Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Lost: one flea-bitten horse

This newspaper advertisement from July 1703 tells us a lot about the value of horses, the rural nature of Deptford at the time, and even the criminal justice system. Since the theft of the horse pre-dated the establishment of the modern police force, responsibility for investigating the crime basically fell upon Thomas Barrs himself. Although the practice was frowned upon officially, many victims of such thefts would retrieve their goods by paying the thieves for their return. To keep on the right side of the law, Barrs has suggested that the horse may have strayed and is offering a reward to the finder rather than a ransom.

However, what I find really appealing about the advert is the honesty of Barrs' description of his horse!

Stolen (or Strayed) on the 1st of this instant July out of the Grounds of Mr Thomas Barrs at Deptford in Kent, a Nutmeg Grey Gelding, full Aged, about 14 hands and a half high, a bold Countenance, something Flea Bitten about the Neck, a whisk Tayl, a hurt on his oft Leg behind, in the Fetlock Joynt, all his paces. If discovered (so as to be had again) to Mr Tho Barrs aforesaid, or to Mr Thompsons Livery Stables at the black Horse in Hounds-Ditch, shall have a Guinea Reward and charges.

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