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Tony Flynn
The church we were taught is a place of worship, sanctuary, a haven from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, also  a place to attend for weddings, burials, christenings etc.

Sadly this view wasn't shared by Robert August Arnott a man who hailed from Edinburgh, but still found time to nick stuff when in Salford.

Arnott was appearing at Salford Magistrates Court in October 1918, charged with being on enclosed premises for an unlawful purpose, which to these ears sounds like old fashioned burglary and theft.

The place being St Philip's Church, Wilton Place, off Chapel Street a magnificent church dating back to 1822 and designed by Sir Robert Smirke, a Grade 11 listed building.

Arnott was initially arrested on October 15th and was remanded for a week to Strangeways Gaol, the reason for his remand I found quite funny.

He had been described by the police at his first hearing as being, 

"In a shockingly, filthy condition with his clothing literally alive with vermin and lice and in need of of fumigation"

Hardly the sort of chap you want sitting next to you on the bus is he.

Detective Inspector Clarke informed the new hearing that Arnott had, "sweetened up" during his stay in prison and was ready to face a trail.

The court heard that Arnott was was seen by the caretaker of the church, Mr Edward Ainsworth acting suspiciously, and so decided to keep a beady eye on him.

The week before somebody had sneaked into the church vestry and stolen the keys to to the collection boxes in the church.

Arnott was seen to approach three collection boxes, two for the Soldiers Comfort Fund, the third for The Relief Of The Poor And Needy Of The Parish, 

He then proceeded to tap the boxes to ascertain if there were any money in them, perhaps he saw himself as being one of the Poor And Needy Of The Parish?

He then made the fatal mistake of producing a key, presumably the one stolen from the vestry  opened the box and hoisted the contents.

Enraged Mr Ainsworth swooped on him and detained him until the police arrived.

A search of his no doubt vermin ridden clothing produced one shilling and sixpence. he told the arresting officer that he was hungry.

Detective Inspector Clarke really lashed into Arnott, telling the Magistrates Bench that Arnott was no stranger to police courts throughout the country or prison cells.

In July 1918 he was arrested for stealing an umbrella from...you guessed it, St Philip's Church and trying to sell it to a local pawn broker, for which he received one months imprisonment.

Not content with stealing in Salford the court was told that Arnott had been placed on probation in Edinburgh for stealing money last year and had been sent to prison in Scotland for 30 days for stealing from shops.

The no doubt wretched looking Arnott pleaded for mercy by stating that he was once a good man but had been ruined by drink, also his wife had left him because of his "lazy habits", lets be fair, he doesn't sound much of a keeper does he?

With a final throw of the dice he added that the police in Salford and Scotland had given him a bad character!

Looking at his previous convictions I think Mr Arnott was over egging the pudding to blame the police for his misfortune.

His plea fell on deaf ears and he was sentenced to two months with hard labour for good measure to be spent in Strangeways Gaol.

Lets look on the bright side here, at least he would be fed, watered and clothed and as an extra bonus the Great War would be over before he stepped foot back into Salford again. 

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