From the Darlington & Stockton Times of April 2, 1872

UNDER the headline “a new mode of swindling”, the D&S Times of 150 years ago rather mocked “a young farmer who lives not a hundred miles from Barnard Castle” after the unfortunate yacca had been diddled out of a large amount of money in the big town of Darlington.

It was market day, and the farmer had been seen to do successful transactions in cash. As he was about to leave, he was accosted by a friendly fellow on High Row who “proposed that they should get a glass of brandy together”.

The dalesman consented, and they ended up in a back room of the Burns Inn in Northgate where a couple of other men were sitting.

“They got into conversation, and one of the men produced a new wash-leather purse such as agriculturists use,” said the D&S.

On the Barney boy expressing interest in buying such a fashionable item, the men offered to give it to him, and they watched as he excitedly transferred his day’s takings of £63 from his shabby old wallet into his new gift.

According to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator, £63 is today worth about £7,580.

“This done, the man who gave him the purse said he would also put something in ‘for luck to hansel it’,” said the paper, “and the farmer unsuspectingly handed over his purse of sovereigns.”

The Oxford English Dictionary says the word “hansel” is now obsolete, but 150 years ago it would have referred to either a good luck gift or a birthday present. Our farmer from the dales would have thought himself very fortunate to be hanselled by his new friends.

“Something, to all appearance, was dropped in the purse, and it was handed back, which the farmer put in his pocket,” said the D&S.

They amicably shared another drink before the farmer set off for home. Before he got out of Darlington, he “had occasion to pull out his purse when, on opening it, his astonishment and mortification knew no bounds, for it contained nothing but 60 or 70 half-pennies”, said the paper.

“In ‘hanselling’ it, the rogues had substituted the farmer’s purse of gold one precisely similar in appearance but containing only copper.

“The dupe ran to the Burns Inn, but found the men had fled.”

And, of course, no one had ever seen them before or knew who they were. Not even the police could track them down.

The D&S Times concluded: “The farmer returned to his home a sadder but, let us hope, a wiser man.”