Crime & Mischief

Although generally honorable, Wanlesses were not always law-abiding…


Drunken adventure in a coalpit
(Carlisle Examiner, 1866 – no date provided)

On the morning of Tuesday last, a young collier from Flimby, named Mark Wandlass, who had for some time been working at Ellenborough Colliery, near Maryport, having given up at that pit, went, as is customary “but in a state of drunken insanity” to bring up his work wools from the bottom of the mine. As the pit was not working, the engineman on duty, detecting the state he was in, very properly ordered him off. After Wandlass had given utterance to a great many threats, he left the pit bank, as the engineman supposed, to go home, but in reality it was only a feint to carry his rash intention into execution. Shortly after, seeing the engineman at work in the engine room, Wandlass jumped on the gate protecting the shaft, seized hold of the rope attached to the cage and, before any alarm could be given, slid down the shaft, a distance of about 20 yards. The engineman shouted to him to hold fast, and he would bring him again to bank. But the foolhardy youth, uttering the most fearful imprecations, told him he would not be disappointed in his intentions, as he was determined to bring out his gear to bank. So down the rope he slid with fearful velocity, out of their sight, into the dark abyss to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of 220 years, regulating his speed when nearing the bottom with remarkable coolness. A deputy overman was working at the bottom of the shaft; Wandlass’s sudden introduction to him was such a terrrification as may be imagined; he himself could not describe it. Wandlass briefly told him his errand, and asking for the engineman of the underground shaft (i.e. a shaft within a pit), told him his errand also; but, on being politely refused the privilege, he ran in the direction of the pit, with the intention of giving a second edition to the above, but he was secured and bound hand and foot and sent to bank, where his clothes all tattered and torn, and his hands and legs all skinned. Presented a sad spectacle indeed. Otherwise he was not worse, and was able to walk home.
(contributed by Elaine Bond, from the Black Sheep index)

Northumberland, England (submitted by Ken & Colin Wanless)

1) A riot occurred, on a day of truce, on 27 July 1582, at
Windy-gyle, in the Cheviots. Later at a Scottish Court, the Scottish
warden had gone on to explain that the real cause of the fracas
had been the stealing of a pair of spurs by an English boy named
WANLESS, whose family was “in grief with my Lord Russell
for some particular matter”.
Bibliography: Watson, Godfrey ; ‘The Border Reivers’.

2a) 4th April 1605. Gerard WANLESS, of Heppall, yeoman, at Bowton,
entered and stole six ewes and six lambs of V.C., worth 6s. each
from James SCOTTES of Bowton, aided by Thomas GRYME of Rothbury.

2b) 15 October 1615. Ralf WANLESSE of Greenechesters within the
liberties of Riddesdale, yeoman, at Roughlees, broke into Roughleyhead
close and stole one black cow worth 40s. from George PEARSON of
Eshington, yeoman. [Entry that George HALL of Bourduppe, Riddesdale,
received the stolen cow is scored through].
Reference: ‘Indictments, Quarter Sessions’ produced by Northumberland
& Durham Family History Society on microfiche.

3) On Thursday, 19th October 1865, T. WANDLESS was sentenced,
at Alnwick Quarter Sessions, to eight months in Morpeth Gaol
for rioting. They were indicted for “that they did, at the
Chapelry of Cramlington, on the 12th of October, unlawfully and
riotously assemble together with divers other persons to the number
of 100 and more, to disturb the public peace, making great riot
and disturbance, to the terror and alarm of Her Majesty’s subjects,
and did also unlawfully assault and beat one Matthew TAYLOR.”
These men had gone on strike in order to place them on an equal
footing in regard to wages with the other men of the district,
and they and their families were evicted from their Colliery cottages.
Bibliography: Fynes, Richard (Third reprint 1972, first published
1873) ‘The Miners of Northumberland and Durham’, Co-operative
Press, Rutherford Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Durham Quarter Sessions Calendar of Prisoners (in Durham Record Office; submitted by Claire Wandless)

1861 – 1871

  • George Wandless, committed by Morley Headlam Esq, misdeameanour on bail, “unlawfully attempting to carnally know a certain greyhound at Barnard Castle”. Tried 2 July 1866 and Discharged.

1867 – 1944

  • John Wandless age 23, charged with Receiving, found guilty June 30 1874
  • John Walton Wandless age 25, charged with stealing, found guilty Feb 20 1877


Thomas Wandless, serial burglar of Passaic, New Jersey, 1910