William Townsley, labourer, arrested for stealing jewellery

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Name: William Townsley
Arrested for: not given
Arrested at: North Shields Police Station
Arrested on: not given
Tyne and Wear Archives ref: DX1388-1-81-William Townsley

This image of Townsley seems to have been supplied by the Gateshead Constabulary to the police at North Shields.

An image of his accomplice, Luke Swailes is available here www.flickr.com/photos/twm_news/27190318155/in/album-72157....

The Shields Daily News for 29 September 1906 reports:


This morning at the North Shields Police Court, before Captain J. Sanderson and Mr G.H. Stansfield, Luke Swailes (60), general dealer and Wm. Townsley, a young man, both of Gateshead, were charged with stealing, on the 27th of November 1905, from Welbury House, Preston Park, three bracelets, a neck chain, locket, ring and brooch, value £20, the property of Ethel Annie Freeth.

Swailes was further charged with receiving from Wm. Townsley a gold expansion bracelet and watch value £6, the property of Alfred John Freeth, well knowing the same to have been stolen. Mr G W Chapman represented Swailes.

Ethel Annie Freeth said that on Sunday, November 26th, she left her watch and bracelet in a drawer in the bedroom, together with the other articles mentioned in the charge. On the afternoon of the next day she missed them and gave information to the police.

Elizabeth Irvin, dressmaker, 84 Grey Street, said that in November last she was employed at the Elms, Preston Park, which was next door to Freeth’s house. On the afternoon of the 27th, she saw a man prowling about in front of the sitting room window and took good notice of him. On January 30th, she identified him among six men at Gateshead Police Station and now identified him as the prisoner Townsley.

Edward Surtees Chisholm, manager of the New Gateshead Inn, North Street, Gateshead, stated that he had known the prisoner Swailes for several years. He was a respectable general dealer. He came to witness’s house one Tuesday in November or December and offered him the watch bracelet for £2. The witness bought it for that sum which he thought was a fair price.

Detective Radcliffe said he was present at the Gateshead Police Station when Miss Irvin identified Townsley. The prisoner said “I can soon get out of that, I was in hospital at the time.” On Friday 21st, he arrested Swailes on a warrant. When witness read the warrant over to him he said, “He (Townsley) must be a scoundrel. This is some more he has put on to me.” Later he said, “I have only to say that Townsley is a thorough scoundrel. I am as innocent as a child unborn.” Witness showed him the watch bracelet and told him that that was what he was charged with receiving. He replied, “I have never seen it before.” In the cell he said, “I think the best thing in a case of this kind is to plead guilty. Chisholm knew as well as I did that I got it from Townsley. He asked me if it was straight and I told him he would not get it for £2 if it had been.” Neither of the prisoners, when charged this morning, had anything to say.

The prisoner Swailes gave evidence on his own behalf. He said that he was 50 years of age and a general dealer and lived at 4 Towns Street, New Gateshead. About Christmas the accused Townsley came to him. Previous to that he did not know the man. Townsley asked him if he would buy a bracelet, as he wanted the money to go to Scotland. Asked where he had got it, he said he found it sometime since at Jesmond on a seat. He asked £2 for it, and witness telling him that all the money he had upon him was 35s, Townsley at once handed it over for that price. At Chisholm’s bar next day witness offered it for sale to him and he bought it for £2. Witness thought that would be about the value of the article and did not for one moment imagine it had been stolen. From what he was, however, told later he has very reason to think that the bracelet had been stolen. Afterwards from time to time witness advanced Townsley’s mother small sums of money. Eventually he stopped lending her money, whereupon she made a charge against him to the Gateshead Police. He was tried on that charge at Durham Assizes and acquitted. When charged last Friday week with the offence now being dealt with he did deny that he bought the bracelet from Townsley. He did this because he was afraid of getting Chisholm into trouble. Later he admitted that he had sold it.

Cross-examined by the Chief Constable (Mr. J. H. Huish) Swailes admitted that when arrested he did not know that the bracelet was in the hands of the police.

The prisoner Townsley reserved his defence.

Both prisoners were committed for trial at the Quarter Sessions. Townsley who was in charge of warders, was conveyed to Newcastle Gaol to await trial. Swailes was admitted to bail in his own recognisances of £50 and one surety of £50.

Townsley is at present undergoing a sentence of three years penal servitude for burglary at Hedgeley Heath and was brought before the magistrates on a Home Office order."

The Shields Daily News for 19 October 1906 reports:

“William Townsley, 22, labourer, pleaded guilty to having stolen £20 worth of jewellery at Tynemouth on Nov. 27, 1905, the property of Miss Ethel Annie Freeth of Preston Park, North Shields. Luke Swailes, 59, dealer, pleaded not guilty to a charge of having received the jewellery, well knowing it to have been stolen. Mr Griffith Jones prosecuted and Mr Mundahl defended the accused Swailes.

The jury found Swailes guilty and he was sentenced to three months’ hard labour.

Townsley, who is currently undergoing a sentence of three years’ penal servitude at Stafford Prison, was sentenced to a similar term, to run concurrently with the sentence he is now serving”.

These images are a selection from an album of photographs of prisoners brought before the North Shields Police Court between 1902 and 1916 in the collection of Tyne & Wear Archives (TWA ref DX1388/1).

(Copyright) We're happy for you to share this digital image within the spirit of The Commons. Please cite 'Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums' when reusing. Certain restrictions on high quality reproductions and commercial use of the original physical version apply though; if you're unsure please email [email protected].


Owner: Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
Source: Flickr Commons
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