A case of (un)mistaken identity


                                                                    The Pall Mall Gazette,  Saturday, April 28, 1866

When Ann (or Anna) Bryant saw the advert in a window in Fieldgate Street, Spitalfields asking for a ‘Servant of all work’ she thought her luck was in. She knocked and a respectable Jewess opened the door. “I’ve come about the position” Anna must have said but her putative employer looked puzzled.

“Why”, she exclaimed, “you are the very person that robbed me last October!”With that Mrs Proops, a tailor’s wife who had moved to Fieldgate Street with her husband just recently, seized her and handed her over to the nearest policeman.

When she appeared in front of Mr Partridge the sitting magistrate at Thames Police Court Anna was charged with stealing £2, two gold rings, some cloth and some clothes belonging to Mr and Mrs Proops. Jessy Proops told the court that the girl had left her employment after just a week in the early hours of the morning, leaving a ‘child in front of the fire, where it was in danger of being burnt’.

Anna protested her innocence and promised she could get a good character from her current landlady in Houndsditch. The magistrate remanded her and from here she disappears from history. Anna might have been sent for trial at Old Bailey – that amount of theft would have sent her to prison if convicted – but she may have been released by the Police magistrate on her reappearance before him.

It would be very unlikely that she still had the ill-gotten gains taken from the Proops’ home and all parties might have decided that a short sharp spell of imprisonment would have served as a lesson. The papers don’t record this and we don’t have the registers for Thames for the 1860s so I doubt we’ll ever know.

One hopes however, that Anna was slightly more careful which adverts she answered in future.


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