Burglary at the National Schools, Madeira Hill, Wrexham.
At some time between 5pm on Friday 9th July 1900 and 9am on Monday 12th July 1900, the National Schools, Madeira Hill, Wrexham was burgled. A set of keys had been removed from the Master’s desk, and about £3 15s, belonging to the Football League was also missing. Police Sergeant Harvey was called to the school to investigate the crime.
PS Harvey obviously had suspects in mind as he immediately went to track down Percy Guest, a 15 year old, who lived at 14 Lorne Street, Wrexham.
Ps Harvey found Percy Guest at the Great Western Railway Station, Wrexham. He questioned Percy Guest about his recent movements, and he discovered that he had been sleeping in a haystack near to the back of the Wrexham Lager Brewery, but he could not account for his movements over the weekend when the burglary occurred at the school, but he denied any involvement in the burglary. PS Harvey searched Percy Guest and found that in his possession he had half crown, a shilling, two six-penny pieces and a penny on him. Percy Guest initially said that he had earned the money by carrying parcels at the railway station. It was pointed out to him that it was a large amount of money. Percy Guest then admitted the burglary and said, “I will own up to it”.
Percy Guest provided PS Harvey with a statement that he had committed the burglary with Edward Lightfoot, Samuel Prytherch and Albert Harvey Evans. In his statement, he stated that he had been sleeping rough for about three week in the haystack near to the Wrexham Lager Brewery. On Friday 9th July 1900, the group of boys where at the Boys’ National School, Madeira Hill, when Albert Harvey Evans and he climbed up the window. Albert Harvey Evans and Samuel Prytherch had the stolen keys, and all of them had a shared of the stolen money, that he claimed to be 8s 9d each.
PS Harvey locked Percy Guest in the cells whilst he continued his investigation.
PS Harvey found Edward Lightfoot outside of Benson’s Bakery, Chester Street, Wrexham, where he worked. Edward Lightfoot was 16 years old, and lived in Yorke Street, Wrexham. Edward Lightfoot had previously been a pupil at the school, and he was described by Job Mason, the Head Master at the National School as being a good boy in school.
PS Harvey told Edward Lightfoot about the statement about the burglary made by Percy Guest, and offered to read it to him. Edward Lightfoot said, “It’s all right, I know all about it”. Edward Lightfoot then accompanied PS Harvey to the Police Station. At the Police Station, PS Harvey read Percy Guest’s statement to Edward Lightfoot. Edward Lightfoot admitted the offence by saying, “It’s all right, I was there”. When PS Harvey searched Edward Lightfoot he found on him one shilling and three half pennies, and surprisingly, a small revolver. Again, PS Harvey locked Edward Lightfoot in the cells whilst he continued his enquiries.
Next PS Harvey went to find Samuel Prytherch. Samuel Prytherch was a fifteen year old, a former pupil at the National School, and also described by the head master as a good boy in school.
PS Harvey found Samuel Prytherch at his home, 10, Poplar Road, Wrexham. PS Harvey told Samuel Prytherch about the burglary, and asked him to accompany him to the Police Station. Samuel Prytherch agreed, but said “All right, I never broke into them”. At the Police Station, confronted by the other prisoners and the statements made by them, Samuel Prytherch confessed, “It’s no use me denying it. I was there, I Own up to it”. Samuel Prytherch was also kept in custody whilst PS Harvey tried to find the final suspect, Albert Harvey Evans.
Albert Harvey Evans, aged 17, had also at one time been a pupil at the National School. However, the head master said that he had been disobedient and had been asked to leave the school. After that time, he had been a nuisance by hanging around the school and causing damage.
PS Harvey was unable to find Albert Harvey Evans. Therefore, on Tuesday 13th July 1900, Percy Guest, Edward Lightfoot and Samuel Prytherch appeared before the Wrexham Magistrates Court charged with burglary. They were all remanded in custody for a week whilst further attempts were made to locate Albert Harvey Evans.
On Thursday 15th July 1900, PS Harvey went to the home of Albert Harvey Evans, and the occupants said that he was not there. Unconvinced, PS Harvey went around the back of the house and upstairs, where he found him in bed, and subsequently took him to the police station.
At the Police Station, Albert Harvey Evans admitted, “I had 8s 9d of the money”, and that Samuel Prytherch had given him his share of the money. He also said, “There are more than 30 keys, there are about 100”. He told PS Harvey that the keys were under his pillow.
On returning to Albert Harvey Evan’s home, PS Harvey found 46 keys under the pillow, a diamond for cutting glass, a skeleton key and again surprisingly pawn-tickets for two revolvers, one deposited at Chester and the other at Rockferry.
On Monday 19th March 1900, all four suspects appeared together at the Wrexham Magistrates, and again they were remanded in custody whilst further enquiries were made into the items stolen from the school, and in particular the outstanding stolen keys.
Finally, on Monday 26th March 1900, the Wrexham Magistrates were in a position whereby they could make a decision about how to deal with the case. Percy Guest and Samuel Prytherch, because they were both under the age of 16 were dealt with by the Magistrates Court. They were both sent to reformatory school for three years. The 1901 United Kingdom Census reveals that Percy Guest was sent to the Bradwall Reformatory School, Congleton, Cheshire; it is unknown where Samuel Prytherch was sent. The two older males were sent to the Denbighshire Quarter sessions at Ruthin to be sentenced.
On Friday 13th April 1900, Edward Lightfoot and Albert Harvey Evans appeared before the Denbighshire Quarter sessions. Albert Harvey Evans was sent to prison for 3 months, and Edward Lightfoot for one month, with hard labour.
Source: Written and researched by Wayne Cronin-Wojdat, B.A (Hons.), MSc – Historical Gems.