Friday, 2 December 2011

Henry Wybrow & the Leighton Buzzard community 1851

The 1851 census shows the Wybrow* family of Leighton Buzzard living in Jeffs Lane. However, son Henry is missing from the family fold. Sadly poor Henry, just 14 years old, was residing in the County Goal in Bedford at the time. Although not uncommon, at the time of the 1851 census, taken on 30 March, Henry was one of only two inmates under 16 in the prison.

The QSR1851 shines more light on Henry plight. It appears that young Henry needed to raise money to play ‘pitch and hussle’ (a gambling game based on ‘chuck farthing). In order to do this, he stole a small quantity of lead off of the local Baptist chapel. He was seen on the roof. Later he sold on the lead for the sum of 2 pence halfpenny to a marine merchant.

The unusual feature of Henry case was that the local community rallied round him. A petition of 21 signatures was laid before the justices of the peace. It described their sympathy for his parents, Thomas Wybrow and Mary, and their concern at Henry, at just 14 years old, being confined in the County gaol for stealing a very small quantity of lead. In the opinion of the petitioners “he had been led into this evil through the influence of bad example”.

Henry Wybrow, did confess to the crime, and was sentenced by the Justices be imprisoned and kept at hard labour in the House of Correction for 2 weeks.

So, did young Henry deserve the faith of the residents of Leighton Buzzard? The Bedford Goal database shows that just less than year later Henry was charged with stealing wheat in his home town. However, he was given a conditional pardon and removed to The Philanthropic Society’s Farm School near Reigate in Surrey, at the time a relatively new reformatory school.
Henry’s life beyond this point is unclear, but I guess in an ideal world, we’d like to think Henry thrived on these opportunities and went on to prove himself worthy of the faith of the Leighton Buzzard residents.

*Transcribed as Whybrow
1851 census = Henry Wybrov
Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1751; Folio: 630; Page: 9; GSU roll: 87674-87675.

QSR1851/2/4/2 : QSR1851/2/5/2 : QSR1851/2/6/2 : QSR1851/2/3/4 : QSR1851/2/3/5

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