A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

AN OLD OFFENDER. George Saunders was charged with stealing a truss of straw the property of Mr Benjamin Hill of Preston. The prisoner elected to be tried by the Bench and being an old offender, was committed for three months. (March 1866)


WOOD STEALING. William Mayes (aged 43, a labourer of Preston) was brought up in custody charged with stealing a bundle of wood the property of Mr Hill of Preston. It appeared the offence was committed in July last and the prisoner absconded and had only lately been heard of. Committed for one month. (December 1864)


Samuel Fairey (aged 41, labourer of Back Lane, Preston in 1851) of Preston was brought up on remand charged with stealing 14s 6d from the person of Daniel Wilston (probably aged 48, a wheelwright, living at the Wilderness in 1851) on Sunday morning the 24th ult. It appeared from the evidence that Wilston had been drinking and had laid down and fell asleep by the roadside at Preston. On awaking at three o’clock in the morning he found that Fairey was putting a waistcoat in his pocket which he (the prosecutor) had bought and which was in his possession when he laid down and also discovered that his money had been taken. Wm Winch said that on Sunday morning he had met Fairey with the  waistcoat, he said it belonged to Wilston, that he had picked it up in the road and was going to take it to him and told witness not to say he had seen him as Wilston might have lost something else. (Case dismissed. June 1857)


George Farey of Ippollitts, labourer, for stealing various articles value 1s 2d from Henry Braddin (sic) of Preston, victualler (whipped)


PAYING THE FIDDLER AT PRESTON FAIR. Edward Draper, 27, gypsy, belonging to Stevenage, was charged with embezzling the sum of 9s 10d the monies of John Jeeves (aged 41, a married coachman of Preston) at Preston on the 30th of October. There was a second count in the indictment charging the prisoner with receiving the money.

The prisoner pleaded not guilty. Mr Green appeared for the prosecution, the prisoner was not defended.

John Jeeves said that he lived at Preston, a small village near Hitchin, and worked for Mr Wake there. On 30th of October last, Preston fair day, he went in the evening to the Red Lion public-house

to dance. The prisoner was there fiddling and he asked the witness for 2d, the usual charge when he went into the room. Not having 2d, he handed the prisoner a half-sovereign to take 2d out of. The prisoner having received the half-sovereign, offered witness 4d change, but he did not take it. Witness asked the prisoner several times for the other change and the prisoner replied that the witness  had only given him 6d and not half a sovereign at all. Witness told the prisoner that if he did not give him his proper change he would give him into custody. He told the police about it. After the police had got the handcuffs on the prisoner, he said he would give witness 10s to let him go.

Prisoner: “I did. I said I would give him 10s rather than being locked-up and I said to the police, “You take off my right shoe and you will find a half-sovereign in it that dropped out of my pocket. Police-constable Farr said: On the night of Preston fair he was called to the Red Lion Inn and there he saw the prisoner fiddling. The prosecutor asked the prisoner for change out of his half-sovereign and the prisoner said, “I have not got one about me, you never gave me one.” The prisoner still denied having a half-sovereign and witness took him into custody and searched him, but the witness did not ask the witness to take off his boot. Witness found the half-sovereign in his right boot. The prisoner resisted a good deal and was very violent when apprehended. He said he would give the prosecutor 10s and more beside to let him go.

Thomas French (aged 22, a labourer living at Preston) said he was present at the Red Lion on the night in question and saw Jeeves give the prisoner a half-sovereign to take 2d from.

Lord Cowper, in summing up the case to the jury said the evidence was very short and simple and needed no comment from him.

After a brief deliberation, the jury found the prisoner guilty of receiving. The prisoner pleaded guilty to two previous convictions for felony, one at Hitchin in February 1870 and one at Bedford in January 1865.

Sentence: “You must be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for six months.” (January 1873)


ROBBERY. At the Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, George Turner, an old man described as a tailor on tramp, was charged with stealing a pair of spectacles of the value of 3s 6d, the property of Frederick Robinson, (aged 42 of Preston Green) tailor of Preston. It appeared that the prisoner got some work from the prosecutor on October 2nd, but left in the evening without saying he was going away and took the spectacles with him. On being arrested at Hatfield, they were found in his possession. His defence was that being used to wearing spectacles he put those in his pocket absent-mindedly and did not know they were there until he was arrested. A sentence of 14 days imprisonment was passed.  (October 1889)


STEALING MONEY George Hawkins labourer of Preston, was brought up in custody charged with stealing a half-sovereign belonging to Charles Watson of Hitchin on the 14th of September.

Charles Watson stated that he lived in Hitchin and worked for Mr Marriott of Preston and on the 14th of September went to the Chequers to settle. He received as his share a half-sovereign and some silver. He tied the half sovereign in a corner of his handkerchief.  He then went to the farm and the defendant went with him. He missed his handkerchief and went back to the Chequers. He told the other men and said he suspected the defendant. they thereupon searched the defendant and found the half sovereign. The handkerchief was afterwards found by the police.

Defendant said he found the money.

Police-constable Day said he went to the defendant and explained the charge to him. He said he found the money at the back of the Chequers. Witness found the handkerchief in an orchard, fifty or sixty yards from the Chequers.

Defendant still adhered to his story that he found the half-sovereign and the Clerk informed him that as the sum was over 5s the Bench had no alternative but to commit him to trial.

In answer to the Bench, defendant said he wished the magistrates to settle the case and after some time defendant pleaded guilty and was sent to gaol for one month, with hard labour. (September 1876)


TURNIP STEALING William Pedder, labourer of Hitchin (aged 35), was charged with stealing nine turnips the property of Mr Samuel Kirkby (aged 68, farmer at Castle Farm, Preston) of Preston, near Hitchin. Police-constable Anderson proved the offence - Fined 5s with costs. (December 1868)




William Cherry, 53 labourer (on bail) was indicted for obtaining two gallons of beer and one pint of brandy on false pretences from Robert Gosney at Preston on 29 August.

Gosney stated that he keeps the Red Lion Inn at Preston and on the morning of the 29 August prisoner went to his house and asked for a gallon of beer and half a pint of brandy value 3s 4d, saying he was working for Mr Piggott (of Temple Farm, Preston), a farmer whose beer had gone bad and he had therefore sent him for it. In the afternoon the prisoner again went to the house and asked for the same quantity of beer and brandy saying it was Mr Piggott and he would make it all right. On the faith of these statements, witness let him have the liquor.

Piggott, farmer of Preston, stated that he did not know the prisoner and consequently had never given him the authority to get the liquor in his name.

Prisoner said Herbert Reynolds fetched the beer and brandy in the morning and he (prisoner) fetched it in the afternoon and said it was to be charged to the same person as in the morning, but Mr Piggott’s name was never mentioned and he did not even know of his existence.

He called Frederick Armstrong (of Preston Hill Farm) for whom he and the other men worked but his evidence did not bear materially on the case, further that he supplied the men with two gallons of beer from his house about eight o’clock on the morning in question.

The Chairman in summing up said the case was not such a simple one as it appeared at first sight owing to the very scanty evidence which had been produced on the part of the prosecution. The essence of the charge was that the prisoner had asked for the liquor on the ground that he had been sent my Mr Piggott and unless that was established the charge would break down altogether. The law did not allow them to examine the prisoner but the prosecutor asserted one thing and the prisoner asserted another and there was little or no evidence to enable the jury to decide between the two. The point was, which did they believe, and that was a point which was entirely for the jury to decide.

After deliberating for some time two individual members of the jury gave their opinion that the evidence was insufficient to convict the prisoner upon and one of them seemed desirous of arguing the point. The Clerk of the Peace told them he could not take the verdict of individuals but it must be the unanimous verdict of the entire jury.

The Foreman immediately afterwards said the jury were all of opinion that the charge was not sufficiently proved. The Chairman (to the prisoner): You are discharged. You have escaped in consequence of the manner in which the case for the prosecution has been prepared.

(Immediately afterwards, a similar charge was levied at labourer Oswald Reynolds, brother of Herbert mentioned above) Gosney was asked why he supplied the men with brandy and he replied that he had been told that one of the men had diarrhoea and could not drink beer.

The prisoner said he never fetched the liquor at all, but it was fetched by his brother Herbert who asked the landlord to trust them with it as they could not drink their employer’s (Mr Armstrong’s) beer. The brandy was fetched for Cherry who had diarrhoea and did not drink any beer at all. He also said that Mr Armstrong was in the field when his brother came back with the liquor and, pointing to the brandy, said, “Why didn’t you have pale instead?”.

Mr Armstrong was called and stated that he was in the field about nine o’clock on 30 August and saw Herbert Reynolds come back with a gallon of beer, three bottles of ginger beer and some brandy. It was true Cherry had diarrhoea and he had asked the witness for some mixture for it.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty and the prisoner was discharged. (A third similar case against Herbert Reynolds was dismissed) (Oct 1883)


George Fairey (son of John and Jane b 1821c) was indicted for stealing at Preston on the 4 February, a rabbit pudding and a pudding cloth, the property of Henry Bradden of the Chequers, at Ippollitts.

Rebecca Bradden, wife of the prosecutor – On the 4 February the prisoner came into the taproom and had a pint of beer. I had a rabbit pudding cooking on the fire. I went out of the room and heard a rattling, but took no notice of it. After Fairey came out, I went back when I found the pudding gone out of the pot. A man, John Day (a plait dealer of Preston b 1806c), afterwards came in and I went after Fairey. I found him in the field, asleep, and by his side the pudding cloth and some bones. John Day corroborated this evidence.

The prisoner in his defence said he knew nothing about the pudding until they awoke him, when he saw the cloth and bones by his side. Another man went into the house with him and left before him; he (the prisoner) stopped to finish drinking the beer.

Verdict: Guilty – to be whipped and discharged. (Feb 1843)


STEALING TURNIPS Mary Ward and Elizabeth Thredder, two girls, one of them about 12 and the other about 16 or 17 years of age were charged with this offence. The turnips were growing in a field in the occupation of Mr John Cook of Hill End, Hitchin and the offences were clearly proved against both defendants by John Wilshere, a man in the employment of Mr Cook. Mary Ward, the eldest of the two girls, was committed to the House of Correction at Hertford, with hard labour for one month and the other, Thredder, to the House of Correction, Hitchin for one week. (Feb 1841)


STEALING FERRETS. Francis Sharpe, James Prudden and William Dollimore were charged with stealing ferrets, the property of Daniel Winch (of Preston m Catharine b1816c) on Sunday 24 December. The ferrets were traced into the possession of the prisoner by police-constable Tristram and although not recovered, it was proved they were the ferrets to be stolen. Sharpe was fined 5s and 10s the value; and Prudden 2s and 10s. Dollimore, against whom there was no clear evidence, was discharged. The prisoners not being able to pay the fines, were committed to the House of Correction – Sharpe for four months and Prudden for two months. (Jan 1844)


FELONY. George Pearse, a notorious young thief (aged 17) (who has only left the County prison about one month) was charged with stealing a smock frock (value 1s), the property of a labourer in the employ of Mr Wright of Preston. The prisoner who is constantly pilfering when out of gaol was seen to watch his opportunity and then to run off with the article while the owner was working close by. The prisoner had nothing to say in his defence and was committed to trial but admitted to bail. (May 1845) Trial: the complainant, William Lines, was at work in a field and hung his smock upon two sticks. He had occasion to go to another field to mend some gaps and on his return about half an hour afterwards, he saw the prisoner take the smock from the spot where he had placed it and run off with it. He hallooed him and pursued him for about a mile but could not overtake him. The testimony of the prosecutor having been corroborated by a fellow labourer who was at work with him in the same field, the smock which had been taken off the prisoner’s back by the police was produced and identified by the prosecutor from marks he described to the court. The Jury returned a verdict of guilty but recommended the prisoner to mercy. The Deputy Chairman remarked that the recommendation of the Jury was a very kind one, but if they had known as much of the prisoner’s character as the Court did, probably they would not have made it. The prisoner had already been in gaol three times for different offences and the Court could not entertain any hope that a further term of imprisonment would lead to his reformation. The sentence he was about to pronounce might appear severe, but it was a merciful one as he would be sent to a prison for juvenile offenders where he would learn a trade and thus would have a chance of becoming a good member of society. The sentence of the Court therefore was that the prisoner be transported for seven years accompanied with a recommendation to the Secretary of State for his admission into Millbank Penitentiary. (May 1845). (This sentence was later commuted to imprisonment for one year with hard labour at Hertford Gaol. It was hoped that this mitigation would have a good effect on the boy so that no-one would have cause to regret that influence which was exercised on his behalf)


John and Henry Jeeves (aged 55 and 20, father and son), D Winch (b 1813) and W Andrews (b 1835c) (of Preston) vs. Mumford (William b 1811 Ag Lab of Preston Green). Claim  6s 7d each for work done.

It appears that the defendant was in the service of Mrs Darton as her woodman and that he employed the plaintiffs to do certain cutting and pealing on her estate. The money was paid to the defendant for him to divide equally among the plaintiffs but it was alleged by them that he had failed in doing so and that there was the 6s 7d claimed yet due to them. Mrs Darton expressed her belief that the disagreement arose from the fact that the defendant had paid himself twice and that in order to do so, he had kept a portion of that which he ought to have paid to the plaintiffs; but as the case was not sufficiently clear, they were non-suited. (July 1862)


STEALING POTATOES. Three boys, John Deacon, and George and Thomas Palmer were charged with stealing potatoes, the property of Mr W Lucas from a field in his occupation. Deacon was fined 5s and the others 3s 6d each.(Sept 1848)




Home page


Site contents

News stories

Site map

News Stories -

Theft and Robbery


At Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, Frank Wray, a schoolboy aged 12 pleaded guilty to stealing a silver watch and chain valued at 15/-, the property of Horace Claydon, a gardener, at Preston on June 19. Supt. Reed stated that, though he had not been brought before the Court, the lad had stolen a prize watch belonging to a pupil at the school two years ago. The Bench ordered him to receive six strokes with the birch.

William Ireland, servant of Campton, Beds, was charged with stealing a coat, the property of Charles Brown, publican of Preston, Hitchin and was committed for trial. (21 November 1868)

Turnip stealing. William Pedder, labourer of Hitchin, was charged with stealing nine turnips, the property of Mr Samuel Kirby, farmer of Preston, near Hitchin. PC Anderson proved the offence. Fined 5s with costs.

(12 December 1868)

Prison for dealer. Bob Gates (27) dealer of 6 Pierson’s Yard, Hitchin and Edward Williams, fruiterer of

28 Tilehouse Street, Hitchin were charged with being concerned together in stealing seven trusses of hay at Preston on 4 February. They pleaded guilty. Gates admitted a list of previous convictions which was handed in by Superintendant Herbert. Gates was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour and Williams was bound over for  two years under the probation officer. (15 February 1931)

Herbert Saunders, labourer of Preston, was charged with stealing nine bundles of faggots from Painswood, Hitchin – the property of John Bird. The prosecutor missed some faggots and identified two that the defendant had sold on 17 July and evidence was given that he had been seen with his cart near the wood. For the defence it was contended that the faggots Saunders had sold had been bought from Mr Darton who also had faggots in Painswood and although they resembled those of the prosecutor, they had never been his property. Bird said however that his faggots were bigger and longer than Darton’s and evidence was given to this effect by a man who helped tie them up. A fine of 40/- was imposed. (26 July 1890)

ROBBERY BY BOYS. James Bonfield, William Aldridge and Ernest Fairey (son of John and Charlotte born Great Wymondley 1873), lads living at Hitchin, were charged with stealing sweets of the value of 4d the property of E. W. Fisher, sweet manufacturer of Hitchin on 20 February. Bonfield pleaded not guilty and the others pleaded guilty of receiving. It seemed that Police-sergeant Martin concealed himself near the prosecutor’s premises on Saturday night and saw Bonfield (who was in Mr Fisher’s employment) hand something from the cart he was in charge of to Aldridge who then walked off with Fairey and sweets were afterwards found in their possession. Mr Fisher gave Bonfield a good character, and asked the Bench to deal leniently with him. A fine of £1 was imposed in the case of Bonfield; each of the others was fined 10/-. (22 February 1892)

A burglary was committed at Preston Post Office (see above) near Hitchin on Saturday night. About midnight, Mrs Frost, the postmistress, a widow nearly seventy years of age, and her daughter were roused from their sleep by a noise in their bedroom and found that two men (complete strangers to them) had made their way into the house. The frightened women screamed out and begged the men not to hurt them and the men taking hold of them by the throat said they would not do so but they must have money as their families were starving: their demand was for a sovereign each. Mrs Frost said she had not as much money in the house, whereupon one of the men said they had come to the wrong place. She gave them a half-sovereign which she took from the pocket of the dress she had worn during the day, this being at her request handed to her by one of the men. During this time the shorter of the two was holding Miss Frost. Miss B???, a schoolmistress who occupied another bedroom in the house was aroused by Mrs Frost screaming on the discovery that there were thieves in the house and she got up and hastened to a neighbours for help. She came back soon afterwards with Mr Brown and Mr Mead but by this time the burglars had got away. In addition to the half-sovereign they took two shillings and a few coppers from a tin in a stationery cabinet downstairs. No post office money is missing. The police were informed as soon as possible and a vigorous search for the burglars was made but no-one has yet been arrested. Access to the house was obtained by breaking a pane in a downstairs window and forcing back the latch. It is supposed that the men were not absolute strangers to the neighbourhood but had sufficient local knowledge to get into the house in the readiest way and to be able to go speedily into hiding when the alarm was raised. An odd fact in the case is that they shook hands with Mrs Frost and her daughter before leaving. (17 December 1904)


Harry Swain, labourer of Preston was charged with stealing two spirit glasses of the value of 8d the property of George Freeman, innkeeper of St Pauls Walden on October 7. On a complaint of the glasses being missed, P.c. Wade made enquiries and found them at the house of a charwoman. He spoke to the defendant about this and he made certain statements in reply. Alice Freeman, daughter of the prosecutor spoke to seeing the defendant at the inn and to 6 glasses being missed. Elizabeth Arnold said that when the defendant, “who was her young man” came to see her at her lodgings, he left the glasses there. Mrs Freeman had served the defendant with two glasses of liquor outside the public house on that night. Swain pleaded not guilty but offered no further defence. He was fined 10/- including costs. The witness Arnold asked to be paid her expenses. The Chairman said she might think herself fortunate that she was not charged with receiving stolen goods. (3 November 1906)

Robert Andrews (17) watch and clock maker of Hitchin was charged with stealing a watch the property of John Swain (47, of Church Lane/Hitchin Road, blacksmith) of Preston. The prisoner pleaded guilty. This was a very sad case. Prisoner looked very young and respectable and PI Pangbourn said his father lived in Hitchin and was a respectable man. Prisoner said he had nothing to say but he got into bad company. The offence was committed fifteen months ago. Mr Hatchard governor of the gaol said, ‘Fifteen months ago, Andrews was set up in business by his father before he knew what business was. He got into bad company and went off with the watches entrusted to him to clean’. Sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour. (1 July 1865)


Sarah Rolf, an inmate of the Hitchin Union, and Elizabeth Reeves (16) (daughter of Thomas and Jane, ag lab of Back Lane) of Preston, niece of the older prisoner, were convicted of stealing a quantity of bread, 1lb of soap and other articles – property of the Board of Guardians. Rolfe was sentenced to two months hard labour and Reeves to be locked up in the police station for twenty-four hours. (2 August 1856)


William Pedder (22) labourer of Hitchin was charged with stealing a chaise whip, the property of Chas Mills at Hitchin. Mr Mills was returning to Hitchin on 9 November at night and stopped at Mr Lake’s, farmer (at Home Farm, Hitchin Road) at Preston a little while. When he got into the cart again, he saw the prisoner running behind, told him to go away and soon after missed the whip from the socket behind the seat. I went to Pedder’s and charged him with the robbery. He denied having it and I went to Hitchin for the police. When I got back, prisoner’s mother showed me the whip at The Bull, Gosmore. Prisoner was present; his mother said she hoped I would forgive him – it was only done in a spree. The whip is worth 7/6d new and 4/6d now.

James Taylor: ‘ I was with Mr Mills in the cart when the prisoner got on it behind. I threatened to knock him off and he then got off. I next saw him at Gosmore and waited while Mills fetched the police – prisoner went out and brought in the whip. Prisoner in defence said one of them struck him with the whip and he caught hold of it and kept it. Both witnesses denied it.

PI Cocksedge gave the prisoner a very good character and prosecutor recommended him for mercy. Sentenced to three weeks hard labour. (2 December 1854)


Richard Sheppard of Pirton was charged three counts including obtaining some meat, bread and some beer of Thomas Titmuss of Preston (35, living on St Albans Highway, probably at Temple Dinsley Lodge C51), foreman to Mr Thomas Harwood Darton. The prisoner went to the houses of the three and said that Titmuss’ wife’s brother (who lived at Hitchin) was taken with cramp in the stomach and not likely to live and that they wished to see him before he died. He asked for payment for his journey. Prisoner was committed to the Sessions. (5 April 1856)

George Jenkins of Preston was charged with stealing 54 lbs weight of straw the property of his employer. He stated that he had asked his master for it but he did not make a reply and in his absence he went to the barn and told the man who was at work there that he was to have it. Having hitherto bourne a good character, he was admonished and discharged. (8 January 1859)


Lavinia Foster (21, born Kimpton, Herts), wife of Ebenezer Foster, landlord of the Red Lion at Preston was charged with stealing a watch, value £8 from James Lambec Burgess, clerk to Messrs Upton and Smith of Horseshoe Wharf, Upper Thames Street, coal merchants, on 23 August. It appeared that the complainant visited his cousin, Mr Lambec of Luton and attended a cricket match at Breachwood Green with him. In the course of the afternoon, the complainant being the worse for liquor, mounted a friend’s horse for a short ride in the vicinity and with a view to recover sobriety – but not knowing the country, lost his way. He found himself towards evening near the Red Lion at Preston where he dismounted. He went into the house and ordered some ginger beer and gin which was supplied by the defendant who he supposed belonged to the landlord’s family and with whom he entered familiar conversation. He remained there with the defendant alone almost an hour and just before leaving asked for her permission to kiss her. She said she never kissed strangers and told the complainant he had better take one as she did not know how to give it.


He reached Breachwood Green again late in the evening after making many enquiries as to the way, but found that his friends had long left. He then discovered that he had lost his watch. He at once gave information of his loss to a policeman who happened to be present and arranged to accompany him to Preston the following morning in search of his missing property.


PC Dunn corroborated the latter portion of the complainant’s evidence and stated that he went with him to the Red Lion on the following day. On questioning the defendant as to the watch, she said she had not seen anything of it. She however immediately afterwards intimated that she had see the complainant playing with it the previous evening and when the witness remarked that the watch must have been lost in the house, she confessed that she had got it and declared that the complainant had behaved indecently towards her and made her a present of it. She showed the witness the watch on the mantel shelf and claimed to be paid something in respect of it. The chain attached to the watch had evidently been severed by a knife or other sharp instrument.


On cross examination, the complainant revealed that he was too drunk to know exactly what he was about and other points in the evidence being in favour of the defendant, the case was dismissed. (8 October 1864)


Daniel Winch of Sutfield Green (sic) (40, ag lab) near Preston was convicted of stealing nine turnips, the property of Mr Hill of Preston and sentenced to the House of Correction for fourteen days hard labour. (9 October 1852)

George Jenkins of Preston was charged with stealing 54 lbs weight of straw the property of his employer. He stated that he had asked his master for it but he did not make a reply and in his absence he went to the barn and told the man who was at work there that he was to have it. Having hitherto bourne a good character, he was admonished and discharged. (8 January 1859)


Daniel Winch of Sutfield Green (sic) (40, ag lab) near Preston was convicted of stealing nine turnips, the property of Mr Hill of Preston and sentenced to the House of Correction for fourteen days hard labour. (9 October 1852)

Hannah Jenkins of Preston charged with stealing part of a wood faggot, the property of William Hill (22, of Castle Farm) of Preston. Fined: 5/- and allowed a week to pay (11 June 1867)


ROBBERY BY CHARWOMAN. On Thursday, 2 September, Martha Farr (51, living at Preston Ippollitts C41 with husband, William, ag lab) of Thistley Farm, near Gosmore was taken before John Curling Esq. charged with stealing on or about 5 August a silver dessert spoon the property of Mr William Pallett at the Temple Farm, Preston where the prisoner had been charing. The evidence being conclusive, she was committed for trial. Bail was accepted. (11 September 1852)


Fanny (14) and Anney/Annie (11) Barker of Preston (daughters of Hannah Jenkins who was married to Thomas and who lived in a Preston Hill farm cottage) were charged with stealing seventeen turnips from a field belonging to Mr Whitbread Roberts of Kings Walden. Being so young, the magistrates reprimanded and discharged them. (14 December 1867)

William Winch (33, of Blacksmiths Lane, ag lab) and Samuel Fairey (36, of Back Lane, ag lab) of Preston were convicted of stealing a stile, in the occupation of Mr Kirby. Fined 20/- each and committed for one month’s hard labour. (19 February 1856)

Jonas Gapes, labourer of Hitchin, charged on the information of PC Anderson with stealing 19 turnips from a field

belonging to Samuel Kirby, farmer of Preston. (Castle Farm) (24 September 1867)


William Pedder, (34, a near neighbour of Farr) labourer of Preston in the parish of Hitchin, was charged with

stealing a bushel of apples in September from the trees of William Farr (66) and Susan Currell of Preston.

Pedder absconded and was apprehended by PC Anderson at Barnet: sentenced to one month’s imprisonment

with hard labour. (30 November 1867)

Mary King a tramp, was charged with stealing a silver watch, value £4 from W Scott, (25, son of James of

Blacksmiths Lane) labourer of Preston on Sunday night last at Harpenden. Scott had had too much to drink and

fell asleep on the ground near The George, Harpenden where he had been treating the prisoner with drink. When

he awoke, he was all alone in his glory (?) – the woman was gone and his watch also. It was found that she had

sold the latter to Mrs Davies of the Painter’s beer shop, St Albans for 7/-, saying it was her husband’s. She

pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour. The three children were sent

to The Union (Workhouse) (2 December 1859)

Daniel Fossey, labourer of Ippollitts was charged with stealing straw, value 3d, the property  of Mr Bodger,

farmer, Preston. Ordered to be locked up at the Police Station till next morning (6 March 1858)


George Saunders (37), labourer of St Pauls Walden, was charged with burglary and stealing two gallons of beer

and three gallons of porter, the property of John Carter of the Red Lion, Preston.

Carter: On the night of 28 November about nine o’clock, the cellar was safe – there were some casks full. The

next morning, I went down the cellar and found the barrels had been moved and the cellar flap opened. Two

gallons of beer were gone from the barrel and three of porter from the other.

George Fairey, labourer of Preston (26): On the night I was tipsy and lay down in Carter’s stable. Early the next

morning, I heard something in Carter’s cellar and saw the prisoner to whom I spoke and who came out of the

cellar and let down the flap. After I had gone about twenty yards from the prisoner, I saw him stoop down, pick up

something and make off.

Saunders said he was very innocent and was a hard working man but PC Mitchell said the prisoner was

generally at something and lately had been sent to gaol for stealing straw.

Verdict: Guilty, but the jury recommended him to mercy because he was sober. However, it was then stated that

he had been in gaol five times for vagrancy and poaching. He was sentenced to twelve months of imprisonment

and hard labour. The judge added that the next time it would be penal servitude when the neighbourhood would

be rid of him and he dared say it would be very glad. (9 March 1867)

John Hare of Little Wymondley, hay binder, was charged with stealing a basket containing a shoulder of mutton,

three pounds of pork and a quantity of grocery goods from a field at Preston – the property of William Smith of


William Smith: I live about two miles from Hitchin. On 16 March I was at work in the  Hitchin parish. I left my

basket in the field under the hedge where I was at work and walked a little way from it out of sight. There was a

shoulder of mutton, four pieces of pork, ¾ lb butter, ½ lb of suet and 1 lb of sugar. I saw a man coming through

the field and saw he was a hay binder from his knife. I missed the basket between three and four o’clock. The

next Sunday morning, a person was in the road and saw the prisoner go by and said ‘the man going by has

took Smith’s basket away’ My little boy came and told me and I went out and knew directly it was the man I had

seen in the field in the week day. He went on through two meadows and then turned to see if anyone looked at

him. He went on to a rick, looked, and went to another place where I saw him hide the basket. I was quarter of a

mile off and went towards him but when he saw me he went into the fields. I overtook him and asked if he hadn’t

been hay binding on the Friday. He said, ‘No’. I asked if he had come through the fields. He said, ‘No’.  I asked if

he had taken the basket, He said, ‘No’. I then went to the place were he had been and found the basket, and left

the prisoner in the field. He went home as fast as he could. He had something in a bag which he said were

parsnips and potatoes.

George Smith found some suet and butter in a basket.

Anne Smith identified the basket, or rather the wreck of it produced in court, as her basket.

Mr George Wright, farmer of Preston (Preston Hill Farm) : The prisoner worked for me on Friday 16 March and

left my premises at quarter-past three. He had a hay binders knife with him. I could see him 100 yards up the lane

and it was about ten more to the basket.

PC Cocksedge: I went into the field and found one piece of the basket about ten yards from where the boy found

the other piece.  I have been to the shop where Smith got his goods and find they used the same paper as that

found in the basket – it is headed ‘Practical Geometry’ and comes from the same book.

In defence, the prisoner denied all knowledge of the basket. Verdict: Guilty.

After testimonial as to his good character, prisoner was sentenced to two month imprisonment, one week in

each, solitary and the rest, hard labour. (10 April 1855)