Stealing Berried Holly

The Cheltenham Examiner of January 1874 reflected on a theft of holly that had taken place before Christmas, one of the very many in which the local population helped themselves to these symbols of Christmas celebrations.  The newspaper remarked that ‘two girls, Elizabeth Loveridge and Sophia Scarrott, were summoned for the damage done to trees of berried holly . . . on the 19th ult.’ and added disapprovingly that they treated their position as a ‘matter for levity.’ 

It was not at all uncommon, either, for Gypsies and Travellers to cut holly for sale in markets before the Christmas festivities, which was perhaps what these two young Gypsy girls had planned to do.  Sophia Scarrott, the daughter of Eliza Jane Cleverly and Moses Scarrott, was only about 13 years of age at the time of the summons for stealing holly, Elizabeth Loveridge around some three years older.  

In the 1851 census Moses Scarrott, a tinman, had been living at Cirencester in Gloucestershire, where he is recorded with his wife, Jane (sic), a hawker, and a son, Isaac, 7.  The couple also had sons Edwin, bp. 1843; Moses, born c.1847; Henry, born c. 1849, by this time.  Ten years later, still in Cirencester, they have children Henry, 11; Mary Ann, 9; Susan, 7; Jonathan, 4; Sophia, 1, listed.  The following year Moses, although only in his early forties, died.  Eliza is next found in the 1871 census at Cheltenham, a hawker with daughters Susan, Sophia and Jane.  

By late 1875 it is clear that Elizabeth Loveridge, Sophia’s partner in crime, is actually  a member of the Scarrott family, for she and Jonathan, Sophia’s brother, were to baptise their first child, Alice, in the autumn of 1876.  The following autumn 16-year-old Sophia married a local man, a bricklayer named William Green, who was himself only 18 years of age.  The wedding took place at Cheltenham, St. Mary, where William, son of Thomas, bricklayer, claimed to be 20 years old, and Sophia, daughter of Moses, labourer, said she was 18 years of age.  By this time Susan, Sophia’s sister, had formed a partnership with Charles Loveridge, Elizabeth’s brother, and had a family of her own.

Both Elizabeth and Sophia formed unions which were to result in very large families and Sophia and William Green also supported Sophia’s mother in her last years.  In the 1881 census the Green family are living in Cheltenham, where William, recorded as a bricklayer, employing one man, is with his wife, Sophia, two sons, William, 2, and a baby, Joseph, and mother-in-law Eliza Scarrott, listed as a licensed hawker. 

Jonathan and Elizabeth, also in Cheltenham, are living with six children, Alice, 14; Jonathan, 11; Albert, 7; (Florence Elizabeth) Ada, 5; Charles, 3; Matilda, 1, and in the 1891 census  had also baptised another child, William James, in 1882.  Jonathan is described as a dealer in antique furniture and an umbrella mender, Elizabeth as an umbrella hawker.  Meanwhile William Green is working as a coal merchant, and he and Sophia have added Annie, 8; Elisha, 6; Lily, 3; and a baby, Stuart, to their family.  

The next ten years saw even more children added to these families, with Valentine, Thomas and (Ellen) Nora Scarrott born to Jonathan and Elizabeth, and the addition of Herbert, Randolph, Cora and (Violet) Agnes, for the Green family, by which time William has returned to his original profession as a bricklayer.  Two more sons, Baden and Reginald, were to complete Sophia and William’s family, recorded in the 1911 census.

And Sophia was to be mentioned in a local newspaper once more, in a very different way from her first appearance, for, by 1927 she and William were celebrating their Golden Wedding anniversary.  This was noted in an article in the Cheltenham Chronicle, which remarked  that the couple, marrying when so very young, had enjoyed a happy union, during which they had 16 children.  Their sons had served in the Great War, and all their surviving children, having married locally, had settled in the Cheltenham area.  

Long forgotten, it seems, was Sophia’s childhood conviction, together with her sister-in-law, for the theft of ‘berried holly.’