Leicester Exchange, 28 October 1834: Thomas Ross takes on the Truck System. Part 2

Moses Pegg and Thomas Ross were not deterred by their failure to pursue their case of payment by truck the previous week and returned, sober, to the Leicester Petty Sessions  on 28 October 1834. Pegg got in first with information against two or three sellers of squibs and crackers sold to his agents and therefore liable to a penalty of £5. However his main purpose that day was to support Ross in his claim.

Ross took the stand and stated that when he had applied for work in 1831 Barsby, the foreman, had said that he kept a shop for his employer Bankart. Barsby enquired whether Ross was a married man and would he take part of his wages in goods. Ross agreed to this, took the job and was regularly paid in both goods and coin until the 18th of October when he was stopped seven shillings and ten pence ha’penny from his wages. Alderman Brown asked if Ross were that much in debt and was he making this complaint because the money was stopped. Ross agreed that this was the case and further explained that all the goods he could get from the shop were provided at a higher price than was available to him elsewhere. His regular purchases there were bread higher by a penny a loaf, coffee by a penny an ounce, tea by three halfpence and butter by four pence ha’penny a pound.

The Magistrates checked back on the legislation and found two possible remedies where payment in kind could be shown to have taken place. The first was to fine any employer making use of the practice; the second to summon the employer and recover the amount paid in goods. In this case both were applied for: the first by Ross and the second by Pegg.

However, that day the Magistrates were not prepared to decide the case, calling for ‘the proper particulars to be ascertained’ before they could decide on a response to Ross’s case. Pegg underlined the consequences of payment by truck which he said was common among bag hosiers and a great injury both to the workman and to honest shop-keepers.

It was to be another week before the case could be heard again.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, November 01, 1834

Leicester Exchange, 21 October 1834: Thomas Ross takes on the Truck System. Part 1

Thomas Ross was born in Shearsby and christened in the village church on 24 April 1796. He and most of his family worked in the wool trade, usually specifically with worsted, in Leicestershire, with the exception of younger brother George who emigrated to America for a time. Thomas had married Grace Peet of Countesthorpe in September 1815 and in 1834 had two children Grace, aged 10 and James, aged 4.

Moses Stephen Pegg was born in Leicester and christened on 28 May 1794. He was not a mere ‘informer’, he claimed, but an Inspector of Hawker’s Licenses. However, he acknowledged that this was “an Irish sinecure: all work and no pay”. He did receive a share in all the penalties from cases he brought forward, though “not more than paid his expenses and compensated him for the anxiety of mind he suffered in discharge of his duties”. He frequently gets a mention in the court reports of the Leicester Chronicle in the 1830s. A possible relative, Thomas Pegg, lived in Shearsby in 1841.

Bankart & Co. were worsted spinners based in Westbridge, Leicester. They made an appearance in Pigot and co.’s national commercial directory for 1828-9. Samuel T. Bankart was born in 1792 in Leicester and in 1851 was living as ‘a gentleman’ in Gaddesby, Leicestershire. There are memorials to members of the Bankart family in the St. Mary de Castro church in the Leicester Castle precinct.

The Truck Act 1831 was a pioneering piece of British employment law, setting the trend towards later Victorian labour law. Section 3 required that: “The entire amount of the wages earned by.. any artificer.. shall be actually paid to such artificer in the current coin of this realm.” Payment by truck is traditionally seen as an abuse of labour, taking the form of the payment of wages in goods rather than coin. This was a practice prevalent especially in the hand-made nail trade in the Black Country; Framework-knitting in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire and hand-loom weaving in Gloucestershire (Hilton, 1958). Since the goods taken could be overvalued or be of reduced quality it was unfair individually and as it made wage comparisons impossible it was unfair collectively too. However, it has been argued (Tan, 2006) that a system where credit was extended to workers was mutually beneficial.

The Petty Sessions were held by the county magistrates in the Assembly Rooms on Hotel in Leicester on Saturdays.

On Tuesday 21 October 1834 it was Moses Pegg taking the initiative in a case against T. Bankart, as owner of Bankart & Co., on a charge of paying one of his workmen, Thomas Ross, in goods rather than cash. He said that Ross had been compelled to take goods from the shop of Bankart’s overlooker Mr. Barsby of Market Street. The Magistrates refused to let the case go forward without evidence that Bankart himself paid his workmen in goods, or that he had an interest in Barsby’s business.

Ross came forward at that point to make his case, but had not got beyond half a dozen words when the magistrates stopped him, asking him to leave the room and return, if he chose, when sober.

He did so the following week.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, April 07, 1832

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, October 25, 1834

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, November 01, 1834

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, November 08, 1834

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NP7Q-22V : 30 December 2014), Thos. Ross, 24 Apr 1796; citing SHEARSBY, LEICESTER, ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 585,287.

Banks, S (2014) Informal Justice in England and Wales, 1760-1914, Boydell & Brewer, Suffolk. p.118. http://bit.ly/2m9MtKo

Truck Act 1831 (1976). The Modern Law Review, 39, pp. 101.

Hilton, G.W. (1958) The Truck Act of 1831. The Economic History Review, 10 (3), pp. 470.

Tan, Elaine S. (2006) Regulating Wages in Kind: Theory and Evidence from Britain. Journal of Law, Economics and  organisation; 22 (2): 442-458. doi: 10.1093/jleo/ewj013

Shearsby, 21 December 1836: St. Thomas’s Day distribution of coals for the poor

The Parliamentary papers of 1839 list the various charities across the county of Leicestershire providing for the relief of the poor. The account for the parish of Shearsby notes two such charities and the efforts those responsible for them were making to ensure that their efforts would be, in our terms, sustainable.
Both the charities of John Seale and Simon Ward started out with a capital of 30 pounds each, with the interest to be distributed to the poor of the parish at set times of the year. Seale’s Charity provided coals on St. Thomas’s day, appropriately the shortest day of the year; while Ward’s charity gave out bread on Christmas day.

Some 50 years before 1839 Seale’s charity had evolved to provide ongoing and practical help for the housing needs of the parish. Three tenements had been built, sharing one roof and a small garden at the entrance to the village from the Leicester road. By 1836 these were in bad repair, but had been bringing in a rent of £1 10s a year. It was this rental charge that had been used to buy the coal distributed each December by the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor, with a preference for the most aged and widows. However the tenants had recently been given notice to quit and the charge increased to a fair annual rent of £3 per year.

Ward’s Charity had followed a similar path in 1832. £20 had been spent on the purchase of a house and carpenter’s shop in the lane leading to the Old Crown pub. An additional £4 0s 2d had been spent on legal expenses and 9s on journeys to Lutterworth to arrange the purchase. The balance of £5 10s 10d was retained by the parish at 5% interest. From the interest on the capital and the rent from the carpenter’s shop the charity gained the £1 10s it distributed as bread on Christmas day. The plan was to charge £1 10s as rent so that the charity could keep up its commitments.

Great Britain. Commissioners Appointed to Enquire concerning Charities in England and Wales. (1839) The reports of the Commissioners Appointed in pursuance of Various Acts of Parliament, to Enquire concerning Charities in England and Wales [Leicester]


I found this information searching through the digitised books through the HathiTrust Digital Library. I am sure there are more interesting nuggets to be found there.

Nigel Walker has also found and transcribed the same report on the Shearsby charities and added his thoughts on the Shearsby parish history group site. The formation of the Lutterworth Poor Law Union in December 1835 would have had an impact on the continuation of the village charities.

Walton Road, 20 May 1893: A fatal accident

When William Henry Read set off that Saturday morning on his usual round, he must have been hoping for more luck with his horse. He had had several accidents with other horses recently and this one was known to be highly mettled, with a strong dislike for the whip. The route took him as far as Rugby and back through Lutterworth: over fifteen miles each way. He had ten-year old Bertie Clowes along for company.

They had started home from Rugby with a large load at around five o’clock, stopping off at the King’s Arms in Lutterworth and the Dog and Gun at Walton. While they were on the stretch between Walton and Shearsby Read whipped the horse and it sprang forward suddenly. He had been standing on the footboard, leaning on the load and the jolt caused him to fall head first out of the cart.

Bertie Clowes managed to stop the horse and tried to speak to Read, but got no answer. As there was no-one else around he drove the cart himself on to the village to seek for help.

In the mean time a cyclist from Leicester, Thomas Haines, on his way between Walton and Bruntingthorpe, encountered Read lying at the side of the road. He turned the body over but found that him to be dead.

At the inquest held in Bruntingthorpe the following Tuesday, a Mr. R. Steele, surgeon from Peatling Magna, stated his opinion that death was instantaneous, resulting from a dislocation of the spine. The deceased, it was said, had not had too much to drink, the horse had not shied and the load had not slipped. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death.

In 1891 William Henry Read had been living with his uncle, Thomas W. Read, a fellmonger and his wife Zillah on Back Lane, along with their 1 year old son John, his 80-year old grandmother Hannah and Matilda Palmer, a domestic servant from Walton. Bertie Clowes lived with his father William, a fellmonger’s labourer on the Bank.

Although alcohol was dismissed as a factor in this case, the suspicion that Shearsby carriers made too many stops at inns along their routes was well founded. The previous year another local labourer had been fined for being drunk in charge of his cart and crashing it into another on the road near Great Wigston (Wigston Magna).

Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, May 27, 1893; pg. 3;

Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, January 16, 1892

German Town, Philadelphia, 1831: A caution to runaways

George Ross had been placed in charge of the wool-combing and worsted-spinning business in Countesthorpe owned by his father Thomas and brother William Ross. In August 1827 George was found to have disappeared, along with (in all probability) a sizeable part of the funds of the business. William Ross ensured that news of his brother’s flight was put onto the front page of the Leicester Chronicle,  with mention of a handsome reward for any information that would lead to his discovery.

Though his father and uncles all came from Oadby, George had been born in the village of Shearsby and christened in the ancient church of St. Mary Magdalen on 14 November 1800. His father Thomas Ross was born  in 1768 and married his mother Frances Pebberdy in Shearsby on 6 April 1795. William Ross was born in 1772, Neal, born in 1791 and Samuel in 1804. Frances (‘Fanny’) Ross had not lived beyond 40 and died in January 1806. Uncle William Ross had died in February 1825.

No more was heard of George for a long while, and that might have remained the case, had it not been for another Leicestershire runaway: Thomas Shipley. He had been the ‘confidential traveller’ of a Mr. Overton, hosier, and had absconded with a sum of money belonging to his employer. He had, however, been tracked to America, arrested there and compelled to restore the greater part of the missing money. This international legal success had been orchestrated by the Leicester solicitors Messrs. Harris and Payne Johnson. They had sent their man, Bickling, over to America to identify Shipley and with the help of the American Consul brought him to justice. Over £700 had been returned, mostly from Shipley’s account in the Savings Bank. It would have been more, had not Shipley nervously thrown £100 into the sea on leaving England (at least, that’s what he told Bickling).

Not only was this achieved, but Bickling was able to report back on other Leicestershire abscondees. Shipley had been found in the home of Westbury Hill, also apparently from Countesthorpe, who had recently left behind a string of creditors there. He was one of a group of thirty or forty Leicestershire natives in the Philadelphia area alone. Among them were Poole and Jones and a fellow from Shearsby called Ross.

Messrs. Harris and Payne Johnson wanted readers of local newspapers to hear of their success in this matter and to understand that their experience was available for any other clients who had experienced losses in this manner. A piece entitled ‘a caution to runaways’ was printed in the Leicester Chronicle and re-printed in other newspapers in the Midlands.

By 1851 George Ross was back in Leicester, living in Craven Street with his other uncle, Neale and older brother William, both working as a wool-sorters.

Further research

How does worsted differ from other woollens?

What would George Ross’s life had been like in Philadelphia in the 1830s?


The Sheffield Independent, and Yorkshire and Derbyshire Advertiser (Sheffield, England), Saturday, August 06, 1831; Issue 537

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, August 11, 1827; pg. [1]; Issue 872

Marriage of Thomas Ross and Frances Pebberdy. “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NJVL-MY6 : 10 December 2014), Thomas Ross and Frances Pebberdy, 06 Apr 1795; citing Shearsby, Leicester, England, reference V3; FHL microfilm 952,297.

Birth of George Ross. “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NYRK-435 : 30 December 2014), George Ross, 14 Nov 1800; citing SHEARSBY,LEICESTER,ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 585,287.

Ross in the 1851 Census. “England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SGFG-MZY : 24 July 2016), George Ross in household of Neale Ross, St Margarets, Leicestershire, England; citing St Margarets, Leicestershire, England, p. 10, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

Shearsby, 1846: A village in a pleasant valley

William White’s History, Gazetteer and Directory of Leicestershire was published in Sheffield in 1846 at 12s. for subscribers or 13s. 6d. if they wanted the calfskin binding and the map. Its pages contain a snapshot of the village at this, almost mid-century, point. The principal inhabitants are listed in alphabetical order with their occupations and there is brief outline of the main attractions of the village for travellers.

The village was said to be situated in a pleasant valley near to the Leicester and Welford road. The waters of the Shearsby Spa at the Baths Inn were claimed to be long held in repute for their medicinal properties, but the proportions of soda, sulphate of magnesia, lime, atmospheric air and other traces are listed for those in doubt.

The church (St. Mary Magdalen) was described as a long, low and ancient structure, though the tower, with its four bells, had been rebuilt in 1789.

Concern for the poor of the village had been expressed by the provision of four small tenements purchased  from the estates of Simon Ward and John Seale, with £60 set aside for distributions of bread. The tenements were let out and raised £4. 10s. a year. An Oddfellows Lodge meeting in the New Inn ran 13 acres of garden allotments, easing pressure on the otherwise landless poor.

The lands of the chapelry had been enclosed in 1773, with current Rector Rev. James Tindall enjoying the proceeds of 212 acres in Shearsby. The Duke of Rutland, as Lord of the Manor of Knaptoft, owned some of the land, but the majority was shared between W.K and T.Walker, William Reeve and William Ward.

Tenant farmers included Thomas Blockley, Thomas Brown, John Freer, John Goode, Richard Messenger, C. Palmer and Christina Walker. The carriers, Thomas Bottrill and Ann Robinson, made trips to Leicester on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Education was looked after by schoolmistress Mary Green, schoolmaster William Simons and Miss Sarah Weston, who ran a boarding school.

Of the inns and taverns there was Henry Morris, also a cattle dealer, at the Old Crown; William Reeve at The Baths; Robert Burdett farmed and looked after the New Inn; and Richard Elliott Bottrill, (himself a tallow chandler) at the Chandler’s Arms.

Other occupations were represented by Mary Ann Brown, milliner; Laxton Darnell, miller and baker; Edward Harris, blacksmith; Richard Heighton, wheelwright; John Herbert, bricklayer; George Kampin, carpenter; John and Thomas Read, fellmongers; Moore Smart, framework knitter; John Williams, shopkeeper; John Elliott and William Vyce were butchers; Thomas Bonser and Joseph Moore were tailors; Thomas Archer, Thomas Hunt and Henry Robinson the shoemakers and the two cowkeepers were Robert Chance and William Elliott.

White, William (1846) History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Leicestershire, and the Small County of Rutland.. Sheffield, Robert Leader. [Online] https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=c2MRAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 27 February 2017

Featured image: Ordnance Survey 1835 [online] http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~249280~5516242:63–Lutterworth,-Leicester,-SE-Quad?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=q:leicester;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=8&trs=24

Further research

Does the 1841 census for the village give any clues about where the people mentioned here lived?



Croisilles, France, 25 July 1917: William Clowes killed in action

Croisilles is a village about 13 kilometres south-east of Arras. The British Cemetery lies off a track, approximately 300 metres long, to the south-east of the village on the road to Ecoust-St-Mein/St Leger. It is there that Shearsby-born William Clowes was buried after falling caualty during the fight to defend the trenches around the village on 25th July 1917.

William was serving as a 40 year old private in the 7th Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment. The regimental war diary for that date records night-time patrols aiming to catch the enemy out mending gaps in their wire. On the night William was killed there were two others wounded.

William was the son of William Clowes the fellmonger and his wife Millicent. Back in 1901 he had been working with his father, brother Bertie and sister Annie in the fellmongering trade. In the 1891 Census the family are recorded as living on the Bank, perhaps next door to the Old Crown.

Further research

How can the centenary of the death of William Clowes be best marked in the village in July 2017?

How does the action at Croisilles fit into the wider context of the Flanders campaign in 1917?

Image: By John Warwick Brooke – This is photograph Q 5238 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums (collection no. 1900-13), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2439185

Shearsby, 1835: An Analysis and Compendium of all the Returns made to Parliament

There had been a growing interest and government sponsored activity in producing statistical account of the population of the United Kingdom. This was eventually to culminate in the series of once-a-decade censuses from 1841 onwards. In 1835 an attempt was made to summarise what had been learnt since the start of the century for 6000 towns and parishes in England and Wales. This report has been digitised and made available online as a part of the UK Medical Heritage Library.

Shearsby’s entry in the statistical tables appears on page 168 and covers the area in acres for the parish; the annual value of the property, based on the 1815 property tax; the amount expended for maintenance of the poor in 1828-29 and the population in the parish for 1801, 1811, 1821 and 1831. The village is marked as having a curate to look after church affairs.

Area in acres 1815 property tax amount Maintenance of the poor in 1828-29 Population in 1801 Population in 1811 Population in 1821 Population in 1831
780 £1,961 £270 249 260 310 354


Royal College Of Surgeons Of England (1835). An analysis and compendium of all the returns made to Parliament, since the commencement of the 19th century, relating to the increase of population, and the amount and appropriation of the parochial assessments, tithes, &c. [online] URL: https://data.ukmhl.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ukmhl-b22297029&terms=shearsby&pageTerms=shearsby&pageId=ukmhl-b22297029-1 Accessed 26/01/2017

Further Research

How did the village compare with its neighbouring communities at this time? Did the population continue to show a increse in the following series of national censuses from 1841 onwards?

Shearsby, 1327: Contributors to the Lay Subsidy

Shearsby as a whole contributed 34 shillings to the amount collected for Leicestershire in 1327. Those who paid the tax were:

Name Amount
Will’mo de Charnells 2sh. 9d
Isolda le Veer 3sh.
Laur’nc’ Capll’o 3sh. 6d
Jon’ne de Peatlyng’ 2sh.
Clement’ q’ fuit’ ux’ Galfr’ Danteloc’ 2sh.
Rob’to Bonde 2sh. 6d
Joh’ne de Knapetoft’ 3sh.
Joh’ne Abouenyekyrke 2sh. 6d
Joh’ne Steyn 2sh.
Rob’to de Blaby 2sh.
Will’mo de Wylughby 18d
Henr’ Donword 18d
Rog’o Heyrm 12d
Johne Crownere 2sh.

William de Charnells held a Manor in Shearsby of the fee of Marmyon.

Image: By Numisantica (http://www.numisantica.com/) [CC BY-SA 3.0 nl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Leicester Assizes: August 3, 1825. The trial of Hannah Read

Court Reporter: I attend the courts and my reports are circulated in the newspapers of Oxford, Derby, Worcester and elsewhere. My pieces can be curtailed or extended depending on my readers’ taste for the sensational.

Judge: Mr Goulburn.

Mr. Goulburn: Your Honour, I would like to state the facts of this case. The deceased had been a soldier in the late wars, serving in Royal Wagon Train that made such a name for itself during the battle of Waterloo. At the time of his death he was in receipt of a small pension from the Chelsea Hospital. He had been married to the prisoner for between eight and nine years; but in consequence of mutual disagreements they had lived apart for two years before March last. The deceased, however, hearing that his wife had formed an adulterous connection with one Waterfield, by whom she had a child, insisted on her quitting that man, and again living with hm. To this she complied, but at the same time threatening that she would do for her husband. I am obliged to call the attention of the jury to this fact, because the proof of the crime alleged against the prisoner is wholly of a circumstantial nature. Therefore it is necessary in investigating this crime to take into consideration the whole of her conduct before and after the death of her husband.

Judge: Circumstantial?

Mr Goulburn: Yes, Your Honour. To this end I call my first witness, Thomas Read, the brother of the deceased.

Thomas Read: It was back on the sixth of March this year when my brother took his wife to live with him again. She had been living in Sheepshead with a man named Jonathan Waterfield and had had a child, which she did not blush to confess was his. On her return, though, Hannah behaved badly towards James, to the point were I confronted and remonstrated with her, threatening to have her brought here, Your Honour, for her misbehaviour.

Judge: You did, did you?

Thomas Read: On the Monday following, the twenty-first of April, she again left my brother, but I was able find her and bring her back to him. At twelve o’clock that day she sent for her husband to go with her to Foxton to visit her relative ther. It would be a journey of about seven miles. The last time I saw my brother was as he left Shearsby to go with his wife to that place. By six o’clock the same evening Hannah had returned and called for me. She told me that her husband had run away from her mad. When I asked her what she meant by that she said:

Hannah Read: “When we got below Gumley, Jem began to dance and jump about as if he were mad; then he damned and swore, and fell onto the grass, and tore it up with his hands. After that, he jumped up and ran as hard as he could towards Debdale-wharf. I went to the bridge but could only look after him.”

Thomas Read: “Why did you not alarm the people in the neighbourhood?”

Hannah Read: “I was too much frightened to do so.”

Thomas Read: “Hannah, I fear you have pushed my poor brother into the navigation, and have drowned him there.”

Hannah Read: “Good Lord, Master, we were never within a closes’s breadth of the navigation.”

Thomas Read: I then called upon the new constable in the village to keep her in custody while gathered people together to assist me in searching for my brother. The following morning, as I was engaged in dredging the canal, I pulled up my brother’s corpse from a bridge near Foxton. I said to Hannah, who was there with me at the time, that the body appeared to be bruised.

Hannah Read: “If there are any bruises, he made them himself, for he tumbled down along the towing path as if he were mad.”

Thomas Read: This seemed contrary to what she had told me on the previous evening. She told me afterwards that he had tumbled into the canal, about eighty yards from the bridge, and that she had held his hat out to try to save him.

Mr. Goulburn. Thank you, you may stand down. I now call upon James Alney, the constable at Sheepshead, to tell us what happened when the deceased went there to recover his wife.

James Alney: I went with a man from Shearsby to the house of one Jane Wright. Upon my knocking on the door and asking if Hannah Read and John Waterfield were in the house, Hannah put ther head out of the window and called back inside to Waterfield.

Hannah Read: “O Lord, John, here is Jem come back!”

James Alney: The man from Shearsby insisted on her going back with him.

Hannah Read: “If I do, I won’t live with you; I would sooner murder you.”

James Alney: Then she threw a wooden weaver’s bobbin, as big as my arm, at her husband in the street.

Mr. Goulburn: Mary Gamble.

Mary Gamble: Hannah came to me that Monday, before she and James set off for Foxton, telling me that her husband had insisted on her living with him, but that she was against this and had said:

Hannah Read: “Damn him, I’ll do for him.”

Elizabeth Whitmore: I was there when Mr. Read was endeavouring to persuade his wife to live quietly with him, heard her say:

Hannah Read: “Damn you, I’ll never live with you; I’ll finish you between this and Monday night.”

Ann Robinson: Hannah Read came to my house on the evening when her husband was drowned, and told me that he had run off mad towards Gumley. I told her “You will be guarded until your husband is found, dead or alive. People think you have drowned him; and if you have, you are sure to be hanged.” She said:

Hannah Read: “Nobody saw me drown him; and therefore no one can swear against against me”.

Mr. Goulburn: I call Robert Johnson, boatman.

Robert Johnson: I saw two people on that Monday afternoon near the bridge at Foxton. There was a man wearing a smock-frock, and a woman, who had a child in her arms, wore a red gown. The next day I was helping to drag the canal, and pulled out the body of the dead man. When found, his right hand was still in his breeches pocket. I believe the man we pulled out of the canal was the same as the one I had seen the previous evening.

Mr. Goulburn: Call back witness Read!

Thomas Read: When I saw them leave the village, they were dressed as Johnson described. And the place where Johnson saw them was in the opposite direction to where Hannah said they had been going.

Court Reporter: Another witness proved that that they were dressed in the manner described, and that they were seen near the lock. Then the Coroner Mr. Meredith Esq. was called:

Charles Meredith: I have here an examination of the prisoner..

The Judge: Which I will not hear read. I don’t agree with this practice of taking confessions from people in my gaols and producing them on their trial. Let people speak for themselves, I say. What can you tell about the body you were asked to look at?

Charles Meredith: The deceased met his end by drowning.

Court Reporter: The prisoner, who during the examination of the witnesses she had frequently contradicted their statements and was now called upon for her defence. She roused herself from a sort of stupor into which she had fallen, and in a low voice and wild manner protested that she was wholly innocent of the charge made against her. She described her husband’s conduct to have been frantic, and inexplicable, and that he had left her suddenly and fallen into the river.

The Judge: Members of the Jury, you have heard the testimony of several witness against the prisoner, and yet all the evidence is merely circumstantial. I urge you to consider this evidence with the most scrupulous attention, giving the prisoner the benefit of your doubts, if any should arise, concerning her guilt.

Court Reporter: After deliberating a quarter of an hour, the jury pronounced a verdict of..

Foreman: Guilty.

Court Reporter: The learned judge’s placing the black cap upon his head aroused her again from stupor, but when he addressed her by name she responded by a frantic shriek of melancholy fear and horror. She continually interrupted him by such appeals as:

Hannah Read: Save me! Oh, save me! For God’s sake, do not hang me! Oh save me for the sake of my six children, and my baby of six months old!

The Judge: Execution to take place next Friday morning. Afterwards her body to be taken down and  sent to the Infirmary for the benefit of the anatomists.

Image: Rainbow Bridge by Fred Jackson. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Some rights reserved