The Dangers of Staying Out Late

An Old Bailey trial c. 1808; Wikipedia-Old Bailey

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On 26 February 1849, George Clark [sic] (Police Constable S279) gave evidence in the trial at the Old Bailey of John Cummings (aged 20) for stealing a watch, two keys and one pound 18 shillings in silver, the property of John Turner. Turner, a grocer’s assistant from Marylebone, had a few drinks on the night of 13-14 January and outstayed the curfew time for his own lodgings.  He claimed to have met a woman who found him a bed in an accommodation house; at least that was his story and he stuck to it in cross-examination. After the woman had left, Cummings and an associate entered the room armed with a poker, and claimed that the bed “belongs to me and my mate….[and] we pay 1s. 6d. a week for it”.  Threatening Turner with the poker, they took all of his clothes, went downstairs and turned out his pockets before eventually throwing his trousers and boots back to him. 

After getting dressed, and finding his watch, keys and money missing, Turner found the nearest policeman, who happened to be George Clark.  After locating a colleague, Clark went to the house, where he found Cummings with two women in the bed previously occupied by Turner. Cummings was arrested for stealing and, at his trial, was found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation.1 (At that time, approximately 460 convicts a year were transported to Australia, but transportation was completely phased out by 1868 and had been uncommon for several years before that).2

Notes: 1. Old Bailey Proceedings Online, John Cummings ( t18490226-746); 2. Picard, L. (2005) Victorian London; The Life of a City. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 278. Wikipedia-Penal Transportation.

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