Shearsby, 5 February 1880: Alleged stoppage by highwaymen

“The good people of Shearsby have been much alarmed by the following story:- Charles Weston, a youth 18 years of age, in the employ of Mr. John Reed, left this village with a horse and trap early on Thursday evening, the 5th inst. to meet his master at Kibworth Station. He states that at about 7:40, and when between Shearsby and Saddington, he got out of the trap to open a gate, when three men demanded his money. Weston said he was a poor chap, and had got none. They then said they were destitute, and must have some from him. The men allowed him to pass through, and then one attempted to get into the trap. The youth pushed him back with his right hand, which held the whip, but the fellow grasped the whip, and drew it from him, and he managed to get away. Weston states that the men never attempted to rifle his pockets, although he had upon him at that time a watch and some coppers, – P.C. Lee and P.C. White accompanied the youth to the spot where he alleged he met with the highwaymen, and although the ground was quite soft, not a footmark was visible, nor could they ascertain that any three men had been seen together in the vicinity on the previous night. The missing whip was picked up by a little girl on the other side of Saddington on Friday morning. The opinion is that the youth either accidentally dropped the whip and was afraid to pick it up, or that it was a ruse to escape the journey. The police feel that further enquiries are unnecessary.”

From Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, February 14, 1880; pg. 8

By the time the 1881 census was taken Charles had married Emily Price who was from Ashby-de-la-Zouch. They had several children over the next few years and by 1891 was a farmer’s wagoner living in High Street, Shearsby.

They lived in a village where stories of highway robbery were a part of the folk memory, perhaps already commemorated in the association of the nearby John Ball and Jane Ball woods with sites of brigandage, and which reacted with alarm whenever news or rumour reached them.

“England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2014), Emily Price, 1880; from “England & Wales Marriages, 1837-2005,” database, findmypast ( : 2012); citing 1880, quarter 4, vol. 7A, p. 216, Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire, England, General Register Office, Southport, England.

Image taken from page 61 of ‘The Life and Adventures of Dick Clinton, the Masked Highwayman … By the author of “Nat Blake,” “Ned Scarlet,” etc’


Shearsby, 5 January 1856: Richard Goode charged with robbing his father

Court Reporter: I am reporting from the second day of the Leicestershire Lent Assizes held in Leicester Castle on Tuesday 4th March 1856. Richard Goode was charged with breaking and entering a building on the 5th of January 1856 and stealing 52lbs of barley from his father. The barley was said to be worth about 2 shillings.

T. Bell: As the prosecutor in this case, I call John Goode, a farmer of Shearsby, as a witness.

John Goode: I have to confess that the prisoner is my son. Now, by my house in Church Street is a stable, and next to the stable is a barn. On the 4th of January, there was a quantity of just-threshed barley in the barn. Young George Moore had locked up and given me the key. I kept watch that night and around one o’clock I saw Richard pass by me and stand for some little while outside the window. At that, I called Kempin, the parish constable. He lives just a few doors down from me in Church Street. Before I began watching the barn, I had made sure it was locked.

T. Bell: What happened next?

John Goode: When I went to the barn with Kempin I found the door open. There was a bag in the barn containing barley and chaff which had been dug out of the bulk. I also saw a crowbar, which was not one of mine. I did not see my son enter the barn though. Nor did I ever find any of my barley in his possession.

George Kempin: On the morning of the 5th of January I went to John Goode’s barn and found the fastened. This was at about ten o’clock in the morning. I found that there was a large hole in the door-post and through that, I could see Richard Goode putting barley in a bag. I called out “Dick, what are you doing there?” I went round to the back of the barn, but by then he had made his escape. I saw him running away, but could not catch him.

George Kempin: Later that same morning I went round to Richard Goode’s house which is about a quarter of a mile from the barn. I found him there in bed. I searched his house but did not find anything there. I do have this crowbar though, which a young lad named Moore gave me.

Court Reporter: The lad he referred to was 16 year old George Moore from Mill Street, Shearsby; Joseph Moore’s son.

George Moore: When I locked the barn up Friday night there was no bag inside. There was a crowbar by the doorway next morning and that weren’t there Friday night neither.

Superintendent Deakins: I thoroughly examined the premises and found on the barn door a gouge that corresponds exactly to the end of this here crowbar.

Richard Goode: I am out of work these days and that has got me behind with my rent. When that has happened before I have had to go round to my mother’s and she has given me the stuff I need. That is what happened this time too. She said she would give me some barley so I could make a few shillings. Come down at eleven o’clock she said. Well I went down with her to the barn, but I never took any barley away and I never stole any of it.

Court Reporter: The jury found the prisoner guilty. After this verdict, Mr. Noon revealed a previous conviction against the prisoner six years back and that itself followed another conviction for felony. In 1850 he had been sentenced to seven years’ transportation and he is now a ‘ticket-of-leave’ man. The Court now sentenced him to seven years penal servitude.

Superintendent Deakins: Was he the chap I caught ten year ago a-stealing his father’s horse?


The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, March 08, 1856; pg. [1].

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, June 13, 1846

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, May 21, 1853; pg. [1]; [Mary Goode convicted of shoplifting]

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : 30 December 2014, John Goode, 09 Jun 1794); citing SAINT MARY,HINCKLEY,LEICESTER,ENGLAND, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 590,785.

“England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 November 2017), John Goode, Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England; citing Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England, p. 2, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

“England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 November 2017), George Moore in household of Joseph Moore, Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England; citing Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England, p. 6, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

“England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 November 2017), George Kempin, Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England; citing Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England, p. 1, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

Van Dieman’s Land, 16 September 1845: Emanuel Reed disembarks

Emanuel Reed was born in Shearsby and christened in the village church on 2 February 1823. He would have been just over two years old when things outside any control of his happened that haunted him during his life in England. At his trial in Leicester on 4 January 1842 for stealing rabbits his defence made much of the fact that he was the orphan child of parents both of whom came to an untimely end. In brief: “The father had been absent for some time, and on his return found his wife had formed an illicit connection with another man. One day she led him by the side of a canal, and whilst he was in the act of drawing his smockfrock over his shoulders, she took the opportunity to push him into the water; this causing his death, for which she was afterwards executed”.

Emanuel pleaded guilty of stealing two rabbits from Thomas Marvin, at Shearsby and one tame rabbit from Hannah Herbert. The jury was perhaps already familiar with the events that led up to the arrest of Hannah Read and her subsequent trial for the murder of her husband, as with some leniency they ordered that he receive one month’s imprisonment for his crimes.

He had first drawn attention to himself in 1839 after erecting a small hut for himself in a street in Shearsby. The village constable was unhappy with this and brought him before the justices at Harborough. At that time he was described as ‘a young urchin’ (Northampton Mercury, 21 September); ‘a poor boy, who appeared quite destitute’ (Leicester Journal, 20 September) and ‘an idle and dissolute lad’ (Leicestershire Mercury, 14 September). The magistrates heard of his orphan status, his sleeping all night in a self-built small cabin in the town street, his habit of wandering about looking for work where he could find it. They ordered that the constable take him back to Shearsby and find him work and only punish him if he refused to do it.

On the census night of April 1841 he was staying in John Goode’s farmhouse on Back Lane in Shearsby. The work found for him had been sweeping chimneys. In learning this trade he is likely to have come across Thomas Pegg,  another chimney sweeper living in the village.

In September 1843 he was again in trouble with the law being charged under the Vagrant Act with being a rogue, but it was for rabbit stealing again, in Coventry on 3 January 1844 that he received a 7 year sentence of transportation. In Warwickshire his family circumstances would be less sympathetically recalled. He had to wait until the middle of the following year before leaving England.

On 14 June 1845 he set sail on the Marion 2 from Woolwich on the 94 day journey to Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania). He arrived in good health, according to the Marion’s Surgeon Jn. W. Elliott and was measured as 63.25 inches tall (1.6 metres). He said that he could read and write, was single and a protestant and had skills as a fellmonger. His family relationships included b [brothers] Uriah and Bennett, s [sisters] Ann and Mary, but ‘np’ [no parents].

He received a Conditional Pardon in November 1847 and a Free Certificate in February 1852. He married Bridget in Hobart and travelled to Victoria, to the Geelong area. Bridget died in 1874 (probably childbirth related) and Emanuel married Adele Fresse in 1877. He remained in the Geelong area and owned his own farm eventually at Gnawarre.

In 1879 he was called upon to help one of his neighbours whose wife had attempted to commit suicide, and despite Emanuel’s efforts to save her, she eventually died of her wounds.

Emanuel Read died aged 85 in Geelong Hospital, Victoria on 17 August 1902 of heart failure and pneumonia. He is buried in Mount Moriac Cemetery , Victoria.

Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday 14 September 1839; pg. [3];

Leicester Journal (Leicester, England) Friday 20 September 1839; pg. 3

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, January 08, 1842; pg. [2];

Northampton Mercury (Northampton, England), Saturday 23 September 1843; pg 4.

Coventry Standard (Coventry, England), Friday 04 January 1844; pg 4.

The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) Tuesday 23 September 1879; pg 6

Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Victoria, Australia) Monday 22 September 1879; pg3

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : 6 December 2014, Emmanuel Reed, 09 Feb 1823); citing SHEARSBY,LEICESTER,ENGLAND, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 595,767.

Digital Panopticon entry for Emanuel Read

Archives Office of Tasmania. Recommendation for a pardon for Emanuel Reed in 1852.,313,223,F,60

Featured image: South West View of Hobart Town, Van Dieman’s Land; South West View of Hobart Town, Van Dieman’s Land; South West View of Hobart Town, Van Dieman’s Land. Royal Museums Greenwich. In Copyright.

Shearsby, 3 October 1822: The highwayman strikes

Daring attempt at Robbery, – Between six and seven o’clock, on Thursday evening se’nnight, as Mr. John Hidson, grazier, of Mowesly, was returning home he was overtaken by a well-dressed man mounted on a blood horse, who entered into conversation and rode alongside of him till he arrived [at] a gate near Shearsby leading up to his residence, when the stranger, without any notice, struck Mr. H. several severe blows on the arm with a bludgeon. Mr. H. not being prepared with a similar weapon to repel the attack made upon him, rode off at speed, pursued by his assailant till he arrived at another gate, when Mr. H. having intimated to the villain that he had assistance at hand and would have him secured, he turned his horse, and made a hasty retreat. The animal on which the highwayman rode, was in a high state of perspiration, and appeared much fatigued.

From the The Leicester Chronicle,  (Leicester, England), Saturday 12 October 1822; pg. 3

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Leicester Exchange, Friday 14 October 1836: A striking picture of matrimonial disagreement

Court Reporter: The Mayor and Messrs. Brewin, Stokes, Ryley, Oldacres and Paget spent the day examining cases of theft while of unsound mind; drunks throwing bricks; diversion of the contents of an employer’s till; cheese theft; children caught picking pockets and robbery in the context of such depravity as I will not mention here. However, the case that stood out for me was that of Thomas Ward, of Belton, Rutland, who was charged with assaulting his wife, Elizabeth Ward. This was a singular case and one which afforded a striking picture of matrimonial disagreement.

Elizabeth Ward: I was born in Husbands Bosworth, but moved from there some time ago with my father to Belton in Rutland. It was there that I met and married my husband. We had three children, but two of them have died and the other is staying with friends. About five years ago we parted and I have since maintained myself, partly by dress-making and partly by binding shoes. I lived for about three and a half years in Nottingham and about half a year in Shearsby, but since last Christmas I have lodged with Mr. Bates in Redcross Street, Leicester. I was going to Mr. Kinsman’s with some work when I was surprised to encounter my husband. He expressed a wish to come home with me, but I did not want him to know where I lived, as he had molested me before in private dwellings .  So I consented to walk with him as far as the race-course on the London Road. But when we got there he knocked me down, rudely assaulted me and tore my bonnet, gown and undergarments all to shreds.

Mr. Bell of the Granby Toll Bar: Mrs. Ward took refuge in my house. Never in my life have I seen a woman in such a condition. Her clothes were in ribbons from head to foot.

Thomas Ward: It is true that my wife maintains herself, but she is, none the less, a very bad woman. She is a faithless wife, and what’s more, she is intensely irritating. This assault, as she calls it, was not started by me. She first took off her bonnet and started buffeting me with it. Then she began to tear her own clothes and I merely helped her in that.

Elizabeth Ward: It is all lies.

Thomas Ward: I am telling you the truth. She stays away from me only because her conduct has been such that she durst not show her face again in Belton.

The Mayor: Why would she be afraid to go to Belton?

Thomas Ward: She destroyed the life of one of her infants by over-administering laudanum. That is the reason.

The Mayor: Are you aware of the serious nature of the charge that you bring against your wife?

Thomas Ward: Yes, Sir.

The Mayor: Have you ever charged her with the crime before?

Thomas Ward: I have never mentioned it to a soul before, except herself.

Town Clerk: Then, as it is not known to any person in Belton, why would she be afraid to go back? Is there any other cause?

Thomas Ward: Yes, she robbed a wagon on the turnpike-road.

Town Clerk: Was she taken before a Magistrate for the offence?

Thomas Ward: No one ever knew of it but myself!

Town Clerk: Then that could not be the cause of her being afraid to return.

Thomas Ward: Oh she is well known for a loose character in Belton and her conscience troubles her so, she will never be able to stay long anywhere. She is always moving about!

Court Reporter: Mrs Ward treated all her husband’s charges very lightly and declared them to be totally false. It was clear that, though her manner showed no symptoms of insanity, her husband’s incoherent stories indicated either derangement of intellect or the most unscrupulous recklessness.

Mrs Ward: Can you not bind him over to keep the peace?

The Mayor: He clearly has no sureties by which we can hold him to any such promise and I am reluctant to send him to gaol. There is nobody present here to day who can tell us anything about the previous lives and conduct of either party, so we can conclude nothing on the merits of the case. Yet he has assaulted the lady most unjustifiably and for that we shall fine him five shillings and costs. If he is unable to pay he shall go to prison for fourteen days. It seems highly likely to me that we have not heard the last of these goings on.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, October 15, 1836; pg. [2]

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Shearsby, Saturday 17 April 1841: Riot and attempt to rescue a prisoner

John Pallett, the constable for Shearsby in 1841 brought a case to the Lutterworth Petty Sessions on Thursday 6 May, charging James Pawley, William Coleman, Mary Harris and Mary Allen with creating a riot and attempting to rescue a prisoner from his custody.

The previous Saturday he had been at the same court to see Sarah Whitmore committed to a House of correction for three months as a rogue and a vagabond. John Pallett, along with the other two village constables, Richard Messenger and John Wilde, had described her as a woman of loose character,  convicted before as a disorderly person who had left her illegitimate children chargeable to the parish.

On arriving back at Shearsby the constables and their charge had stopped off at a public house. The first such house on their route back from Lutterworth would have been at the Baths, a couple of fields before the village itself. It was during this break that Whitmore requested to be allowed “to retire a few minutes”. Pallett granted this request, but, after some time had elapsed and she had not come back, he went in search of the prisoner and found that she had escaped through the back of the premises. She could just be spotted heading down the street in the company of James Pawley.

John Pallett roused the other two constables and they set off in pursuit, soon re-capturing the escapee. But by now others had gathered around her. the constables described ‘a mob’ which followed the party through some fields until they arrived at a stile where a scuffle broke out and Pallett was struck by William Coleman. The constables were able to carry on into the town street in the village itself, but were followed by the mob, who used exceedingly bad language and were throwing stones (and ‘etc’). One stone thrown by Mary Harris struck John Pallett on the shoulder. Mary Allen and James Pawley were present and encouraging the mob but did not use violence themselves.

William Coleman and Mary Harris were convicted and charged 15s. 3d. each in penalty and costs while James Pawley and Mary Allen were acquitted.

In the 1841 census, James Pawley (30) was found in Hill Street a few doors up from Mary Harris (51). John Pallett (25) was a blacksmith and living on Mill Street. Mary Allen (22) lived in Mill Street. Richard Messenger (25) was a farmer living in Church Street.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, April 24, 1841

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, May 15, 1841

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch ( : 6 December 2014), Sarah Whitmore, 23 Mar 1806; citing SHEARSBY, LEICESTER, ENGLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 595,767

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Shearsby, Tuesday 25 August 1840: Disgraceful attack on four Irish labourers

Trouble was already brewing between the resident agricultural labourers of Shearsby and the visiting Irish by the late Summer of 1840. On Thursday 20 August Thomas Wilson brought a case before the Lutterworth Petty Sessions asking the magistrates to bind some unnamed defendants to ‘keep the peace to all Irishmen that might come to England’.

The following week the magistrate J. A. Arnold, Esq., then presiding over the Lutterworth Petty Sessions, heard that this peace had been already broken in what was reported as a disgraceful attack upon four Irish labourers.

It was Andrew Wilson, a Shearsby farmer, who made the complaint against John Elliott and Thomas Botterill for willfully and maliciously breaking two of his barn doors and two gates. Despite the prejudice perceived to have existed for some time among the local labourers against Irish reapers, Wilson had allowed four reapers to sleep in his barn about half a mile away from his house. One of this group, Thomas Hands, stated that he had been awakened at sometime in the night by several people calling out “Are there any Irishmen here?” and demanding admittance. but the Irishmen refused to open the doors “till they had lost their lives”. At this the defendants said that they should lose their lives then and began a violent attack on the barn doors. Finding that they could not force open the doors they ran to the nearby field gates and broke them down so that they could use the bars as levers. They managed to lift the lower parts of the doors from their hinges and tried again to enter, but were repulsed by the Irish inside, one on each side of the door and armed with forks.

Foiled in this attack, they then began to throw stones at the barn and kept this up for three to four hours, accompanied with the uttering of dreadful threats. Negotiation was their next ploy: “they called to the Irish and told them they were their own masters, and if they would come out they (defendants) would see them safe four miles along the Leicester road, and if they would promise not to come back to this part of the country again no harm should be done to them”. The Irish replied that they just wanted a night’s sleep and would go elsewhere of their own accord next morning and never come back, but that they would not come out of the barn just then, for fear their lives would be sacrificed.

At that point the Rapid coach came by, placing this whole incident somewhere along the Turnpike Road from Leicester to Welford (and onward south to London, about 80 miles south). The besieged Irish called out to the passengers for assistance and at this their attackers disappeared. The Irishmen then made it safely to the house of Mr. Wilson, reaching him a three in the morning.

It was 20 year old Thomas Wilson who was roused and had to deal with the disturbance. He listened to Hands and his account of what had happened and then went with the Irishmen back into the village. There they were able to identify John Elliott and Thomas Botterill, and to the best of Hands’ belief: Samuel Dyson, Daniel Billingham, Robert Wesson and Richard Simons.

At the Petty Sessions, William Fretter said that all of that group had been in his house that night and had drunk a good quantity of beer (which he had needed to bring over especially from Gilmorton, three miles away). When had they left at nine o’clock, he described them as ‘rather mellow’.

Mr. Marsh, the solicitor defending John Elliott and Thomas Botterill, called George Billingham. Elliott had been in his company at Fretter’s until nine o’clock, after which they had returned to the Shearsby, but had not passed within 150 yards of the barn in question. When they reached the village they had gone to Botterill’s house and stayed there until sometime between 11 and 12, after which he had gone home. Mary Billingham corroborated his statement and Jane Botterill, Thomas’ wife, swore that her husband had gone to bed when Elliott left, not leaving the house again until he went to work the next day.

The magistrate was unimpressed by these alibis and fined Elliott and Botterill £1. 7s. 6d., adding that he thought it was a most disgraceful assault. The Shearsby labourers involved do not come out of this story looking well. The trigger for their actions had been the presence of Irish reapers in a largely sheep-grazing parish (and consequently few opportunities for supplementary wages at harvest tine) to which alcoholic beverages had been copiously added. However, framework knitters work long hours and need their wits about them to avoid losing fingers to their machines. Their drinking during the working week may be an indicator of the effects of the economic downturn of the 1840’s, making them workless and wageless knitters.

Thomas Willson was the son of Andrew and Alice Willson and was christened on 3 January 1819 at Shearsby. In the 1841 Census he was found in Knaptoft Fields with his parents and siblings: Arthur, Eliza and Cornelia. Andrew Wilson (christened 1 January 1778 at Shearsby) had married Alice Waples of Husbands Bosworth on 31 Oct 1816.

In the same 1841 Census there was a 60-year-old Thomas Botterill, working as a carrier, in the first house surveyed in Church Street,  Shearsby. John Elliott was recorded as a 25-year-old butcher living in Hill Street, next door to Richard Simons, a 28-year-old Stocking Frame Knitter. Samuel Dyson (25, Agricultural labourer) lived farther up Hill Street. A 3-year-old Eliza Billingham was staying in the house that day, indicating a Dyson-Billingham connection. In fact Daniel Billingham had married a Mary Dyson in Shearsby on 30 January 1837. Robert Weston (28) was recorded living in Mill Street with a wife and two children and working as a Stocking Frame Knitter. There was a William Fretter born in 1814 in Mowsley, something that again points to the action taking place uphill from the village of Shearsby.

The Monthly Chronicle commented later in 1840 that “A greater importation of Irish labourers has taken place this year for the harvest than the oldest inhabitant of Liverpool can remember, in expectation of gaining employment in the Northern, Midland and Southern districts. In this, however, they have been egregiously disappointed… we have seen scores of these poor fellows with blistered feet and scarcely able to crawl… not having obtained a single day’s work in Lancashire, Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire, through all which counties they had in vain ‘padded the hoof’.

Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, August 29, 1840; pg. 3

Coventry Standard (Coventry, England), Friday, September 4, 1840

Image taken from page 155 of ‘Sunlight and Shade. Being poems and pictures of life and nature. Illustrations by F. Barnard, etc

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What next?

Where Thomas Hands and his party come from in Ireland? There is some suggestion that the name is known in Dublin and Monaghan, but that might just be in the singular ‘Hand’ form, with ‘Hands’ more likely in Ulster region.

Shearsby lane, Saturday 30 April 1842: As much or more right to the land

Thomas Read (junior), Samuel Robinson and Jane Botterill were brought before the magistrates at the County Office, on 30 April 1842, charged with committing wilful damage on certain property in Shearsby-lane, belonging to Mr. John Clarke. Just who owned the waste land along the lane was disputed between the defendants, and others who had laid out gardens there, and Mr. Clarke of Peatling Hall. When Mr. Clarke’s men disturbed the gardens and began building a wall the Shearsby residents reacted by pulling it down and throwing the bricks down a nearby well.

The bench (W. Heyrick, J. King and J. Grundy, Esqrs., and the Rev. J.P. Newby) considered that in this case they had no power to adjudicate, being limited by legislation passed in the 24th section of an act passed in the 7th and 8th years of George IV. The defendants had committed the damage under the fair and reasonable supposition that they had as much or more right to the land than Mr. Clarke. A further charge of assault was also dropped against them as it arose from the same incident and it appeared that an unnecessary degree of violence had not been used.

A similar incident had been dealt with a week or two back involving land on the Belgrave lane.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, May 07, 1842; pg. [1];
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Leicester, 10 March 1838: The Triplets and the Imposter

“IMPOSITION EXTRAORDINARY. – The wife of Thomas Weston, of Shearsby, having lately presented to her liege lord three children at one birth, a sad Saddington butcher, named John Peberdy, resolved to profit by the “dispensation”, however hardly it might bear upon the husband of the prolific lady; and forthwith he came to Leicester, and canvassed the pockets of the charitable as “the father of the three children born at Shearsby!” He is a dark-complexioned man, wears crape on his hat; and is dressed in a black waistcoat, and a light coat.”

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, March 10, 1838

The imposter, John Peberdy was, perhaps relying on his victims remembering an earlier report in the newspaper about the wife of a poor man named Weston being delivered of three children back in February. All the children, with the mother, were reported to be doing ‘as well as can be expected’. The newspaper had hoped that “her benevolent neighbours will bestow that assistance that her situation requires”.

On 7 June 1841 the census taker found Thomas and Elizabeth Weston residing in Crown Bank, Shearsby with children Thomas (6), William (4) and Charles (2). William was the surviving member of the triplets born three years previously. Thomas had something in common with his rival, John Perberdy, in that they were both butchers. A further link can be found in man living next door at the Crown Public House and working for Thomas’s father, also Thomas Weston. This was Thomas Peberdy (15), who could well have been the child christened in Saddington on 29 August 1827 and the son of John Peberdy.

Back in the 1830s, when faced with fraudulent claims of this kind the towns-folk of Leicester and villagers of Shearsby did not withdraw their compassion or look to technological solutions to protect themselves. Rather it was with a sense of community that they shared details of who to watch out for, down to the detail of the crape ribbon in the hat, so that no-one would be taken in unawares.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, February 03, 1838

“England and Wales Census, 1851,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 24 July 2016), Thomas Weston, Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England; citing Knaptoft, Leicestershire, England, p. 7, from “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast ( : n.d.); citing PRO HO 107, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey.

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Leicester Exchange, 1 November 1834: Thomas Ross takes on the Truck System. Part 3

Court reporter: Regular readers may remember that Thomas Ross, a woolcomber from Shearsby, has appeared before at the Leicester Petty Sessions. His first appearance however did not go well and is perhaps best passed over. The next week he came again and soberly explained his case against his employer, who, it is alleged, was paying his wages partly in coin and partly by sending goods to him. There has been recent legislation passed by the Legislature (The Truck Act of 1831) again outlawing this practice. It is worth keeping in mind that there are two Mr B’s involved in this case: Mr Bankart, who owns the factory and Mr Barsby, his overseer, whose wife owns the shop at which the goods are purchased.

Today’s hearing is before Alderman Cook and Alderman Brown, with Mr. Macauley representing the defendant.

Alderman Cook: Mr Macauley, how do you wish to proceed in answering the charges against Mr Bankart that we heard last week?

Mr. Colin Campbell Macauley: There were one or two objections that I had thought of taking, but I would rather have the case heard on its merits.

Court reporter: Thomas Ross put forward several circumstances concerned with his employment at Mr S.T. Bankart’s factory. He said he had often complained that the provisions he had to purchase were dear, but was never told that he need not go to Barsby’s shop. In fact he was told that he must go there and knew he would get no further work if he did not. On the 18th of October he was due 8s. 4 1/2 d. but the carrier only brought a few pence to him: 7s. 10 1/2d. had been stopped in payment of a bill due to Barsby for goods.

This is the charge against the defendant.

C.C. Macauley: The case has not been made out. My client is charged with paying wages in goods, whereas the only evidence given was that the witness’s wages have not been paid at all. They have been stopped in payment of a debt to the agent through whose hands they have passed.

Town Clerk: I agree: Ross would be better off entering a summons for non-payment of wages. The case should not go forward.

C.C. Macauley: I have no sinister object in stopping this inquiry. The facts are that Mrs Barsby had carried on the shop in Market Street before he had married her, and that the defendant, Mr Bankart had never had an interest in the shop. If Barsby sent goods to Shearsby for Ross that would save him the trip to Leicester and be altogether to Ross’s convenience.

Town Clerk: Such a practice could clearly be injurious to the men working for you, Mr. Bankart. If you are aware of any influence exerted over your men to purchase their goods at Barsby’ shop, then you are morally, if not legally, guilty of a practice which the Legislature intends to abolish. You ought to free your men from any such influence. It makes no odds whether you personally have an interest in Barsby’s shop.

Mr. Samuel T. Bankart: I was not aware that anything like that was going on at my factory.

Town Clerk: Now that you do know, you must exert your power to stop it.

C.C. Macauley: You are, no doubt, aware that Ross has been turned out of employment for embezzling worsted, but my client would re-employ him if he comes to reside in Leicester, where he can keep an eye on him.

Ross:  That charge has to be proved.

Alderman Cook: You had conversation with Mr Bankart respecting the goods?

Ross: Yes.

Alderamn Cook: That contradicts Mr Bankart’s statement.

Town Clerk: Oh, the man’s word is not to be taken in contradiction of Mr. Bankart’s.

Ross: I’ve repeatedly been told by Mr Bankart that I must have the goods or go without work.

Mr Bankart: That is untrue, I never had a word with him on that subject.

C.C. Macauley: Mr Bankart had no knowledge of Ross’s dealings with Barsby. In fact you could say that Barsby was doing Ross a kindness.

Town Clerk: The kindness, I dare say, was not all on one side.

C.C. Macauley: Barsby trusted him for goods whether he had work or not.

Alderman Cook: I think it would be helpful to hear from other witnesses at this point, especially the Shearsby carrier.

Town Clerk: In my opinion it would be very desirable that Mr. Bankart should take care that his men are not under any compulsion to go to Barsby’s shop. I can’t help thinking that Mr. Bankart knows more than he is saying about the extent to which this sort of thing occurs, and therefore it may be as well to hear further evidence.

Webster [the Shearsby carrier]: Well, yes, I generally took a written list of the things Ross wanted to Barsby’s shop, though sometimes I was charged with a verbal order only. But I don’t deliver Ross’s work. I only take it as far as the Little Crown and a boy takes it on from there. I do recall Ross complaining to me about being overcharged for the goods.

Alderman Cook: Mr. Barsby, what to do have to say in response to Ross’s assertion that he must take goods from your shop or get no work himself?

Mr Barsby: I know of men who have worked two years or more for Mr. Bankart who have never stepped through the door of my shop.

Alderman Cook: You have brought one of these men with you, I take it?

Mr. Barsby: No.

C.C. Macauley: It would have seemed very unlikely that any such evidence would have been necessary.

Town Clerk: Mr. Bankart, I must say again that it is very important that you take care to see your men are paid their wages in money and are left at liberty to spend it were they choose.

C.C. Macauley: You say that, but we have heard here that Ross has been discharged from his employment for embezzlement. In consequence he has immediately gone to the Avenger of all Wrongs: Mr. Moses Pegg.

Court: Laughter.

Alderman Cook: That seems hardly consistent with the statement that Mr. Bankart is willing to employ him if he comes to reside in Leicester.

Alderman Brown: Alderman Cook, I think you will agree with me that Mr. Macauley is in danger of failing to keep his promise to rest his defence solely on the merits of the case, and is relying instead on procedural failings.

C.C. Macauley: I have no wish to take advantage of any informalities in the case being raised, but can hardly be blamed when the case is failing for lack of evidence. The charge was that wages have been paid in goods, of which no proof has been given. The only fact given in evidence is that a certain amount of the wages has not been paid, but has been detained by an agent in discharge of a debt. The case falls then, not on any informality in the way it is put, but for want of proof.

Alderman Cook: The case is dismissed, for lack of evidence to support it.

Ross: What about my wages?

Court reporter: Ross was told that he could demand the wages due to him up to the 18th of October. Shortly afterwards he came back to the court seeking a summons saying that Mr Bankart has refused to pay him.  But he was sent off by Alderman Cook who said Mr. Bankart was not expected to pay him on the spot and that he must apply at the counting-house as usual.

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