The Great Western Railway began running trains in 1838, taking passengers from London to the west coast for holidays and business. It was very popular and was dubbed ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’ by its many happy punters. The railway allowed Victorians to travel further and faster than they ever had done before and helped open the country up. But it also presented opportunities for crime, as this case from the Marylebone Street police court in 1848 shows.
On May 14th a great many people crowded into the police court because the tales of the plunder of Charles Abbott and Ann Williams had been making the news for several days. A police raid on a premises in Lisson Grove had revealed a stash of stolen goods, all purloined from various railways stations across the capital. Abbot was the mastermind and Williams was tasked with disposal. The couple appear to have set up 23 Carlisle Place, Lisson Grove, as a sort of ‘depot for ill-gotten treasure’.
There were several portmanteaus, along with boxes, trunks and even a writing desk. The police also found several pawnbrokers tickets (suggesting that many other items had already been exchanged for cash). Various witnesses came forward to own the property, a firm of pawnbrokers deposed to having received goods from the couple, and the owner of number 23 testified that she had known Abbott for 7 or 8 years and let him deposit goods there.
The couple were fully committed for trial at Old Bailey.
[from The Standard , Monday, May 15, 1848]