In January 1838 a young lad named Charles Scott was placed in the dock at Queen’s Square Police Court accused of damaging trees in St James’ Park.
Scott was dressed in the uniform of the Philanthropic School. The Philanthropic (later Royal Philanthropic) Society had been established in the late 1700s to provide care and education for the children of the poor.
The lad had been caught breaking off branches in the park and stripping them to create a stick – just the sort of thing young boys have done (and probably still do) for centuries. Charles’ misfortune was that because the trees in the park had suffered really badly in the winter chill the police were ordered to be especially vigilant in apprehending anyone inflicting more damage on them.
Whether the fact that the tree was on an island visible from Buckingham Palace made the ‘crime’ worse isn’t clear, but the policeman made a point of adding that geographical detail in court; damaging the Queen’s trees was apparently a serious offence.
Young Charles was convicted of criminal damage and fined 7s or a week in prison. It isn’t clear what option he chose but if he returned to the school I’m fairly sure he could expect further sanctions.
[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, January 24, 1838]