By Hugo Gye
We may think of Edwardian women as being demure and withdrawn, but these astonishing mugshots show that this was far from being the case.
They depict 12 women who were arrested in 1903 and 1904 and subsequently brought before North Shields Police Court.
The vintage images are an important reminder that nostalgia about the past is not always accurate – and that previous ages were just as violent and unsettled as our own.
Mugshots: Mabel Smith, who was arrested for larceny in September 1903, in a picture released by Tyne & Wear Archives
Haunting: Susan Joice, who was arrested for larceny in August 1903, glowers at the police camera
Respectable: Susannah Adamson is surprisingly well-dressed for an alleged thief in her mugshot
All the female criminals were living in the North-East of England more than 100 years ago when they were picked up by police for attempting to steal other people’s property.
The 12 were all accused of either theft or larceny, a closely related crime which was abolished in England in 1969.
Most of the women appear surprisingly well-dressed, kitted out in formal-looking dresses as well as hats.
Young: Charlotte Adamson looks no older than 19 in her mugshot after being arrested for larceny
Contrast: Mary Scott (aka Wilson) was a middle-aged woman when she was arrested in December 1903
Hats: Annie Anderson shows how women’s fashions have changed in the 110 years since her arrest
Susannah Adamson, who was arrested for larceny in February 1904, seems particularly respectable in her elaborate outfit and feathered hat.
But other, like Catherine O’Brien, are covered in rough shaws which would have denoted poverty.
The women cover a wide range of ages, from those who are practically girls to criminals well into middle age.
Charlotte Branney and Mary A. Butts looked like teenagers when they were arrested for larceny, but Mary Scott (aka Wilson) appears to be at least 50 years old.
Upset: Sarah Patterson was accused of being a thief by police in North Shields in 1904
Poverty: Catherine O’Brien’s rough shawl suggests that she would have been comparably poor
Change: Alice Caush was another resident of North Shields, a traditional fishing town which was transformed by the Industrial Revolution into a centre of shipbuilding
The evocative mugshots come from the Tyne & Wear Archives, which has posted them online as part of its ongoing mission to share images of historic interest.
They were found in an album of photographs from North Shields Police Court, cataloguing those who had committed crime in the area.
The images ‘have really struck a chord with people’, according to a spokesman for the archives, who said that the haunting mugshots had captivated members of the public.
Innocent: But mugshots of women like Mary A. Butts are a reminder that Edwardian stereotypes are not always accurate
Evocative: The haunting collection has apparently struck a chord with the public
Dark: The images were released by the Tyne & Wear Archives because of their unique nature
At the turn of the century North Shields, which is eight miles east of Newcastle, was an important fishing town and shipyard.
It was also crucial to the industry of the North-East, leading to widespread urban poverty which might explain some of the crime documented in these photographs.