Donkey rustling!

Here’s an unusual crime for you.

An 18 year old George Pill was found guilty in1894 and was given a six-week sentence as punishment, why you would want to steal a donkey…well that’s anyone’s guess!

The details of a man who was given hard labour for stealing a donkey in Dorset are among 67,000 Victorian criminal records about to go on-line at the Dorset History Centre which has just started digitising its archive.

This is good news for us as the latest collection to go on-line includes the county’s prison registers from 1782-1901 and 1854-1904 which will be fascinating reading.

Other crimes that are reported seem quite familiar, there was:

Charles Wood, an unemployed local drunk who found himself locked up for a month in 1872 for “refusing to quit the beer-house”.

Samuel Baker, 73, was sentenced to nine months hard labour after breaking into a house to steal two brushes, some vests and a pair of stockings in 1893.

James Seal was found guilty of “the wilful murder of Sarah Ann Guppy”…he was hanged.

William Parsons got 20 years in prison in 1891 for “maliciously and feloniously” setting fire to a neighbour’s barn.

The records include the criminal’s name, place and date of conviction, sentence, physical description and details of previous crimes.

The records have been digitized in partnership with Ancestry.co.uk which charges for access, but you can see them for free using the public computers at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.