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I’ve been enjoying a ‘mini-break’ from researching Victorian crime to investigate the history of my new home on the site of Shanklin Manor, in the Isle of Wight. However, it didn’t take long for me to stumble across a crime. I was studying the life of Lady of the Manor, Margaret White Popham (1845-1929), when I discovered that she had been the victim of a robbery. Unable to resist the lure of crime, I had to find out more.

On 9 September 1885, Margaret White Popham was with her husband at the Horse and Poultry Show in Romsey. The couple arrived at Romsey railway station at about two o’clock. As they made their way through the crowded platform, Mrs White Popham noticed that a woman pressed in very close beside her and, when she checked to see if her purse was still in her pocket a few minutes later, she discovered to her horror that it was missing, along with £3 16s 7d (about £220 in today’s value). She rushed out of the station and, spotting the woman in a cab with a companion, she questioned her without hesitation about her missing money. The suspect denied all accusations.

Undeterred, Margaret ran back into the station, engaged the services of a police constable and then jumped into a cab in pursuit of the culprits. With the help of the cabman, they tracked them to a local park, where the constable arrested them. The empty purse was found discarded in the road, but as the police officer accompanied the female suspect across the park, she appeared to drop some money into a handkerchief, which she later claimed had belonged to her. The pair were searched (the superintendent’s wife searched the woman) at the police station, her male companion was found to be in possession of two sovereigns and 32 shillings. He also had a hat box, in which there were various items of clothing, including a hat and bonnet.

Unfortunately for the prisoners, Mrs White Popham’s husband was Chairman of the Isle of Wight Bench of Magistrates, so they had no real choice but to plead guilty. They were later sentenced to six months’ hard labour. As for the Lady of the Manor, she seemed unscathed by the experience!

If you would like to know more about Margaret White Popham and her ‘celebrity’ lifestyle at Shanklin Manor, please see my new house history blog: Stories of Shanklin Manor.

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