Old News


Theft of Potatoes at St Albans

From the Herts Advertiser,

 9th September 1873

Plus information on Snatchup End



St Albans


Wednesday, September 17th

Before E. S. Wiles, Esq. (in the chair), and T. Kinder, Esq.


James Stratton and Joseph Stratton were charged with stealing two bushels of potatoes, value 6s 6d, the property of Mr. James Peppercorn, in the parish of St Peter, on the 12th September.

Mr. Annesley appeared for Joseph Stratton.

Police-constable Weeds deposed: I was on night-duty on Thursday, the 11th September. About a quarter past one o’clock on Friday morning, the 12th Sept., I was looking over the wall near the Cricketers public house, into Mr. Reynolds’ meadow, when I saw some person at the bottom of the meadow. I got over the fence and saw a person making for the direction of the Jolly Sailor public-house. I went along the side of the fence, and when I got about fifty yards I could see there were two persons; one was walking behind the other in a line. I went towards the pond, and the two men went to the other side of it. They had not apparently seen me at that time. I could see that each of them had a bag laden with something on his back. I went towards them, intending to meet them, and I went up to within ten yards of them, when they dropped the bags and ran away. I called out to them, and ran away. I called out to them, and ran after them. I caught the prisoner James Stratton. I called out after the other prisoner, "You’ve no call to run, Stratton, I know you." The man who ran away was Joseph Stratton, a son of James Stratton. It was a moonlight night, and I saw him distinctly. I brought the prisoner, James Stratton, after a good deal of struggling and resistance, to the police-station. I called up a man in Snatchup-alley named Waller to assist me in taking charge of the two bags, and with his assistance they were conveyed to the police-station. The two sacks contain about two and a half bushels of potatoes, of a value of 2s 6d a bushel. Between five and six o’clock the same morning I and Police-constable Quint, of the County Constabulary, in company with Mr. Peppercorn’s foreman, Francis Wood, went to the potatoe [sic] field …I traced the footmarks of two persons from the potatoe field and across another ploughed field, towards the railway footbridge, and into the meadow where the prisoners were found. – About half-past seven o’clock on Sunday morning, the 14th Sept., I went to the prisoner Joseph Stratton’s house, at Stone-cross

Police-constable Quint (Herts Constabulary) said …

Francis Wood said: I am foreman to Mr. James Peppercorn, and reside at the farm, in St Peters parish. My master has a field of potatoes near Sandpit-lane. On the 11th September I was engaged in ploughing up the potatoes, and left them on the land in rows for the night. …

The following list of convictions against the prisoners was read:–

James Stratton – 1842 poaching; 1844, stealing turnips; 1845, ditto; 1847, stealing wood; 1847, assault; 1848, poaching; 1849, poaching; 1850, stealing turnips; 1851, poaching; 1853, night poaching; 1856, felony (3 years penal servitude); 1861, stealing turnips; 1862, stealing turnips and felony (5 years penal servitude); 1868, drunk and riotous and wilful damage; 1869, stealing turnips and damage; 1870, vagrancy, damage, vagrancy and stealing turnips.

Joseph Stratton – 1850, stealing turnips; 1852, stealing wood; 1853, game trespass; 1855 stealing cherries; 1855, stealing turnips; 1856, stealing turnip tops; 1857, game trespass; 1858, using a gun; 1858, using a snare; 1859, using a snare; 1860, stealing turnips; 1861, poaching; 1862, poaching; 1863, poaching; 1864, poaching; 1870, poaching for fish; 1872, poaching for fish; 1865, Bedford Assizes (5 years penal servitude).

The Bench committed both prisoners for trial at the Quarter Sessions


For details of the Quarter Session case, which repeated the prosecution evidence see STRATTON & other poachers, St Albans area, 19th century

The case Stealing Turnip Tops in St Peters, St Albans in 1864 also involved the Strattons

Answers to Questions


Snatchup End, St Albans, 19th Century

June, 2011



St Albans

Carole Edwards (carole.edwards225 @t gmail.com) of Liss, Hampshire, writes: My maternal gt.gt.granparents' name was Waller who lived in Snatchup-alley. A man named Waller is mentioned in the Herts Advertiser 9th Sept. 1873 reference 'Theft of potatoes at St. Albans' but where in St Albans was (is) Snatchup-alley ?


The road running diagonally across the first map (from 1883) is St Peters St  south of the junction, then becomes Stonecross for a short distance to where Sandpit Lane runs off to the east and then becomes Sandridge Road.

Snatchup End is the strip of houses on the north west side of Stonecross, with the Cricketers Public House at the south end and the Jolly Sailor public house towards the northern end. The path alongside is referred to as Snatchup Alley. (Both the pubs are still there - although the building shown as the Cricketers on the Google map is a complete rebuild.)


View Larger Map


From the maps it is easy to identify the places referred to in the news story. The Cricketers and Jolly Sailor public houses are both marked. Mr Reynolds' farmed the fields shown on both sides of Sandridge Road, including some of the land south of Sandpit Lane. (Avenue Road, first marked on the 1897 map was built on part of the farm.) If the policeman was standing by the Cricketers looking east there were several field and a footbridge over the railway line. The dark blob by the "St" of Stonecross in the 1883 map may well be the pond referred to in the account. If they dropped the bags of potatoes at the north end of the pond the closest houses would be those at Snatchup End, where Waller lived.

The census returns show that a family named Waller were living at Snatchup End (or Alley) in the 1861 and 1871 censuses. The person who helped the policeman could be either James Waller, or one of his sons, Thomas and WilliamJames was an agricultural labourer who may well have been working at the time of the incident for Jacob Reynolds of Heath Farm.

James Peppercorn was a butcher and famer living in St Peters Street who farmed much of St Peters Farm - although most of the farm was sold off for housing in the following decades.


The area is very relevant to my own family history. Jacob Reynolds of Heath Farm was my great grandfather, and the meadow between the farm and the waterworks was the home meadow - where the cricket club had their annual athletics meeting. At the beginning of the 20th century my grandfather, Harry Finch Reynolds, built the house called Calverton at the southernmost end of the meadow, immediately north of the Cricketers. My father, Gerald Finch Reynolds, was born in this house, and I (Christopher Finch Reynolds) was born in the house (now demolished) on the other side of the road at the top of St Peters Street - which was at the time a nursing home.

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

June 2011   Information on Snatchup End added