We have an interesting tale from a family of Oswestrians who gave the impression they were accustomed to their life of crime.

The Hughes family, also known as the Bunters, were frequent visitors to the police court for their flagrant misdemeanours and petty, bordering on vicious, crimes.

A family of six urchins, they were so short their heads barely reached over the bar.

All six of them appeared in court on January 7, 1863, for committing arson – they set fire to the works of Messrs Morris and Co in Salop Road. One of the boys had acquired a “ha'peth” of matches, one of them acquired enough straw to create the fire and one of them had ignited it.

The fire was discovered immediately and it was not long before it was put out.

The mayor, presiding over the case in his capacity as borough recorder, gave them a stern telling off and then released them. This just goes to show it’s not a recent occurrence for the judiciary to let youngsters off...

The most well-known of the family was John Hughes. He was a real scoundrel by all accounts. He was accused and acquitted of a highway robbery in 1862 on the Shrewsbury Road.

It seems, however, he was well acquainted with the conditions of the Shropshire prisons. On January 21, 1863, he went before the Police Court alone for stealing a set of fleams from a slaughterhouse.

The case was remanded because of the lack of evidence, but John’s familiarity with the justice system was displayed by the way he went to the trouble of asking for a transfer to Shrewsbury Prison, as he “suffered from the cold” at Oswestry Prison.

Another of the six, George, did not even bother to turn up to court on April 1, 1863, when both he and John Halliday were charged with brawling in Beatrice Street.

George’s excuse did not hold water – he tried to defend his actions by claiming the town was “illuminated” and the people were “rejoicing”, and they were arrested and charged only because they were drunk.

Little else is known about this family or their fate, but we at Hidden Oswestry hope they grew up and saw the error of their ways...

n The Oswestry Police Court was the court of Petty Sessions at the time, as Oswestry was a municipal borough. Petty Sessions were eventually replaced by Magistrates' Courts under the Courts Act 1971.