A pair of (literal) ‘house breakers’ are caught in Spitalfields



When Mr Smart let his house in Gun Street, Spitalfields to Mr and Mrs Fadey he probably had no idea of the trouble it was going to cause him.John Fadey and his wife Mary were elderly and poor but they had a letter of reference from a man who was ‘then making a good figure in the world’, Mr Groebecker.

That was in November 1834 but wind forward to August and the situation had changed and Smart and the Fadeys were in the Worship Street Police Court. Groebecker had fallen from grace and was in now prison. And Mr Smart’s house was being dismantled, piecemeal.

The court heard that the Fadeys had been stripping the house of all saleable parts. A boy ‘belonging to them’ (their servant probably, not their son) was seen cutting out the window panes for the couple to hawk ‘about the streets for sale’.

‘The doors and window sashes, chimney pieces, the lead from the roof, everything, in short, that could be made available, had been carried off.’ When a neighbour challenged them they were told to mind their own business. At last Smart found out what was happening and called the police.

Constable 26 of H Division turned up at the property and Mr Fadey tried to escape; the policeman chased him over the rooftops before finally securing him. When what remained of the house was searched it was found to be almost devoid of property; the couple had literally sold everything and were sleeping on straw.

In court a  surveyor estimated the cost of the damage at £31 10s (about half a year’s wages for a labourer) and another witness testified that the couple were suspected of committing similar offences in four other locations. The magistrate remanded them for further examination so these ‘other’ offences could be looked into.

I imagine John Fadey was trying to survive in the only way he understood and exploiting the absentee landlords of the East End to do so. Landlords were notorious for evicting tenants who couldn’t pay their rent, often detaining their goods in the process. Mr Smart was the victim in this case but it is hard not to have some sympathy with an elderly couple who have been driven by poverty to such a desperate state.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, August 28, 1835]

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