Washerwoman ‘steals away’ two lads in revenge


Emily Brown, a 36 year-old ‘laundress and  hawker’ was summoned before the magistrate at Thames Police Court along with her husband Charles. The pair were charged with the unusual offence of enticing away two young boys from their parents and then getting them to rob them. The motive is unclear but might well have been revenge, as we shall see.

The first by named was William Francis Chesterton (aged 14) who, it was claimed, was included to leave his father’s house and to steal ‘three blankets and two sheets’, which were later pawned by Emily.

The other lad, just over 14, was called Myers (no Christian name was recorded) and he too had been taken ‘unlawfully’ from his ‘very respectable’ family by the ‘artifices of the prisoners’.

It seems that having separated them from their parents Mrs Brown persuaded them to head south west on their own. While the boys were traveling towards  Whitstable  (in Devon) Myers was arrested for throwing stones and breaking a window. He was brought to Greenwich Police court and sentenced to 14 days imprisonment. This ‘brought the journey of the two lads to a standstill, and Chesterton returned to London alone’. He was then eventually reunited with his parents, who presumably investigated his abduction and brought charges against the Browns.

Young Myers confirmed the evidence heard and his father also appeared in court to add some insight or explanation to the case. The boy’s father then appeared. Mr Myers lived off the Commercial Road in Whitechapel at no. 14 Hereford Place, the Chesterton lived next door at 14. Myers testified that he had employed the female prisoner as a laundress earlier in the year. However, in July he had brought her to court to accused her of ‘detaining some linen he had entrusted to her to wash for him’. He therefore thought she had taken his son in revenge for him bringing a prosecution against him.

[from The Morning Post, Tuesday, October 18, 1870]

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