled 'Knaphill Prison' and came across this interesting record which suggests that the prison was almost entirely unoccupied by 1888. Huh, I wonder why? I also like how they use the term Convalescent Prison. I'm not quite sure the prisoners would have agreed scrubbing frozen bricks in the bleak mid winter.

HC Deb [sic] 16 November 1888 vol 330 c1384 1384

MR. HANKEY (Surrey, Chertsey) asked the Secretary of State for War, Whether his attention has been directed to the present condition of the prison at Knaphill, Woking, which is now almost entirely unoccupied; and, whether, in view of the great want of suitable barrack accommodation at present existing throughout the country, he will at once take such steps as will enable him to convert the prison into barracks, or utilize it for the military service of the country?

THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle) Communications have been entered into with the Home Office with a view of obtaining for military purposes the buildings and lands of the Woking Convalescent Convict Prison; but no decision has yet been arrived at. The position of these buildings, within easy reach of Aldershot, makes it most desirable to obtain them.

Swindling the old lady of Threadneedle Street.

I just stumbled across another interesting crime story involving some Americans incarcerated at Woking Convict Invalid Prison. In 1873, the Bidwell brothers robbed the Bank of England of a whopping £500,000.

So how did they pull off such an audatious heist?

In short, they discovered that the Bank of England allowed people to draw against bills of acceptance (cheques??) from large institutions without checking to see if they were genuine. They set up an account for 'Horton and Co', impressed the bank manager 'most favourably', then waved some genuine bills under his nose (to establish their credit) before commencing the forgeries which netted them half a million pounds cash!

Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

The following article was published in the New York Times in 1892. It tells the story of how the Bidwell brothers' sister fought tirelessly for their release and gives some interesting insight into the Victorian prison system. Read the Bidwell brothers article here

Ghosties and ghoulies

Okay, so my boyfriend will kill me for this, but what the heck. He was in the garden the other day when he glanced up at the spare room window (this is the bedroom in which I had my hello ghost experience) and saw a person moving away from the window.

Later in the day he started backtracking and saying things like: It could have been the shadow of a bird flying past or one of the cats sitting on the window sill ...

Yea right ;-)