NORMAN Lester Gervais Raoul d’Artois Montagu was a bit of a lad.

In fact he was rather more than that: he was a very naughty boy. Because back in 1918, Norman Lester was sentenced  to 18 months hard labour at Worcester Assizes for bigamy in the city. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, his court appearance took place when he was already serving time in the slammer for an unrelated military offence at Norton Barracks.

The  judge took no pity and ruled that Norman Lester should start his bigamy sentence consecutive to his military punishment (ie at the end of it) and so the extravagantly named former soldier could look forward to an uncomfortable year and a half working up a sweat in a civilian prison.

Hence Norman Lester Gervais Raoul d’Artois Montagu joined the roll call of 4,500 convicts to appear in a new 516 page book “Worcestershire Bird” by best selling local author Bob Blandford, which details the names and crimes of 2,000 convicts incarcerated  in Worcester’s City and County jails and another 2,500 from the area deported to Australia.

“Not many Worcestershire family names are not represented,” said Bob. “While some might be in for a shock or two at their ancestors’ shady pasts.”

The book takes its name from the slang usage of the word “bird”, the traditional, and in many areas, still current con-speak for “time”, derived from bird-lime with which jailers coated prison walls to prevent escape. Worcestershire Bird’s index alone, which stretches to 18 pages and contains more than criminals’ names , took more than a month to compile and format.

Smiths (32 jailed and 47 transported) and Jones (31 jailed and 58 transported) inevitably top the head-count, as do the predominantly Worcestershire names of Gittus, Etheridge, Dayus and Vale.

The full list of names ranges from Annie Abbotts, one of the last women to be admitted to the jail before it became men-only in 1916, to Elizabeth Yoxall, sentenced to twelve months at Worcester for theft in 1797.

Also well represented among the bad ‘uns are Andrews, Baker, Brown, Butler, Cox, Davis (and Davies), Harris and Harrison, Hughes, Knight, Lewis, a surprising number of Prices and Pritchards as well as Woods, Wilson and Willis. Also included is Bob’s own great-grandfather Arthur John Blandford jailed for a week for creating a ruckus in Diglis Road in June 1902.

Not surprisingly there’s only one Sylvanus Skeen and one John de la Haye, while the aforementioned Norman Lester Gervais Raoul d’Artois Montagu also, and inevitably, stands alone.

Bob added: “Not many of the better-researched local family trees these days won’t include one or more ancestors who did bird at Worcester and while it would be a monumental task to list all 300,000 inmates of the County Jail during its 108 year history, the 4,500 included give a fair insight into life on the inside in the Faithful City. The books also includes extended accounts of the lives, and sometimes gory deaths, of 38 men hanged in the jail.”

Perhaps the ideal answer to what to give a criminal for Christmas!

l Worcestershire Bird is due for formal launch on December 3, one hundred years to the day since the last execution at HM’s “Castle Street Hotel”, the pet name given by in-mates to the County Jail, which stood in Castle Street on the site now occupied by the University of Worcester’s Art House.

It will be available from Waterstones, TIC and other outlets as well as on Amazon, and direct from the author at