This is an occasional series highlighting the strange and unexpected ways that cake featured at the Old Bailey court in London (later the Central Criminal Court). They all come from the excellent Old Bailey online which is a fully searchable database of the proceedings of the court from 1674.
(Image from wikipedia)
This first one is a straightforward case of burglary, which took place on 1 June 1704. It must be said that the accused, Thomas Hunter (otherwise known, perhaps with a touch of creativity, as Sir Robert), was both an indiscriminate and a hungry thief. Four charges were brought against him: the first for breaking, entering and stealing some bacon, five bottles of cider and some tobacoo; the second for the same, making off with some curtains and other household goods; the third ditto, taking five silver spoons, a table cloth and – alarmingly, a sword; and finally, for breaking, entering, and stealing a Cheshire cheese, a bottle of brandy – and two pounds of sugar cakes.
(Image from, yes, helenthecakelady.co.uk)
Hunter did not act alone, but he was not what we could even charitably call an accomplished burglar. He was seen by numerous people, was drunk, and had some of the goods found on his person. His defence, perhaps predictably was that he knew nothing of any of the charges. The judge found him guilty, and astonishingly to modern sensibilities, although in keeping with the severity of the charge at the time, was sentenced to death.
What can poor ‘Sir Robert”s story tell us about cake? Perhaps no more than it was tasty and tempting: he seems to have had a predilection for items that were edible, drinkable or easily saleable. Unfortunately, his tastes were his downfall: a cake was an item of personal property like any other. If he had not been so drunk perhaps he would have had the presence of mind to eat it at the scene…
Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 06 April 2011), June 1704, trial of Thomas Hunter, alias Sir Robert (t17040601-6).