Miscarriage of justice?

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DR Robert Poole was polishing his shoes using an old copy of the Lancaster Guardian when a name alongside a drawing of a woman on the page caused him to do a double take.

“I thought, ‘I know that person’,” explains Dr Poole, a reader in history at the University of Cumbria’s St Martin’s College campus.

The person he was referring to was Hanna Smith, who was depicted in a pen and ink drawing on these pages after it was put up for auction in Knutsford in Cheshire last year.

Her name was familiar to Dr Poole because he had been teaching his students about food riots, including one in Manchester in 1812 in which a crowd forced dealers to sell food at fair prices.

A poor harvest, combined with the need to feed British troops at war with France, had sparked inflation.

Among the crowd, was Hanna Smith, who was convicted of taking an apronful of potatoes and a couple of pounds of butter without paying.

The drawing shows her wearing a headscarf and manacles ahead of her execution at Lancaster Castle on June 13, 1812, and was put up for sale by a private seller from North Manchester, who wished to remain anonymous.

The identity of the artist is unknown.

According to the auctioneer, the vendor had bought it a number of years previously as part of a job lot from a house, which also included a trumpet and poetry.

Before that, it is believed to have been part of a private collection. Dr Poole, who lives in Lancaster, told of his surprise at seeing the drawing.

See the Lancaster Guardian (08-04-11) for full story.