Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The wrong side of the law

PC George Cannon Smith found himself on the wrong side of the law in the Midsummer quarter of 1888.  He was accused of stealing wood from a construction site close to his home in Pondswick Road, Luton.  A neighbour, Mrs Fanny Hyde, spotted him, in full police uniform, taking wood from the new houses around daybreak one Sunday morning.   The depositions suggest Mrs Hyde may have already been familiar with PC Smith.  Her and her husband, Martin George had formerly run the Jolly Topper public house in Stopsley, Luton.  Whilst under cross examination, it was put to Fanny that she was familiar with PC Smith from her days at the public house.  In fact it was suggested he had on occasion spoken to her about her management.  Mrs Hyde disputed this fact!
The Jolly Toppers 2010

There was additional evidence against the officer.  The foreman of the building site was able to identify a piece of wood found in the constable’s house.  The foreman, Elias Hill, believed the wood bore the grease marks from the candle he had used and the nail marks from where it had been fixed to the window.

Meanwhile, PC Smith, who lived with his brother Albert Cannon Smith, said that the wood had been used by his brother.  Albert elaborated describing how it was a well travelled piece of wood.  It had been originally at the house when they moved in, and had then been nailed above a sitting hen.  From there the piece of wood went off to the  stables Albert rented, where he used it to secure his pigs, until it finally made its way back to the Smith household.

George Smith was found not guilty in this case, but it interested us to see if George remained in the force.  Less than 2 years later, the 1891 census shows George and his family having moved to Wiltshire, and he is resident at the Police Station in Hungerford.  However, 10 years later his family has rapidly expanded and they have been on the move again.  This time he is a farm bailiff in Walton on Thames.  George had come from a farming background, as his father had been a farmer of 187 acres in Redbourne, Herts whilst George was growing up. By 1911, at 52 years old and with 13 children having been born to him and his wife, he can be found as a council roadman in Hersham, Surrey.    What happened in these intervening years is a mystery, but George Cannon Smith appears to have spent his later years in a very different occupation to that which he held in 1888.


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Absconding Bicycle Clerk

For the members of the Paths to Crime team, it is sometimes the people involved rather than the specific crime which peaks our interest.

The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service Newsletter has an Olympic theme this month. Amongst the sports featured is cycling; a sport in which Bedfordshire has a rich heritage. One of those mentioned is Dan Albone of Biggleswade. He was not only a devoted and champion cyclist but an inventor and owner of the Ivel Cycle Works.

The Midsummer Quarter Session of 1887 has Mr Albone as the prosecutor in a case of theft. On 21 September 1886, Mr Albone gave the William Dietman, who he employed as a clerk, £15 5s 0d in cash, 2 cheques for £2 2s 0d and £1 1s 0d, and 3 postal orders for 20s 10s and 2s 6d. The following day the prisoner did not return to work. In his deposition, Albone elaborated how the bank book should have been left at the bank and made up, however he found it at the back of a box whilst moving offices. It showed the money and cheques had not been paid into the account. He went to the prisoner’s lodgings, and failing to find him, he applied for a warrant for Dietman’s arrest.

It was a further 9 months before Dietman was detained on a warrant and taken into custody at Biggleswade police station. At his hearing he pleaded guilty of stealing money, bank cheques and postal orders and was sentenced to 6 months hard labour.

Dan Albone also featured in the Paths to Crime document of the month for October 2011. Click here to read the original.


Friday, 13 July 2012

Who's telling the truth? The Outcome.

On Wednesday, we asked who you believed was the guilty party in a case of stolen flour.  Well the answer was........that Amos Fowler pleaded Not Guilty and was found Not Guilty.  However, William Lawson was found guilty of both this and another charge of receiving stolen oats.  He was sentenced to 3 months hard labour at the House of Correction.

It was, however, Amos Fowler who had past form.  The 1881 census shows him ensconced in St Albans prison.  He had been convicted of breaking and entering the Marquis of Granby public house and therein stealing bottles of brandy, gin and 5 gallons of beer!

We’ll be keeping an eye out for both of these men in later sessions.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Who’s telling the truth?

We often come across cases where it becomes the word of one person against another.  This week we had a case of stolen flour, with 2 men accused of a crime, both giving convincing statement of their innocence and in turn, blaming the other.

A Welwyn miller by the name of James Chalkley had employed Amos Fowler for 4 or 5 years.  Fowler’s role was to deliver flour out from the railway station at Luton to the customers with written orders.  On 22 July 1887 a sack of flour went missing from the station.  A witness by the name of George Battens, son of a cow keeper, explained how he had been on the railway bridge when he had been approached by the co-accused William Lawson.  Lawson asked him to use his mule and cart to carry a sack in return for sixpence. Battens fetched his mule and cart to the bottom of the railway steps at GNR.  Lawson was waiting and after 5 or 10 minutes Fowler came up and they went into the yard.  Battens followed.  They stopped him went on 20 yards to a truck and fetched a large sack which was white and floury looking.  Fowler carried it and put the sack in Battens cart with Lawson undoing the tailgate.  Battens took the sack to a house in High Street, High Town and Lawson met him at the door and took the sack into the house. 

Both men were arrested and Fowler was charged with the theft of the sack of flour and Lawson with receiving stolen goods.  However their own statements varied greatly.  

Statement of William Lawson:  On Monday he had been going up Chapel Street by the Queens Hotel.  He saw a wagon and horses standing against a baker shop.  The Wagoner came from behind the wagon and asked him if he had his old pony and cart.  Lawson said he had sold it and the Wagoner said he wanted to send some flour to High Town and had not wanted to take his horse and wagon up there.  Lawson said he could get a pony and cart and agreed to meet the Wagoner at the station.  On his way he met George Battens and asked him to go to the GNR station with him in return for sixpence.  At the station he went into the yard with the Wagoner who went to the truck and got a sack of flour out of it and put it in Battens cart.  Battens drove off and he met Battens again at his house. He took the flour into his house as he had forgotten where he was taking it so went to the Bull to meet the Wagoner to tell him he’d forgotten.  He told the Wagoner he would like the flour and gave him 10 shillings, with the Wagoner agreeing and saying he’d be back in a day or two and would collect the rest of the money.  He believed the Wagoner had the right to sell the flour.

Statement of Amos Fowler:  he had met Lawson as he came down Bute Street.  Lawson asked him for a sack of flour for Mr Giltrow and he agreed.  They went to the station and Lawson said he had a cart.  He put the flour sack in the cart.  Mr Giltrow often fetched or sent for a sack or two.  Mr Chalkley told him to always send a sack if he asked.  He did not receive any money or give a receipt.  He did not know Lawson’s name.

So here’s our challenge……who do you think was found guilty?  We’ll reveal the answer on Friday.


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

25 years now complete.

We're pleased to say that 25 years of Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions Rolls have now been catalogued.

As of today, you can now find the following years on the Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service catalogue:


We know the records have already proved invaluable to some family historians and we hope they continue to offer a very useful insight into 19th Century Bedfordshire.