OH, the joy of prison! Elderly Henry Thornton and Frank Wilson embraced the prospect with glee.

"Thank you," beamed the former told he would serve five years for his latest of thieving and "much obliged" was the delighted response from the latter who was locked up for begging.

Thornton, who had been trained as a tailor, viewed the world as lonely, alien world and for whom regular meals and a structured life in jail represented sanctuary.

His criminal career began in 1837 and almost 40 years later he was back at Hampshire Assizes for helping himself to easy pickings. On this occasion, his haul included a suit of clothes and a signet ring after ransacking a brickyard at Crofton, near Fareham.

At the age of 65, he could hardly make a quick getaway and was soon discovered trudging along a country lane, suitcase in hand. However, detaining him was another matter as Mr Justice Darling heard he was uncharacteristically violent and tried to bite the arresting officer before being overpowered.

The reason why Thornton had turned to crime was simply explained by his pocket book - he reckoned he had been badly treated by 'Christian England.' He aired his anger after being refused a barrister, delivering a fierce diatribe about his fate and the system.

He had 34 previous convictions with prison sentences ranging from three months to five years, his latest appearance at Lewes where he appeared under the name of Charles Christian Rudloph de Villiers which brought gales of laughter from the public gallery.

Denouncing him as "an impudent fellow," the judge told Thornton: "You are now 66 and it would be absurd if you were sent to prison for a short time. The least sentence I can pass on you is oner of five years penal servitude."

Daily Echo:

Thornton, who roamed from workhouse to workhouse when free, could not have been more pleased. "Thank you, sir," he replied, walking purposefully from the dock.

Wilson came from another era, that of the early 20th century but his circumstances were much the same.

The pensioner had been arrested after knocking on several doors at Bar End, then on the outskirts of Winchester - unaware a police sergeant and his family lived in one. He asked for bread but when the officer's wife refused, Wilson let rip a stream, of abuse.

Sergeant Dayman then followed him down the road, watching him as he knocked on several other doors in the tight-knit community where his ragged appearance shocked the residents.

Dayman eventually arrested the nomad and took him to the city's police station where he was searched and found to be carrying 11d in coppers. He was detained overnight before appearing before magistrates the following morning, March 6, 1919, when his far-from-rough accent puzzled the Bench.

The well-spoken Wilson claimed his health was failing and he had only gone to the houses to get arrested.

Daily Echo: High Street, Southampton, including the Bargate, in the 1920s.

"I have not been feeling too well and I would be much obliged if you could send me to prison so I can see the doctor for a bit. I am not an expert or a professional character. I am nearly played out and only fit to be cremated."

Thumping his chest, he revealed more of his troubles. "I want to get shot of this and then I can get one or two days work in Southampton."

After consulting with colleagues, chairman L J Carter observed: "I am afraid you would not be cured within a week."

Wilson pondered for a few seconds and then pleaded: "Well, could you give me 14 days?"

With a smile, the chairman replied: "That's what we intend to do."

Wilson burst into a grin: "Much obliged to you, gentlemen."

Then turning to leave the dock, he bizarrely remarked: "German papers, please copy."