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Clapham and The Saint Neots Wise Man

The Cambridge Chronicle of 7th March 1829 carried an unusual piece, mocking the inhabitants of Clapham: “MARCH OF INTELLECT - The cottagers of Clapham, near this town [it seems to have followed an article on Bedford], have of late become rather ill-disposed towards each other, and two or three families have lost their ready money, amounting to about 20 shillings each. As the thieves have eluded detection, the wise man of Saint Neots has been frequently consulted - (we must decide that he is the wisest of the party, as for each application he received 3s 6d) - in one instance he exonerated the members of the family and declared that a female neighbour was the thief; in another case, that a man who resided out of the parish was the depredator; and in another instance, an official personage is strongly suspected: but, after all his ridiculous information, and their astonishing credulity, which have led to so much bickering among neighbours, they begin to express regret at having parted with a bird in hand to recover one in the bush”.

It seems as if the thief was never found. No one either born in Clapham or living in Clapham turns up in the registers of inmates at Bedford gaol at this period charged with theft.