On Monday the 18th of November in the forenoon, a little boy named Thomas Dellow was stolen from his parents, in Martin’s Lane, Upper Thames Street. Suspicion, from some cause or other, fell upon a person, Mrs. Russell, of rather respectable connexions: she was examined repeatedly before the lord-mayor, protesting at each hearing her innocence, and calling other persons to prove an alibi. Some witnesses however swearing most positively to her person, as one who had taken the child first to a pastry-cook’s, afterwards to a hatter’s, she was fully committed for trial. The populace, ever ready to decide without proper evidence, took up a most violent prejudice against her, not only assuming that she was the guilty person, but would probably, but for the humane interference of the city chief magistrate, have inflicted upon her the most severe and summary punishment. Her trial came on in the December session, and she was acquitted; upon sufficient proof being given of an alibi. The child was not, at that time, discovered, and the public still believed her guilty. The parish officers caused hand-bills, describing the child, to be printed, and circulated through the kingdom, offering a reward of one hundred guineas to the person who should discover the child…
The New Annual Register, 30 December 1811
THE STOLEN CHILD
It is true that the infant son of Mrs. DELLOW, of St. Martin’s-lane, Cannon-street, who was stolen on the 18th of November, has at length been recovered.
The extensive circulation of hand and posting-bills, minutely describing the child, and offering a reward of one hundred guineas for his recovery, caused great but ineffectual vigilance in the country until the latter end of last week, when a woman at Gosport observed a neighbour of her’s in possession of a boy, bearing the marks described, and answering to the age of three years old. She immediately thought it was Thomas Dellow, who had been so long missing; the more so, as she had reason to believe that the pretended mother had never borne a child. She communicated her suspicions to the nearest Magistrate, who sent for Mrs. Magnes, the pretended mother. The moment she was interrogated on the subject she confessed the whole affair, and her motive for the robbery.
Magnes, her husband, who was a gunner on board one of his Majesty’s ships, and had saved a considerable sum of money for a man in his station of life, was extremely partial to children, and had often expressed his most anxious wish to have a little darling, as he used to term it. His wife, not less anxious to gratify him in this respect, wrote to him while at sea, that she was in the family-way. The gunner, highly delighted that he had obtained his desired object, sent home the earnings of many a cruise, amounting to 300l. [£300] with a particular charge that the infant should be well rigged, and want for nothing: if a boy, so much the better.
The next letter from his hopeful wife, announced the happy tidings, that his first-born was a son; and that she would name him Richard, after his father. The husband expressed joy at the news, and counted the tedious hours until he should be permitted to come home to his wife and child.
At home he at length arrived, but at an unfortunate time, when the dear Richard was out at nurse, at a considerable distance; change of air being necessary to the easy cutting of his teeth. Magnes’ time being short he left home with a heavy heart, without being able to see his offspring; but he was assured that on his next trip to Gosport he should have the felicity he had so often pined for, of clasping his darling to his bosom. It was not until November last that he was at liberty to revisit home, when he had again the mortification to find that his son, whom he expected to see a fine boy of 3 years old, had not yet cut his teeth, or that he was from home on some other pretence. Magnes, however, was not be pacified thus: he would go and see his son, or his son should come to him. Mrs. Magnes, finding him determined, thought the latter much the best way; and accordingly set off to fetch the boy. The Metropolis occurred to her as the market best calculated to afford her a choice of children. She first tried the West end of the Town, but saw nothing there to correspond with her husband’s views of a fine boy; the children appearing to her pale, wan, and emaciated. She then turned her attention to the East; and passing down St. Martin’s-lane, she was struck with the rosy little Citizen, Tommy Dellow, and at once determined to make him her prize. He was playing with his sister at the green-grocer’s shop-door, into which Mrs. Magnes went, with the double view of purchasing some apples, and carrying off the boy. Luckily as she had made her purchase, an Irish Gentlewoman came into the shop to buy some potatoes, and so bothered the mistress that she forgot the children under her charge. Meanwhile, Mrs. Magnes lost not time. She made much of the sister, caressed the boy, and gave him an apple. The children being pleased with her attention, she asked the little girl to shew her to a pastry-cook’s shop to buy some cakes, whither she took both the girl and the boy. She got clear off with the latter, and left the girl behind. The same night she left town for Gosport with the boy, having rigged him out according to the taste of her husband, with a new dresss, and a black hat and feather. Mrs. Magnes, in order that she might speak to the name of her boy with a safer conscience, stopped at Kingston and had him christened, “Richard Magnes,” by which name he was introduced to his fond father on the following evening at Gosport. Magnes, supposing all his wishes realised, was made truly happy.
It is no exaggeration to say, that poor Magnes felt a parental affection for the boy; and that when the imposition was discovered before the Magistrate, he was grieved to the heart at being obliged to part with him under all the circumstances of the transaction. The Magistrate at Gosport immediately acquainted Mr. and Mrs. Dellow with the discovery; and stated to them, that their child was safe, and ready to be delivered to its parents. On Monday the Father set off for Gosport, and the next day received his child. If he could feel any diminution of his joy, it was on account of Magnes, who parted with little Dellow with a sorrowful heart, and excited the commiseration of all who witnessed the scene. As for Mrs. Magnes, she was lodged in the House of Correction, at Gosport, for a day or two, and is expected by Coach this morning, to undergo an examination at the Mansion-house. Mr. Dellow and his boy arrived in town yesterday morning.
The Times, 2 January 1812
3 and 4
MANSION-HOUSE, MONDAY, JAN 6
Charlotte Magnay, the person from Gosport, in whose possession the stolen child, young Dellow, had been found, was again examined.
The substance of the late evidence against her being read, the Lord Mayor, after some comments on the nature of the offence, told the woman, that the evidence against her was not sufficient to sustain the charge of felony; but she was held to bail to take her trial at the approaching Sessions, for the misdemeanour.
An elderly matron present, whose name we could not learn, who who seemed to be a friend of Mrs. Russell, who was formerly tried for this offence and acquitted, remonstrated with some energy on the hardships of Mrs. Russell’s case, —the severe injuries her character and feelings had sustained, by her public and repeated exposure, by her imprisonment, by her repeated danger of being torn to pieces by the mob, —and by her being brought forward at considerable expense, and the risk of her liberty and life, to be tried as a criminal at the Old Bailey; upon which, however, she had the good fortune to be acquitted. The advocatrix desired to know whether Mrs. Russell was to have any compensation or satisfaction for the injury she had sustained.
The LORD MAYOR expressed his regret that Mrs. Russell, or any innocent person, should be exposed to injury or inconvenience on account of an unfounded charge; but such had been frequently, and might often unavoidably be, the case of many innocent individuals, where striking similitude of person, and the positive (though erroneous) testimony of witnesses, combined to fix upon them so strong a suspicion of guilt. The witnesses in Mrs Russell’s case had sworn strongly and positively to the identity of her person; and the corroborating circumstances weighed so forcefully against her, that he felt it indispensable to commit her for trial. He had much satisfaction, however, that she was acquitted; as it now appeared for indubitable facts which could not have been known at the time, but which proved her perfectly innocent of the charge.
The Times, 7 January 1812
Harriet Magnes, alias Harriet Voice, of Gosport, who stole the little boy, Thomas Dellow, of which she was acquitted at the Old Bailey, is committed to Winchester Gaol to take her trial for having two husbands.
Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, 3 March 1812
Fallick v Barber. —This trial excited a considerable degree of attention, from the circumstance of its forming al ink of the long chain of law prosecutions and actions that have arisen out of the well known fact of the loss of the little boy Thomas Dellow, who, it will be recollected, was stolen by Harriet Magnes, of Gosport, and after her trial, delivered to its parents. —The case was this, Mrs. Fallick, a mantua-maker, of Gosport, claimed of the defendant, Barber, the bridewell keeper there, the sum of 100 guineas, which he had received for the restoration of the child, alledging [sic] that she had given him the information which led to the discovery. A verdict for the plaintiff, 80l. [£80] remuneration.
Hampshire Chronicle, 13 July 1812
Winchester, 4 March. Marriet Magnes, alias Furlong, alias Voice, was tried for an assault on Thomas Dellow, the infant son of James and Rebecca Dellow (of London), on the 18th of November last, and imprisoning him for the space of eight weeks…. She was acquitted by the direction of Judge Graham, on the ground that the assault, if any, was committed in London; and he could not consider any thing done subsequently as amounting to an assault. —She was again tried, on the 7th, for falsely imprisoning Thomas Dellow, detaining him, and cutting off his hair, without the consent of his parents: the Jury found her not guilty; evidence having been given, that her husband, Richard Magnes, was present during the time the little boy was detained by her in Alverstoke. —No evidence having been produced in the course of these trials to prove whether Mrs. Magnes was the person who actually took Thomas Dellow from St. Martin’s-lane, Upper Thames-street, or whether she received him from some other person, this affair may perhaps remain a mystery for years to come, like that of Elizlabeth Canning and Mary Squires. —H. Magnes was also tried on the 5th for having married —Furlong, she being already married to Richard Magnes. The evidence not being sufficiently strong as to the identity of H. Magnes, she was acquitted also of this charge. —The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 111 (January-June 1812)
[4 March] At Winchester… Harriet Magnes was acquitted of an assault on little Dellow, whom she stole from London, and also of bigamy, in marrying two husbands.
Bury and Norwich Post, 11 March 1812
In the year 1808, Mr. Alderman Combe brought a Bill into the House of Commons, to prevent CHILD STEALING, which passed that House, but, from some accidental cause, did not pass the House of Lords. At the time the distressing event happened of the loss of Thomas Dellow (aged three years), who was stolen from London in November 1811, and discovered at Gosport, the want of a law by which persons, guilty of Child Stealing could be indicted in a direct manner, was noticed, and with a view to the passing of Act for that purpose, several cases of this offence were printed, and distributed to Members of Parliament and others; and, on the 17th of May last, Mr. William Smith (member for Norwich) brought in a Bill against the crime; which Bill, with some amendments, was finally passed July 18, 1814.
The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol 84, Part 2 (July–December 1814)