Monday, 4 February 2019

The Casebook of George Cracknell, Detective.

    Young George Cracknell joined the Metropolitan police in the year 1873 and was assigned to F Division in Kensington. The unassuming and pleasant PC Cracknell gave six unblemished years to F Division before he was transferred to T Division, where he would serve for the next nineteen years.

    We first hear of his exploits on the 8th December 1878 in Reynold's Newspaper whilst still serving in F Division.
Fopstone Road, now Nevern Place.

    Daniel Bailey was an unemployed discharged soldier, he had been given a pension of 6d a day for 18 months, this had now lapsed. To make up his money he took to begging house to house saying that he wanted to return to his native Scotland, the cost being 22s and he only had 21s 6d. So each day someone would give him 6d and this had been going on for months. He was arrested by PC Cracknell on Fopstone Road, Earls Court Road, Kensington, even though Bailey's "ingenious system of begging" raised some laughs in court he was sentenced to three months with hard labour.

    After joining T Division we catch up with George on the 24th December 1879 in the Morning Post.
    "Edward Payne, labourer, employed at the works of the new school in William Street, North End, Fulham was charged with being in the unlawful possession of two pieces of wood and one pound of lead.
    On Monday evening PC Cracknell stopped the prisoner in the Great Western Road, Kensington with the lead and wood in his possession. He stated he had brought them from his work. Payne pleaded that he did it for his family as they were very poor, the magistrate was unmoved, he was given the choice of a 19s fine or seven days imprisonment."

    Attaining the rank of Detective Constable in 1880, this account comes from the Morning Post, Thursday 30th December 1880.
    "James Lvras (?) a labourer was charged with loitering in Wrights Lane, Kensington supposed for the purpose of committing a felony.
Wrights Lane.

    The prisoner was watched by the police, who found a jemmy up his sleeve. It appeared to have been used as the point was broken off.
    Detective Cracknell said he had made inquiries about the prisoner and found he had been in the Rifle Brigade and bore a bad character.
    The prisoner in his defence stated he was on his way to St James Park when a man and woman said he could earn 15s to 16s if he came with them. He went with them as far as the railway station where he was taken into custody, they gave him the jemmy and told him to put it up his sleeve.
    The prisoner was committed to trial for carrying a housebreaking implement."

    We see in this account published in the West London Observer on the 17th May 1884 that sometimes a policemans lot was not a happy one.
    "Suspicious Conduct - Three young men named William Gaskin, Charles Crim and William Ward, all living in Fulham were charged with being suspected persons loitering on Wandsworth Bridge Road supposed for an unlawful purpose.
    Detective Cracknell said that at 10.45 on Friday night he and PC Bolton (my great great uncle!) were in the Wandsworth Bridge Road watching the suspects who went to the pub for ten minutes. 
They then left the pub and headed over the bridge to York Road, the prisoners stopped a man then ran away, soon they stopped another man. This man they "hustled", he had something under his arm and he struck out at the prisoners, they ran away a second time.
Wandsworth Bridge Tavern c1900

    The prisoners then returned to Fulham where they stopped a third man, at this point Cracknell and Bolton secured the prisoners.
    PC Bolton said that while they were going along Harwood Road Crim struck him in the mouth knocking him down then kicked him, another constable came to his assistance and he secured the prisoner. Detective Cracknell said Gaskin had already been to prison for horse stealing, the prisoners were remanded."

   George was back on the beat by 1885 for reasons I cannot find, he was called to a rather disturbing death according to Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, Sunday 29th March 1885.
    "Burnt to death while in a fit - Yesterday Dr Diplock held an inquiry at the Bollo Bridge tavern, Acton into the decease of Henry Richardson aged 55, who met a shocking death from burns.
Bollo Bridge Tavern 1960s

    The evidence of Amelia Smith, the wife of a labourer, showed that Richardson lodged with her at 3 Hanbury Road. For some days he had been unwell, but his illness was not considered serious. Upon his room being entered on Thursday morning, he was found dead in front of the fire place. A portion of his body was extensively burnt.
    PC Cracknell 409T said he was called by Mrs Smith. He saw the body lying in the fender, a large fire was burning in the grate and the deceased's head was lying near the bars. Verdict, accidental death from burns."

    Back in the CID in May 1885 George had some trouble with juvenile delinquents, the West London Observer,  Saturday 2nd May 1885 carried the story.
    "Charles Read 18 and William Read 14 were charged with breaking into the house of Charles Dubben in Mulgrave road, Fulham. Henry Whitfield had been supervising works on the unoccupied house when several things were stolen from it.
    Mr Whitfield slept at the house one night to catch the thieves, he heard intruders and chased them catching Charles and locked him in a room from which he escaped. A description was reported to the police and the prisoners were apprehended, one of them was in possession of Mr Whitfield's tobacco and a cap belonging to Charles was found in the property.
    Detective Cracknell apprehended William who denied being in the house, the assistant gaoler stated William had recently been in court and had received 12 strokes for stealing figs from a shop.
    The parents were known to the police and are described as drinkers, the prisoners were committed for trial."

    An eagle eyed George cast his gaze on a passing plumber with just cause in this story from the West London Observer, Saturday 6th March 1886.
    "Albert Claverton, a plumber of Cassidy Road was charged with being in unlawful possession of a quantity of lead piping.
Fulham Road

    Detective Cracknell said on Wednesday he saw the prisoner in the Fulham Road carrying a large plumbers bag. He was asked what was in it and replied tools, Cracknell then opened the bag and found twenty three pieces of lead piping under the tools, he said the piping was given to him by Mr Churchman his foreman.
    Detective Cracknell asked the foreman who denied it, the prisoner changed his story by stating a Mr Bevan gave him it, Mr Bevan said he gave no such permission but he nor Mr Churchman could identify the lead.
    The prisoner said he did not take the lead with felonious intention, Cracknell stated the prisoner was not known to the police and he had six children and his wife confined that morning. Mr Paget committed him to prison for two months with hard labour."

    A day at the athletics turns nasty, the particulars were reported in the Morning Post, Wednesday 3rd August 1887.
    "Joseph Trotter 26 describing himself as a traveller, was indicted for trying to steal a watch and chain value £20 from the person of Sampson Burn Stevenson.
    The prosecutor is a licensed victauller and keeps the Old Crown and Cushion 447 Westminster Bridge Road. On the 11th of July he went to the Lillie Bridge Grounds to witness the athletic sports and was for a time sitting in the grandstand.
Lillie Bridge Ground

    At about half past 3 o'clock he got a check to pass out of the grounds, he had not got about 3 yards when he was surrounded by a crowd of persons and anticipated that robbery was intended. He placed his hand on his watch but as some of the men drove their elbows into him fearing they would injure his eyes he raised both arms to protect them. No sooner had he done this than he felt a hand upon his watch chain and his watch was hanging out of his pocket.
    At this moment George Cracknell, a detective of T Division came up. The prosecutor had not seen who had attempted to steal the chain. According to the evidence of Cracknell he and Sergeant Saunders saw the prisoner and eight others surrounding the prosecutor and called out "mind your watch" when he was nearly knocked down by a man rushing violently against him, and the prisoner, whom he had seen with the prosecutors watch in his hand, dart behind the crowd and for a time escaped.
    The prisoner was afterwards arrested and when searched at the police station was found to have a £10 note, two £5 notes, £3 of gold and 17s 6d in silver. The prisoner was found guilty."
George Cracknell, Jubilee medal (author's collection)

    You can't win 'em all, the West London Observer, Saturday 2nd July 1887 picks up the story.
    "Henry Herbert, a labourer of Lodge Avenue Fulham Road, was charged with stealing a waistcoat, value 10s, the property of Nathaniel Jones a tailor of Lillie Road.
    The prosecutor deposed that he missed the waistcoat on Saturday night from the shop. He did not know the prisoner, but he came in with another man.
    The prisoner - "I beg your pardon, I'm not guilty of the crime and I don't know nothing about it (laughter) I'm not guilty"
    Detective Cracknell said he arrested the prisoner on Tuesday. He said he was never in the shop and his father said his son was at home at the time. Mr Partridge ordered him to be discharged."
    I think George's instincts were good in this case, the prisoner was discharged but he would soon be in prison for other offences.

    George was a busy man as we see from this story in the same newspaper edition as the one above.
    "Catherine Ponsford, a married woman, was charged with robbing Lydia Moss, of Filmer Road, Fulham.
Filmer Road today

    The prosecutrix deposed that she missed a cameo brooch on Jubilee day, also two gold rings and other articles. She identified a table cloth and said she saw it safe on Monday week. The prisoner lived in the same house.
    Mr Partridge - How do you know she took them?
    The witness - There was no other person in the house. In answer to questions the witness said the prisoner was the landlady.
    The son of Mr Woodhouse, of North End Road, said the table cloth was pledged by the prisoner last week.
    Detective Cracknell said on Tuesday night he went to Filmer Road and arrested the prisoner, who denied all knowledge of the property. In a drawer in the kitchen he found another table cloth. After the second table cloth had been identified Mr Partridge granted a remand.

    A brutal and cowardly assault, George investigates, West London Observer, Saturday 6th August 1887.
    "Thomas Brookes of Builow Street, Henry Herbert of Lodge Avenue and John Elder of Imperial Cottage, all labourers, were charged with being concerned in violently assaulting Police Constable Romayne on the 21st ult. in Gas Factory Lane, Fulham.
    The constable said there was a number of men in the lane using bad language. He spoke to them, when Brookes struck him in the face, cutting it and knocking him down. The other prisoners kicked him. He was still incapacitated from duty.
    Brookes said he was in the beerhouse and was pulled out by the constable who was drunk and he fell down.
    Detective Cracknell said the prisoners were in the habit of going around in gangs. Mr Partridge committed all the prisoners to four months with hard labour."

   The case of the slippery coiner, Reynolds's Newspaper,  Sunday 29th September 1889.
    Lillie Wilson 22, married, was placed in the dock charged for being concerned with a man in having in their possession a large quantity of counterfeit coin, with intent to utter the same.
    The prisoner was further charged with having in her possession seventeen moulds and other utensils for manufacturing counterfeit coin.
    Detective Sergeant Drew, T Division, said the other afternoon he was in Harwood Road, Fulham, when he saw a man leave number 58 and he was arrested by another officer. He, the sergeant, went into the house and saw the prisoner standing at the door of the third floor front room. He asked her if her name was Wilson, she said "yes", he asked if she was Mrs Wilson, she replied "yes".
58, Harwood Road, Fulham.

    He then told her he was a police officer and her husband was in custody for uttering counterfeit coin. He also said he believed she had a quantity of base coin in her room and that he was going to search it. 
    She said "I know nothing about him, what he does has nothing to do with me. I don't mind being locked up as long as he is with me, I'm better in prison than out while he is in there. I will not leave him, there is no bad money in this place."
    He searched the room and in a portmanteau found seventeen moulds. In various parts of the room he found a battery and other appliances used in the manufacture of counterfeit coin. A quantity of bad money was found in the room.
    Mr Curtis Bennett - What has become of the man?
    Sergeant Drew - He escaped from the police station.
    Detective Cracknell said he took the man to the police station and left him with other officers. He produced a quantity of counterfeit coin he found in the front room on the top floor consisting of 110 half crowns, 37 florins, 99 shillings and 174 sixpences.
    Some counterfeit gold coins were found by another officer consisting of one £5 piece, eight £2 pieces, 30 sovereigns and 12 half sovereigns.
    Mr Curtis Bennett remanded the prisoner and gave directions for a report to be made to the commissioners of the escape of the man, who was lodged in the station and allowed to escape.
    Inspector Ellis said there had been an inquiry and the sergeant with a constable had been suspended."

    Detective Sergeant Charles Drew would die of phthisis in November 1895, George Cracknell acted as one of the pallbearers.

    More light fingered goings on were reported in the Morning Post, Monday 16th February 1891.
    "John and Louisa Wright, man and wife, were indicted for having stolen a box and other articles, value £42, the goods of Gertrude Blanche Clayton: a trunk and other articles, value £60, the goods of Marion Hirtt Catell: and two boxes and other articles, value £148 the goods of Marianne Milne.
    Mr Passmore prosecuted, Mr Lawless defended the male and Mr Geoghegan the female prisoner. The three prosecutrices, who reside at Enville House, Upper Richmond Road, Putney, were at Earls Court railway station about five o'clock in the afternoon on the 2nd inst. and gave over their luggage to a porter, who took it to East Putney Station and placed it on a truck.
Earls Court railway station c1900

    The two prisoners were standing on the platform and the man said to his wife "here is the porter with our luggage" and they both went by the train. At Waltham Green Station the prisoners got out of the train and on their application the luggage was handed out of the guards van at Waltham Green Station instead of Putney.
    The prisoners drove away in a cab and the next day Detective Cracknell called upon them at 9, Morcambe Terrace, Dawes Road, Fulham. The male prisoner, who was arrested in the back yard of the next house, said "it's all right, I've got all the property, I've not done away with a ha'porth".
    The boxes were found in one of the bedrooms and several of the contents in drawers. Detective Sergeant Drew said the female prisoner told him she had nothing to do with the robbery and at the police station the male prisoner said he was sorry it had happened, but he did it under the influence of drink.
    Louisa Wright was acquitted, the male prisoner, who was found guilty, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour."
    The case of the amateur detective, West London Observer, Saturday 26th September 1891.
    "Henry Wheeler, an elderly man, was charged with being a suspected person attempting to pick pockets in the North End Road, Fulham.
    Mrs Louise Ballen, residing in Moor Park Road, said she was looking at a stall in North End Road and felt a hand in her dress pocket. She suspected the prisoner who was near her and accordingly watched his movements.
    She saw him go up to two other women and put his hand into their pockets. After watching him for half an hour she communicated with Detective Cracknell and he took him into custody.
    The magistrate said the prisoner was old enough to know better and committed him to prison for three months with hard labour."
North End Road, Fulham.

    The ungrateful thief, West London Observer, Saturday 5th March 1892.
    "Frank Easter, a plate engraver, of Cedar Road, Fulham, was charged with stealing a pair of boots and a clock, the property of Mr Lewis Hutchings of Nascot House, Fulham.
    Elizabeth Cole, the servant, said on the 28th January the prisoner, who had worked in the house, came and pleaded poverty. Her mistress gave him two shillings and some food, she left him in the kitchen with a pair of boots which he was given to clean. The next morning she missed the boots.
    On the 11th February she went down the stairs in the morning and found the kitchen window wide open and the clock gone.
    Detective Cracknell said on Thursday he arrested the prisoner on being discharged from Wandsworth Police Court. He told him the charge, the prisoner said "yes, I stole the boots and sold them for 5s to a man on Blackfriars Bridge. I also want to speak the truth, I broke into the house and stole a clock which I sold to the same man for half a crown, but I don't know where he lives."
    The officer stated the prisoner has been convicted for burglary, the prisoner asked for mercy and said he had lost his wife this month and was in great trouble.
    Mr Curtis Bennett committed the prisoner for trial."

    A fortune teller robbed, didn't see that coming! West London Observer, Saturday 12th March 1892.
    "Two young men named Michael Burke, a labourer and William Bethel, a plumber, were charged with being concerned with three other men with stealing money from an automatic fortune telling machine.
    Mr William Barham, landlord of the Nell Gwynne public house King's Road, Fulham, the prosecutor, deposed that he kept the machine on the mantleshelf in the private bar, he believed it contained 8s or 10s. On Tuesday afternoon he saw the prisoners in the bar with three other men, all being around the machine.
The Nell Gwynne pub, sadly closed.

    He watched as the men looked suspicious. After he went to the bar and saw the prisoner Bethel putting something in his pocket resembling a screwdriver. A pair of pliers were on the shelf, and the same prisoner who had his hand upon them said they belonged to him. There was also two or three pennies on the shelf.
    He examined the machine and found some of the screws taken out of the back, which was partly forced off, only eleven pence being left in it. Witness sent for a constable, then all the men ran away.
Cross examined by Burke: I saw you covering the other men, I followed and caught you.
    Detective Cracknell said he arrested the prisoners and took them to the station, both prisoners denied the charge, Bethel saying he was quite innocent. It was stated that both prisoners had been convicted for assaulting the police.
    Mr Curtis Bennett sentenced them both to three months imprisonment with hard labour."

    A tale of Wormwood Scrubs, London Daily News, Monday 6th September 1897.
    "Gertrude Green, aged 25, described as a domestic servant, was charged at the West London Police Court, on Saturday, with stealing two tin boxes containing three dresses, two petticoats, one black silk cape and other articles of wearing apparel, value £5 from the custody of Daniel Brooks a tailor of City Road, St Lukes, by means of a trick.
    The prisoner was before the court a week ago for stealing property from a house at 57, Lillie Road, West Brompton, where she had passed the night in company with a man friend. Among the things she stole on that occasion was a season ticket to the Victorian Era Exhibition.
The Victorian Era Exhibition

    She presented herself for admission to the exhibition the day following, and having produced the ticket, the official, who had received certain information, identified it as the one that had been stolen and in this way she was arrested.
    Daniel Brooks, in his case, stated that on the 19th August the prisoner called at his house and said she was an officer from Wormwood Scrubs prison and desired to see the clothing of his daughter, who was undergoing a sentence at that gaol, for conveyance to Scotland Yard for the purpose of identification.
    She threatened him that if he resisted her demand she would summon the detectives who were watching his house, he gave her the two boxes of clothing.
    Mr Rose - Did you believe her?
    Witness - I suppose I was foolish enough to do so (laughter), she is wearing one of the dresses and the trimmings of the hat. I also gave her 2s 6d for the fare to the Yard.
    Mr Rose - You should believe people are telling you the truth as far as possible, but when it comes to half a crown you should have been a little suspicious. (laughter)
    Witness - She also borrowed an umbrella belonging to my wife and promised to return it the next day, with facilities for seeing my daughter at the prison. I communicated with the police when I did not hear from her.
Female convicts, Wormwood Scrubs

    Mr Rose - You parted with those things believing she was an officer from Wormwood Scrubs?
    Witness - Yes, Sir.
    Detective Cracknell, who had charge of the case, mentioned that the prisoner had only recently been liberated from Woomwood Scrubs herself, she having suffered a term of eighteen month imprisonment. The prisoner said she met the daughter in prison and she told her that she could have the things.
    Evidence having been given to prove the articles had been pledged, Mr Rose committed the prisoner for trial."

    The retirement of George Cracknell, West London Observer, Friday 18th March 1898.
    "When Detective George Cracknell retired from T Division of the Metropolitan Police, after 25 years service, 19 of them in Fulham, so popular had he made himself during his long period of work in the borough, that a movement, having as it's object the presentation to him from his friends of a substantial recognition of his merit, sprang into being with Mr Oswald Hanson as the leading spirit.
    The matter was taken up with more than ordinary readiness and enthusiasm and the movement attained it's consummation in a dinner, which was held in compliment to Mr Cracknell at the Atlas Hotel, Seagrave Road, Fulham, on Thursday week."
The Atlas Hotel, still going strong

    A huge amount of family, friends and colleagues turned up to wish George well and after a sumptuous dinner the tables were cleared.
    "The loyal toast was drunk on the proposal of the chairman, who after a song (Jack's the Boy) by Mr Flew, rose to perform what he termed "his very pleasant duty", the submission of the toast of the evening "the health of their guest and friend Mr George Cracknell" (applause).
    "During his 19 years in T Division he has commanded the esteem not only of his superiors and fellow officers, but all the members of the general public he has come into contact with. (applause) Mr Cracknell was a man of a most unassuming nature and I would say this, not out of any disrespect for any members of the force, that their guest had always struck him as being particularly honest - even for a policeman (loud laughter). If it was ever a question whether he could conscientiously, and consistently in his duty, say a good word for a prisoner, he had always done so (hear hear)."
    George was then presented with a cheque for an unspecified amount (called "oof" in the parlance of the day) to see him through his retirement.
Ealing Town Hall

    After his retirement George became a porter at Ealing Town Hall, after twelve years service he was tragically run down by a tram and died on the 8th October 1910.