Stories of crime and punishment

Crime and creative writing  –  using the archives for inspiration


Once a month Gilly Beckett and her Creative Writing group have been meeting in Berwick Archives to discuss their creative writing and develop their skills and techniques.  Archives are a rich source of inspiration for creative writing, often providing a starting point for a story which can go in any direction.


In 2019, the group used the Archives and the theme Crime and Punishment to write their own short stories which were inspired by documents they encountered in the Archives. Excerpts were read at Berwick Literary Festival in October 2019 and the stories of Tim Binder, Gilly Beckett, Judy Crow, and Anna Edgar are published here in full.


If anyone is interested in finding out more about the group, please contact



Peter Gentle.   By Tim Binder.


Click here to see a copy of the original Wanted poster.

On the night that he escaped, the voice of the sentencing Judge echoed through Peter Gentle’s mind, as it had done for the previous six months.  Every word was seared into his memory; he rehearsed them many times a day, and always last thing at night.


‘Peter Gentle,’ the sharp faced old man with a clipped voice had said, ‘you have been found guilty…’


Read on here…




November 1871  and  Ghost Story  are both based on the same story, a newspaper account about Elizabeth White, which was pubished in the Berwickshire News and General Advertiser in 14 February 1871.



Click here to see a larger version of this article. This relates to Elizabeth White who was a well known character in Berwick at the time. She spent a lot of her life either in prison for drunkenness and vagrancy or in the Workhouse. Her body was discovered one morning on the Ramparts in February 1871.

November 1871.    By Gilly Beckett


‘Bess, Bess!’

  I can hear him calling me but I am out the back, sweeping the yard so I can pretend I don’t hear him. Tim Purves is his name. He is such a gentleman, even towards me, a lowly wench from the workhouse. He’s well educated is Tim, but he has a kindly manner – just like his Pa who gave me the job of getting their meals and cleaning their big house in the High Street. Oh, I am glad of it – I couldn’t think of going back to workhouse days. They don’t know I come from there, at least I don’t think they know. Tim is shouting again.


Read on here…



Ghost Story.   By Judy Crow


If you choose to walk the Berwick Ramparts in the evening, after dark, when the mist rolls in from the cold sea and you can hear the shush, shush, shush of the waves on the shore below, you may find yourself with an unusual companion on your walk. Here you are, coming up the steps beside the Lion House and there, where the footpath divides, the hairs on your neck may rise, the air feel even chillier and your dog become ferocious, straining on his leash as he growls or barks towards some unseen apparition. Maybe the clouds will part and for a few minutes the mist rolls back and the small, slight, figure of a woman can be seen.


Read on here…




Click here to see a copy of the full source document. (It is difficult to read. It was sent from Newcastle on Tyne Detective Department on 1 Feb. 1890.  It informed police forces that a piece of black figured silk about 30 yards long had been stolen from a Draper’s shop in Newcastle on 25 January.)

The Bale of Silk.   By Anna Edgar.


It was an afternoon in late November and the shadows were already darkening the alley. Trade was slow. I was shutting up the shop and stacking bales of fabric at the back, when I heard the shop door scraping open.


She was framed by the gaslight in the street behind her.  “Mind if I come in Mrs Dixon”, she said in a Northumberland lilt. I was surprised that she knew my name already.


Read on here…






Banner: The document image in the page banner is taken from one of the “Wanted” posters which are preserved in Berwick Record Office;  ref. BA-P-15-13-266 (1894).