More Demeanours

How’s this for punishment? Four years penal servitude for Daniel Chedzoy in 1860 for “stealing a sack and two knives, the property of his master, John House of Stoke St Gregory.”


Six years later Mark Brown got ten weeks hard labour for shooting a gun at Henry Betty. Betty was on the tow path on the Curload side of the Tone, and his assailant had been on the opposite bank somewhere between Turkey and Athelney.


In 1864, Robert Musgrove was in trouble. Robert, age 22, pleaded guilty to stealing “three teaspoons and a box of dominoes, the property of Charles Boobier Garland . . . was sentenced to nine months hard labour." Only just back from his penal servitude, thirty six year old Daniel Chedzoy was now convicted of stealing three geese and was sentenced to to 12 months imprisonment. Daniel was luckier four years later, when he was accused of stealing 6s worth of parsnips from George Blagg. This time he was acquitted.


It wasn’t only the labouring classes that fell foul of the law, as is shown by this piece in the Bridgwater Mercury in September 1871: AN INDEPENDENT MAN COMMITTED - At the Taunton police court on Monday last, Charles Hembrow, a man of independent means, farmimg a little estate of his own, was charged with stealing a goose, the property of Mt Henry Lockyer, farmer, Stoke St Gregory. On Saturday night two policemen” [Can you imagine - two policemen wandering round Stoke on a Saturday night?] “met the prisoner near Mr Lockyer’s and on turning on their lamps he threw something over the hedge. They searched and found a bag, containing a goose, which Mr Lockyer proved to be his. The prisoner acknowledged knocking down the goose, having no intention of stealing it; but when he found he had killed it he thought he might as well carry it home. When taken into custody he had £1 12s in his possession. He was committed for trial, bail being accepted for his appearance.”


You didn't have to steal to get in trouble. In May 1890, the Exeter Free Press reported that Henry Betty of Stoke St Gregory had pleaded guilty of allowing his cows wander on the highway. He was ordered to pay costs of 5s 1d.


In November 1890, Henry Hearne, stone haulier of Stoke St Gregory, went to the County Court to complain that Edward Humphry, gentleman farmer of Isle Abbott had sold him a mare that was a ‘quidder’. The Bristol Mercury reported that that he was trying to recover, “the sum of £10 as damage, in respect to an alleged breach of warranty on the sale of a mare. . . The mare was sold for the sum of £6 17s 6d, for the purpose of hauling stones on the road. The plaintiff found that the mare was what is known as a ‘quidder’, that is that the nerves of the face were paralysed, so that she could not masticate her food, which fell from her mouth almost as fast as she put it in.” This was a jury trial, which found in favour of Hearne the haulier.

By the middle of the next century, the police were obviously still active on our village lanes. This is just one of many snippets that appear in the newspapers regarding riding bicycles without lights. This is from 1947: