18th Century Pocket Aprons

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

Women selling goods at markets are sometimes depicted wearing pocket-aprons, usually over their aprons. This pocket-apron allows easier access to money than a regular pocket, which would be worn under her gown.

With this easy access came the potential for theft, however; these 53 18th century trials at the Old Bailey involve pocket-aprons, many of which involve theft of money. (See this section of the page for a survey of some of the information the Old Bailey records about who was using pocket aprons, and what the pocket aprons contained.)

(H/T to Ruth Verbunt & Paul Dickfoss)

Pocket-aprons from Old Bailey references

This section takes a closer look at 18th century trials involving pocket aprons – specifically, at the occupations of people who were using pocket aprons, and what was in the pockets.

As expected from what we can see in the illustrations above, many of the people who used pocket aprons sold fish or produce; there are also several from men and women who run public houses, and a few from the wives of butchers and other shopkeepers.

  • October 10, 1694: “Ann Wilson, alias Mayheu, was tried for stealing a Blue Linen Pocket Apron, value 2 d. and 15 s. in money, from Elizabeth Spooner. Spooner lodged in the house with the Prisoner, and she was seen to take the money off the Table but nothing was found about her; indeed the Apron and Cloth, in which the money was, were thrown out of the window where the Prisoner lay. She was found guilty.”
  • July 8, 1724: “the Prisoner was seen attempting to pick Pockets in the Market, and being watch'd, her Hand was caught in the Prosecutor's Pocket-Apron, with some Money, but the Evidence could not positively swear to the Sum.”
  • June 30, 1725: “he took away my Pocket-Apron, in which there was a Ring and 7 s. 6 d.”
  • October 15, 1729: “taking from her 20 s. and 9 d. … she feeling a Pocket-Book under her Feet, felt for her Money, which was in her Pocket-Apron, and that was all gone too: She added, that the Prisoner, while he was striking her, took hold of her Apron.”
  • April 28, 1731: “perceiving her Apron move, she clapped her Hand to her Pocket Apron and found it had been cut, and her Money gone”
  • May 10, 1733: “he snatch'd off my Pocket-apron and ran away; I cry'd stop Thief and he was taken. I had nothing in my Pocket but 3 d. half-penny, and some Tricks[,] Your Hocus Pocus Things to shew Tricks with.”
  • July 2, 1735: Susan Brown stole 5 s. from Mary Cotmore, who “sold Peas in Stock's Market”; “While Mary Cotmore was asleep, I saw the Prisoner go jog her to see if she was asleep, and take a handful of Silver out of Cotmore's Pocket Apron; she dropt some of it; and sat down and rub'd her Eyes as if she was just waked - I told Mary Cotmore what had been done; she asked why she play'd the rogue with her Money. D - my Soul and Eyes, says Sue, I know nothing of it.”
  • May 14, 1741: “the Kinswoman, as I may call her, went to Mrs. Way's pocket Apron and took out the Key of the Chest: then she opened the Chest, and took out 14 or 15 l. 2 silver Spoons, and a Ladle”
  • September 11, 1745: “a pocket apron, val. 2 d.” stolen from Benjamin West; “I keep a fish shop by the dog Tavern at Garlick hill, and am a salmon porter at Billingsgate”
  • February 28, 1750: “one pocket-apron, no value, and 18 shillings in moneys numbered … the Prisoner knocked her down, took her pocket-apron with the money mention'd in it, and ran away.”
  • September 12, 1750: “I live in Kirby-street, and keep a public house. When I lost this money, there was no other person in the house besides the prisoner at the bar. My money was in my pocket-apron. I can swear to 20 s. at least; I had took it off, and laid it in the bar. I went backwards to get a pail of water, and when I returned, he, my apron, and money were all gone.”
  • February 25, 1756: “On the ninth of this month I was coming three miles on this side Uxbridge, the prisoner met me and ask'd me what I had got to sell? I said handkerchiefs; then he knock'd me down in the highway with the end of a whip, and rob'd me of all my handkerchiefs, and took three shillings from my pocket-apron”
  • September 14, 1757: “I sell fish. … In the morning she was gone, and the things mention'd in the indictment, our wearing apparel, with six-pence in a pocket apron.”
  • April 5, 1758: “we keep a publick-house … While I was talking to a man, she keeps company with, who was with her at my house, she put her hand into my pocket apron, and took out 7 s. and 6 d. … Mr. Torneck took it out of her hand, and we told it; there was 7 s. and 6 d. of it, all in silver. I had halfpence in my right side pocket, and silver in my left.”
  • October 17, 1764: “I had been out to sell some pease and beans … I took my pocket-apron from under my child's head, and took out some money to send my nurse for a dram; then he said he would go home. I said, if you have a mind to come to work in the morning, do: I got up, and began to look for my pocket, and found it was gone: there was in the pocket thirty-four shillings; I went to his house, and asked him for it; and said, if he had spent a crown of it. I would past that by: then he swore he had been in bed with me two hours, and would not give me my apron, not any thing else. … I had three keys in my pocket, and a hammer.”
  • April 17, 1765: “[we] keep a tripe shop in Clare-market: the prisoner lived servant with me about six weeks. On a Saturday morning, I cannot tell the exact day, I had four or five guineas, a half guinea, and four or five quarter guineas in my pocket apron, which I had told over the night before, and laid under my head: after I brought it down I laid it on the dresser, and sent the prisoner to bring me a clean pocket apron; she very officiously said, she would take the money out of the soul one and put it in the clean one: I thought she had done it: I then looked upon her to be honest. I took and tied it up, with my halfpence in it, and took it roll'd up in my arms to the market. I went to turn my money out, and found but four or five small pieces of gold, called quarter-guineas, among my halfpence; all the rest was gone: I immediately ran home to the maid, and asked her what she had done with the gold; she said she had not meddled with it: My husband coming down stairs that minute, I was afraid to let him know of it. I ran away to market, without saying any thing to him: I told some of our servants of it; and said, if my husband should come to know of it, I would say I had found it again.”
  • February 19, 1766: “I keep a public house in Jewin-street; … I felt in my pocket apron, and found my key was gone”
  • January 12, 1769: “On the 4th of this instant I was at our shop, (my husband is a butcher) in the Fleet-market … I cast my eye down, and saw my apron was removed from my pocket-apron. … I looked in my pocket, and mist a canvas bag, with the money laid in the indictment in it.”
  • January 12, 1775: “I am a fruiterer … my wife went up and found the key in the door, the prisoner was gone, and the money [480 halfpence] and pocket apron was missing.”
  • September 13, 1775 “a linen pocket-apron, value four pence”
  • April 4, 1779: “They robbed me after they had knocked me down of a pocket, an apron, four shillings, a child's jamb, and a snuff-box … What did they beat you with? - Their hands; they tore off the pocket-apron by force, and left the strings behind; the other things were in my pocket.”
  • June 28, 1780: “he then came round me, put his hand into my pocket apron and took what money I had.”
  • April 21, 1784: from the wife of “a butcher in the parish of Christ-Church.”; “Are you sure you gave none of those twenty-one shillings in change in the course of that day? - Yes, because I did not put it in my pocket apron, I put it in my side pocket.”
  • May 23, 1787: “one linen pocket apron, value 1 s. forty-eight copper half-pence, value 2 s. thirty-eight copper farthings, value 7 3/4 d. and one pen knife” stolen from Ann Reynolds; “I am a widow; I keep the King's-head publick-house, in Broad-street, Bloomsbury ; I had seen one of the prisoners before, that was the prisoner Watson; the other I had not; they came in together and had six penny worths of brandy and water, and two gills of raspbery, and a pint of beer; they paid for that, and called for another six penny-worth; while the other six penny-worth was getting ready, the string of my pocket broke; I took it off and laid it down on the table in the box, where these men were drinking their brandy and water; all of a sudden while I just turned round, the tallest of the prisoners, Watson, ran to the door; he opened the door, and the other man run out, and he run after him as fast as they could go; they left best part of their brandy and water upon the table; and I called after them going out so quick and not paying for their liquor, and turning round, I missed my pocket … What was in your pocket? - I cannot say particularly, there might be two or three shillings in half-pence and farthings; I saw the patrol take a knife off the bench, near where the tall man sat, which was mine.”
  • January 14, 1789: “I had a pocket-apron, that I wore; I had nine shillings and sixpence in one side, and two shillings and sixpence, in halfpence, in the other; I had just before told it. There was nobody in the house but she and me; she lodged in the house for about three weeks. I went to take a nap, about twelve o'clock, on the bed; she covered me over; I had my pocket-apron on; I laid down upon it; I went to sleep; I was awoke by my husband; the prisoner was gone; the pocket-apron was cut at the bottom of each side, and all the money gone; there was only one farthing left.”
  • May 29, 1793: “he cut my apron and my pocket apron, and the lace of my stays, all three together; I had sixteen shillings and six-pence in my bosom; he took the sixteen shillings and six-pence of silver out of my bosom, and seven shillings and six-pence in halfpence out of my pocket apron; I always put my silver in my bosom.”
  • September 11, 1793: “a tick pocket apron, value 3 d. … the pocket apron laid on a chair with the money in it; there was five shillings and three-pence in it, five shillings in silver, and three-pence in halfpence.”
  • December 4, 1799: “when I went in, I saw a man with an apron on, who appeared to be the landlord; I said, landlord, bring me a pint of beer; Forbes said, yes; he brought a pint of beer, and Mr. Chester and I sat down and drank it; Mr. Chester then took a shilling out of his pocket in order to pay for it, and said, are you the landlord; to which this gentleman answered, yes; he then put his hand into his pocket apron, took out some halfpence, and went to the bar and got a sixpence to give change”

A pocket apron was (in some trials) used to conceal and transport stolen money and/or goods; see t17210301-29, t17221205-23, t17391205-26, t17400522-9, t17431207-4, t17450530-26, t17470116-2, t17481207-13, t17550910-22, t17561208-31, t17570223-27, t17570526-12, t17741207-64, t17830604-47, t17940430-111, t17951202-21