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More Demeanours   

New - Click HERE - 26/02/23 Trouble @ Chapel

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:


New - 26/02/23

A Constable Hides in Hay Rick - Nothing gets past PC Sparks


The former Jubilee Baptist Chapel sits on the southern side of the road to Stoke St Gregory, just up from the Stathe Road junction. It was built in 1887 (the nearer building in the picture). The extension to the east is the Sunday School building and was built in 1928 - three years before this dreadful incident was recorded in the local paper.

   The former chapel is now private property, but the exterior can be viewed from the public road.

From the Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser - Wednesday 14 January 1931:


Four Stoke St Gregory lads were charged at Taunton County Sessions on Saturday with causing annoyance to persons attending Stathe Baptist chapel . . . The youths were: Herbert Cox, Wallace Pope, Wilfred Loveridge and Jack Keirle. Cox and another lad. Leslie Harding, of Stoke St. Gregory, were also charged with persistently singing near the entrance to the place of worship in such a manner as to cause annoyance. All the lads pleaded not guilty and were dealt with together. P.C. Sparks said that in consequence of a written complaint received from the Rev. Watson, he went to Stathe in plain clothes on Sunday evening. About 5.45 he hid in a hay rick. The service commenced but at ten minutes past six four lads approached from Stathe corner. Outside the chapel two of them started skylarking with a girl and one remarked “If you want the girl, take her." The young lady then went into the chapel and the four lads started jumping on the steps leading to the porch . . . One of the youths then started singing "When it's Springtime in the Rockies." [A lovely song by Gene Autry - Click HERE] The service was over about 7.36 and on coming outside Loveridge started singing one of the hymns which had been sung in chapel, in a manner which P.C. Sparks thought was mocking. Before chapel Cox and the lad Harding had been smoking, and coming out after the service Cox started again. . . Harding alone made a statement to the justices. He said "We were not singing songs or smoking when they were singing hymns in the chapel." Mr. Wyndham (presiding magistrate) announcing the decision of the Bench to bind each lad over for six months in the sum of £5. Each youth was also ordered pay 4s costs.


NOTE: In AD 1233, there had been a chapel, dedicated to St James, near this site, licensed to the chaplain of Lady Matilda for her lifetime. In early Victorian times the Somerset Archaeological Proceedings reported that "there is a field at Stathe called Chaplehay, on this site was an ancient chapel standing, and bodies were there interred." In 1840 the field was known as Pound Close, although there is no indication of where the Stathe Pound was situated. The site of the future chapel was the garden of a cottage occupied by Anthony Culverwell and owned by Mathew Langdon.

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