The police keep the pit at Sadlers Wells punters under surveillance

The Pit, Sadler's Wells Theatre, 1850

 

On the morning of the 6th January 1847 there were two cases at the Clerkenwell Police Court that the Morning Chronicle’s court reporter thought worthy of note. Neither were particularly heinous and I suspect they reflect the normal comings and goings of the London summary courts. The first case ended in a conviction and sentence, the second in a committal to a jury court.

Frederick Black was ‘a well-known thief’ and so when PC 179 G saw him making his way through the pit at Sadlers Well theatre he watched him carefully. As he attempted the pockets of a number of members of the audience the policeman moved in and tried to arrest him.

But Black was ready for him and got his retaliation in first, thumping the copper and hitting him with a stick. Although the policeman did secure him a ‘gang of fellows rescued him’ on the way to the station. With some help PC 179 G recaptured him but his ‘companions’ escaped. When presented in court the magistrate sent him to the house of correction for a month at hard labour.

Fred Black’s age was not revealed but I doubt he was a child, unlike the next two prisoners to be brought before the ‘beak’.

William Bailey was 14 and his co-defendant, John Pulley just 9 when they were charged with theft. William Harris, the ‘keeper of a fruit and vegetable stall’ was charged with receiving stolen goods.

The boys were accused of taking three ‘scent, or smelling bottles’ (valued at just 4s) from a  chemist in Camden Town. The chemist was named as Benjamin Major Ayres, surgeon of 66 High Street. The boys turned ‘Queen’s evidence’ and admitted stealing the bottles and selling them to Harris for three half-pence (much less than their value of course).

The justice committed Harris for trial; the youngsters may have been relased with a promise that they gave evidence against the receiver, and  warning about their future behaviour. No one of Harris’ name was tried at Old Bailey but he may have gone before the sessions instead. Whether the lads’ brush with the law was enough to shock them into changing their behaviour is another unanswered question.

[from The Morning Chronicle, Thursday, January 7, 1847]

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