The theft of a canary bandana

If his description in the papers was anything to go by William Wake (a ‘young gentleman’) was new to London. Dressed in a fine outfit of ‘very green waistcoat, high collar shirt and tout ensemble’ had visited a saloon in the Haymarket, central London.

William entered the saloon on the invitation of Mrs Harris, the proprietress, and enjoyed a bottle of champagne with some ‘girls’ in the bar and followed it up with a fine cigar. Suitably refreshed he then called for tea and sat there till 3, or 4, or 5 o’clock (he wasn’t exactly sure). He was sure that when he rose to leave the only other occupants of the saloon were himself, a waiter and one woman. Reaching for his handkerchief he realised it was missing and immediately concluded that only one of those two could have taken it. He called Mrs Harris and complained.

She made a search and found the missing silk in the kitchen in a drawer. Wakes accused the girl of taking it, suggesting that she must have concealed it as she had been one of the women sat with him enjoying his fizz.

When the case came to Mr Maltby’s court at Marlborough Street the girl, Caroline Field, denied the charge and the waiter doubted she could have taken it as he alleged. Now Wake attempted to play the lawyer and asked the waiter: ‘on your oath, tell me do you think I am made of glass?’

The waiter said he did not. ‘Then as you were on one side of me and the girl on the other, it’s impossible you could have seen her “bone” my handkerchief if I ain’t made of glass.’

The magistrate intervened telling Wake that ‘I don’t think you make out your case’. ‘There’s an evident attempt to crush the evidence’ the young gentleman retorted, ‘there’s a plot to muggle up the fact, but I know you’ll deal with the charge in a proper manner’.

The justice did; given the lack of evidence and the attitude of the young beau he dismissed the case and released Caroline. William left the court ‘looking very much of a piece with his waistcoat’.

The Haymarket was notorious in the 1840s for prostitution and I suspect the magistrate had little sympathy for this brash young buck who sauntered up to London to spend his no-doubt inherited wealth in such a dissolute manner. He probably hoped it had taught him a valuable lesson in life.


[from The Morning Post , Friday, June 21, 1844]

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