HARRIET AND JOHN Partners in Crime

by Annette Edwards.

Harriet Powell was born about 1846 in Wrexham.  The Powell family lived in Pentrefelin before moving to Belle Vue Road, Harriet was a general servant but went off the rails and over the years she was frequently mentioned in the news for some misdemeanor or other.

Her first appearance in the courts was in 1870, but she probably just never got arrested before.

By 1871 she was giving her occupation as a prostitute even while still at home with her parents. She met John Foulkes, a painter who was about the same age and also from Wrexham.

John seems to have embarked on his career of crime and disorder before Harriet was involved. Over the years the couple were named in the Wrexham newspapers on various charges and eventually they married. However Harriet still got up to mischief and was locked up again. This is an account of some of their offences over a period of nearly 20 years.

10th September 1864

DRUNKENNESS.  The only cases brought before this court were charges of drunkenness. John Foulkes, aged 19, of Bridge Street, was in custody having been taken up by P.C. Reynolds, at three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, in a state of drunkenness. He was also very disorderly. Prisoner’s defence was that he was so drunk that he did not know what he was doing. Fined 2s. 6d. and costs.

31st October 1868

STEALING A BIRD AND CAGE. John Foulkes gave himself up after disobeying a summons on a charge of stealing a bird and cage, the property of his mother.

7th August 1869 Edited.


Henry Mitchell, 32, was indicted for feloniously killing and slaying one Thomas Ralph, at Wrexham. Amelia Davies said she saw the prisoner make a stumble to fall, and Ralph fell over his shoulder. Prisoner turned back with his feet around Ralph’s neck, and he kicked him many times with the heels of his boots. Harriet Powell and witness put the deceased to sit up, and he was carried by other persons into the house. Prisoner put no questions to the witnesses, excepting that he asked the witness Powell whether she had ever been committed, and she replied she was once convicted for a row with another girl.

6th August 1870.

Harriet Powell, a well-known character, was in custody, under a warrant, she having refused to appear to a summons, on a charge of assault. On the 24th May she met Esther Griffiths, the servant from the Swan Inn, Abbot Street, and after charging her with abusing her mother, which was denied, she took hold of her in the approved womanly fashion by the hair of the head and dragged her in this unenviable position for some distance. She then struck her down, and got a man to hold her. Her head had not been right since. She had torn her earrings out and also a quantity of hair. The prisoner, admitting the assault, pleaded that the complainant had been assaulting her mother.  According to Inspector Lamb, the prisoner had paid the court some visits, before on charges of assault, and had given the police a great deal of trouble in running after her. She was sent to gaol for three months’ with hard labour.

In the 1871 census Harriet was with her parents, her occupation was given as “prostitute”

It`s interesting that the officials accepted this.

14th June 1873.

DRUNKENNESS. P.C. R. Williams, summoned John Powell (brother),  Harriet Powell, and John Foulkes, for being drunk and exceedingly riotous on Friday evening in College-street. Mr Hartigan, of the Post Office, called the officer’s attention to the row, which was a most disgraceful one.—Mr Broster gave evidence, and Powell who was the only defendant present was fined 2s 6d and costs, the others being fined in their absence, 5s each and costs, or 7 days with hard labour.

10th April 1875. Harriet picked on the wrong man to do “business” with.

Harriet Powell was charged by P.C. Lloyd with soliciting prostitution. The prisoner solicited the officer who was in plain clothes in Charles Street on the previous night, and was given by him into the custody of another officer. On the application of Inspector Wilde, the prisoner was remanded till Monday, as he had a charge of felony to prefer against her.

17th April 1875

IMPUDENT THEFT. Harriet Powell had been locked up for soliciting prostitution, and it had been ascertained afterwards that a charge of having stolen a table belonging to Mr Edwin Owen, Town Hill, six months ago, was still hanging over her. The table was worth £1. – Inspector Wilde deposed that soon after the theft the prisoner had absconded. When apprehended on Thursday for another offence, she said in reply to the charge, All right, we’ll see about it.”—The prisoner pleaded guilty. She had been previously convicted twice in Wrexham and once in Shrewsbury.-Committed to gaol for six months with hard labour.

29th October 1875

A DARING ROBBERY AT WREXHAM. Harriet Powell and John Foulkes were brought up on remand at the Wrexham petty sessions on Monday, charged with stealing a watch. Mr. Kean was lying down on the ground in front of the pawn shop. He was drunk. Saw the prisoner Foulkes take a key out of Mr. Kean’s pocket. He then opened the door of the house, lifted Mr. Kean up and pushed him in. He then put his hand upon Harriet Powell’s shoulder, and she went in after Mr. Kean. He then pulled the door to, and walked up and down the Vicarage Hill till Harriet Powell came out.

Sergeant Lindsay said that he was present at the police station when the prisoners were brought there. They were searched, but nothing was found upon them. He then went in company with Inspector Wilde to the Mitre. Got lights and went to a privy in the yard, and in the ash pit they found the watch. The prisoners were committed to take their trials at the next quarter sessions.

14 January 1876

Ruthin – Harriet Powell, an unfortunate was sentenced to seven year penal servitude, and John Foulkes, painter, to nine months’ imprisonment for stealing  and receiving on October 21 st a silver watch property  of Mr. James Kean, pawnbroker.

In late 1880 Harriet and John were married in Wrexham, and were lodging in Pentrefelin, John was still a painter.  It seems that she was still a prisoner but was allowed out under certain restrictions.

3rd February 1882. Harriet made the same mistake of stealing a table.

Harriet Foulkes, trunk maker, out on “ticket of leave,” was charged with stealing a table from the shop of John Rogers, furniture dealer, Henblas street. She was committed to prison to serve the unexpired twelve months of a former sentence.

This is the last time Harriet is heard of, and she and John are not found in any later census.  They may have moved away or possibly died but there whereabouts isn`t known

Researched by Annette Edwards. April 2020.

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