Plymouth once locked up a five-year-old girl for stealing some spoons, an old newspaper reveals.
Mary Elizabeth Smerdon, aged 5, of George Street, Stonehouse, was remanded on a charge of stealing six spoons.
The offence reportedly took place in May of 1904 according to an edition of the Western Evening Herald which was was found largely intact in a wall last week.
The 115-year-old publication was unearthed by renovator Ben Edwards, 28, who exposed it whilst working on a property in Kingsand.
“So we’re taking off the walls which were probably about just under 100 years old maybe,” said Ben.
“It was folded up yeah, behind the wall. We couldn’t really believe it, to see something so old that was in quite good condition.
“I thought it would be crumbled and destroyed.”
There is also the court copy detailing how an 18-year-old woman bashed a burglar around the head with an umbrella – much to the amusement of the court.
The notice in question, which can be found on page two of the ancient broadsheet was titled ‘alleged theft of spoons’ and was reported as follows:
“Mary Elizabeth Smerdon, 5, George-street, Stonehouse was remanded at Stonehouse to-day, until Monday, on a charge of stealing six spoons (the property of Messrs. Risdon and Sons, George-street, Plymouth since March 12.-It is stated that when the case is investigated it is likely that other charges will be preferred against the prisoner who remains in custody.”
The newspaper, published on Thursday, 5 May, 1904 stated that the child in question may well have spent up to five days in jail.
Although not mentioned in the brief Western Evening Herald column, judging by historical records it appears that plaintiff Messrs. Risdon and sons ran a confectionery or bakery business out of number 38 George Street.
The patriarch of the Risdon Family, Mr Richard Risdon became the Mayor of Plymouth in 1900 and was infamous as the heaviest Mayor to occupy the civic chair. He passed away in 1901, three years before the ‘spoon theft’ took place making it likely that one of his sons or business partners were the victims of the alleged crime.
It is unknown what happened to Mary Elizabeth Smerdon.
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