Poaching and Petty Thieving in St Albans

A Talk by Chris Reynolds

The Stratton Family

Killing a hare in 1864


Magistrates present. - Rev. W. S. Wade, in the chair; Rev. Dr. Nicholson; G. R. Marten and H. H. Toulmin, Esqrs. and Captain Toulmin


William Stratton and George Constable, of St Albans, brought up in custody by the police, were charged with unlawfully killing a hare, on the lands of Edward Browne, Esq., at Oaklands, in the Parish of St Peter, on the 12th March; neither having a game certificate.

 Mr. Blagg appeared for the prosecution. 

Police-constable North, of the Borough force said: On the morning of the 12th of March I saw the two prisoners in "Gombards," each carrying a sack of turnip tops. It was a quarter before seven o'clock. Stratton passed me with a sack on his back, and carrying a hare from his shoulder. Constable was a few steps behind him. I followed them to Stratton's house in the Dog Yard. When they got there Stratton - when he saw me - took the hare off his shoulder and ran upstairs. I then called to police-constable Randall, who was in the Dog yard, and he came. For stealing the tops they were sentenced, at this Court to one month's imprisonment, with hard labour. After taking the prisoners to the station I went back to look for the hare, and found it in Peacock's house, next door but one. Mrs. Peacock said it was brought by one of the Stratton's. I believe the hare produced is the same one. It is tied the same way, two legs together. Randall and I took the boots off the two prisoners and traced the marks of them very distinctly to Oaklands, by Gombards, the Garden Field, Grange Fields, up the lane, across Bernards Heath, over the Cricket Ground, to the gate into Mr. Robert Smith's first field, across that to the white gate into and down Sand-pit Lane, to Mr. Browne's turnip field below Newgate. In the field where they filled their sacks with turnip tops, we saw the footprints, and the appearance of a hare being caught. The footprints of Stratton's shoes were close to the place; every nail in the shoes fitted; and there was a flick of a hare in the same place.

Stratton, in his defence, said he picked up the hare in a dell on Bernards Heath.

 Police-constable Randall said he had been watching the prisoners that morning, and corroborated North's statement. He said, moreover, when Stratton was before the Bench on the 12th March, he said to me "What are you going to do with the hare?" I said "Is it yours?" He said "Yes it is; I found it in Sand-pit Lane; I kicked against it." Constable said: "When I saw Stratton he said 1 have found a hare' He put it on his shoulder and said ' If anyone owns it they shall have it.' I asked him where he found it? He said 'On Bernards Heath; I picked it up.'" 

Mr. Deayton, the governor of the goal, handed to the Bench an extract from his "Black Book.," from which it appeared that Stratton had been sentenced six times before and Constable twice. The Chairman and the Bench were unanimously of opinion that they were guilty; and sentenced them to pay a fine of 5 each, with 1 2s. 6d. costs. In default of payment they were sentenced to three month's imprisonment with hard labour.

Herts Advertiser 16th April 1864