A NEW collection of records just released reveals Dorset’s colourful criminal past.

The mugshots and accounts that can be found at ancestry.com, contain the details of more than 67,000 Dorset prisoners and is now available online.

They include Samuel Baker, aged 73, who was sentenced to nine months hard labour in 1893 after breaking in to a house to steal two brushes and a pair of stockings.

Charles Wood, an unemployed local drunk was given a month in prison for ‘refusing to quit the beer-house’ in 1872.

Eighteen-year-old George Pill, from Melbury Abbas, got six weeks of hard labour for stealing his neighbour’s donkey in 1894.

The Dorset, England Calendar of Prisoners 1854-1904 and the Dorset, England Prison Admission and Discharge Registers 1782-1901 also contain records of those convicted of more serious crimes.

These include William Parsons, of Dorchester, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ‘maliciously and feloniously’ setting fire to a neighbour's barn.

The price paid for petty crime in Victorian England was severe but the most serious crimes could end with the death sentence.

Labourer James Seal was sentenced to be hanged in 1858 after being found guilty of ‘the wilful murder of Sarah Ann Guppy’.

The records include the criminal’s name, place and date of conviction, sentence, physical description and details of previous crimes.

In many cases there are also mugshots of the detained.

The records have been digitised in partnership with ancestry.co.uk which charges for access.

They can be seen for free using the public computers at the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester.

Ancestry.co.uk content manager Miriam Silverman said: “These records are a treasure trove of information about millions of Dorset inhabitants, following the lives of people from all different walks of life within the county.

“Not only do the records reveal the stories of some of the country’s most colourful characters, they should provide an invaluable tool for anyone looking to research their own connections to Dorset.”

These prisoner records form part of The Dorset Collection 1719-1904, a new database containing more than one million unique record sets that includes vagrant pas-ses, alehouse license rec-ords and convict transportation records – creating a comprehensive collection of records that reveal the shady underbelly of a county’s history.

The records paint a vivid picture of the rogues who roamed the county and each record contains information such as the criminal’s name, place and date of conviction, sentence, description and details of previous crimes.

The collection also details local peacemakers who attempted to uphold law and order in the community, such as jurors and members of the militia, who can be found within the Dorset, England, Jury Lists 1719-1921 and the Dorset, England, Militia Lists 1757-1791.

what you can now find online

THE collections online today are all from the Dorset History Centre and form a complete Dorset Collection. They include:

• Dorset, England Prison Admission and Discharge Registers 1782-1901

• Dorset, England, Calendar of Prisoners, 1854-1904

• Dorset, England Vagrant Passes, 1739-1791

• Dorset, England, Alehouse Licence Records, 1754-1821

• Dorset, England, Jury Lists 1719-1921

• Dorset, England, Militia Lists 1757-1791

• Dorset, England, Convict Transportation Records, 1724-1901

• Dorset, England, Land Tax Returns, 1780-1832