Leeds nostalgia: Poster reveals harsh sentences for drunkards

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  • Poster reveals list of ‘habitual drunkards’ in 1902
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A poster rescued from a skip in 1972 reveals how our approach to drunk and disorderly behaviour has changed in the last hundred years.

The poster, dated 1906 and headed with the City of Leeds crest, is entitled ‘Habitual Drunkards’ and shows a motley crew of known rabble-rousers, warning landlords not to serve them “within three years of their conviction.”

As can be seen from the poster, sentences were harsh - in some cases, up to three years in jail. There are seven people pictured, four of whom are women, with their particulars, including occupation, age, height, hair colour, even the number of scars they had, along with their sentence.

Indeed, the story of how the poster was salvaged is almost as fascinating as the object itself. Presently, it is being auctioned on eBay by its owner and retired police officer Neil Middleham, whose late father Colin, also a police officer, saved it from the landfill site

Neil, 52, took up the story: “My father, who died in December aged 85, was a sergeant who worked in Ashton-under-Lyne but was transferred to Lancashire HQ in 1972 and put in charge of estates, which meant running and looking after all the police stations and police-owned buildings. At that time, the police used to own a lot of domestic property, so if there was a leak on a boiler, my father was the one who arranged for it fixing. Likewise, if a police station was modified, my father had to look after it.

“One day he went to Barnoldswick Police Station, which was being renovated and they had all sorts of paperwork in the skip and my father just happened to notice this poster. He thought it was worth saving.

These Leeds residents from 110 years ago certainly look like they had very hard lives and then got locked up for three years. How times have changed.

Retied police officer Neil Middleham, 52, from Preston, whose late father Colin found the poster in a skip

“He knew I was very interested in history and that I had just discovered our proud Lancashire family had actually spent around 200 years thriving in and around Leeds.

“My five times great uncle was the church warden to Patrick Bronte while his brother, my five times great grandfather was a brewer, cooper and publican in Tadcaster. When I told my father, he produced this poster and said, ‘Well these tough folks may be amongst our ancestors then.’

“He explained he had been having work done on Barnoldswick Police Station after the county boundaries changed and a part of West Yorkshire became Lancashire. Lots of old papers and documents had been skipped and he liked the poster and thought it was too interesting to lose to the landfill. He asked the superintendent if he could have it.

“He gave it to me. I have a huge number of items relevant to my family history and this one isn’t really - it gives it a chance to be admired in a Yorkshire museum, by a family to whom it may be relevant or perhaps framed in the gents of some new posh city bar - as a warning to the gents to contemplate if they have had enough.”

Father-of-two, Neil, who spent 30 years in the police force before retiring and now works as a house-sitter, added: “I genuinely find it fascinating.

“These Leeds residents from 110 years ago certainly look like they had very hard lives and then got locked up for three years. How times have changed.”

Find the poster on eBay: www.ebay.com/itm/152072340976. Auction ends on Monday May 16.