Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Case of the Larcenous Lodger

Having lodgers was common in previous centuries, and having lodgers steal from their landlords was by no means rare. Here's a case from Deptford, heard at the Old Bailey in February 1819:
JOSEPH KNOTT was indicted for stealing, on the 16th of February, one flute, value 18 pence; one pair of shoes, value 1 shilling; one looking-glass, value 1 shilling; one pair of trowsers, value 4 shillings, and one hat, value 4 shillings, the property of William Hockerday . 
WILLIAM HOCKERDAY . I live at Deptford; the prisoner lodged there. On the 16th of February he left the house, and never returned. I missed my property at the same time. He had given notice that he was going.
JAMES CAMPER . I am a pawnbroker. On the 16th of February the prisoner pledged a flute with me - I live at Ratcliff.
JOHN LINES . I am beadle of Limehouse. I apprehended the prisoner at Limehouse. He said he took the things to a house in Limehouse. I went and found them there.
(Property produced and sworn to.)
GUILTY . Aged 45.
Fined One Shilling, and Discharged.
This was hardly the crime of the century, and identifying the culprit probably didn't take a lot of thought. One of the most interesting features of the case is the sentence. A shilling was less than a tenth of the value of the stolen goods, and equivalent to less than £100 today. Nothing in the record suggests that the prisoner offered either a good account of events or character witnesses. He was in court the day after the crime, so there was no issue of time served on remand. Perhaps he looked particularly contrite, pathetic or appealing in the dock. 


HughB said...

How strange - I always thought punishments in those times were, well, Dickensian. There must be more to the case than meets the eye.

CarolineLD said...

Yes, they didn't hang people quite as readily as we tend to think, but this really is at the other extreme.