The following article appeared in the Cornish & Devon Post on 30th January 1904:
George Stevenson, twenty-four, plasterer, was brought up at West London Police-court, on a charge of wilfully damaging the surface of the highway on Loftus-road, Shepherd’s Bush.
A police-constable said he saw defendant scraping the earth away from the roots of trees on the footway with a trowel. He told him that he should arrest him, and he replied, “What for. I am doing no harm. I haven’t dug the ground fresh, the others did that.”
Stevenson explained to the magistrate that he was searching for the ¬£50 medallion hidden by a weekly paper,
Inspector Evans stated that great damage had been done to the highway by these treasure-seekers, and the superintendent of roads and works for the Parish of Hammersmith said the damage in that road alone was ¬£4, while fifty other roads in the parish had been similarly damaged.
The magistrate: “Anyone who wilfully damages the highway is liable to a fine of 40s. You may go this time with a caution.”
Alfred Cleaver, thirty, carriage-cleaner, and Frank Johns, twenty-two, gasfitter, were charged with damaging the highway in Bloemfontein-road, Shepherd’s Bush. They also pleaded that they were following the clues to the hidden medallion.
Inspector Evans said the writer in the newspaper gave a number of clues, and in one part of his narrative distinctly stated that he made a hole with his stick in the street.
The magistrate (to the defendants): “If anyone in a newspaper or otherwise directs you to make a hole in the street, or to injure the surface of the highway, or to do anything which would have that consequence, he might very well be charged with counselling you to injure the highway. Now, you may go this time with a caution.”
The newspaper article goes on to report that in South London thousands of people had poured into Woolwich to search for a ¬£50 medallion, which had been hidden by a local newspaper. They made so much damage that a detachment of mounted troops were ordered to clear the Common!
(My thanks to Colin Woodley for spotting the above article. The postcard dates from around the time and comes from my collection.)