The FOX Twins, Stevenage, 1857-1937

June, 2013





Ebenezer Albert Fox  

I arrived early at Woolmer Green for the Herts Family History Society meeting last week and decided to walk round the village. I strolled through a comparatively modern housing estate and found the estate was called Twin Foxes and at the entrance were these two busts.

So I decided to ask myself a question and find out who these obviously important twins were. Had they lived in a big house that had stood where the estate now is ...

[Enlarged pictures on Geograph]

  Albert Ebenezer Fox

Ebenezer Albert Fox




Albert Ebenezer Fox


I started by looking at the census returns and in the 1861 and 1871 census they were living with their parents at Simons Green (Symonds Green), Stevenage. I was surprised to find out that they had comparatively humble origins. Their father, Henry Fox, was only a farmer of 10 acres, and their mother was a straw plaiter. While they had a domestic servant in 1861 she was a 13 year sold niece who may have moved in to help out with the twin boys. So they must have moved up in the world, I thought.

In 1881 the twins had moved to a large building in Grimston Road, St Albans. Or perhaps more correctly they had been moved, as my original assumptions crumbled to dust. The large building was the county prison! And ten years later Ebenezer Albert Fox had graduated to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight.

I was using FindMyPast to look up the census - so at this point I switched their criminal records and found the following 1913 record of previous convictions for Albert Edward Fox

Offence Court Date Sentence
Stealing tame pigeons Stevenage Petty Sessions 30th December 1875 6 weeks H.L.
Poaching Prevention Act Stevenage Petty Sessions 26th December 1877 2 Months H.L.
Stealing a fowl Stevenage Petty Sessions 13th June 1878 2 Months H.L.
Assault Stevenage Petty Sessions 9th October 1879 6 weeks H.L.
Assault on Gamekeeper Stevenage Petty Sessions 27th January 1881 2 months H.L.
Assault on Police Hitchin Petty Sessions 4th October 1881 2 months H.L.
Night poaching Hitchin Petty Sessions 20th December 1881 3 months H.L.
Assaulting Police Stevenage Petty Sessions 8th November 1883 4 months H.L.
Shooting a dog Herts Assize 29th April 1884 1 day and fined 3
Killing a partridge Stevenage Petty Sessions 12 February 1885 2 months H.L. or 5
Killing a pheasant Stevenage Petty Sessions 29th October 1885 2 months H.L. or 5.12.6
Unlawful wounding Hertford Quarter Sessions 4th January 1886 12 months H.L.
Malicious damage Stevenage Petty Sessions 14th April 1887 2 months H.L.
Assault Hitchin Petty Sessions 4th December 1888 2 months H.L.
Assault on Police Hertford Petty Sessions 5th April 1890 3 months H.L.
Using gun to take game Hitchin Petty Sessions 26th January 1892 2 months H.L. or 5
Stealing potatoes Stevenage Petty Sessions 31 January 1895 14 days H.L. or 1
Stealing a lamb Hertford Quarter Sessions 14th October 1895 9 months H.L
Assault on Police Hitchin Petty Sessions 18th August 1896 3 months H.L.
Night poaching Hitchin Petty Sessions 28th November 1899 3 months H.L.
Night poaching Hitchin Petty Sessions 8th June 1901 2 months H.L.
Stealing boots Hitchin Petty Sessions 21st January 1902 1 month H.L.
Stealing a coat Hitchin Petty Sessions 30th August 1904 7 days H.L. or 10s
Night poaching Hertford Quarter Sessions 2nd April 1906 3 months H.L.
Night poaching Hertford Assizes 7th February 1907 6 months H.L.
Stealing potatoes Hitchin Petty Sessions 28th April 1908 14 days H.L. or 15s
Game trespass (two charges) Stevenage Petty Sessions 12th November 1908

1 month H.L. or 2

1 month H.L. or 2

Stealing fowls Stevenage Petty Sessions 11th February 1909 2 months H.L.
Stealing suit of cloths Stevenage Petty Sessions 24th February 1910 2 months H.L.
Stealing trousers Hitchin Petty Sessions 26th January 1911 2 months H.L.
Suspected person Enfield Petty Sessions 7th July 1913 1 month H.L

65 Summary for game trespass, drunk, threats and assault 1875-1913

Feloniously stealing seven tame turkeys, of the goods of Harold Knight, and receiving  the same, well knowing them to have been stolen, at St Paul Walden, on the 28th October, 1913

Hertford Assize 18th November 1913 6 months H.L

The record for Ebenezer Albert were much the same. It would seem that that the reason for remembering them was not because they were famous but because they were infamous.

So I decided to look in the British Newspaper Archives, but as these have poor coverage of Hertfordshire newspapers at the relevant dates I was not expecting to find much. However, as the following extracts show, their infamy spread all round the country.

Some of the Newspaper Reports published around the country.

Notorious Twin Poachers


The Stevenage twins, Ebenezer Albert Fox and Albert Ebenezer Fox, were sent to prison for a month by the Enfield magistrates on Monday on a charge of being found on enclosed premises for the purpose of committing a felony.

The two men were very much alike in appearance, and the confusion which has existed at previous appearances was not altogether absent. While the police were proving previous convictions against Albert Ebenezer the Chairman remarked: "Let us be sure which is Albert Ebenezer, You are Albert Ebenezer?" he asked, pointing to one of them. "No," was the reply, "I am Ebenezer Albert."

After the evidence, Albert Ebenezer said. "I have had no time to write for a reference, but I could get a very good one. I go shooting with his Majesty the King and the Royal Family every year. I hope the Bench will not take extreme measures this time, as I am supposed to go shooting with His Majesty this year."

The convictions against Ebenezer Albert commenced in 1884, when he was sentenced at Hertford to ten years penal servitude, In 1894, at Hitchin, he received nine months in 1895 for larceny. There were 32 summary convictions for poaching and assaulting the police against the prisoner.

The prisoner said the last conviction was served for his brother, who was away at the time.

There were 63 convictions against Albert Ebenezer, and the Chairman remarked that the best thing now was to give them both the same sentence - a month with hard labour.

Luton Times, 11th July, 1913


A 67th conviction was at Hitchin, Herts, yesterday recorded against Ebenezer Albert Fox, twin brother of Albert Ebenezer Fox, of Stevenage. Distinguishing one from another has for years puzzled the police and gamekeepers. The twins share a record of about 120 convictions.

Hull Daily Mail, 20th October, 1920


An inquest was held at Hitchin on Ebebezer Albert Fox (63), the brother of Albert Ebenezer Fox, who were so alike that their identity was a life-long puzzle. When in a poor state of health Ebenezer Albert absconded from Hitchin Infirmary, and was found three days later unconscious in the bushes two miles from Hitchin. The remaining twin identified the body of his brother.

    Superintendent Prior said he had known the twins for 20 years, and had no doubt that the dead man was Ebenezer Albert. The twins had about 100 convictions each for poaching. The verdict was death from exhaustion and exposure.

Gloucester Journal, 9th October 1926



Eighty-nine-year-old Albert Ebenezer Foxwhose fame as a poacher led to his meeting King Edward VII, died yesterday at the Poor Law Institution at Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

In 1900 King Edward, then Prince of Wales, called at the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, at Stevenage, while on his way to Newmarket races. He had Albert Ebenezer brought before him and they drank ale together.

The Prince, turning to his Equerry, commented, laughingly: "Here is a man who can shoot more birds in the moonlight than you can in the daytime."

Albert Ebenezer and his twin brother Ebenezer Albert, who died 20 years ago, were said to have been so alike that they both courted the same girl until she became so exasperated that she married someone else.

As poachers they were the despair of police and gamekeepers in North Hertfordshire.

Nottingham Evening Post, 21st May, 1937

Finally I found a detailed account of their lives in the Stevenage area, including a mention of the housing estate where their busts can be seen, in Wikipedia.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

June 2013   Page created