Picture from the Past


Julia McDonald, courtesy of Greater Manchester Police Museum

It is very rare to come across any images of the women I’m researching.  Although their photographs will have been taken upon committal to Strangeways, these appear to have been lost in the mists of time, or, most likely, to a Manchester Corporation skip.

However, the Greater Manchester Police Museum holds several volumes of Victorian and Edwardian police photographs for the region.  One of these volumes was once in the possession of a Rochdale detective, whose notebook contained photos and information on a variety of ‘notorious’ Rochdale criminals.

Julia McDonald was one woman who came within the professional orbit of the detective.  She appeared eight times in the prison registers between 1870 and 1873, twice for drunkenness, but her ‘criminal career’ lasted much longer.  The information contained within the notebook shows that she continued to offend well into the 1890s.


                                        Courtesy of Greater Manchester Police Museum

In addition to her numerous committals directly from the magistrates’ court, Julia also appeared four times at the Quarter Sessions.  Three of these appearances resulted in lengthy prison sentences, one of which, in 1873, was for seven years penal servitude for stealing various items from the wonderfully named Tubal Dobberkin.

It is obvious that prison did not stop Julia’s offending.  Her photo shows a woman no doubt hardened not only by her circumstances, but also by her experiences of the criminal justice system.






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