An 18th century robbery

A newspaper report from December 1st 1787.

I haven’t come across the name Eaglestone before and its hard to pinpoint where he might have lived. There were very few houses as such in Wolverton at that date, apart from the Vicarage, Wolverton House and the farmhouses. Eaglestone is associated with none of these places. The Quarry Bridge of the second robbery would have been on the road from Old Stratford to Cosgrove.

On Saturday seven night 9a week ago), about six o’clock in the evening, five villains, disguised in smock frocks, with their faces blackened, &c., attempted to rob the house of Mr. Eaglestone, in the parish of Wolverton, near stony Stratford. Having met with one of Mr Eaglestone’s servants near home, they led him to the house and threatened to murder him if he refused to knock at the door; which being opened by Mr Eaglestone, they rushed in; but fortunately another of his men-servants being within, they attacked the villains, and would certainly have secured them all, but unluckily in the confusion one of the men received a violent blow with a bludgeon from a fellow servant, which almost disabled him, though not before the robbers had got much the worst of it, that they were glad to decamp without their intended booty.

About nine o’clock the same night they entered the house of Thomas Ship, at the Turnpike at Quarry Bridge, near Old Stratford, and stole there about £4 in cash, some wearing apparel, and divers other articles.

News from 1753

This is an extremely gruesome story. I expect that today this would have commandeered several pages in the tabloids but in the Derby Mercury, 19th October 1753, it only merited four lines. The impact was the same.

Last week Elizabeth Robbins, a girl about nineteen years of age, was committed to Reading Gaol, upon her own confession, for the murder of her bastard child at Woolverton, near Stony Stratford, Bucks. She had buried her child in a lay-stall, where it was discovered by a hog’s eating the lower part of the belly.

Murder on the Watling Street

Road travel was quite unsafe in the 18th century. Apart from accidents, there was the ever present risk of robbery. Despite the romance of legend, highway robbery was a thuggish activity, as these reports show.

Northampton Mercury October 1st 1774

On Thursday last, about six in the Morning, was found in the High Road between Shenly and Stony Stratford by two Men going to Work, the Body of one James Wills, a poor industrious Man, most barbarously murdered. He belongs to Woolverton, near Stony Stratford, and had been to a Statute held near Fenny Stratford selling Nuts and Cakes. His head was so terribly beat and bruised by a Slate  of a Stake Rail, that on moving him his Brains dropp’d out. He has left a Wife and seven children. Diligent Search is making after the Murderers.

Northampton Mercury 2nd March 1778

Dennis Ryan, charged on the Oath of Thomas Kelly, with having beat him on the Turnpike-Road, between Shenly and Stony-Stratford, and robbing him of one Guinea, ten Shillings, a few Halfpence, two Farthings and a thread Purse. 

Northampton Mercury Monday 18th August 1783

Last Monday evening, between Nine and Ten o’Clock, as William Haddon of Pisford in this County was travelling between Stony-Stratford and Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, with a Team, he was knock’d down by two Men, who beat him in a cruel Manner, and rifled his Pockets of 8 Guineas and a Half in Gold, between 3 and 4 Pounds in Silver, and his Watch – Makers Name Hemmen.

Newspaper notes from the 18th Century

Here’s a selection of newspaper reports from the later part of the 18th century wen the Northampton Mercury began to publish. This collection is a miscellany of odd notes which show that in many ways human behaviour does not change, although our understanding of it does.

Northampton Mercury Saturday June 23rd 1798

The Malpas family were quite prosperous in Stony Stratford at this time, owning several properties and businesses on the Market Square. This advertisement was placed several times in the paper by William Malpas, presumably to cover himself. I guess there must have been some family quarrel and Joseph had stormed out. there was obviously some worry that young Joseph might collect on a few of his fathers debts to provide himself with some finance.

The Customers of WM. MALPAS of STONY STRATFORD, Bucks, Wine and Brandy Merchant, likewise Pin-maker, are desired not to pay any Money to the Account of the said Wm. MALPAS, to his Son, JOSEPH WILLIAM MALPAS, who has been used to receive for his Father; the said Joseph William Malpas having absconded from his Parents yesterday without Notice.
Dted Stony-Stratford, June 15th, 1798.

Northampton Mercury Saturday 5th April 1788

I assume John Cox was young and probably got carried away with the brilliance of this prank one night. He may not have been alone (moving gates single-handed would be hard) but he seems to have been the one to answer for it. He may have come from a respectable family and his father saw to it and paid the attorney Stamp Garrard to come up with a mechanism that kept his son from a criminal record.

8th MARCH 1788
WHEREAS I JOHN COX, of the Parish of Calverton, in the County of Bucks, Higler, did, in the Night of the 29th Day of January last, take several Gates from the Posts of the neighbouring Fields, and wantonly and mischievously set them up, in the middle of the High Road, leading from Stony-Stratford to Fenny-Stratford in the said County of Bucks, without considering how much I endangered the Lives of Passengers, and the InjurybI might have occasioned to the Horse and Carriages traveling the Road, by this wicked Proceeding, and for which a Prosecition has been commenced against me; but the same has been withdrawn, on my acknowledging the Improprirty of my Conduct. – Now I do hereby most humbly beg Pardon of the Public, for the indiscreet Part I have acted, and hope this full Acknowledgement of my Offence, may prevail on the Humanity of my Prosecutors and the Public, to pardon me, and to believe, that I will not only never againnbe guilty of such wanton and wicked Acts myself, but as far as lies in my Power, most zealously prevent the Commission of them by others.
Witnesses to the Signing by the said John Cox;
Stamp Garrard, Stony Stratford
William Etheridge.

Northampton Mercury Monday 30th March 1772

Arsonists about?

WHEREAS on Saturday evening the 14th. of March, about eight o’clock, a FIRE broke out on the Thatch of a house untenanted in Stony-Stratford, Bucks; and as there is the greatest Reason to believe the said House was wilfully set on Fire, whoever can or will discover the Person or Persons that actually did set Fire to the said House, shall, on Conviction thereof, be paid TEN GUINEAS, by Abraham Chapman, of Stony-Stratford aforesaid, Agent to the Sun Fire Office.

Northampton Mercury Monday 23rd September 1776

James Biddel, colourfully described here as “carbuncle-faced”, enlisted (took the King’s shilling) on September 5th and deserted in Stony Stratford on the 20th. I presume that after 15 days he found the military life much less appealing than it must have seemed on the 5th of September.

DESERTED from Captain Hamilton’s Recruiting-Party, belonging to the 14th Regiment of Foot, at Stony-Stratford, Bucks, on the 20th September, 1776, JAMES BIDDEL, aged 27 Years, five Feet seven Inches 3-qrs. High, swarthy Complexion, lank black Hair, Carbuncle-faced, strait and stout made, born in the Parish of Kingston in the County of Somerset, by Trade a Gardener, insisted at Northampton the 5th inst. had on, when he went away, an old dark-ble Coat, brown Waistcoat, dirty linen Breeches, a new pair of Pumps, and a black silk Handkerchief about his Neck.
Whoever secures the above-said Deserter, in any of His Majesty’s Gaols, and gives Notice thereof to Captain Hamilton, or to Messrs Ross and Gray, Agents to the said regiment, in Conduit Street, London, shall receive TWENTY SHILLINGS, over and above what is allow’d by Act of Parliament for apprehending Deserters.

Northampton Mercury Saturday 4th August 1787

This is one of those really sad and tragic stories that seem to occur in any century. In the 18th century this could only be accounted for by fits of madness (“temporary Phrensies”) without any understudying of the causes.

And on Friday 27th, another Inuisition taken at Stony Stratford, in the said County with the same Coroner, on View the Body of (illegible) Reynolds, an Infant about twelve Months old who was drowned by her Mother in a Bucket of Water. It appears that the Mother (Susannah, the Wife of J. Reynolds, of Stony-Stratford, Labourer) is subject to temporary Phrensies, and has not the Use of Reason at certain Periods. – The Jury brought in their Verdict that the Mother was guilty of the wilful Murder of the Infant, and was accordingly committed to His Majesty’s Gaol at Aylesbury.

Accidents from the 18th Century

Here are some reports of accidents from the 18th century. This is about the time that newspapers started to publish and therefore these stories are a matter of record.

This first accident describes the accidental death of a woman who was riding on one of the horses pulling the coach. This was a common enough practice; in order to take more passengers, people were placed on top of the coach and a light person, such as a woman, could be placed on one of the leading horses. The report doesn’t say why she fell off but it was not uncommon for people to fall asleep on a tiring journey – and this is where the term “drop off” to sleep originates.

On Monday last a young woman on a journey from St. Albans to Cheshire, to see her mother, who was ill, riding a horse belonging to a stage-waggon, fell backward off the horse, between Fenny and Stony Stratford, and the wheels of the wagon running over her, killed her on the spot.
Derby Mercury 1st November 1754

Here is a similar story, with an equally tragic outcome.

Wednesday night was buried one of the outside passengers who fell off one of the early stages that went through the town the preceding morning, and at day break was found dead with his skull fractured; the coachman he went with did not miss him until he came from the next stage, by whom we hear that he was a half pay officer and lived at Stony Stratford.  Stamford Mercury 8th May 1766

And to show that sink holes are not new.

On Thursday last some men digging in a stone-pit, in Whittlebury forest in Northamptonshire, the ground fell in, whereby one was killed and the others much bruised.

An 18th Century Farm House

Despite Christopher Carter’s apparent neglect, which I wrote about yesterday, there was new building in the early years of the Radcliffe Trust’s tenure. Here is a plan for a new house to house Thomas Durrant and his family. From other documents I gather that Durrant was a sheep farmer who leased about 100 acres in “the sheep walks”, on the higher ground above Warren Farm. He also leased Nash Meadow “fore crop” on the north east edge of the manor and 18 acres of “meadow next the house” plus another 3 acres which included an orchard and Holme Close.

It is for this reason that I think this building must have been on the site where Wolverton House is now to be found. We know that Thomas Harrison built onto an existing building whenhe built his large house in the 1780s. It would be interesting to discover how much of the Durrant House (if any) forms part of the present Wolverton House.

The design of the house was a simple rectangle, “48 foot long at the front, 16 foot in width and 18 foot high above the ground.” It is not clear from this description if the height of 18 feet is to the top of the roof or to the eaves. I would guess the former, since the roof would have a high pitch to include space for sleeping quarters above. There were two partitions to provide for a 16 foot square kitchen, a 16 foot square hall in the middle and a 16 foot square parlour. Upstairs there might be an equal number of bedrooms.

Mr. Durrant was paying £91 a year to the Trust and was therefore one of the more prominent people living in Wolverton in those years. If this was middle class accommodation one can make a good guess at the living conditions of the labouring poor.

The estimated cost of this building was £157 6s 7d. To put this figure into perspective the vicar was only paid £30 a year, so the cost of the building was high. Timber, at 1/2d. per foot appears to be a high cost, presumably reflecting the labour of sawing everything by hand, and amounted to about 1/3rd of the total. “Nails and ironwork” adds up to £10 – another high cost. Bricks were used for the chimney and floor; they appear to be relatively cheap. The timber-framed walls were filled with lath and plaster and the roof was thatched.

If this was indeed the forerunner of Wolverton House it is perhaps no surprise that 60 years later Thomas Harrison wanted to build something better for his family. It cost him over £1800 – over ten times the cost of the Durrant House.

Some settlements after 1697

After 1697 the law was changed to a more sensible policy. As can be seen from my last post some of the bonds required were very high and probably prohibitive. But society was developing and freer movement was desirable. Even so there were restrictions. Anyone wishing to move had to have a settlement certificate signed by the churchwardens of the home parish.

Here are some samples from the early 18th century. (SC stands for Settlement Certificate)
The interesting observation here is that people with more specialized skills are moving from farther afield. Richard Cox was a confectioner from London. Anthony Redferne, a victualler, comes from Derbyshire. John Russell, a wheelwright comes from Warwickshire. Some go the other way. Thomas Wilkinson was removed by the parish to St Giles, Cripplegate, presumably from whence he came. There is also a case here (No. 159) where a young woman and child has been moved to Stony Stratford upon a bond of £50 put up by a farmer from Warwickshire. I assume that the child was conceived out of wedlock and may even be the child of the noted Thomas Shiers who wanted the embarrassment out of sight. Something similar may have happened with Elizabeth Knight and child (No 137) who came to Stony Stratford from Nottinghamshire. Possibly she had a relative in Stony Stratford.

120 SHENN Thomas + fam             SC Bloxham             OXF             1712
121 LEACH John, butcher + lam to SSW SC SS East                                     1713
122 BARNS John + w + fam             SC Passenham, Deanshanger NTH             1713
123 CHURCH Thomas + fam             SC SS East             1713
124 COOK Richard, confectioner + fam             SC Savoy LON 1713
125 GLOVER John + w Elesha + John 5, George 1 Y, SC St Andrew Holborn LON 1713
126 COKE John + w + fam             SC Walton             1714
127 FORO John tailor             SC Foleshill, Coventry             1714
128 MEWSE Thomas lab             SC Haversham             1714
129 KEY Thomas victualler + wife to SSW             SC SS East             1714
130 WILKINSON Thomas RO to St Giles Cripplegate MX 1715 
131 SABINE Joshua + w Sarah + Mary, Alice etc SC St James Clerkenwell             1715
132 BROOKS William + wife             SC Towcester NTH             1715
133 EBBS William, butcher, + fam             SC SS East             1715
134 PERRY Richard miller + fam             SC Gayhurst             1716
135 ANCIL Edward miller + fam             SC Castlethorpe             1716
136 IVERY Edmond + w Elizabeth             SC Aylesbury             1717
137 KNIGHT Eliz + child removed themselves from Bramcott to SSWest: SC Bramcott NTT             1716/7
138 STAINTON William + w + chd SC E Claydon             1717
139 HAWKINS Robert RO 9 Jan to Whitchurch confirmed, no appeal1717
140 STEA YENS Hugh, bricklayer + w + Fam             SC Winslow             1717
141 KING George + w + chn             SC Stagsden BDF             1717
142 STUDDS Thomas + w Alice             SC Wootton BDF             1717
143 HUGGINS Wm, lab, + w Anne             SC Wolverton             1718
144 LINNELL Samuel baker + w Hannah             SC Olney             1718
145 REDFERNE Anthony, victualler + fam             SC Tideswell DBY 1718
146 NEWMAN John + w Ann             SC Hanslope             1718
147 ALBRIGHT Elizabeth wid + fam             SC SS East             1718
148 PIN FOLD John, cord winder             SC SS East             1720
149 GOOTRIDGE Wm + w Katherine             SC Cranfield BDF             1720
150 ROBARDS Wm + w Jane + fam             SC Leckhamsted             1720
151 CASE Thomas lab + w Alice             SC Calverton             1721
152 DANIELL William, ropemaker             SC SS East             1721
153 SEABROOK William + wife + fam             SC Castlethorpe             1721
154 GLEN Sarah sp with child             SC Furthoe NTH             1721
155 RUSSELL John, wheelwright + w + chn             SC Samburne WAR 1721
156 BENNETT Isaac, tanner, + Martha             SC Towcester NTH 1722
157 FOWKES Robert, matmaker             SC She ring ton 1722
158 NORMAN Ann wid + s John             SC Gawcott Buck’m 1722
159 SCUFFLING als PHILIPS Ann + female chd BOND by Thomas SHEIRS of
            Bindley WAR farmer + waggoner in £50 to SS                         1722
160 GREY Joseph, lab             SC SS East             1722 

Settlement papers

We take mobility for granted these days, and in recent times it has now become possible to move throughout most of Europe without restriction, but it was not always so. Most of the population were tied to their villages, first by customary rights to land and service to the lord of the manor, and in later centuries through legal restriction. Movement to a new parish was only possible if the new parish was willing to accept you and this usually meant that you had some useful skill that would help the economy of the parish. Most parishes were terrified of incurring the costs of supporting those who became to ill or too old to work. 
Before 1697, men wishing to move to a new parish had to produce a bond of Indemnity to ‘save the parish harmless’ in case they later became poor and in need of relief. This was normally £40, guaranteed by two bondsmen, either relatives or employer. Some of these for Stony Stratford I will reproduce in the next series of posts.
After that date, a settlement certificate from the home parish was required, signed by the churchwardens and overseers and vouched for by witnesses who swore to the signatures. The persons covered were listed and may include (by agreement) apprentices and relatives already living with the family. Other children later born to the man are covered, but not new dependent kin, other than grandchildren whose father had no other settlement.
Settlement was obtained by birth in the parish to a man who was himself legally settled there; by apprenticeship for seven years served to a full term; by hiring on annual contract to a settled employer, serving a full year and receiving the full promised wages. It could also be obtained by renting a house of £10 or more rateable value for a full year, or, less certainly, by paying parish rates on a lesser house for Several years, or by serving as a parish officer for a year.
Married women took their husband’s settlement, but illegitimate children, even of couples later married, belonged to the parish of birth, hence the anxiety to remove pregnant unmarried girls. If the girl belonged to the parish, then the father was traced and made to pay for lying in and maintenance till the child was apprenticed, which usually totalled about £40.
No one could be sent ‘home’ without a formal Removal Order ratified by Quarter Sessions, and the receiving parish could appeal, in which case it was liable for interim maintenance charges and medical bills if the appeal failed. It could also issue a certificate accepting liability for the man and his existing family, usually listed in detail. Earlier certificates also mention ‘his family’, who may not exist but are any future issue born while he is still living on their certificate. Once a man was in a position to buy or rent a house worth over £ 10 a year, he became settled in that parish and his certificate was no longer valid, even if he later fell on hard times.
Stony Stratford was very unusual in having two parishes carved out of parts of two older parishes, Calverton and Wolverton. Originally chapelries of Calverton to the west and Wolverton to the east, built in the fifteenth century to cope with the growth of flourishing inns and shops servicing the coach trade along Watling Street, St Giles church, Stony Stratford West, and St Mary Magdalen, Stony Stratford East, stood less than half a mile apart. St Mary’s church was burnt down in 1742, except for a tower which mouldered slowly; all services thereafter took place in St Giles, which was enlarged to cope in 1776 and again in early Victorian times. The two parish organisations remained fiercely distinct and all connections with the rural mother parishes were severed. Thus we will see situations here where movement from the east side of Stony Stratford to the west, or vice versa, required a settlement certificate or a bond.

The settlement papers, from the 17th and 18th century, give us some clue to the movement of people in rural communities in those days