A hundred years ago, this newspaper related the story of the national outcry over a Spalding girl sent to prison for picking flowers.
The case of Sarah Chandler (13), who was sentenced to a fortnight in prison followed by four years in a reformatory, was even raised in the House of Commons.
The report from the Petty Sessions at Spalding from 40 years earlier said Sarah, described as “having mischievous propensities” was charged with “damaging geranium plants in the Almshouses, Spalding, belonging to John Cotton, by plucking a flower from the plant”.
A “wave of indignation swept over the district” and the story was taken up by the leading London daily papers to such an extent that “for a few days the whole country, from John O’Groats to Land’s End, rang with protests against the harsh sentence”.
The Home Secretary was asked about the case, and he “had not hesitated in at once releasing the child from prison and reprimanding the magistrates who had adjudicated upon the question”.
When the telegram announcing the Home Secretary’s decision was received by the Free Press, “a jubilant crowd soon assembled”.
The report continued: “Headed by a band, the crowd marched down to the vicarage. Here the Rev E Moore (the chair of magistrates) came out and endeavoured to show that what he had done was in the interests of the child, and he still thought she would be better in a reformatory than at home.
“The mob then marched round the town and made a night of it.”
During the evening, the Town Crier went round, announcing that the girl would be released the following morning, and the inhabitants who sympathised were to put out flags from their windows and exhibit geranium blossoms “as much as possible”.