In 1839, in the week before Christmas, several people were brought before the magistrates at Worship Street Police Office in Shoreditch, charged with entering various gardens in order to break and destroy evergreen trees and shrubs.
One of those accused was an 11 year old boy, named Booth, who worked at the Queen’s Printing Office on a wage of eight shillings a week.
He was charged with stealing a tree – but not just any tree. It was described as:
“a most beautiful holly of the small silver-leaved species, of six years’ growth and full of berries.”
Booth was found guilty, and received a ‘severe lecture’ from the magistrate, Mr Broughton, before he received his sentence.
He was ordered to pay a fine of 40 shillings – 20s for wilful damage and another 20s to cover the value of the tree – or face imprisonment. The fine represented five weeks’ wages.
Whether or not Booth was able to find the fine, it did not make a happy Christmas for him.
Source: The Charter, 22 December 1839