Saturday, 15 September 2018

An 1848 Crime - The Fate of the Two Thomas Arments

An 1808 trial at the Old Bailey

How can you tell if something is stolen? These days many things of value have serial numbers and, if a record has been kept, stolen items can be identified by those serial numbers. Back in 1849 when the Arments came to trial such a system was not in common use. So why didn't they get off scot-free when the first of the two trials held in the fourth session of 1848-49 found them not guilty of the theft of damask from Druce and Co.?

The second trial, heard directly after the first, added counts of receiving stolen goods for both Thomas Arments. There was enough testimony to tie young Thomas and his father to the damask that he had been selling when arrested by Constable Cobley but was it the property that had been stolen from Druce and Co.? In addition to calling William Fray of Druce and Co., the prosecution also called upon Henry Holdsworth an agent of the manufacturer in Halifax (over 200 miles from London). Holdsworth testified that Messrs. Holdsworths' manufactory had produced the buff and crimson damask in question and they sold all they had to Druce and Co.

The verdict at the end of the trial was that Thomas Arment, aged 67, and Thomas Arment, Jun, aged 28, were guilty of receiving. They were sentenced to transportation for 10 years, the same sentence as that given to Henry Samuel Chester who had pleaded guilty to theft. 

As I wrote earlier, Henry Samuel Chester was not transported because he died in Millbank prison on June 14, 1849 due to peritonitis. Would this have happened to him if he hadn't gone to prison? There are a number of natural causes of peritonitis but it can also be the result of a wound or injury to the abdomen.* Had Chester been injured while he was incarcerated?

Information I received from other Arment researchers showed that young Thomas made it to Australia. But he appears to have been the only one who was transported. Where had the older Thomas gone? That question took a while and another set of records to answer.

Story to be continued next week


Sources:

Findmypast newspapers: http://www.findmypast.com (subscription site) 


The Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913 https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/


Images:

By Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin - Ackermann, Rudolph; Pyne, William Henry; Combe, William (1904) [1808] "Old Bailey" in The Microcosm of London: or, London in Miniature, Volume 2, London: Methuen and Company Retrieved on 9 January 2009., Public Domain,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=566832  

Saturday, 8 September 2018

An 1848 Crime – the Investigation which brought Chester & the Arments to Trial


Just like today, crime sells newspapers. The 1848 thefts from Druce and Co. and the subsequent trials were covered in numerous newspapers. I know, I have pieced together the story after going through many of them as well as the records of the trials at the Old Bailey.

It was the younger Thomas who first brought the Arments to the attention of the law in the case that the press dubbed an "Extensive System of Plunder". Cst. Cobley was in the Whitechapel Road when he saw young Thomas with 28 yards of yellow damask that he was trying to sell. Something in this appeared odd to the constable so he questioned Arment about the origins of the material. Getting no satisfactory answers, Cobley placed Arment under arrest. Cobley's further investigation at various upholsterers led to the apprehension of another trader of the material, George Wall.

The elderly Wall appears to have been a reputable character who was known as a dealer. He was released on his own recognizance while young Thomas Arment languished in goal. We already know which way this went don't we? Wall came to be accepted as a witness. It was his testimony that brought the elder Thomas Arment into the case as Wall stated he received a commission for selling several parcels of damask for the Arments, father and son.

If the Arments had a reputable agent to distance them from the sale of the goods why was young Thomas out flogging the material that fateful day in December? Was there just too much damask to be sold for the one agent to do it all or did the Arments want to save on the commission? Retaining a known dealer seemed like a good idea until Wall's testimony dragged the elder Thomas into the case.

It really boiled down to the fact that the quantity of ill-gotten goods was too large to dispose of discreetly. It was also too large an amount for Druce and Co. to ignore. They launched their own investigation. Mr. W. Cumming was tasked with investigating the losses at Druce and Co. His remit was to find the thieves and the remaining unrecovered stolen property. Cumming questioned all the employees of Druce and Co. He returned again to question Henry Samuel Chester, who had been employed by Druce and Co. for three months. During that time company property had gone missing including 100 yards of damask. Chester finally admitted that he knew the Arments.

Chester was arrested on January 3rd, 1849. As seen in the previous post, he admitted stealing from Druce and Co. According to the London Daily News of January 4, 1849, he broke down when Cumming took him into custody and said that the Arments and Fain had pressured him to take more and more items from his employer.

Poor beleaguered Chester, or was he? Mean nasty pressuring Thomas Arment senior, Thomas Arment junior and Abraham Greaves Fain, or were they? We already know that Fain was found not guilty. What about the Arments, father and son?

Story to be continued next week

A fragment of damask
 
Sources:
Findmypast newspapers: http://www.findmypast.com (subscription site) 
 
The Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674-1913 https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/
 
Images:
 
Druce & Co. - This file is from the Mechanical Curator collection, a set of over 1 million images scanned from out-of-copyright books and released to Flickr Commons by the British Library.View image on FlickrView all images from bookView catalogue entry for book., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37397861 
 
Damask - This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons by as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CCO,  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60186201