Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Building a Bigger Picture.....

The beauty with the QSR is the richness of information in some of the depositions (witness statements). For example, take the case of Henry Harris, a 18 year old labourer accused of breaking and entering the dwelling of John Franklin Gilbert, and stealing money. (QSR1853/2/5/4 - Henry Harris)

In this case there are 7 witness statements as well as the statement of the accused.
The below list is of statements from this case. They may sound like random statements but it's the little details which help build a bigger of picture of what was happening at the time.

* George Stonebridge had been making the dough for Mr Crowley of Wilshamstead on 15 March, as his man was ill.
* Henry Harris was described as having hair on his top lip.
* We frequently come across the police using footprints to help identify the offender. In this case the footmarks are quite unusual. "He examined the window and found footmarks. He took their dimensions. There appeared to be 2 different footmarks evidently made by the same person."
* It was later determined that Harris, wore 2 odd boots, one longer than the other.

* William Clark lived at Wilstead with Benjamin Gilbert, whose father lived with him. So we now have a family picture building. We now know John Franklin, Ann Jepps, her sister in law and Benjamin were all living in the house. As well as a boy (presumably a servant).

* James Kitchener boarded with John Franklin Gilbert and had employed the accused about 8 weeks previously. He was Mr Gilbert's foreman. So we now have added another member of the household and his job role, he had previously just been described as a labourer.

* Henry Harris had gone into the house to have his dinner on the day he had been employed by Mr Gilbert. This gives us an idea of the daily routine of the farm.
* The window was a lattice window and the lead work was lying on the floor. Giving us details regarding the appearance of the house.

* Mr Crowley lived between 200 to 300 yards from the gates to Mr Gilbert's.
* There had been a heavy fog that morning. So we know the weather conditions on 15 March 1853.

For those of you interested in the outcome of the case, Henry Harris pleaded Not Guilty but with a mountain of evidence, and the incriminating footmarks, he was found Guilty. He was imprisoned and kept at hard labour at the House of Correction for one calandar year.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Left Behind

In the 1840s a small but significant proportion of cases heard at the Quarter Sessions ended with the accused being sentenced to transportation. Judy Wright has done considerable research into the ultimate fate prisoners in Bedfordshire placed under this sentence and the convict database on her Selling Sparrows website makes it easy to find out where and when (or if) they were transported. Finding out what happened to the family left behind by a transported criminal is rather harder. Unusually, a document in the Quarter Sessions Roll for Michaelmas 1842 shows the effect of transportation on the dependants of Christopher Kibble, who had been sentenced at the Ephinany Quarter Sessions to ten years transportation for sheep stealing (QSR1842/1/5/50)

Under the Poor Law the parish in which an individual was considered to be "settled" was responsible for his or her upkeep if they became a pauper. This led to settlement disputes between parishes in an attempt to reduce demands on the local poor rate. These disputes often resulted in removal orders stating that paupers should be removed from the parish in which relief was being given to their parish of legal settlement. These documents can be extremely useful to family historians as they often include depositions recording details of relationships and past residence for the individuals concerned, the reason for claiming poor relief, and the amount of relief received. The number of cases relating to settlement and removal that came before the Quarter Sessions was relatively small in our period as under the New Poor Law of 1834 only appeals were heard at this level. However the Quarter Sessions Roll for Michaelmas 1842 includes a removal order for Eliza Kibble and her daughter Mary, the wife and young daughter of Christopher (QSR1842/4/9/1/b).

According to the evidence given in the removal order Christopher Kibble had been born at Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire where his father occupied a house and bakehouse. Eliza had married Christopher at Leighton Buzzard in 1840 and their daughter Mary was now sixteen months old. Since their marriage the family had lived at Billington, where Christopher was a farm servant. In June 1842 Eliza had been receiving relief from the Leighton Buzzard Union for twenty one weeks. The payments made to her had been 5s 6d a week while she was sick and had then reduced to 2s a week after her recovery, with a total of £3 14s 6d paid to that point. As a result of the evidence heard Christopher Kibble's parish of settlement was deemed to be Waddesdon. As a wife took on the settlement of her husband, an order was made that Eliza and Mary should be removed there from Billington. It appears that Waddesdon intended to appeal against this decision, but at the Quarter Sessions the appeal was dropped (QSR1842/4/9/1/a).

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A quick guide to QSR reference numbers.

Quarter Sessions took place 4 times a year.

These are numbered as:

QSRyear/1 - Epiphany
QSRyear/2 - Easter
QSRyear/3 - Midsummer
QSRyear/4 - Michaelmas

e.g. 1842 Epiphany session would be QSR1842/1


The documents contained in the sessions have then been further separated as follows:-


• Writs/Warrants to hold the session
• Things about Justices of the Peace
• Appointing Juries - Jury Lists
• Lists of Constables

QSRyear/session/2 = Judicial business

• appointments
• visitors
• correspondence
• notices• estimates
• petitions
• appointment of adjudicators for establishing wheat prices

QSRyear/session/3 = Prisoners

• calendar of prisoners to stand trial
• sentencing documents

QSRyear/session/4 = Recognizances
QSRyear/session/5 = Depositions
QSRyear/session/6 = Indictments and Juries Presentments
QSRyear/session/7 = Articles of the Peace
QSRyear/session/8 = Appeals
QSRyear/session/9 = Poor Law & Bastardy
QSRyear/session/10 = Highways/Road & Bridges


A useful piece of information.....

The Calendar of Prisoners which appears in QSRyear/session/3 lists all the prisoners to be tried at that Quarter Session.

The Calendar allocates each case a number.

The cataloguers of the project have attempted to keep this number the same for the case through the Recognizances, Depositions & Indictments sections.

So for example.....

QSR1853/1/3/1 is the Calendar of Prisoners for the Epiphany Session of 1853.

Case number 48 is Sarah Emery.

QSR1853/1/4/48 (Recognizances)
QSR1853/1/5/48 (Depositions)
QSR1853/1/6/48 (Indictments)
will all relate to the case of Sarah Emery.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Bigamist: What Happened Next?

The bigamy case featured on the archive website as Paths to Crime document of the month for May 2011 has now been fully catalogued with summaries of all the depositions under reference QSR1841/4/5/39. Richard Kelly had married Mary Ann Crawley of Bedford while still married to his first wife, Amelia Austin. Despite his excuses - which varied from claiming Amelia was already married to someone else to believing that she was dead - Kelly was found guilty of bigamy and sentenced to one year in gaol. A newspaper report of the case tells us that "The prisoner asked the Court whether, when he came out of gaol, he was to be served so again by the first wife. The Court hoped he would be in a better mind; she was his legal wife."

After a little digging I have discovered that Richard Kelly and Amelia did indeed eventually resume their relationship as man and wife. In one of the Quarter Sessions documents Richard Kelly describes Spalding in Lincolnshire as his home. In 1851 a Richard Kelley, aged 31, was visiting William Kelley, an innkeeper at Spalding. Both Kelleys were natives of the town. Richard is described as married, but there was no wife recorded with him. An Amelia Kelly, aged 30, was living in Whitechapel where she was described as married and a "relative" of the other member of the household, 67 year old Thomas Murphy from Ireland. This Amelia was born in Beccles (Suffolk) and was working as a dressmaker. I can find no record of either Richard or Amelia on the 1861 census, but in 1871 Richard Kelly, a factory foreman born at Spalding aged 53, was living in the parish of St.Leonards, Shoreditch with his wife Amelia Kelly, aged 50, born in Lowestoft (Suffolk). As Richard and Amelia met and married at nearby Great Yarmouth this must surely be the same couple. In 1874 the death of Amelia Kelly, age 52, is recorded at Whitechapel.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Hawker & The Glass-Blower

Being a police officer or even assisting one, could be an unpleasant occupation. On 24 September 1852 John Williams, a 25 year old hawker, assisted by Henry Dean, a 16 year old glass-blower were accused of stealing a considerable sum of money from Elizabeth Sayell, a singlewoman. Among the money stolen was a £10 bank note of the Baldock and Biggleswade bank.

It appears the pair were quite a handful to take into custody, with a number of people getting involved. Unfortunately, on the way to the police station, John Williams was seen to slip, what appeared to be a bank note, into his mouth. In his evidence, Constable Alfred Atherton Murfin, stated how he grabbed the accused by the throat in an attempt to prevent him from swallowing it. However, he failed and the note was swallowed.

On arrival at the station, Superintendent Bayldon gave approval for an emetic (a medical substance used to induce vomiting) to be given to the prisoner. James Smith, a parish constable and bailiff, was asked by the Superintendent to assist with this. It was poor James Smith who was present when the prisoner began to vomit in a bowl 2 hours later. Smith saw something come out of Williams mouth, put his hand in the bowl and fetched out the note.

Elizabeth Sayell had been able to offer quite a detailed description of the note including the fact a corner of it was missing. This meant the bank note could be confirmed as the note stolen. John Williams, along with his young accomplice Henry Dean, were both sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.