An inside job



Alfred Tallet kept a stationer’s shop on Whitechapel High Street. In September 1849 he employed a servant to help him in the shop and around his house (he lived over his premises). Charlotte Jackson entered Tallet’s service on a Tuesday night and stayed until the following Sunday, when she quit without notice.

On the Sunday Tallet and his family went off as usual to church. When the Tallets returned home the door of the shop was locked and Alfred could get no answer from inside. In the end he had to force open a window and enter his home that way.

When he got inside he found the ‘whole place in confusion’. It had been burgled and he suspected Charlotte because there was no sign of her.

The shop had been stripped of the ‘fancy stationary and books’ he sold, and 72 silver pencil cases were missing. Upstairs in the bedroom he discovered that the thieves had stolen clothes and jewelry belonging to himself and Mrs. Tallet including ‘a diamond union pin, a cameo brooch, [and] a gold pencil case’.

The police were called and they investigated a lead that took them to Lambeth. Sergeant Kelly of H Division caught up with Charlotte in a house on the New Cut where she was living with a man she described as her husband. Kelly also found several items at the lodgings that belonged to Mr. Tallet and a gold watch and valuable shawl that he also believed to be stolen (but weren’t lost by the stationer). He arrested them and now they were appearing at the Worship Street Police court.

James and Charlotte Jackson were charged before Mr. Arnold, the sitting magistrate, with stealing £300 of property from the Tallets. They denied the charge, James declaring that he had been given the goods to sell by a man he had met several times by appointment after answering an advertisement. He had no idea what the man’s name was or where he lived and was not therefore, ‘in a position to produce him, but he assured the magistrate that he was entirely unaware the goods had been stolen’. For his part Tallet was shocked that there was a Mr. Jackson, as Charlotte had led him to believe she was unmarried.

Sergeant Jackson told the justice that he would soon have fresh charges to lay at the Jacksons and Mr. Arnold  promptly remanded the couple for a week.

Burglary and serious property crime was overwhelmingly a male activity in the 1800s but when women were involved it was, as here, as accomplices. Taking a position as a domestic servant gave free access to your employers’ property and many serving girls opened the back door to their partners at night or deliberately left a window unlocked while the family slept.

[From The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, September 8, 1849]

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