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Shoplifting in 1805?

by Ruth Gatenby

Invoice written in 1805

Invoice written in 1805

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We have recently been given an assortment of old documents that were found behind a fireplace surround in a house that was being renovated.  They are of course old, rather dirty and fragile, and some are difficult to read.  Several relate to the Louth Association for the Prosecution of Felons, a mutual subscription society that prosecuted criminals before the creation of a national police force.

The image shows part of an invoice dated April 1805 from Louth solicitor William Wilson for work he had undertaken on behalf of the Association. It states the expenses incurred for the prosecution of Mary Brooks who had committed felony against William Eve.  I have not managed to find out anything about Mary Brooks, but the name William Eve rang a bell immediately.  He was the proprietor of the Louth drapery business, now known as Eve & Ranshaw.  It sounds as if Mary was being prosecuted for shoplifting.