Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teacher Notes

Resource created by Leeds Museums and Galleries:  Abbey House Museum.

Crime, punishment and the police in Leeds: How has our attitude to crime and punishment changed since the 1700s?


A Global View

A key date in this story is 1829, when the first police force was set up in Britain. Also in this year, Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire was recognised after a long and bloody war and the Spanish slave ship Voladora was captured by the British Navy off the coast of Cuba, which led to the release of over 300 African slaves destined to work on American plantations. In the Russian Empire, Jews were banned from living and practising their faith in Sevastopol (Crimea) as part of Emperor Nicholas I’s many anti-Semitic policies.


Curriculum Links

  • KS2 History: Theme extending knowledge beyond 1066
  • KS2 English: Planning, drafting and writing; Reading aloud; Listening; Evaluating and debating
  • KS2 PSHE: Relationships, Rights, Responsibilities, Community and Global Citizenship
  • KS2 Citizenship
  • SMSC: British Values


Activity Ideas

1.     Using some of the information in this resource to research a crime committed in the past. Create your own newspaper article or TV news report about the crime, giving both sides of the story, the details of the crime and the punishment. Do you think newspaper articles always give a balanced viewpoint? Why/why not?

2.     Imagine what life would have been like for criminals sentenced to transportation. See if you can find out more about transportation. Create a diary based on the story of Elizabeth Cahill found on the page ‘Did the punishment fit the crime?’

3.     Listen to the Ballads of Mary Bateman and Joseph Myers. A ballad is a poem or song that tells a story. It should have a plot, characters, and a story frame. Think about other stories, myths and legends of Leeds and create your own class ballad. Start by brainstorming ideas for the ballad. Then, create a draft of the ballad that has a strong plot as well as rhyme and repetition, and fnally put the ballad to music.  An activity sheet is available in the resources page.

4.    Summarise the story of Mary Bateman using comic strip.  An activity sheet is available in the resources page.

5.    Look at the list of items that Mary Bateman conned out of her customers and write a letter in the style of Mary to try and convince someone to give you some items.  An activity sheet is available.

6.     Find out more about the roles of the police today. You might want to find out how the police help us, what your rights are as a citizen and what rights the police have. Create a fact sheet about the police to share with others in your class.


Discussion Ideas

  • Look at some of the crimes and punishments listed on the page ‘Did the punishment fit the crime?’ Do you think that the punishments were right for the crimes committed? Why? What do you think the attitudes of the police and courts were to these people? What would happen to the people committing these crimes today?
  • Use your research as a starting point for a group discussion about changes in attitude towards crime and punishment.
  • Find out more about some of the historic riots that have taken place in Leeds. Discuss the causes and impacts of these riots. What other ways are there to demonstrate or campaign for your cause?
  • Why do you think there are more men than women in the police force? How could we create a better balance?