Misdemeanours and misfits in the Victorian courts; 1863.

I just love to browse the old newspapers and see what our ancestors were up to.

The papers columns are filled with intriguing snippets of their daily lives, the usual hatch, match and dispatches, arrivals and departures, accidents and fights, and the misfortunes of those whose day to day activities managed to fall foul of the law and end up before the local courts.

From the Dorset County Chronicle of the 5th February of 1863 comes a veritable hotch potch of such events.

On a Friday at the start of the month, the County Petty Sessions were held under the hawk-like eyes of Captain Manning who was the chairman and his co-horts, Mr S Meade, Robert Hassall  Swaffield and Richard Ffolliot Eliot Esquire.
These men were the pillars of local society, the movers, the shakers and decision makers of the Victorian era.

letter Civic Society. 1

First to appear before the court that day was Robert Pearce of Portland, he had been summoned by fellow Portlander, John Pearce for an assault that had taken place on the 13th January. As Captain Manning went on to rail against ‘the disgraceful practice of persons throwing rubbish into the streets of Portland,’ we can only surmise that someone had remonstrated with the guilty party and received a thump for doing so.

Now anyone who knows the area well, also knows that certain names are synonymous with Portland, and Pearce is certainly one of them, makes for very interesting research in an era when the same family christian names were handed down father to son, mother to daughter, generation after generation, let alone all having the same surnames!
In the year 1863 there were more than a fair few Robert Pearce’s living and working on the island to choose from as I have already covered in a previous blog.
https://susanhogben.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/1865-portland-keeping-it-in-the-family/
…..
It could have been the Robert who had been born way back in 1795…you may think that at the ripe old age of 68 he was too old to be getting involved with a dispute, but as he was still slogging away in the quarries, he may well have been heading towards his twilight years but this was no doddery old chap, you had to be extremely fit for this work.

man2 english illustrated magazine 3 london magazine
…..
Then again, it could have been the Robert born later, in 1814. He was only 47, and also a stone worker, as were the rest of his family.
Now, interestingly enough, this Robert appeared in the Dorchester Prison Admission and Discharge Registers for 1878…by then he was aged 64. Robert found himself hauled before the magistrates for ‘neglecting to maintain himself and family,’

The Prisoners Description Book book also gives us a glimpse of the man himself. He was 5ft 6 1/4″ tall, not surprisingly his brown hair was turning grey, his eyes were grey and his complexion described as sallow. Robert was the father to a brood of 10 children.
Life had obviously overwhelmed him!
…..
Moving along to our next possible culprit , a 44-year-old quarryman who inhabited a cottage in the village of Weston along with his wife Susan, guess it’s no surprise to find that his name was Robert Pearce!
…..
Or maybe it was the Robert Pearce who had been born in 1823, making this possible suspect age 40.he was the unmarried son of widow Jane, working…yes, you’ve guessed it, in the quarries.
…..
Carrying on, it could have been the Robert from Chiswell, husband of Mary, he was 36…I won’t even bother saying where he worked!
…..
Being born in 1826, makes our next suspect 35. this Robert was the husband of Kezia, to make a change he was employed as a carpenter.
……
I don’t think it could have been the Robert born in 1836, he had chosen a rather different route to that of his fellow island men, he had become a soldier in the 2nd Life Guards…but then again, maybe he had come home on leave…and was causing a bit of mischief.
…..
Another member of the Robert Pearce appreciation society was the 25-year-old baker, was he littering the streets with his old dough?
…..
Carpentry was also the career for 22-year-old Robert from Weston, son of John and Elizabeth.
…….
Bring in suspect no. 10. this was a lad of 20, who also worked as a carpenter and lived with his extended family at Cove Cottage. He had a brother called John who was 3 years his junior.
….
Another one born that same year was the son of Richard and Elizabeth, he too had a brother named John, but there was a 15 years difference in their ages. True to form, this Robert followed in fathers footsteps working the white stone.

rock strata portland
…..
A year later (1844) in Chiswell, and railway worker Edward Pearce christened his son Robert, this teenager (19) was working the railways like his Dad.
…..
A second Robert Pearce had been christened in 1844, he was the 19-year-old son of Robert and Ann, next door neighbour to the 20-year-old Robert, and like most in that row of houses, he too followed his fellows into the dusty bowels of the quarries.

Seventeen-year-old Robert, son of quarryman Abel and his wife Susanna didn’t disappoint…quarryman!
……
Well…that just about exhausts the list of possible suspects with the first name of Robert and the second of Pearce…

I won’t even begin on who the likely John Pearce’s were…..suffice to say that they, (and the Roberts,) were in all likelihood related in one way or another.
****************************************************************************
The next lot of Portlanders to stand before the fearsome wagging finger of the chairman were four young lads.
Frederick Skinner, 18-year-old Richard Keeping, 17-year-old George Verion, a labourer on the breakwater and William Worden jnr. aged 18 a railway labourer, not a true Portlander because his family were incomers, they had followed the work when the new railway opened up in the area.

book 6 1
These lads were there because Portland inhabitant Henry Stone, ( again another much used Portland name and far too many possibilities to say which one) was getting fed up with these lads ‘congregating and playing before his house.’
The lads, or young men really, were playing ‘cat’ a past time which entailed much lobbing of stones and had resulted in many of Henry’s windows being damaged.
All were fined 1s or one weeks imprisonment.
**************************************************************************
It seems that Portland was certainly a hot bed of mischievousness and misfits, because the next lot hauled in front of the panel were also Portlanders.
Elizabeth Symes was charging Peter Paul, John White Comben and Josiah Beere with damaging a horse trough on the 5th January.
Now this lot weren’t exactly youngsters, or even the sort to be larking around to the point of damaging property, from that we can only assume that they for some reason were frequent visitors to and offenders of some sort misdemeanour at the trough and the bane of Elizabeths life.
Firstly there was a Peter Paul who was 62-years of age and a respectable shop owner, but he also worked as a carter along with his 16-year-old son Peter. Maybe one of them wasn’t too hot with handling the reins and found their cart falling foul of the ladies trough.
John White Comben..hhmmm…despite having a middle name which normally makes researching them easier….there’s more than one possible culprit, with Comben being another of those, how shall I put it…large, prolific, widely spread and fast-breeding families.Most of the possibles were quarry workers.
As for Josiah Beere, well, he was an easy one.
The Beere family were also incomers to the island, and hadn’t yet had chance to get swallowed up into the all consuming Portland Pearce, Comben, Stone family fold.
Josiah was a 26-year-old married man from Devon who lived with his wife Ann down in the Straits, he was a carpenter.
Whatever heinous crime it was that these men had allegedly committed with the said trough, it was enough to get them fines of 1s each, and charged with £3 10s for damages, or choose to enjoy one months detention at her Majesty’s pleasure.
******************************************************************************************************************
A bit of excessive Boxing day revelry had been the undoing of the next chap.
Back in Weymouth, Richard Smith had been out celebrating the festive season…but having overdone it somewhat he found himself incarcerated in the local jail.
Richard had been drinking heavily in the Fisherman’s Arms in Wyke Regis when he became more than a bit feisty and challenged the landlord to a fight. With that, local bobby, Sergeant Pitfield was summonsed to the scene who tried to apprehend the belligerent beer guzzler. Richard, not making the best of decisions at this stage became very abusive, foul language echoed around the pubs walls and out into the street, then he thought it would be a good idea to try to tackle to burly sergeant too.
For his chaotic Christmas capers Richard was fined 5s. and costs.
**************************************************************************
Next under the courts hammer was beer-house keeper Edward Edwards of Wyke Regis.He was charged with permitting card playing with his house on the 17th January.
Forty-two-year-old Edward lived in South Street, Wyke, along with his wife Sarah and their young family.

His learned trade was that of a mason, but needed a way to supplement his family income so he had set himself up as a beer-house keeper. In those days it was fairly easy to do as the Government had relaxed the licensing laws…you had to pay a small fee and then you were entitled to brew beer at home, and throw open your doors to the public.
According to Edward, his defence was that he had only been trading for a few months and din’t know that it was in fact illegal to be gambling in a beer house. According to him, on his perambulations around the booze-brewing homes in the area he had seen card playing regularly.
That was to be no defence for the Wykeite though, he was fined 5s.
Obviously not daunted by the slap on the wrist, Edward went on to become an official landlord, taking over and running the Albert Inn in Wyke.

Snip20140709_9

Here he dwelled with his extensive family for many years, who all at one time or another worked in the busy and popular public house.
Having lost his wife Sarah, Edward spent the last few years of his long life living with his daughter Annie Lovell and her husband in Wyke, where he suddenly dropped down dead while out in the garden.

Consequently, for the last time, in the Spring of 1899, Edward found himself back in the rooms of the Albert Inn, only this time his cold, stiff body was laid out on the table while the inquest was held into his sudden death.
(During the Victorian era, with no actual mortuaries to hold the last remains of victims of crime of suspicious deaths, they were normally removed to the nearest public building…mainly pubs!)
***************************************************************************
We’re back over to Portland again for the next lot of wrong-doers.

William Hardy Samways, a Portland beer-house keeper, had been swindling his customers in order to make a few bob extra, he was fined for selling his eartheware jugs of beer short of their allotted measures…he rather wisely pleaded guilty.
This case was rather odd to say the least really, seeing as William was a Weymouth lad born and bred, and worked as a solicitors clerk for most of life while living in Weymouth from his birth to his last breath….hhmmm!
Call me suspicious, but I wonder if he had been paid a goodly sum to take the rap for someone else?
************************************************************************
A Portland grocer was next on the list, Richard Moore, his crime was to have ‘an unjust weighing machine in his possession.’
Presumably they meant unjust from his poor customers point of view?
***************************************************************************
A good proportion of Portland’s inhabitants must have been in the court that session.
Another beer-house keeper from the island was reprimanded for allowing gambling on his premises. Thirty-seven-year-old John Cox and his wife Mary had opened up their house in Wakeham to the imbibing public’s inhabitants, rather fetchingly named the Delhi Arms, not because of any links with foreign travel as you might think, but because the narrow lane leading from the Straits where they lived was so named.
John stood in the dock and claimed that the cards must have been snuck in without him knowing, not that the panel believed him one iota, his notoriety had gone before him…he was well renown for keeping a disorderly house.

Fined 10s.
****************************************************************************
Two young school girls were next in line, Sarah Lucas and Mary Crispin Stone, (you wouldn’t believe how many of those there were on Portland!). Sarah had been accused of hitting young Mary, it was put down to a mere ‘school girls’ quarrel.’
But sense had prevailed in the court, the two youngsters had been taken out of the courtroom to sort the silly spat out without legal intervention.

JUVENILE MAG 1889girls walking
***************************************************************************
The last man to quake under the courts gaze that day was not even local…but he had been partaking in a spot of local female company, and had left her with more than just happy memories.
Francis Barber, a carpenter who had been staying in the Portland locality and had been working on the major constructions going on in the area at the time. He was originally from Red Hill Surrey, but had moved temporarily to where work was aplenty.

While he was down here, Francis wooed a young local lass, softly whispering sweet promises in her maidenly ears,

QUIVER 1888 MAN WOMAN BEACH

promises he had no intention of keeping. Once the work was gone…so was he!
On the 15th June 1862, Ann Eliza Whittle, a Portland lass had given birth to his illegitimate son, now she wanted Francis to man up and support his child.
The court awarded her 1s a week.
****************************************************************************
it’s surprising who pops up in these columns of weekly news and gossip, if you get the chance, have a read through some of them…but be prepared for finding something you’d rather not have!

 

************************************************************************************************************************************************

Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…

Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Advertisements

One comment on “Misdemeanours and misfits in the Victorian courts; 1863.

  1. My Mother(a Weymouthian) was told that the Toilets on Portland had an extra hole at the rear of the seat to accommadate their tails!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s