Tabulae Ltd

Happening History

Georgian/Regency Criminal Trials & The Bloody Code

Contact Information

Contact Name:
Karen Hamilton-Viall






Brand new from 2013 is our 18th century criminal trials presentation. In a simlar format to our medieval trials, members of the public are put on trial for their crimes. The main difference will be that they will be considered guilty . It is up to the accused to prove their own innocence! This display is run as timed trials 3 or 4 times a day and in between visitors are invited to try out some of the various items such as stocks, pillories and manacles for themselves!

The Bloody Code:

Capitol crimes increased fourfold during the 18th C. Partly to blame were broadsheets, papers which published and often sensationalised the worst and bloodiest crimes committed, and so the number of capital crimes increased under the Bloody Code to stop this imagined tide of crime, although in fact the recorded crime rate actually fell. Many new things became crime.


Even when a crime was supposedly punishable by death it would often end up as transportation instead. This involved sending convicts off to work in the colonies. From the early 17th C till the American Revolution in 1776, this involved being sent to America but after that convicts were sent to Australia. This practice continued officially until 1868 but was stopped a few years prior. Conditions on board ship to the colonies was dire and their life once there was often very difficult & hard work.

Your Money or your Life!:

Highway robbery was common from the 17th C into the early 19th C. The penalty for Highway robbery was death by hanging. In the early 19th C Highwaymen came to a slow demise, possibly due to the turnpikes and capped off by the new mode of transportation, the railway.

Resurrectionists (body snatchers):

Resurrectionists were those that stole the bodies of the dead after they had been buried and sold their bodies to doctors to disect for the purposes of science. A heinous crime you might think but although it was frowned upon, it was never actually illegal to dig up a body and sell it as it belonged to nobody. The only time they could be in trouble was if they stole the shroud that the body was buried in! Many people tried to negate the practices of the body snatchers by creating tomb safes to keep their bodies secure after they died but the resurrectionists managed to find their way around these too. Occasionally resurrectionists would murder to obtain bodies, the most famous resurrectionists who did this were Burke & Hare from the early 19th C: