Thursday, 24 May 2012

The double-dealing Innkeeper

The struggle of the small businessman is very topical at the moment but the case of James Clarke shows what a timeless issue it is. 

James Clarke came before the court in January 1886 accused of obtaining the sum of £20 by false pretences.  At the time Clarke was the tenant of the Sportsman Inn in Shefford.  The depositions in the case reveal that an agreement was made between Clarke and Moses Cakebread & Isaac Harris for the purchase of the barley Clarke was growing on his land.  A written agreement was made in another local public house, the White Hart in Shefford, and signed by the parties.  Cakebread gave £5 up front for the barley and a receipt for the payment was written and signed on the reverse of the agreement.  Next day, Clarke was paid a further £15 by Cakebread.  Regrettably for Cakebread & Harris, Clarke had already sold the barley as means of clearing debt he had with the Cardington Brewery Company.  

 In April 1885 the defendant was indebted to the company for £67 4s 0d for beer supplied and rent.  They pressed him for payment.  Clarke met with Charles Hickman, a director of the Cardington Brewery, at the office of debt collect Julius Jacobs. Hickman asked him what arrangement he could make to settle his account.  Clarke said “you shall have every farthing of your money as soon as I can get it”.  Clarke said he had 6 or 7 acres of barley and nearly an acre of onions, which would more than pay the debt as soon as harvest came.  Hickman said that was not satisfactory as Clarke may have other loss by then; a statement which Clarke denied.  Hickman proposed they take the onions and barley as settlement of the debt. Clarke said he would not do it as it would leave the other landlord out in the cold.  Hickman said that if he assigned them the crops they would pay the landlord the rent.  Clarke agreed on that condition and later signed a deed to that affect.
Unfortunately for Cakebread and Harris, the Cardington Brewery came to them to claim the barley and they were forced to pay the full value of it.

James Clarke was sentenced to imprisonment for 3 calendar months with hard labour for obtaining money by false pretences.

For more information on the Sportman Public House in Shefford, visit BLARS Community Archives - Shefford

More details of the case of James Clarke can be found at QSR1886/1/5/1 

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