How to look for Victorian prisoners’ photograph albums 1872-1873

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

View online

How many are online?

  • None
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  • All

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What are these records?

These records are albums containing photos and details of prisoners in Wandsworth prison from 1872 to 1873.

The prisoners’ photograph albums (in volumes PCOM 2/290 and PCOM 2/291) were created because taking a photo of a prisoner made it easier to identify criminals who had been convicted or offenders who went on to commit further crimes.

What information do the records contain?

As well as a photograph, each entry also includes:

  • prisoner’s physical description
  • date and place of birth
  • the crime they committed
  • sentence
  • place of conviction
  • prisoner’s intended residence after release from prison

The entries often give the prisoner’s place of residence before imprisonment.

How do I search the records?

You can search the records in Discovery, our catalogue, by filling in the form below.

You don’t need to complete every field to find a record.

Searching is free, but there may be a charge to download documents.

You may prefer to browse through the albums in PCOM 2/290 and PCOM 2/291.

What do the records look like?

Joseph Charman description

To get an idea of what the records look like, see the prison record below of Joseph Charman, who was convicted for stealing a tame fowl.

He was discharged aged 12 after serving a sentence of six weeks’ hard labour. There is also a note saying ‘5 years ref’, which means he was ordered to serve five years on the Reformatory School Ship Cornwall, which was moored at Purfleet.

Prison record of Joseph Charman (PDF, 0.86MB)

The prison record of John Hearn is written on a slightly different type of form. John Hearn was convicted aged 12 for simple larceny. He had stolen 11 pieces of leather to the value of two shillings and was sentenced to one calendar month’s hard labour.

Prison record of John Hearn (PDF, 0.28MB)

Why can’t I find what I’m looking for?

These albums only include photos of all those sentenced to serve one month or more at Wandsworth prison during 1872 to 1873. If the person you seek served less than one month, you will not find a record here.

The National Archives holds other Wandsworth prison registers containing one-line entries for each prisoner, for the years 1858 to 1879 (PCOM 2/230-289). The registers for 1879 to 1956 are held at The Metropolitan Archives.