200 Years Ago in Norwich : Sam Garwood Steals Piece of Wood

The latest in my series of articles from the Norwich Mercury of 200 years ago this week. It’s crime related and just a short note that:

“Sam Garwood was sentenced at Norfolk Adjourned Sessions for stealing a piece of wood. He was sent to Walsingham Bridewell for three months.”

Interestingly, the courtroom is still there in what is a museum in Walsingham, although not one that I’ve visited. The Petty Sessions for the area were held there until 1974 and it’s one of those perhaps mistaken attempts by Government to try and centralise everything. The Bridewell was a separate building, constructed in 1787 and built along the lines of John Howard’s vision for a modern and reforming prison. It was built on the site of the former leper hospital and it was expanded in 1822 to add 16 more cells. In the year that Garwood was sentenced, five tread wheels for grinding corn were added and I assume that he was forced to use them. The Bridewell closed in 1861, but it’s still there and nearly untouched with access possible by getting the key from the Shirehall Museum. Indeed, I now want to go as I last went to Walsingham during partial lockdown and most things were shut.

As for poor Sam, it seems a harsh punishment, but he had been imprisoned the year before and perhaps the court took that into account. Indeed, there was a Sam Garwood who was imprisoned in the same area on 31 July 1843, so this whole prison thing didn’t seem to work (unless it was a different Sam Garwood). Unfortunately, there are a few Samuel Garwoods who were in Norfolk at the time, so I can’t work out which one it was.