Norfolk Villains, Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates

Norfolk Villains, Rogues, Rascals and Reprobates.
By Neil R. Storey.
Published by The History Press
ISBN 978-0-7524-6001-7

Since my days at the University of East Anglia, I have always had a great liking for the county of Norfolk. During my three years as an undergraduate at UEA, I did a minor in nineteenth-century social history, specialising in the Regency and Victorian underworld and the history of the working class.

A lot of my own research centred on the troubled times that beset Norfolk during that period. A time of particular lawlessness, mostly prompted by the appalling poverty which plagued the county at that time.

Aristotle commented that “poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.” This book suggests the accuracy of his words.

I’ve recently been reading the above book by Neil R. Storey, which is an excellent introduction to these historic and true-life crimes and has the virtue of being particularly readable and very well-illustrated from prints of the time and old photographs.

A fascinating bedtime book if you have an interest in the underworld. Very pleasant to dip into if you like reading about past crimes and times.

Murders, assaults, highway robbery, body-snatching, witchcraft, poaching, smuggling, theft and arson all feature in Mr Storey’s book. Along with criminals, such as the murderers James Greenacre and James Blomfield Rush, the rebel Kett, the highwayman Cook March and the poacher ‘Shirts’ Rudd.

Mr Storey is a very talented narrator who has a real gift for bringing the past alive. He has certainly found a number of crimes I’ve never heard of, as well as the more notorious and better-known villainies.

Anyone interested in the criminal world of an English county and its policing will find this book a fascinating introduction, particularly the chapters dealing with Victorian life – which is too often mistakenly portrayed by writers and historians as a settled time.

Reading this book you can well understand why some Victorians walked around with life preservers, revolvers or just good old stout walking sticks.

I used much of the knowledge of the Victorian underworld gained at UEA in my Victorian thriller “The Shadow of William Quest”, which has a back-story dealing with the poverty that triggered some of the very Norfolk uprisings and criminal deeds mentioned in this book. In later chapters of my novel I brought my hero William Quest back to Norfolk from London for the book’s conclusion.

So Mr Storey’s book holds a particular fascination for me.

A thoroughly recommended read.


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