The world’s oldest police mugshots have been revealed showing criminals caught more than 150 years ago – including the earliest joyrider jailed for stealing a horse and cart.
The fascinating custody shots were unearthed in the West Midlands Police archives, and tell the stories of crooks from years gone by.
They were taken at the Moor Street public office in Birmingham between the 1850s and 1870s, and were accompanied with scrawled notes about their crimes.
Police in Birmingham were the first force in the world to take mugshots with the first crook snapped in 1853.
Many of the crooks appear expensively dressed in top hats in their mug shots which were taken by police following their arrest more than 150 years ago.
One of those arrested include John Williams who was charged with “warehouse breaking” in 1864 and sentenced to four months hard labour.
A female crook, Sarah Ann Cooper, was snapped for her mugshot wearing a hooded cloak and clutching her hands together after she was caught stealing bells and door knobs on September 9, 1861.
Another lady, Ann Vickers, was charged with stealing a pocket watch in 1862.
One of the earliest recorded joyriders, John Dale, was jailed in July 1862 after being convicted of stealing horse-drawn wagons in the city.
William Smith was one of Britain’s earliest murderers who posed for a mugshot after he was charged with killing his wife in August 1866.
His charge sheet simply read: “Murder of wife in Hurst Street”, while he sat with an emotionless expression for his custody snap.
Less sinister was Samuel Crowley who was charged with “having skeleton keys” in October 1862.
One of the most common crimes of the time was habitual drunkenness.
If people were caught drunk three or more times in a 12 month period their name would be put on a blacklist banning them from ordering an alcoholic drink for two years.
Police heritage lead Corinne Brazier has spent painstaking hours cataloguing and sorting the hundreds of century-old mugshots.
She said: “Birmingham was the first police force in the country to start photographing its offenders, only beaten in the world by the Swiss police.
“It could well be the case that the West Midlands Police Museum holds the oldest surviving police custody photos in the world – some dating back to the 1850s.
“At this time Birmingham was using the Moor Street Public Office to hold many offenders before they appeared in court.
“Suspects would be marched round to a new photographic studio that had opened up down the road where they would have their picture taken.
“The poses make it hard to identify these individuals as people held in custody – bar the tell-tale handcuff on one of the images.
“In the 1870s it was legislated that all police forces had to take photographs of people in custody, and this is when the first ledger of the Birmingham Police collection starts.
“These images show some sad characters – all in black, many in bedraggled clothing. Holding a chalk board for the reference number identifying their record, which also identified the year the image was taken.”