As crimes go, it probably wasn’t the worst crime spree in the 19th century.
In fact, there were probably hundreds more misdemeanors that were far, far worse than the knocker twisting spree that occurred in Kilkenny in 1841.
The crimes were nowhere near as serious or disturbing as the Jack the Ripper atrocities, but they certainly were reported in the newspapers of the day.
The Globe reported on the travesties in its edition of Saturday, 16th January 1841:-
KNOCKER TWISTING IN KILKENNY
A practice having for some time prevailed in this city, of twisting off knockers, breaking lamps, windows, and such like depredations, without the offenders being detected, Sergeant O’Hara of the constabulary, anxious to remove the charge of neglect which some had attributed to the police force, and desirous of obtaining the special favour of his superior officers, the Hon. Captain Hay and Sub-Inspector Philips (the former having actually offered a reward for the detection of the midnight marauders), on Saturday night last, dressed himself in plain clothes as a countryman and feigned to be staggering drunk.
About half-past twelve o’clock, the Earl of Cassilis, and three other officers belonging to a troop of the 17th Lancers, which has been stationed here for a considerable time, went up to Mr. Walsh’s door, of the club-house, subsequently to Mr. French’s and several others.
The sergeant did not, we believe, actually see them twisting off the knocker, but when they left it there was no knocker on the door, and there was one on it previous to their visit.
TO ROSE-INN STREET
They proceeded to a residence in Rose-Inn-street, and the servant hearing a noise, opened the door, when she saw four persons running up towards the Rose Hotel, one of whom she believed to be the Earl of Cassilis, whose person she was better acquainted with than the others.
We are unacquainted with the extent of their peregrinations, but we have been told that the Earl of Cassilis carried a stick in one hand and an iron bar in the other.
THEY WERE ARMED?
We have been likewise informed that the party carried loaded fire-arms, but we are not aware that there is any other proof of this statement than that, on arriving at their lodgings, they fired several shots.
It was near three o’clock on Sunday morning when they reached their lodgings, and the policeman is willing to depose that he heard shots fired there on their arrival.
THEY ADMITTED THEIR GUILT
It is generally believed, and we think there can be no doubt of the fact, that these four persons have by their’ subsequent acts admitted their guilt – to what extent we are unacquainted; but this much is certain, that the following persons, whose knockers have been twisted off, have received new ones by Captain Helsham’s directions, who avows he is commissioned by these officers to arrange the matter.
NOT A HARSH SENTENCE
The belief generally entertained is, that his lordship and his confreres having engaged to replace all the knockers, and to give 25l. to the poor, the magistrates will allow the matter to drop.
For twisting off a single knocker, a poor fellow named Butler, not very long ago, was sentenced to 12 or 18 months’ imprisonment.