12 months’ jail for Preston teenager who raided painter’s home
Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at the case of a teenage thief who got more than she bargained for...
In mid- December 1856 Mary Ross, aged 19, described as a respectably dressed young woman, appeared before Richard Pedder and a bench of magistrates accused of burglariously entering the dwelling house of Mr. Robert Richardson, painter, in Avenham Road, Preston in the early hours of the previous Wednesday morning.
It was alleged that she had stolen three coats, a pair of Wellington boots, and a table cloth from within. It was reckoned the property stolen was worth about £6.
The court heard that it was an unusual case because Mr. Richardson had shown extreme apathy with respect to the robbery; he had given no information to the police or shown the slightest interest in the discovery of who the thief was, or of the recovery of his property.
Police Sergeant Palmer had overheard the robbery being mentioned in the street and had forthwith instituted an inquiry. He discovered that the three coats had been bought by a Mr. Grayson, clothes dealer in the High Street, who had given15 shillings for them to a young woman. She had told him she had got them in exchange for jewellery, in which she traded. The police officer had then found the missing boots at Mr. Gale’s pawn shop, where they had been pledged by a young woman calling herself Mary Wilkinson. From the descriptions given to
P.S. Palmer he was confident that it was the accused, who he knew to have been previously convicted of felony.
Detective Beckett told the court that he had been made aware of the suspicions and apprehended the accused in the Market Place. Upon visiting her lodgings in New Street he had found the stolen table cloth among her clothes.
With the evidence stacked against her the prisoner admitted the theft, and stated that she gained access to the Avenham Road dwelling through the back kitchen window. The back door had been found wide open by Richardson when he arose at seven o’clock the following morning.
In answer to a question from the magistrates of as to why she had committed the burglary, she responded by saying that if they would forgive her she would be a good girl in the future.
The chairman Richard Pedder replied by telling her it was not in his jurisdiction to do so, telling her she was committed to stand trial at the forthcoming Preston Epiphany Sessions, with bail refused.
The Sessions were held in early January 1857 and when Mary Ross was brought up she entered a guilty plea. Mr. T. B. Addison, the chairman, told her that a bright and well educated girl as she was should not be indulging in criminal activity and although her victim had displayed apathy about the matter, the crime could not go unpunished. She was then informed that she was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.