Friday, 28 September 2012

Never underestimate a pensioner

The Quarter Session Rolls throw up criminals of all ages and the sheer gall of some is quite impressive.  Take Joseph Pugh....a man of 63 years and described as a carpenter.  Joseph appeared to be of no fixed abode and his crimes followed a similar pattern.  In fact the Epiphany Session of 1890 has him up before the Court on 3 very similar offences.

The first instance was on 15 October 1889, when he arrived at the house of Mrs Lucy Evans of Marston Moretaine asking to lodge with her until the beginning of April.  He promised to pay 3s a week and so she accepted him as her lodger.  As soon as he got into the house he asked her to write him a letter to the general manager of the North Western Railway, Mr Findlay.  Furthermore, he then asked her to lend him a penny for a stamp. The letter said:

“Will you please forward to the above address my month’s money as soon as you receive this letter as I have quite run out.  The amount is 10 shillings.”  

Lucy Evans signed Joseph Pugh at his request.

Pugh had a full sob story to tell Mrs Evans.  He told her that until recently he had been a patient in a London hospital.  He told her he was in receipt of a pension of 14 shillings a week for as long as he lived from the railway but that he had lost half a sovereign the Friday before and it had made him rather short of money.  Having had such terrible luck, he asked her to fund his food until his money came and then, in return, he would pay her 12 shillings a week.  Pushing his luck even further, Pugh also asked her to lend him some money to go to Millbrook station so he could collect his clothes, which he said were coming to Millbrook
by train.  She lent him a shilling and sixpence for the purpose.  On 18 October he left the house to go to the station and saying he wouldn't be long.  He never went back.  He left owing 5 shillings for board and lodging and took with him the shilling and sixpence she had lent him.

Joseph Pugh goes on to commit similar offences and tell similar stories in Wootton and Ampthill. Pugh's written plea must have evoked sympathy for the ageing ailing man. (see the photo attached)  The courts sentence him to just 7 days in the House of Correction. 

Unsurprisingly, an old dog doesn’t learn new tricks and Mr Pugh pops up again in the next quarter.  This time in Sharnbrook where he convinces his landlady he had been advised by his doctor to take in the country air!  He didn’t quite gain so much sympathy from the Justices this time, as he was sentenced to a calendar months hard labour.  


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Inside Midsummer 1854

Having completed entering the quarter session rolls for the 1880's I've now hopped back to completing the 1850s.  These years feature many more cases than the later years, and in turn take longer to catalogue.

This week I have been cataloguing the 1854 Q4 but I thought it was be a good idea to give you all a feel of a typical quarter.

Here's some statistics based in the Midsummer Session of 1854.

  • Number of defendants - 33.  30 men & 3 women
  • Number of cases (some defendants appear on more than one charge, others are jointly accused) - 29
  • Age range of defendants - youngest is 14, the eldest 58. 14 defendants were under 20 years.
  • Number found guilty - 25 of 33
  • Range of Sentence - from 4 years penal servitude to 14 days imprisonment
  • Types of crime - mostly theft including 7 cases of stolen fowls.  Other thefts range from a stolen wooden washing tray to a silver watch guard, and from theft of a hymn book to a faggot of wood worth a half penny. We also have the killing of a sheep, a case of embezzlement, obtaining a shawl by false pretences and a sexual assault.
  • Occupations of the defendants - being Bedfordshire it is unsurprising many were agricultural labourers (18 in fact).  We also have lacemakers, bricklayers, shoemakers, a basketmaker,  a commercial traveller, those in the plait trade, a butcher, a baker (not candlestick maker I'm afraid) and interestingly a Private Soldier in the Coldstream Guards.

We do see some seasonal themes, with the theft of food being prevalent in the Michaelmas quarter and the same family names crop up quarter after quarter ( in fact the same defendants crop up quarter after quarter). Obviously each quarter brings with it something different although we rarely have a quarter where we don't have at least one stolen fowl!  It all adds to the fascination of the Quarter Sessions Rolls.