Sacrilege in St John's Wood

A Burglar in a surpllce

London Daily News 13 Feb 1891
with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive

Below is a cutting which appeared in the London Daily News on Friday 13 February 1891. It concerned All Saints Church, Finchley Road, on the corner with Queen’s Grove, but sadly now demolished. It reads as follows:

John Johnson, aged 18, described as a cabinet maker, who refused his address, was charged at the Marylebone Police court yesterday with sacrilegeously breaking and entering All Saints Church, Finchley Road, St John’s Wood and stealing therein four chalices, two flagons, a patten, an alms dish, a hand-bag, a set of sacrament vessels, a surplice and a stole; also a parish magazine money box, containing about 2s, the whole valued at 25 L, belonging to the Rev.John Richardson Eyre, the Vicar. Police-constable Patmore, 107S, said he was on duty in Finchley Road at 6.15 that morning. In passing through the grounds of the church he heard a noise in the vestry. He was waiting to hear if the noise was repeated, for it had ceased as he arrived, when Sergeant Gettings came up. Having explained to the latter what he had heard, witness and the sergeant proceeded to examine the outside of the church. On reaching the vestry window, he heard a similar noise to that which had previously attracted his attention. It was dark and no-one could be seen so witness struck a match, and looking through the window into the vestry, the sergeant said he saw the prosoner standing erect and motionless, bedecked in the clergyman’s surplice. (Laughter in which the prisoner joined).  The verger was sent for and a neighbour’s assistance was secured. Soon afterwards a shout was raised that the burglar had escaped out of one of the windows and on rushing round the church he found the prisoner detained by Mr Manning, a dairy-man of Queen’s Terrace. Sergeant Gettings, 37S,corroborated the previous witness, especially as to the prisoner being seen standing with  the surplice on. When the church was opened, he found in the vestry a small black bag containing some screwdrivers, a gouge, a bradawl, a slater’s knife, an old steel, a purse, a pocket-book, bunch of keys and a large black crepe veil. —Mr Partridge:”Apparently, I suppose, what a burglar would use to conceal his face?”  The Sergeant answered in the affirmative , and added that when the prisoner’s attention was drawn to the bag and its contents, he admitted that they belonged to him.  Inspector J. Holland,S Division, said he had examined the churchand and had found that an entrance had been gained by getting through a window about 7ft from the ground, near the front entrance. The window had apparently been prized back with some sharp instrument. Having thus gained access to the vestibule the prisoner would have full access to the whole of the church. In the vestry he found a box had been removed from a shelf, and the chalices, flagons and other things were strewn about the place. On going back to the police station the prisoner was charged with the offence. When witness mentioned about 2s 2d having been taken from the money-box, the prisoner remarked, ” Sixpence of that is mine. I was not going to take all those things with me. You might as well say I was going to take the church with me.” (Laughter). Witness mentioned that some of the wine had been consumed, and the prisoner replied “I only had a mouthful of that.I could not stand that stuff.” (Renewed laughter).Mr Partridge remanded the prisoner.

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