Each week the Guardian reports on felons dealt with mainly by Chester Crown Court.

The main difference between criminals today and in the 18th century is the sentences.

No longer can the death sentence be imposed, but it most certainly could at the time of our story in 1841.

Murder, uttering forged money, and the theft of a horse are just a few of the offences for which hanging would be the sentence.

Mathew Fowles was born in Witton cum Twambrooks, now Northwich, on April 9, 1819.

His father was William Fowles, and his mother was Kitty Fowles, and they lived in Church Walk, Northwich.

A respectable couple, his father was later the church sexton at nearby St Helen's Church.

His duties involved gravedigging, he was the custodian of the church buildings, preparing them for meetings etc., and minor other duties such as bell ringing.

Their son Mathew however, did not live up to the expectations of such respectable parents.

He went to school in the town, but his wayward behaviour started to develop.

His demeanour was sullen, his conduct mischievous, and his learning very slow.

At the age of 14 years, he was apprenticed to Thomas Snelson, a shoemaker of Witton; he remained there for four years, after which, due to his reckless and unmanageable behaviour, he was discharged from his apprenticeship.

Northwich Guardian: Church Walk in the 1800sChurch Walk in the 1800s (Image: Paul Hurley)

He then started two jobs; the first lasted a week, and the other a few months. After this, Peter Bratt, a boot and shoemaker of Leicester Street, took him on as an apprentice on a two-year engagement.

After a very short time in the apprenticeship, he was apprehended after stealing 10 hen fowls, the property of Humphrey Adams of Northwich.

For this, he was committed to Knutsford Gaol and tried at the Easter Sessions in 1838 but was acquitted.

Shortly after, he was arrested again for stealing a hat appearing at the Chester Summer Assizes in 1838.

He was convicted and sentenced to hard labour for four months. On release, he was taken back into his last employ but was soon discharged for incorrigibly bad conduct.

He continued in his nefarious and criminal business until the end of 1839 when Mr T Yarwood took him on.

It was hoped that with this trust, he would reform his habits and leave the company of his former companions.

Northwich Guardian: The junction of Leicester StreetThe junction of Leicester Street (Image: Paul Hurley)

Unfortunately, these hopes did not materialise. After about three months, his master discovered that he had stolen leather and had it made into shoes for himself.

He was instantly discharged, and soon after, he was obliged to leave Northwich due to his feloniously receiving money from a Mr Gaskell of Warrington.

He then travelled to London, where soon after his arrival, he was apprehended and sentenced to prison for robbing a fellow tenant of a trifling sum.

He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to imprisonment for six months in Cold-bath-fields Prison.

On release from prison, he left London with the intention of returning to Northwich. On the way, he passed through Newcastle, where his actions took a turn for the worst.

To be concluded next week.