Oliver Prisoner Portrait

The photograph below is of Stephen Oliver, and taken in 1870, this the oldest Oliver photograph that I have located. In 1870 the Prevention of Crimes Act made the photographing of criminals compulsory and this photograph was taken at the Oxford Gaol and is from the only surviving album held at the National Archives.

Stephen, 30 and a labourer in Stonesfield was charged with stealing £1.00 from a Levi Hanks in Combe on the 26th December 1869. Apparently, Levi Hanks had been drinking in the Cock Inn at Combe, had left drunk and fell over at which point Stephen stole the coin. In his defence Stephen claimed it was his coin which he had received for a pig he had sold.

His plea was in vain and the jury returned a guilty verdict against him and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.

Prison life was disciplined and restricted and hard labour tasks included stone braking, wood chopping and oakum picking (picking apart strands of rope) and food included oatmeal gruel, bread and soup depending on the prisoner class and the term of imprisonment.

Stephen was born in 1832, the son of Robert and Susannah, and he was the younger brother of James who tragically died in the Cataraqui ship wreck. He married in 1857 to Ellen Hanks and together they raised 5 children. Stephens imprisonment may have been a significant point in his life as the 1871 census show him as lodging at the opposite end of the country in Merske-by-the-Sea and working as an Ironstone Miner and Ellen is recorded in Stonesfield with the children. Perhaps he had gone ahead to find work and a home as the 1881 census shows Stephen and the children all living in Yorkshire, albeit no longer as the same family unit.

It's currently unclear what happened however soon after the family moved his wife Ellen and youngest daughter Sarah died, in the same year and quarter, 1872.

Stephen remarried in 1873 to Margaret Warrior and together they had 3 further children and the children from his marriage to Ellen began their own lives throughout the east Yorkshire region.

Stephen died in 1896 and Margaret died in 1917.

Photograph by kind permission of the National Archives.