Friday, 8 February 2013

A Ding Dong in Toddington

The obtaining of 2 pence by false pretences from a Toddington shopkeeper didn't sound the most fascinating of cases on initial inspection.  However, the cheeky Toddington pair supplied us with an interesting insight into the customs of the village.

On 29 May, Sarah Smith, widow and shopkeeper woke to find an Oak bough on her doorstep.  She had lived in the village for 23 years and knew it to be a local custom.  Every Whitsun week it was tradition for an oak bough to be left on the doorstep of inhabitants.  Later on collectors would visit for a donation.  When the prisoners, George Holmes and James Lawson came to ask for money she parted with 2 pence and the men went on their way.  

However, it was the 10 Bell Ringers of St George's in Toddington which staged this annual tradition.  It was customary in Toddington that once a year the bell ringers would take round an oak bough to the inhabitants and afterwards collect a subscription.  The bell ringers would have a supper with the money collected.   The Bell Ringers met on 28 May at the Sow & Pigs public house and made arrangements that the boughs should be taken round the following morning.  Thomas Smith and Samuel Brewer were appointed to go up town, where Mrs Smith lived.  They left the bough at her door and called for a contribution on 30 May.  However, Mrs Smith said she had already paid it.  The Bell Ringers were far from happy and made a complaint that they had been robbed.  

George Lawson wasn't a newcomer to crime.  The always useful Bedfordshire Gaol Database describes George Lawson as quite a distinctive figure.  He was blind in his right eye, had a cut mark on left cheekbone, apparently he bit his nails and the nail of little finger left hand was disfigured from a cut.

Despite the case ending up at the Quarter Sessions, George Holmes and James Lawson were let off, the case being regarded as a No True Bill.  It would be interesting to know if the inhabitants of Toddington were quite so forgiving!  


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