ELEGANTLY dressed Caroline Jephson and her maid Esther Burley were the most unlikely people to appear before magistrates - accused of stealing flowers from a park.

It was a late summer's afternoon when Pc Beasant, strolling through Southampton's East Park, saw the old lady bend down and pick a flower from a bed which she put under her shawl.

Moments later, her maid selected another from the same bed which she gave to her employer who put it into her basket.

The officer came over and looking into the basket saw a bunch of flowers which had been removed.

Magistrates in 1873 heard Jephson offered Bessant sixpence to say nothing about it which he naturally refused and then offered to double it on the way to the police station but he again told her his duty forbade him to take it.

Jephson said she was unaware she was breaking a bye-law and had merely wanted the flowers as samples to send to a florist to get some seeds but chairman H J Buchan told her those she had picked were raised from slips.

A character witness, whose name was never revealed to readers of the Hampshire Independent other than she was a near neighbour, told the court he was sorry to see her in such a position.

"She is a very honourable woman and very kind hearted and I do not think she picked the flowers with any felonious intent but from a peculiarity of manner. I only wish I could have secured the services of an advocate who would have done a better defence for her than I could."

The mayor said the flowers were planted in the parks at considerable expense to the ratepayers, not only for the purpose of ornamentation but also for the benefit of those taking recreation there.

"During the year we often have people appearing before us for picking flowers and in others damaging flower beds. We expect people who are in a position like you would be above taking flowers of this kind when at just 2d or 3d you can purchase them at different shops in the town."

He told them they were subject to a fine of £5 but they accepted they had acted without feloniously intent.

Jephson was fined 10s and the maid 5d, both with costs, with three days imprisonment in default. The cash was immediately paid.