Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton


21-24 January 1699   On Saturday a female shop-lifter was taken in the fact and committed to Newgate; she was rigged as well as a Lady, and going into a woollen drapers shop in Ludgate Street, desired to see some of his finest cloaths to make her a gown, a piece of which she made shift to carry off, but it being soon after mimssed, she was pursued and taken. (The Post Man)

27-29 June 1699   On Tuesday night two women going into a grocers shop in the City, where they perceived there was only one in the shop to serve them, pretended to buy some rice, and while the shop-keeper was weighing it, one of them with a piece of whalebone dipt in birdlime, or some other such sticking stuff, pickt 8s. out of the till, but the last shilling falling upon the counter the plot was discovered, and they were both seized and committed to Newgate. ’Tis said they had been both burnt in the hand before, and that the master of the shop missed 28s. at another time when they had been there to buy goods. (The Post Man)

9 July 1726   On Thursday last . . . Mary Burton, alias Ravenscroft, one of the gang of shoplifters, for apprehending of whom his Majesty hath been pleased to promise a reward, surrender’d herself in order to be made an evidence against her Confederates: A great number of mercers were present at her Examination: We hear she hath confess’d between 20 and 30 robberies. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

29 November 1729
On Wednesday last two women well dress’d went into a linnen-draper’s shop, the sign of the Wheatsheaf by Salisbury-street in the Strand, and cheapen’d several goods [i.e. argued to get the price down], when Susannah Smith, a girl of about 10 years old, who was with them, took an opportunity to carry off a piece of fine cambrick; which being immediately missed by the shopkeeper, he pursued and took the girl with the said goods upon her, the two women having in the mean time made their escape: The girl was taken before Justice Bourke, and examined, when she confessed she was put upon it by her mother, who was one of the abovesaid women.

         Diligent search was made for the mother, according to the information of the girl, but she could not be found.
         On Thursday the girl was again taken before the said Justice, and after being examined, she was committed to Newgate.
         The mother was tried for shoplifting the last Sessions, but acquitted for want of sufficient evidence.
         She lately went into a hosier’s with another of her daughters, about 6 years of age, dress’d in a clean white frock, with a little basket in her hand, into which she convey’d several pair of stockings, and was going off with them; but being discovered, the mother expressed a great concern, and threatened her daughter with due correction; by which artifice she got safe off. (London Journal)

20 December 1729   On Sunday last six boys were committed to the New Goal in Southwark by Justice Engier, for stealing goods out of several shops, and from persons in the Streets thereabouts; as was also a Spaniard and his wife for receiving the same, they being found in bed at their house; the oldest of the aforesaid boys does not exceed 14 years. It is somewhat remarkable, that within these eight days about 20 persons have been committed to that Goal, the most of which are meer children. (London Journal)

Saturday, 15 September 1739   Monday last Sarah Withers, a noted shoplifter (dress'd like any Lady, when she came before the Justice) was committed to Newgate by Colonel Deveil, for privately stealing goods out of the shop of Mr. George Collins a mercer in Chandois-street.
      And the next day Mary Brown, one of the most noted pickpockets about the playhouses, was also committed by Col. Deveil to Newgate, for an offence of the like nature, in privately stealing goods out of the shop of Mr. Jonathan Stockdale, a mercer in York-street, and a parcel of fine lace from Mrs. Frances Busk, a milliner in Tavistock-street; the Justice was obliged to get a guard of soldiers to conduct her to Newgate, there being a great gang of thieves waiting near the Justice's house to rescue her, it being late at night. (Read's Weekly Journal)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished in whole or redistributed without the permission of the compiler. However, short selections may be quoted in historical studies and reviews as long as acknowledgement is given to this site.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Shoplifting", 3 March 2005, enlarged 1 January 2006 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/shoplift.htm>

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