Poaching and Petty Thieving in St Albans

A Talk by Chris Reynolds

The Stratton Family 

And yet more turnip tops in 1864


Magistrates present:- W H Solley, Esq, in the chair; Revs Dr Nicholson and W S Wade; H H Toulmin and T Kinder, Esqrs; and Captain Toulmin. 


Charlotte Fray, Sarah Warboy [or Warby], Mary Peacock, Martha Hartley and James Stratton, all from the locale of the Christopher and Dog Yards, St Albans, were charged with stealing a quantity of turnip tops, value 10s, the property of Mr Robert Smith, from Cheapside Farm, near St Albans

It appeared from the evidence of Mr Edmund Smith, that on Friday the 18th March, he saw some of the defendants going along the road towards Long Field, on Cheapside Farm, where his father had turnips growing. On the evening of the same day he saw all five of them coming in the direction away from the field to the town, on the Harpenden Road. Each of them had a quantity of turnip tops of the same description as those growing in the field. He stopped them. Stratton said he had found his lot, and immediately dropped them and ran away. Peacock and Hartley sat down on the bank, threw down their lots, and begged to be forgiven. Warby and Fray walked on, and two of his father's men, that he had fetched just before, to assist him in intercepting the party, stopped them. All five came to him the next morning, and also on the Monday following, to beg to be forgiven. He went to the field on the Saturday morning and found that a large quantity of tops were gone, and there were numerous footsteps of women's shoes. He believed the tops stolen were worth 10s at least.

 Joseph Catlin and Thomas Gray, labourers in the employ of Mr Smith, gave confirmatory evidence. 

The chairman said that farmers must be protected against such wholesale depredations, and as there were three former convictions recorded against Fray, she would be imprisoned for three months; Peacock, against whom two former convictions were recorded, also for three months; and Warby, Hartley and Stratton for one month each; all with hard labour. Warby treated the bench and auditory with a specimen of her powers of elocution; and the whole party was escorted to their new habitation by several members of the Herts constabulary

Herts Advertiser 2nd April 1864

[At this time Robert Smith farmed both Heath Farm and the adjacent Cheapside Farm, Sandridge

[It is not certain whether Mary Peacock is the Mary Ann Peacock who married Joseph Stratton in 1875]