Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 25 May 2018), September 1784, trial of ELIZABETH JONES MARY SMITH (t17840915-68).

ELIZABETH JONES, MARY SMITH, Theft > shoplifting, 15th September 1784.

845. ELIZABETH JONES and MARY SMITH was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 24th of July last, three paper fans, value 14 s. the property of Joseph Grays , privily in his shop .

- LEWIS sworn.

On Saturday the 24th of July last, I saw the two prisoners, while they were in Mr. Gray's shop being served with some fans, I observed one of them, while she was serving, put something under her cloak, as if in her pocket, I was immediately opposite to the house; I saw her hand moving towards her pocket, and I saw them walking carelessly down Ludgate-hill; they were about a quarter of an hour in the shop. I suspected they had stole something; they went up into a house in Chancery-lane, a private door into a passage up two pair of stairs; I went to the house, and and went up into the room, with a constable and the gentleman that traced them, and they were sitting at a table; there was another woman in the room with the two prisoners, they had got three fans on the table, lying open; on our entering the room they looked at us, one of them took one fan on the side of the table where she sat, and the other took two fans and threw them down on the side where she sat, and threw their clothes over them; we took the prisoners in custody, and searched their apartments, and brought them to Mr. Gray's house, they then acknowledged the fact, and begged for mercy.

Were any promises made use of? - None in the least, but a promise to prosecute.

Mr. Garrow, Prisoner's Council. Who are you? - I am well known in this Court, I live in Ludgate-street, I am a comb-maker and a hardware-man.

I believe you have some reason to know some of the rules of evidence? - Why, Sir?

I believe you have been here pretty often in the character of prosecutor and witness? - Frequently, and if I have an opportunity I may appear against more; but I never came without a safe conscience to this Court.

You have a good deal of leisure time upon your hands I take it for granted? - I could perhaps fill up my time sometimes better than I do.

Answer my question, Sir, you have heard it? - I have sometimes leisure time upon my hands.

It so happened you had a good deal of leisure at this time? - I was attending these women in my shop the day before.

What is the distance, what is the width of that part of Ludgate-hill that faces Mr. Gray's shop? - I do not know.

Guess at it? - You can guess as well as I can.

I am not a witness upon oath, I choose to have it from you. - It is directly opposite the Bell Savage.

In the course of the quarter of an hour that you stood watching these people, how many carriages passed? - I cannot tell.

A great number of people and carriages were passing between you and Mr. Gray's shop? - No doubt of it.

You told us, with a great deal of accuracy and minuteness, that these people went to a certain court in Chancery-lane; now you do not know that? - Not of my own knowledge, I saw them a part of the way, and after I came there I saw them at the window.

Now, Sir, be so good as to tell us what it is of all the evidence that you have given, that you do know: how far did you follow them? - Into Shoe-lane, I saw them through the courts; I missed them in the narrow alleys by the King's printing-office.

Now you have told us, that when they were carried back to Mr. Gray's shop, they put their hands together and asked for mercy and acknowledged the fact; I wish you to state the very expression? - I do not know that I can immediately state the expression; the fans were produced that they threw down, Mr. Gray's daughter declared in their presence, that those were the fans that she had been shewing them; they sat very patient till they heard the charge against them fully, the fans and their persons identified by the young lady, and they then got up and wrung their hands, and hoped for mercy.

Was that all they said? - I cannot recollect every word.

Then that is what you meant when you said they acknowledged the fact? - I consider that as an acknowledgment.

Then when you told my Lord, that these women had acknowledged the fact, you meant to refer to their having said that they desired mercy? - They begged for mercy.

That is what you call acknowledging the fact, Sir, is it? that is a little extraordinary.

Jury. Was it through the window, or by the door being open, that you saw them? - The door was open, and they were standing by the counter.

MARY GRAY sworn.

I am daughter to Mr. Gray; I recollect the two prisoners coming into our shop the 24th of July, between six and seven in the evening.

What did they come in for? - They came in and asked to see some fans, I shewed them some fans, and they staid a good while in the shop, at last they fixed on one, and said they had not money enough to purchase it, but would come in an hour's time, if I would lay it by for them; they bought a little doll's fan, and paid sixpence for it; then they went out of the shop, they were in the shop about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes; I saw there was a fan lay under their cloak, I did not suspect any thing, and I took it.

Did you perceive either of them taking those that were lost? - No, I did not at all.

Then you had no particular suspicion of them? - Not the least; Mr. Lambert came over, and said he was afraid they were shoplifters; they were taken into the parlour, and I saw them three fans, which were produced by the constable; they only cried and begged for mercy.

Did you know them to be the same women? - Yes, one of them had changed her dress, but notwithstanding that, I am sure she was the same; my father was at home when they were brought back again, but not when they came into the shop the first time.

JOSEPH THOMPSON sworn.

I have the three fans, which I got out of the lodgings of these two women in Chancery-lane; as soon as I went into the room, Jones was sitting on the left-hand side of the table, and Smith on the right-hand, the moment I went into the room these two fans dropped from Jones.

Were they on the table or in her hand? - They were either on the table or in her hand, I do not know which; the other two gentlemen being rather more active than I, got to the prisoner before me, but I went into the room first.

- GRAY sworn.

(Looks at the fans.)

Mr. Garrow. Point out the mark.

Court. You are sure of them all? - Yes.

What may be the value of them all at the lowest valuation? - Fourteen shillings, that is the price.

Whose hand writing is it? - My daughter's.

Being only the price mark, in course any other shop will put the price on their's? - I am sure they are mine; this one I marked, I am positive to that.

Mr. Garrow to Mr. Gray. Is it by the writing of the mark that you knew it? - Yes, by the writing.

You took them at first to be your daughter's writing, did not you? - I thought they were.

I observe it is made by a pencil on bone; now from the little experience we all have of writing on ivory, it is the very worst species of writing, our pencil slips, so that the figure or word written, is not so plain as if written on paper; now, independent of the writing, you would not know this: you do not manufacture them; there are many of the same pattern; for instance, if there was a balloon fan now? - We have them now.

So I guessed; now I will ask you, whether you rub out the mark universally when you sell fans? - No, never.

Court. Suppose these marks entirely obliterated, could you in that case have sworn to the particulars of these fans? - I cannot say, I did not serve the fans myself; my daughter and my wife served there fans themselves.

Court to Miss Gray. I think you said, when the three fans were brought back, you only missed one? - No, but when I saw them I recollected shewing them.

The prisoners called three witnesses to their characters.

ELIZABETH JONES , MARY SMITH ,

GUILTY, 4 s. 10 d.

Each to be privately whipped , and confined to hard labour twelve months in the House of Correction .

Tried by the London Jury before Mr. RECORDER.