Our most intriguing Case

A busy and involving week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

Highlights so far this week have included attending the first West of England Copyright Forum at the American Museum in Britain at Claverton near Bath and a donation of computer components from an early computer systems programmer – which are on their way to the National Computer Museum, based at Bletchley Park.

The big event on Thursday was to create our new “Crime and Punishment” Exhibition in The Town House, Yeovil. This is our annual exhibition, in conjunction with Yeovil Town Council and reflects the development of law and order and policing in Yeovil.

The Town House is a fitting location for the “Crime and Punishment” Exhibition as it is the former Yeovil police station. The artefacts include manacles (or hand cuffs) actually used in the former police station.

The display behind the cabinet illustrates these developments from the early days of the Hundred Stone to the opening of the present police station in Huish in 1975.

By 1305 Yeovil had a Portreeve, who had authority over the town. Portreeves were originally set up in the twelfth century to collect taxes but by the Middle Ages were acting as representatives of the people.

Alongside the official ‘date time line’ (what could be termed the ‘top down’ history) is the ‘bottom up’ stories of crimes committed and the punishments received. Intriguingly, in at least one example, these led to an actual object, which is part of the display. For example:

26/7/1758Elias Newman of Yeovil, Baker, is convicted of selling underweight bread at Milborne Port. This crime became such a problem that Yeovil was issued with standardised weights and measures in 1835 to stop this practise.

There is also a spoon and a pair of gloves to illustrate something of the stories, which in turn, as always, reflect Yeovil at the time. “On 21/7/1786 Henry Collins of Yeovil, shopkeeper, is convicted of selling a pair of gloves for 2s., with no stamp ticket attached.”

For further information on our new exhibition, please contact the Heritage Team, (01935) 462886. Or email us on heritage.services@southsomerset.gov.uk

Our new exhibition at Yeovil Town House:

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William Jenner, was sentenced at Yeovil, being a male under the age of 14 years to be privately whipped with six strokes of a birch rod, for stealing a cash box and money from his employers Messrs Ewens, Johnson & Co.

 

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