Explore stories of our county’s convicts at archives event

This story was published 1 May 2019

Criminal records from the 19th century detail the harsh punishments for petty crime in North Yorkshire, such as the two months’ hard labour in Northallerton’s house of correction handed to Buffalo for stealing three fleeces in 1871.


The story of 25-year-old Buffalo is among those that will be told when North Yorkshire County Record Office opens its doors to host Archives at Dusk.

This is the ninth year running that the County Record Office has hosted the event. This year’s theme is Crime, Punishment and the Law.

The Victorian records that will be on show also point to the harsh punishments given to women, with one lady serving three months’ hard labour for stealing a coat in 1872.

This year, Archives at Dusk will feature The Cell Block, a travelling exhibition about the graffiti drawn on the walls of Richmond Castle. There will also be stories from Whitby Museum about women whose healing and midwifery skills were interpreted as witchcraft.

Re-enactors from Ripon’s Prison and Court House Museums will bring court proceedings to life, alongside a paper trail that will follow several North Yorkshire folk through the criminal process. 

On display will be plans and records from the now closed Northallerton Prison, showing the site of the treadmill, and revealing the names of those who were sentenced to be confined with hard labour or transported.

“Archives at Dusk aims to inspire visitors, old and new, to discover the fascinating heritage on their doorstep,” said North Yorkshire County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Customer Engagement.

“The interactive evening provides a rare opportunity to have a behind the scenes look into North Yorkshire’s remarkable criminal records housed within the walls of the Record Office.”

Margaret Boustead, Head of Archives and Records Management, added: “The evening will take you on a journey through the criminal justice system, highlighting the different types of crime and punishment found in historic records.

“This year we’ll be seeing how desperate poverty drove people to commit petty crimes, as well as exploring stories of daring highway robbery and calculated murder.”

Archives at Dusk will take place on Thursday, 16 May, from 6pm to 8.30pm at North Yorkshire County Record Office, Malpas Road, Northallerton, DL7 8TB. Admission is free and light refreshments are provided. Booking is not necessary and free parking is available on site and nearby.

Find further information on Archives at Dusk. Keep up to date with County Record Office news on Twitter, @nyccarchives.