An early train vandal

In July 1881 a teenage boy was produced before the magistrate at Mansion House charged with criminal damage. Frederick Wilkinson was 16 and worked in service. His employer appeared in the Police Court and said he was a very well behaved young man and had never given cause for concern.

What a surprise it must have been then to learn that Fred had been carving obscene words into the seat of a third class carriage on the South Eastern Railway. The company, formed in 1836, took passengers from London to Dover and all points in between. As the train Frederick was riding came into Charing Cross a signalman noticed him all alone in third class.

At the station Frederick was stopped and the station master called to investigate what the signalman thought he had seen. Despite Frederick’s denials the words (not identified in court) were clearly inscribed on the bench and he was arrested.

Sir Robert Carden, a City magistrate ‘as caricatured by Spy (Leslie Ward) in Vanity Fair) December 1880′.

The justice, Sir Robert Carden was sure the lad had done the damage and ‘expressed his sorrow that a boy with such a good character should have such a filthy mind’. He fined him 40s or a month’s prison. The money was paid and Fred released.

[from Daily News, Wednesday, July 20, 1881]

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