Source 3a

Charge sheet for William Robert Towers, 1872 (PCOM 2/290/52)

3. Source 3a shows us why William was sent to prison in 1872 and source 3b is the census return for 1881.

Victorian Britain was a tough place to grow up in. Many people lived in crowded cities, with large families and not much money to buy food. Crime was a problem. Punishments were hard for people who broke the law, even if they were children.

Source 3b shows that William was 20 years old in 1881 and lived with his family. He worked as a bricklayer with his father. The family had left the area where they were living at the time William went to prison and moved to Battersea.

Write a story about William’s crime and what happened after he was let out of prison. Use the points below to plan your story.

William’s crime:

  • What was William thinking when he carried out his crime?
  • Why do you think William stole the rabbits?
  • Do you think he wanted them for pets or might the family have another use for them?

William sent to prison:

  • When William was caught, how do you think he felt?
  • What do you think it would have been like to be put in prison for one month, without seeing your family?
  • Do you think William was too young to go to prison?
  • What do you think ‘hard labour’ means?

William set free:

  • How do you think he felt when he came out of prison?

What happened to the family next?

  • Where did the family live in 1881?
  • Do you think they moved because of William’s crime?
  • What job did William do?
  • Were any of his brothers working?
  • How do you think William felt now?