The Hull Packet of 21st February 1879 carried the following short piece:
THE CONVICT PEACE. - Police-constable Robinson, who so successfully arrested Peace at Blackheath, is a native of Winteringham, and was for a considerable number of years employed as
labourer at Sand House Farm, near Appleby.
That no-one needed telling any more of the story suggests that in the late 1870s, everyone had heard about Peace! Indeed, his life was featured in films
(in 1905 and 1949), and even in comics of the 1960s such as Buster. Until Jack the Ripper, he was the most infamous of Victorian criminals.
He even featured in a Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventures of the illustrious Client."
* * * * *
Our Winteringham interest in Charles Peace is via PC Edward Robinson. Edward had been born in Winteringham about 1838, the son of William and
Ellen Robinson, with older brothers George, and James. His father was an agricultural labourer, and taking a reasoned guess they lived close by the
church, being only 3 houses in the 1841 census from the Rectory (though that is of course pure speculation).
On the night of the 1851 census Edward was recorded as staying with his uncle, John Robinson, a retired farmer, aged 74, whilst his mother and
father lived elsewhere in Winteringham, taking in two young lodgers - George and Mary Sargant. Mary was 16, and like William listed as a pauper,
whilst the other young lodger - George, 14, was an agricultural labourer.
Currently we don't know what happened to Edward after this, apart from the reference in the Hull Packet that he worked at Sand House Farm, near
Appleby as a farm labourer for a considerable number of years. Later he must have joined the Metropolitan Police, serving at Blackheath.
* * * * *
Charles Peace was born in Sheffield on May 14th 1832, and by the age of 14 he was working in the Sheffield
steelworks. However, after a red hot piece of steel injured him, he was to remain a cripple for life.
By the time he was 19, he had started burgling, but he wasn't very good at it, and served a month in prison. He
was at the burgling in Sheffield again by 1854, and again caught and jailed - for 4 years! As soon as he was
released in 1858 the same thing happened, and he was jailed for 6 years, and by 1866 yet another repeat saw
him jailed for 8 years! Once released this time, he returned to his wife and child and seemed to try to go straight, with picture framing providing his livelihood.
Fate then leant a hand when Peace made the acquaintance of an engineer called Dyson, and it seems that Peace and Mrs Dyson became lovers. Certainly Mr Dyson believed so!
Peace and his wife then moved to Hull, where they opened a pie-shop. How ironic that the man who was destined to bring Peace to justice was only just across the river! However, while Mrs Peace looked after the
pie shop, Charles seemed hell-bent on continuing his criminal career, far afield. On August 1st 1876, he had
gone to Manchester to do some burgling but was spotted by two policemen, and one of them - a PC Cock, approached him. Peace warned him to stand back, but the young officer advanced ... Peace fired two shots -
the second being fatal, and made his escape.
Two brothers by the name of Habron were accused of this dreadful crime, and tried on November 27th and 28th 1876. One was acquitted, and one
found guilty, and sentenced to death by hanging, but shortly before this was due to take place, his sentence was reduced to imprisonment for life.
One person who watched the proceedings in court was none other than Charles Peace!
The following day Peace was back in Sheffield and watching the house of Mr and Mrs Dyson. He saw Mrs Dyson leave the house and go to an
outhouse, where he waited for her to open the door. He threatened her with his revolver, but was disturbed by Mr Dyson. As Peace tried to escape
he was pursued by the angry husband. In desperation Peace fired a warning shot, and when it had no effect on the enraged Dyson, Peace shot him in the head.
He hurried back to his wife's Hull pie-shop, but detectives arrived and on being told that Peace wasn't there, they searched the property. Peace hid
behind a chimney on a roof, until the detectives had gone, but he had to do this frequently as they came back time and again for three weeks.
A reward of £100 was offered and a description of him circulated: "Charles Peace wanted for murder on the night of the 29th inst. He is thin and
slightly built, from fifty-five to sixty years of age. Five feet four inches or five feet high; grey (nearly white) hair, beard and whiskers. He lacks use of
three fingers of left hand, walks with his legs rather wide apart, speaks somewhat peculiarly as though his tongue were too large for his mouth, and is
a great boaster. He is a picture-frame maker. He occasionally cleans and repairs clocks and watches and sometimes deals in oleographs, engravings
and pictures. He has been in penal servitude for burglary in Manchester. He has lived in Manchester, Salford, and Liverpool and Hull." (He was 44 at the time but looked much older).
Things being too hot for him in the north, he travelled to London, Bath, Bristol, Didcot, Oxford Birmingham, Derby and Nottingham. At Nottingham he
stayed with a Mrs Adamson, who fortuitously received stolen goods! In this house he also met Susan Gray (Mrs Thompson), enforcing himself upon
her with a threat from his revolver! Peace and Mrs Thompson has several near-misses with the law, before Peace decided that a move to the capital would be beneficial.
After a while, he took a couple of adjoining houses in Billingsgate Street, he and Mrs Thompson living in one, and his wife and son next door ... but
Mrs Thompson wasn't happy here, so everyone moved to a house in Peckham! As usual, Charles led two separate lives. First and foremost were his
burgling forays in South London, though he went as far afield as Southampton and Portsmouth. But his other life was as a clever inventor, along with a man called Mr Brion.
* * * * *
At 2 am on 10th October 1878, former Winteringham man, PC Edward Robinson, was patrolling the streets of Blackheath when he suddenly saw a
light appear at the back of a house in St John's Park, Blackheath, home of Mr Burness. Quickly realising that there was something untoward, he
called for back-up from two of his colleagues and hid in the back garden. One of his colleagues went to the front door and rang the bell. Charles
Peace quickly made his way out of a back window and down the path pursued by Edward. "Keep back!" he said, "or by God I'll shoot you!" But the
courageous Edward did not keep back and when Peace fired once, twice, three times, he still advanced on the double murderer! A fourth shot was
fired and missed PC Robinson, who was now close enough to strike Peace in the face. Peace threatened to "settle" with one last shot, and this time
he did hit his target - but in the upper arm. Despite this wound, Edward managed to fling Peace to the ground, held him, and grab Peace's pistol and
hit him on the head with it! The other two PCs ran to help their colleague, and Peace's burgling days were over.
* * * * *
The residents of Blackheath treated 'our' Edward as a hero, and presented him with an inscribed pocket watch, later purchased by the Friends of the
Metropolitan Police Museum. At the trial of Peace, PC Edward Robinson was recommended by the jury to receive a £25 reward.
Currently, that is the last we have heard of a real Winteringham hero!
* * * * *
Despite Peace trying to bluff his way out of trouble after his arrest, including giving himself a false name, he was rumbled when he sent a letter to his
co-inventor, Mr Brion, asking for his friend to get in touch with his family. Mr Brion was having none of it and helped the police in every way he could.
Peace was sentenced to life imprisonment for the attempted murder of PC Robinson at the Old Bailey, and then to Sheffield to be charged with the
murder of Mr Dyson, by the stipendiary magistrate. The hearing was adjourned for 5 days, and Peace taken back to Pentonville Prison in London.
On the return journey to Sheffield almost a week later, he attempted, and nearly succeeded in escaping from the travelling train near Worksop.
His trial took place in Leeds, on 4th February 1879, lasted one day, and the jury took just 10 minutes to return a guilty verdict, and the judged passed the sentence of death on him.
Before he was executed, Peace admitted that it was he, not William Habron, who had murdered PC Cock. William Habron was then given a free pardon and compensation of £800.
Captured by one Lincolnshire man, Peace was to be hanged by another - William Marwood from Horncastle.
For some reason the exploits of Charles Peace saw two films made of his life, he was included in several stories and in the Buster comic as late as
the 1960s. David Ward wrote a book about him in 1963, and one by Edgar Wallace is available free from Project Gutenberg, Australia "The Devil Man."
The story of Charles Peace can be read in far more detail on Wikipedia, here, though without the references to Winteringham or the origins of PC Edward Robinson.