Black Sheep Sunday… Larceny


In my previous post I had found my 3x Great Grandmother Elizabeth Wood (nee Cope) languishing in prison, with her young daughter, in 1851. I was pretty keen to find out how she’d ended up in prison.

I turned to the British Library newspaper collection at Find My Past to see if I could find any court appearances for Elizabeth. I found not one, but two, both of which resulted in short prison sentences.


The first trial took place on the 18th October 1847 at the Warwick County Sessions. Along with Emma Evans, Elizabeth was found guilty of stealing 78lbs of potatoes from Charles Ashmal. He was a farmer in Aston, near Birmingham. Elizabeth received a sentence of one months hard labour, whilst Emma, having a previous conviction, received three months.

It is noted in the Criminal Register at Ancestry that Elizabeth’s education was ‘imperfect’ – her schooling was limited.

The next time Elizabeth appears in court is on the 21st March 1851.  She is charged, along with Jane Ross, with stealing a polka jacket from Daniel Augustus Grattidge,


a hosier and glover, of Tamworth, Staffordshire. According to the Coventry Herald Jane pleaded guilty and Elizabeth was found guilty – both were sentenced to three months hard labour in the House of Correction, which is where we find them in the 1851 census.

The only discrepancy I can find is that the newspaper reports give Elizabeth’s age as 22, when she would have been 35 at the time. As everything else fits, the date, place and name of Elizabeth’s daughter, also in prison, I think I can reasonably assume that the paper got her age wrong.

So now I’ve satisfied my curiosity I can carry on following this family backwards. Finding a black sheep in the family makes the search much more interesting!

© Caroline Cox and Caroline’s Chronicles. 2011 – current year

6 thoughts on “Black Sheep Sunday… Larceny

  1. I do wonder how Elizabeth managed to steal 78 pounds of potatoes! Did the article provide the circumstances under which the theft took place? I doubt she could have stashed them in her bloomers. (Great photo of a black sheep! )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s hard to imagine how Elizabeth could have done hard labor with an infant in her arms! My gosh, such difficult times back then. I love Jose Francisco Morales’s black sheep photo!

    Liked by 2 people

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