November 1834, some four and a bit years before the Great Gold Dust Robbery, Ellis Caspar was in court at the Old Bailey. It was the case of Alfred Salmon, indicted for stealing a watch valued at £4, which had brought Ellis to the Old Bailey. All evidence pointed to a very clear, open and shut case against Mr Salmon, a fellow watch maker who Ellis had used to do extra work for him from time to time, in this case, to repair the internal workings of a valuable watch, but Mr Salmon decided to pawn it four times and admitted he should have returned it, it was never returned. The verdict, Not Guilty!
This was a time of emancipation in the Empire, for the Jews, for Catholics and for slaves, but it must have been a slow transition with aged old hatreds dying slow deaths for such a verdict.
Finsbury Pavement or Place, was an interesting area, it was under construction and establishing its new persona in the old Moor Fields just outside the old Roman wall. Longbow archers practiced daily in the Middle Ages on bows made of Yew branches harvested from the southern reaches of France and the northern parts of old Tuscany. It was also on the Moor Fields where people of disrepute would gather to meet, to plan and hustle. Later they built the dreaded mental asylum gaining its favored named of Bedlam, on the Moor grounds now recently being spoken of as Finsbury gardens. Years of pain and suffering in buildings horribly damp and cracking added more misery to the misery already dealt out. The old streets of the Moore fields found shops selling bits and bobs, junk mainly, from poor and wretched merchants. Then the Bedlum was to come down, demolished, all signs of agony deleted. The far end of the gardens became Finsbury Square, next Finsbury Pavement. Probably the only raised Pavement out of the mud. Here is where the young Ellis Caspar purchased his new home and shop while he watched the last dying days of the Bedlam building itself coming down and the new and expensive Finsbury Circus built, filling with doctors and lawyers and bankers and the like. The largest bookshop in London was now here, ‘big enough to turn a carriage of horses in the entrance’, they would say. The famous Montfiore came to Finsbury square where he would eventually meet his wife the sister of a famous someone at the time. Goldsmid the banker who helped bank role the government during the Naploeonic wars had his son trained at an English school in Finsbury square. These wealthy Jewish bankers and thinkers attended Bevis Marks synagogue a few blocks towards the river; they had their seats, it was a close and a closed community, what had gone on was between themselves, in their own language. Now there is this new acceptance by the state, but it comes and goes like the tide, old prejudices flaring, making life uncertain, like steering through the mist truth needs to sound its horn, make known it is there to all. Perhaps it was an act of bravery or just foolhardy to test the courts with this robbery of a watch. Mr Salmon was no Jew or Catholic or slave, he had the full and solid history of the Empire behind him. And so it was, both Ellis and Lewin had their names entered into the courts system, albeit innocently, nevertheless, entered.
transcript from the Old Bailey
24th November 1834
ALFRED SALMON was indicted for stealing, on the 11th of October, 1 watch, value 4l.; the goods of Ellis Caspar.
ELLIS CASPER . I am a watch-maker, and live in Finsbury-place. The prisoner had the interior of this watch to repair—he brought it back, and about two or three days afterwards, I missed it.
Cross-examined by MR. DOANE. Q. Do you recollect, on the 8th of October, giving him three watches to repair? A. Yes, the works of three—I did not desire him to call again for work, but he did call—I complained of the work being badly done, and did not give him any more—I called at his lodging afterwards—he said he was ill—his wife said he had sent the watch home by his brother, who had pawned it—he was not in distress—he had lately taken an apprentice, with 30l., and was in comfortable circumstances—I demanded the watch, and he said if I would wait a day or two, he would return it—I had him taken, but I think not the same day—I have since discovered that he has pawned it four times.
COURT. Q. Did you say you would give him a day or two? A. I might have said that, as he said he was poorly and could not get it.
LEWIS CASPER . I am the prosecutor’s son. On the 9th of October, the prisoner came to the shop—he said, “I have seen your father, and he told me to tell you to give me the watch,” pointing to it—I gave it to him—I was going to take the movement out of the case, and he said, “Do not trouble yourself, you will have it back this evening”—he called his apprentice in, and said, “You will have to bring the watch back this evening—mind you take care of it”—I did not see it again till he was taken.
EDWARD YOUNG . I am in the service of a pawnbroker. I have the watch which was pawned by the prisoner on the 9th of October, for 5s.—he came again the same day, and had 5s. more—the next day he had 10s. more, which made 1l., and he came on the 11th, and had another sovereign.
Cross-examined. Q. Did you know him? A. No; it was pawned in the name of James Baker—he said he was in the watchmaking line—I wanted to buy it of him, as I wanted one; but he said he could not sell it, as it was his son’s, and he was in distress.
Prisoner. I worked for him upwards of ten years, and have had a great deal of property—I should have returned it.
NOT GUILTY .