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.
James Crute was a chimney sweep but it seems could not resist helping himself to some of his employer’s equipment, which presumably he sold on.
He was on trial at Aylesbury at the beginning of January 1864 charged with stealing a chimney-sweeping machine, valued at £2 and a sack, valued at 6d, from his employer Adam Sherwood, a master Chimney sweep of Wolverton. (I take it that the chimney sweeping machine was the name given to the kit that chimney sweeps used – a circular brush and a set of connecting rods which could be poked up the chimney)
Crute had form. It was revealed at his trial that he had stolen a chimney sweeping machine from a former employer in Northamptonshire and was sentenced to 3 years of penal servitude for that offence. He was released on July 4th 1863 and after only three months of “going straight” stole Sherwood’s machine on October 24th. I assume he had been in custody from that time until his trial.
His sentence was a heavy one: four years, with an exhortation from the Chairman of the magistrates, that on his release he lead a more honest life.
James Crute was a mug. If he was able to sell on each machine at half price, say £1, this would only have represented two weeks wages for an unskilled worker. (Skilled workers in Wolverton Works were earning at least £1 a week in that period.) So for a month’s worth of extra cash he landed himself seven years in prison!
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.