Turnips, and other vegetables

turnipsHere’s some advice to anyone considering pilfering a vegetable in the 1770s – don’t.

Richard Burn offered this advice (left) to magistrates dealing with anyone who had stolen a turnip, cabbage or similar, from 1776.

It was a crime so significant a problem in rural society that it merited an entire section of his manual The Justice of the Peace.

Vegetables were not just taken from farmers’ land; this was an era where many families maintained themselves by growing their own food, and so the loss of some of their veg could have a significant impact on them.

Often committed by the poorer members of society, including women, girls and boys, the fine levied for stealing turnips and the like was not allowed to exceed 10s – or around £30 in today’s money – over and above the value of the vegetables taken.

This may, in itself, have been unaffordable to some offenders, and made the threat of incarceration in the house of correction – if they failed to pay the fine – a very real one.


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