The detective and the banker’s clerk

Bank clerks

London bank clerks dressed in the height of male fashion in the Victorian period

In the middle of a May night one of the housemaid’s at a hotel in Exeter was disturbed by sounds on the landing. Opening her door she was confronted by a man in ‘his nightshirt flourishing a pistol about, … in a state of great excitement’. She called her boss and the landlord escorted the guest back to his room, assuming he had ‘been partaking too freely of wine’.

The guest, who was a young man from London named Charles Pinkatone,  didn’t heed his host’s instructions to retire to his room for long however. Shortly afterwards the household was again in uproar and this time it was the landlord’s wife who discovered Pinkatone blundering about brandishing his gun, ‘capped and loaded’.

Nothing anyone could do would quieten him or persuade him to go back to bed so the police were called. This didn’t help and the young man ended up assaulting the copper and being arrested and remanded in custody at Exeter to face a local magistrate.

Police intelligence seems to have traveled more quickly in the 1860s than we might think, because one London detective was soon on the train for Exeter with a warrant for Pinkatone’s arrest.  Robert Packman had been investigating a forgery case and Pinkatone was a prime suspect. When he caught up with he young man in Devon and having confirmed his identity he charged him with forging and uttering two cheques; one for £100, the other for £200.

The two men returned to London and on the way Packman’s prisoner was talkative, and told his captor he intended to come clean and admit his guilt. When he had been handed over by the authorities in Exeter Pinkatone had £173 in gold, ‘8s in silver and copper, a gold watch and chain, and a portmanteau, containing apparel’.

Packman wanted to know what he had done with he rest of the £300 he had exchanged the forged cheques for. The fashionable dressed young man told him he had spent it: ‘He paid about £45 for his watch, chain and appendages; £1 for a pistol, which he bought a few days before he was locked up; £1 for a portmanteau [a suitcase]’. The rest of the money he had ‘lost’ (meaning, presumably, he had gambled them away at cards).

When the pair reached London Pinkatone was produced before the Lord Mayor at Mansion House and fully committed for trail. Representatives of Messr’s Martin & Co, bankers of Lombard Street attended. As did Pinkatone’s former employer, Mr Barfield (of Loughborough & Barfield), who told the magistrate that Pinkatone had been his clerk but that he had ‘absconded without giving any notice’. The two cheques were produced in court and Barfield confirmed that the forged signature and writing on them was Pinkatone’s but the cashiers at the bank where he cashed them were unable to positively identify who had presented them.

It is possible that this helped Charles in the long run. I can’t find a record of him appearing at the Old Bailey for this or any other offence in the late 1800s. Maybe he pleaded guilty and it wasn’t published in the Sessions Papers. Perhaps the banks let him go because they knew they could not prove his guilt but his reputation was such that he would not work in the area again. It is one of many cases which touched the newspapers but disappeared just as quickly, a mystery which must remain unsolved.

[from The Morning Post , Thursday, May 08, 1862]

Update – thanks to a reader I can now say that Charles was not so lucky; he pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on 12 May 1862 and while the jury asked for leniency (on the account of this being his first offence) he was sent to prison for four years.

From glad rags and riches to a prison cell: one Victorian lady’s fall from grace

crying woman

Rose Cleveland had once been a lady of substance but by May 1873 she had fallen very far indeed. She still retained some of her old contacts and acquaintances, and was managing to keep up the appearance of a ‘person of quality’, but the facade was dropping away.

On 1 May that year she had called on an old friend of hers in Pimlico. When she knocked at the door of Mrs Elizabeth Palmer Parker at Forwood House, Winchester Street she was met by Mrs Parker’s sister, Phoebe. Miss Phoebe Taylor was unmarried and served her sibling as housekeeper. She admitted Rose and showed her into the back dining room.

Mrs Parker vaguely recalled her visitor and was reminded that she had once had some suspicions of her when the pair had dined, four years ago. On that occasion Rose had invited her to dine at the Grosvenor Hotel but attempted to walk off with her guest’s sealskin coat and watch. In consequence, on this occasion Elizabeth asked her sister to stay and keep an eye on their visitor.

However, despite some care being taken to watch Ms Cleveland she managed to purloin two brushes from a ‘valuable set’ in the room. They were missed soon after Rose took her leave of the ladies and a servant was despatched to catch up with her and bring them back. The police were involved and the next day Rose found herself in the Westminster Police Court facing a charge of theft.

Here her life and for fall from grace was broadcast for all to hear and the papers to record. She gave her names as Rose Cleveland, but the court added her other known names (her aliases) as ‘Lady Clinton’ and ‘Lady Grey’. Detective Squire White (a B Division detective) testified that she was well known to him and his colleagues.

‘At one time she owned horses and carriages’, he told the magistrate, ‘but had gradually been reduced in circumstances, and had lately been in the habit of visiting persons’ [like Mrs Parker], and ‘laying her hands on whatever she could carry off’.

The final humiliation was that she ‘had married her former coachman, and he had done nothing for a living for some time’.

Rose admitted her crime and asked to be judged summarily rather than go before a jury. The magistrate agreed to her request and sent her to prison at hard labour for two months. Yesterday’s story was that of an elderly woman who tried to kill herself to escape poverty and an abusive husband. Today’s reminds us that desperation came in many forms in the 1800s, and could affect those were supposedly protected by their wealth or the social status provided by birth or marriage.

In the end Rose had neither.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, May 02, 1873]

‘Matrimonial miseries’ in the East End of London

fuller-street

The marriage between Thomas and Lucretia Gates was not a happy one. The relationship had soured over time and Thomas’ poor treatment of his wife had provoked her to move out of the marital home in Bethnal Green. Thomas, who was described in the press as a ‘tradesman’, then employed a female servant to look after him. This seems to have been a bone of contention for his estranged wife.

On the 14 April 1852 the broken marriage reached the Worship Street Police Court as Thomas summoned Lucretia to answer a charge that she had assaulted him. This was rare; whilst many men might have been attacked by their wives and partners, very few were prepared to risk the damage to the reputations by admitting so in public.

Thomas Gates arrived with a police escort. He had so stirred up the community that a ‘great crowd, chiefly of women,  followed him to court’. This probably reflected both a show of solidarity with Lucretia by the ‘sisterhood’ and a degree of contempt for Thomas for running to the authorities instead of asserting his patriarchal rights and position.

The scene certainly enlivened the court reporter’s morning, however, and he must have regarded it as a welcome, if unexpected, bonus.

Thomas started by declaring that: ‘this woman is my wife, but we live apart, she in fact, having run away with another man’.

Lucretia was not having this; having vehemently denied this version of events she ‘reproached her husband with having taken a  young hussy home to supply her place’.

Thomas rejected this accusation and described how the assault he had accused her of had happened. He was at his home in Turk Street when Lucretia had called on him. She took him by surprise and rushed in, shouting abuse at him and the young serving girl, Sarah Hartlett. Both were assaulted by the angry wife before Lucretia turned her rage on the room.

She ‘swept all the china and glass from the shelves and cupboards, and having smashed them to pieces, set two work to demolish the furniture and everything she could lay her hands on’.

But she didn’t stop there, he said.

‘She tore the shirt entirely to pieces from his back, and tore the dress of the other woman also, exclaiming, “I’ll teach you to have a ____ here while I’m away,” and accusation which he assured the magistrate was quite unfounded’.

It was quite a display of anger and Lucretia did not deny it. Instead she explained that her husband had driven her away with his abuse and violent threats. On one occasion, she said, he ‘had stood over her with a knife, threatening to kill her’. He also repeated her accusation that Hartlett was his mistress.

It was now the servant’s turn to be questioned by the justice (Mr Ingham)  and she denied any impropriety on her part. She only worked there during the day and always left him alone  in the night. Thomas may have been having an affair but Sarah claimed it was not with her.

Several of the woman that had accompanied the couple to court testified to seeing or hearing Thomas’ abuse of his wife. One recalled her being thrown out of a window, while another said she had seen Thomas Gates chase his wife down the street brandishing an iron poker. Mr Ingham turned to the pair and told them that it was clear their relationship was in tatters but that did not give either of them to right to turn to violence or to disturb the public peace. He cautioned them both and dismissed Thomas’ charge against his wife. They then presumably left the court and returned to their, separate, lives.

Divorce was not really available to the majority of people in the 1850s. The government (through  a Royal Commission established in 1850) were looking at a reform of the law to allow the upper middle class to gain a full divorce, whilst at the same time making the cost of judicial separations prohibitively expensive to everyone else. In 1857 Parliament passed the Matrimonial Causes Act which removed divorce from the church (ecclesiastical) courts to the civil. The new law, not surprisingly (since it was created by men) favoured men over women. A man could sue for divorce on the grounds of his wife’s adultery whereas a woman would have to show an additional cause (such as as incest, cruelty, bigamy, or desertion) or prove cruelty on its own.

Thomas and Lucretia could not hope to get divorced, they simply could not have afforded it. Instead the best they could aim for was either to patch up their broken marriage or live apart and agree to ignore each other’s infidelities. Given Lucretia’s passion and temper, I think this might have been unlikely.

[from The Morning Post, Thursday, April 15, 1852]

A magistrate’s decision is applauded in court

beautiful-fans-5-1680x450

The Police Courts of Victorian London were open to the public (as magistrates courts are today) but it is rare that we get any sense of what those attending thought of the decision-making they saw there. Occasionally the members of the press recorded laughter – often in response to ignorant or ‘stupid’ comments made by a defendant to in reaction to a regional accent, in a rather dismissive (one might say) metropolitan way.

Presumably the audience (if we may call them that) did voice opinions on those being heard and one those presenting evidence for or against them. The courts were full of humour but also misery and despair; so we can except our ancestors to have reacted in very human ways to the stories that unfolded before them.

In March 1877 a young woman – a servant girl – was brought before the magistrate at Hammersmith charged with theft. Elizabeth Houghton was accused of stealing from her master Charles Levy, a merchant living in Linden Gardens, Bayswater.

Elizabeth was accused of taking several items but her ‘crime’ had come to light when a laundress, to whom she had taken her clothes to wash, found an apron that appeared to have been cut out of a sheet belong to the Levy household.

Elizabeth, when questioned by Mrs Levy, denied the apron was hers and insisted that if it had got into her belongings it could only be because someone had put it with the intention of ‘getting her into trouble’.

A few days later (perhaps on account of the apron) Elizabeth left the Levy’s service, although it is not made clear whether she went voluntarily or was dismissed. It was not uncommon for servants to be ‘let go’ without references if they were discovered to be stealing; after all, it was much easier than taking them to court.

As Elizabeth prepared to leave however, Mrs Levy searched her employee’s possessions (without asking and without her being in attendance). This was a mistake on the part of the merchant’s wife, as we shall see.

In a small box belonging to Elizabeth  were found ‘two black feathers, a fan holder and pieces of a sheet’. All of these, Mrs Levy said, belonged not to Elizabeth but to her. Mrs Levy was ‘examined at some length’ by the magistrate and she was adamant that she had purchased the feathers and the fan holder at a  shop in Westbourne Grove.

It seemed clear then, that either Elizabeth had indeed pinched the items or someone, perhaps a fellow servant, was attempting to frame her for the thefts.

In court Elizabeth had a legal representative, Mr Claydon, who spoke up for her. He said that in defence, Elizabeth was ‘a very young girl, and up to this time had borne an irreproachable character’. He added that it would have been much better for everyone if Mrs Levy had either searched the girl’s effects in Elizabeth’s presence or, better still, had waited for the police to deal with the accusation.

He went on to state that Elizabeth claimed that the feathers were of ‘a common kind’, and her own property. As for the fan holder, it was a present from her sister and he produced Elizabeth’s mother who swore that was the truth. There was, he finished, no proof that the apron had not been added to the girl’s clothes by mistake or misdirection.

Mr Paget, the sitting magistrate, agreed. He had listened to Mrs Levy’s evidence but was clearly unimpressed. He said he thought it ‘would be useless to send the prisoner for trail, and discharged her’; Elizabeth was free to go.

At this the court broke into spontaneous applause.

[from The Morning Post, Thursday, March 22, 1877]

An drunken imposter in Belsize Park exposed in court at Hampstead

belsize-history1

John Davey or George Stubbs (as they were one and the same apparently) was a curious fellow and his appearance at Hampstead Police Courts may well have caused considerable excitement. He certainly did enough to catch the attention the Morning Post‘s court reporter who wrote up his story for his readers.

The Hampstead court was presided over by a bench of magistrates (unlike those in the Metropolis that feature in most of my blogs). Messrs Marshall and Prance, along with Captain Redman, listened to a number of witnesses relate Davey (or more likely Stubbs) ‘extraordinary conduct’ in February 1864.

A merchant named Castle who resided at 3 Buckland Terrace, Belsize Park came to the court to complain about Stubbs’ conduct and the behaviour of one of his servants. Mrs Castle had employed Mary Daley as a ‘house and parlour maid’. On the previous Thursday however both Mary and George had turned up at the Castle’s residence at 10 at night, both quite drunk.

Mary was admitted with her bags because she had a ‘good character’ but Stubbs was refused. The next day he was back at 7 in the morning demanding entrance. Again he was turned away but he persisted and came back later in the morning.

He managed to get in during the afternoon and sat himself down in the kitchen and ‘told the cook she was to do whatever he ordered, and the first thing she must do was make him some tea’.

The servants informed the lady of the house who promptly asked him to leave, which he refused to do. He was still there when Mr Castle got home and gave him his marching orders. Mary followed him out of the house because Mrs Castle had found some items of linen that the careless maid had allowed to singe by the fire.

When they were out both in the street Stubbs started a row, banging on the door and being abusive, until the police were called to take him away.

Back at the Police Station Stubbs first claimed to be Mary’s brother and said he had gone to help her. He insisted he was a coach spring maker called Davey who resided in Portland Town*, before changing his story when pressed. He then claimed his name was George Stubbs and that he lived in Camden Town and made pianofortes. Goodness only knows what the truth was.

As for Mary, when she appeared in court she said first that Stubbs was her brother then her lover. She told the bench the name he had given her was John Sandon and that they were to be married.

Poor Mary, she was as much a victim of deception as the Castles. The policeman involved (Inspector Webb) informed the court that Stubbs was already married. At this Mary said she did not believe it and asked Stubbs to prove it by introducing her to his wife.

Stubbs said he was happy to do so which drew down condemnation from the bench and Mary. ‘You are a wicked young man’ Mary told him, ‘and a gay deceiver’. The justices dismissed his attempts at a defence and fine him 20s plus costs or 14 days imprisonment in the house of correction.

As for Mary nothing was reported and it doesn’t seem she was charged with anything (except with being a poor domestic). She was released from the Castle’s employment without references so unless she was lucky she may have found it hard to pick up work in a similar occupation. She had also been abandoned by the man she claimed intended to marry her, so I fear her life took a downwards turn from here.

[from the Morning Post , Monday, February 15, 1864]

*Portland Town was ‘a metropolitan suburb and a chapelry in Marylebone parish, Middlesex’. [http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/23887]

‘the course of true love never did run smooth’ when the law is involved.

Calais circa 1830 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Calais, c.1830 by J.M. Turner

Towards the end of January 1830 a flustered man rushed into the Bow Street Police Court in some distress. He gained an audience with the sitting magistrate and told him his story.

The man (a widower who was not named in the press report) had traveled from Calais where he ran a ‘respectable English Tavern’. His main source of help was his 17 year-old daughter and a  couple of other servants, one of which was a young man ‘of rather low connexions and habits’.

An ‘intimacy’ had developed between the innkeeper’s daughter and the serving lad which was becoming something of a concern to her father. I imagine he expressed this on several occasions and the young lovers must have realised there was little hope of them being allowed to continue their fledgling relationship.

So they did what all romantic early nineteenth-century couples did, they decided to elope.

The young man forged a draft for money and secured £80 from a local tradesman the landlord dealt with regularly; the girl squirrelled away all of the day’s takings. They made their escape late one Sunday night, chartering a small boat from Calais harbour to England. They arrived in Dover and headed for London. When he discovered them gone the father set off in hot pursuit.

When he had finished telling his tale at Bow Street the principal officer (or ‘Runner’ as we more commonly term the men that served the Bow Street court) set off to find them. J.J. Smith tracked them down to a lodging house in Holborn where he secured the girl and told the lad he was free to go, ‘the sole object being to recover [the landlord’s] daughter’.

But the young beau was not so easily put off. He followed Smith and the girl back to Bow Street and even into the building. Here he was ‘very unceremoniously ejected’ and warned to stay away unless he fancied prison and a turn on the treadmill. Still he lingered, seeing the father and daughter climb into the carriage that would take them back to Dover and thence to France. As the coach pulled away ‘the “lovers” were observed to exchange parting signals’.

There really is a story to be written here, for anyone out there with more imagination than me.

[from The Morning Post, Thursday, January 30, 1830]

An unwanted French visitor is ‘awarded’ some English hospitality

mens_coats

 

Louis Rateau was a serial thief.

A self-declared chemist of no fixed abode he was charged at Marylebone Police Court of stealing overcoats in January 1887. His victims were all medical men: Dr Caley of Wimple Street, Dr Fosbrook of Buckingham Palace Square, and Dr Bradley of Orchard Street, Portman Square.

Rateau’s modus operandi was delightfully simple and effective. He called at the house of a doctor requesting a word with them. The servant that answered the door would take a proffered note to their masters and while the chemist waited in the hall he helped himself to each and every overcoat he could find hanging on the rack.

When the poor valet returned there was no sign of the elusive visitor.

However, while this ruse had worked well at the homes of Dr Bradley and Dr Fosbrook, Dr Caley’s servant was sharper witted. He quickly worked out what had occurred and set off in pursuit of the thief.  With assistance from the police the Frenchman was soon in custody.

In court he pleaded guilty as charged and claimed he was driven to his crime out of desperation. Since he had arrived in London from France three months earlier he had had no work, and nowhere permanent to live. He had ‘dossed’ in a lodging house but now, with no money, he was sleeping rough and stealing to survive.

He must have had the appearance of respectability for the servants to let him stand indoors (or not to send him to the tradesman’s entrance) but a few more weeks of surviving in the open would have soon rendered that ruse impossible.

Louise apologised and promised to return to France if he was discharged but the magistrate had other ideas. He would give him accommodation and regular meals, but at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in prison for four months at hard labour.

quelle dommage!

[from The Morning Post, Thursday, January 27, 1887]