The Silk Thieves

Machines used in Silk Textile Production in Victorian England; Wikipedia-History of Silk



Young Victorian Lady in a Silk dress;



Sergeant Clarke 19S was to appear again in a case  reported in the press in June 1860. It involved fraud and the theft of silk, a valuable commodity in Victorian times.

Mr Philip Hillmand, a draper from Daventry, Northamptonshire,  had been seeking to fill a vacancy for an assistant and a ‘William Woodhouse’ had applied for the post, giving as a reference the name of Mr Nicholas Whitehall, a draper in St John’s Wood, London. The referee was written to at the address provided and a glowing testimony was subsequently received, leading to the appointment on 28 May 1860 of ‘Woodhouse’ to the vacant position in Daventry. 

On 31 May while out in his gig, Mr. Hillmand spotted his new assistant with a parcel under his arm, hastening along the road in the direction of the railway, apparently with the intention of collecting his luggage at the station. However, ‘Woodhouse’ never returned and Hillmand discovered on the following day that he had been robbed of silks and other expensive articles to the value of £40 (worth c. £1750 in 2010). Understandably keen to locate ‘Woodhouse’, Hillmand contacted his local police who communicated with the Metropolitan Police, and Sergeant Clarke was waiting for him when Hillmand travelled to London.  Clarke took Hillmand direct to a house where they discovered ‘Woodhouse’ and took him into custody on the double charge of robbery and obtaining a situation by means of false character.

The prisoner, now revealed as ‘Henry Alfred Yorke’, appeared at Worship Street Police Court, where it was stated that he was likely to be a member of a gang of 12 or 14 others (including a certain William Woodhouse Kitt) who systematically pursued this system of fraud.  The magistrate ordered that Yorke should be returned to Daventry under a police escort and, at the quarter sessions of 4 July 1860 at Northampton, he was found guilty of ‘larceny by servant’ and was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment.1 In helping to secure a conviction, George Clarke had clearly-demonstrated useful knowledge of the relevant villains on his ‘patch’.

Notes: 1. The Times 30 June 1860.

Move on to the next unpublished case