Victorian Powys for primary  schools
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Welshpool
Crime and punishment
 
  A tragedy among the barge people  
 

In October 1844 PC Jones was called to the canal where a body was found in the water. This poor man was found to be Thomas Breese of Newtown, who was a bargeman on the canal.
PC Jones tracked down the other men working with Mr Breese and brought them to an inquest with local magistrates. This is a special meeting held to inquire into how someone comes to die in unnatural circumstances. It is an enquiry which then gives a verdict like a trial. The extract below tells what happened in this case.

  It reads:
"I took Moses Bennet, Thomas Humphres and Thomas Davis, all boat men of Newtown, before John Davis Curry, Esq., John Jones Esq. of Crosshood, on suspicion of being some means of the death of Thomas Breese, boatman of Newtown who came to his death in Crowther Hall lock on the night of the 9th. There was nothing found against them. They ware discharged with a reppremanding [reprimanding] from the magistrates to be more careful for the future. A verdict was [re]turned - Accidental death from a bruise on the head."
 
  We can gather from this that the authorities found poor Thomas Breese had had a bang on the head before falling into the water in the dark. After questioning his workmates though they were satisfied that this was an accident, and the three men got a reprimand (telling off) for carelessness.  
  Today workmen are protected by safety rules at work so that accidents do not happen just because someone is careless.
In early Victorian times there were no safety rules and employers didn't have to spend money on safety. Children in particular were at risk at work, but some employers felt it was cheaper to get another child worker to replace those injured !
 
 

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