Edward Charles Masterton (1816-1873)

Edward Charles Masterton (1816-1873)

Post Office clerk and petty thief

Edward Charles Masterton was convicted of theft of two letters containing 2s. 3d. and despite being from a reputable family, was convicted and sentenced to seven years transportation. It is believed he was released after spending some years in Dartmoor and rejoined his wife and eight children and presumably attempted to resume a normal life after his indiscretion. That can't have been easy. He appears in the Bankrupt's Court in 1863.


Edward Charles Masterton was the eldest son of Charles Masterton, a career diplomat who served as British Vice Consul in Bolivia, and his wife Elizabeth. Evidence suggests that Charles, the Vice Consul, had two households in London simultaneously and fathered another son, Charles Henry to another wife, Ann. Edward Charles married Elizabeth Alice Lockwood in 1837 and had six children at the time of his conviction. He is part of the Masterton family from London and further details can be found by following this link.

Morning Chronicle


BOW-STREET. - Edward Charles Masterton, a young man who has been nearly five years a clerk in the General Post-office, was placed at the bar before Mr. Jardine, charged with stealing two letters containing money the property of the Postmaster-General. The prisoner is a married man having six children, and his father held a confidential situation in the Foreign-office for many years.

Mr. Peacock, jun., attended to conduct the prosecution.

John Forbes, a messenger employed in the inland department of the General Post-office, in which the prisoner was a clerk, stated that he was on duty on that morning, when the prisoner was engaged sorting and dividing the letters that had arrived by the morning mails, and observing him attempt to crush a letter in his hand, while he continued his work, he watched his movements, and ultimately communicated what he had seen to the president on duty. About half-past nine o'clock, when the prisoner had completed his duties and was about to leave the office, witness took him by the arm and said that the president wanted to speak to him, at which he hesitated, and then followed him into another office, where Mr. Graham, one of the presidents, told him of his being informed that he had something in his possession he had no right to, and on making no reply he was asked if he had any objection to be searched; to which he assented, and Peake, the constable of the establishment, took from his side-coat and trousers pockets the two letters containing money, both of which bore the stamp of the inland office of the 31st Dec., and might in the course of his duty have passed through the prisoner's hands. They should have been forwarded to their destinations by the half-past nine o'clock mails the same morning.

Mr. George Graham said that, being informed by the last witness, he went to the prisoner as he was about to leave the office, requesting he would accompany him to a private office adjoining, which he did, and after the letters were found upon him by the officer, he said, "I am sorry you see me in such a position. I don't know what I shall do. This will be the death of my wife. I belong to one of the most respectable families. I don't know what could have induced me to do so, except that it was infatuation."

Constable Peake produced the letters, whoch were broken open by order of the Court, one being addressed to Mr. J. Forward, Weymouth, Dorsetshire, containing 1s., being sent from Leigh, near Rochford, in Essex, and the other to the Rev. John Smith, Moravian Chapel, Devonport, also containing one shilling and a three-penny piece, but without any letter to denote where it came from. When found the seals were not broken, but crumpled; and the prisoner exclaimed "Oh! my wife," "Oh! my dear children" There was also 6s. 6d. in hs pocket.

Mr. Peacock said it was possible other charges might be preferred, and the prisoner was ordered to be committed for trial, but to be brought up again, that further inquiries could be made.

The prisoner having received the usual caution, admitted the truth of the evidence as to the finding the letters, and was ordered to be remanded. After which the witnesses were bound over to prosecute. It was stated that his salary was 90 a year.

Morning Chronicle
Thursday, Jan 1, 1852

Westmorland Gazette

DISTRESSING CASE. - At Bow-street, on Wednesday, Edward Charles Masterton, a clerk in the Post-office, having a wife and six children, and a salary of 90l. per annum, was charged with stealing two letters containing money. It was the prisoner's duty to assist in the sorting department of the Inland-office, and while so engaged a messenger named Forbes observed him in the act of crumpling several of the letters in his hands. He communciated his suspicions to Mr. Graham, one of the presidents, by whose authority the prisoner was detained and searched in a private room. Two letters were found upon him bearing the same day's postmark, and with their seals unbroken. The prisoner said, "I am sorry you see me in this position. I don't know what I shall do. This will be the death of my poor wife. I belong to a most respectable family, and cannot conceive what induced me to take the letters, unless it was some infatuation." The letters were opened in the presence of the magistrate. One of them was addressed to a person in Weymouth, and contained a shilling; and the other to the Rev. John Smith, Moravian Chapel, Devonport, containing one shilling and a threepenny piece. The latter was unaccompanied by any letter, or communication of any kind. Mr. Peacock, jun. intimated that there would probably be other charges preferred, for which purpose, Mr. Jardine remanded the prisoner; at the same time committing him, upon the present charge, for trial.

Westmorland Gazette
Saturday, Jan 3, 1852

London Standard

Edward Charles Masterton, 33, a very respectable-looking young man, was charged with stealing a letter, containing one shilling, the property of the Postmaster General.
Mr. Clarkson and Mr. Bodkin conducted the prosecution; the prisoner was defended by Mr. Ballantine.
A number of witnesses were called, who proved that the prisoner had borne excellent character for a great number of years.
The Jury, after a very short deliberation, found the prisoner Guilty, but recommended him to mercy on account of his good character.
The learned Judge sentenced the prisoner to be transported for seven years.

London Standard
Thursday, Jan 8, 1852

Northern Star

POST-OFFICE ROBBERY. - Edward Charles Masterton, 33, a very respectable-looking young man, was charged with stealing a letter containing a shilling, the property of the Postmaster-General. The prisoner had been seen to secret two letters on his person, in consequence of which he was searched and arrested. He had been four years in the service of the Post-office. When the discovery was made the prisoner said he could not tell how he came to do it, and that he must have been infatuated, and he also said that the affair would be the death of his wife, as she had no one but himself to protect her. Mr Baron Platt sentenced the prisoner to be transported for seven years.

Northern Star
Saturday, Jan 10, 1852

Lloyds Weekly


TRANSPORTATION. - Life. - Thomas Bare
Ten Years. - Edward Kelly.
Seven Years. - George Corbishley, George Fraser, Susan Ryan, John Peachy, Edward Charles Masterton, John Mason, Charles Russell, John Cook, Levi Tobias, James Fitzgerald.
IMPRISONMENT. - Eighteen Months. - Robert Oxley, George Smioth.
Twelve Months. - Thomas East, Benjamin Diprose, etc.

Lloyds Weekly
Jan 18, 1852

Leeds Mercury

LONDON GAZETTE, Tuesday, October 20.

Notice of Adjudications and First Meeting of Creditors To Surrender at the Bankrupts' Court, London.

E.C. Masterton, Peckham, Oct. 30, at 12.
W. Woollard, Gray's-inn-road, Nov. 2. at 11.

Leeds Mercury
Thursday, 22 October 1863