'Like letting a fox guard the hen house'

The notorious 'Fox Twins' Of Stevenage poach again

By Demi Prosser

Hertfordshire Mercury in April 1916 Hertfordshire archives and local studies
The Fox Twins when they did some honest labouring work 'Hitchin Muesum Collection''

Albert Ebenezer Fox (1857 – 20 May 1937) and Ebenezer Albert Fox (1857 – 2 October 1926) were identical twins, even identical down to their names! They were from Symonds Green, Stevenage, Hertfordshire. These Twins were somewhat famous criminals of their time in Hertfordshire, for one of two reasons. Firstly because throughout their lifetimes had over 200 convictions between them,  this is clear to see as their names have appeared countless times in Hertford’s county sessions, and they made local and national news. From the age of fourteen bird poaching was their crime, and they were very unpopular with keepers in the surrounding areas, For the rest of their lives poaching was a way of earning a living for them.

But their life of crime seems rather odd when taking into consideration their background, for the Fox twins came from a very wealthy, respectable background. Their father had 10 acres of land and was a devout preacher, plus they came from the same family as George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, nevertheless they turned to the life of crime.  Secondly the Fox twins were celebrated for being the first pieces of evidence carried out by Sir Edward Henry who used twins, like the Fox brothers, to prove that although identical each individual human being had their own unique finger print. This highlights the early stages of policing using finger prints as a source to help solve crimes, as in 1904 the twins were one of the first criminals to be convicted using finger prints.

The Twins were well-known for outwitting the police for they never engaged in crimes together, which would baffle the police, they also had charming personalities, being comical in court. But however outwitting and charming the twins thought they were with their method of crime, each twin still spent a considerable time in prison, especially Bedford prison.

This is evident in the article shown here taken from the Hertfordshire Mercury in April 1916, as one of the twins is caught again poaching. Ebenezer Albert 58 at the time, appeared in the Hitchin Petty Sessions for stealing five fowls which were valued at 20s, from a Mr Fredrick Reynolds of Langley Hill Farm. Mr Reynolds told the police that he had locked his fowls away in a pen not too far away from his house on the 31st of December. The next day, New Year’s day 2.45 PC Harrowell of Stevenage saw Fox coming across Symonds green, he stopped him noticing that his pockets were rather bulky. The Fox twins were renowned for their wit and their quirky characters. Harrowell asked Fox what he had in his pockets and Fox replied ‘Nothing which belongs to you !’ but on searching his pockets the Police Constable found two fowls in his pocket and feathers in the other.

The article then carries on to paint quite a funny image of the court hearing that took place between Fox, the Magistrates and PC Harrowell. Fox admitted to stealing four of the fowls but stated that he had found them at the back of the public house in Langley farm.

The Magistrate asked: ‘What made you suspect Fox?’

PC Harrowell: Well, Sir, you know his character as well as I do, and seeing his pockets so bulky I suspected him.’ (Laughter)

Fox: ‘None of that! I have got just as good a character as you have in Stevenage (laughter) Did I tell you I stole the fowls?

PC Harrowell: Yes

Fox: You’re a liar and I tell it to your face in court (Laughter)

Fox tried to wiggle his way out of another poaching by pleading with the Magistrate that he had been of good character for 12 months, working at St Albans but he had to leave due to ill health. He stated that he saw the bag of fowls at the back of the public house in which a lady had left there, and took it thinking it was a rabbit. The judges were not convinced, and Fox was sentenced to six weeks in Bedford Prison.

This page was added on 09/09/2013.

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