Crime and Punishment

A historical view of criminals and miscreants, their punishments and their victims in Warmington, Warwickshire

Warwickshire County Council has put on the internet details of individuals tried for crimes in the county through the nineteenth century. A tiny proportion of the crimes were linked with Warmington. I have made no attempt to follow up the cases in Quarter Session records, though further research would be possible. The new web site has prompted me to trawl through the Warmington material I have gathered over several years, looking for crimes and misdemeanours which have come to my notice.

The following is a random, but chronological, account of victims, criminals and punishment.

On a Monday night in February in the year 1382, four men carried out a planned robbery in Warmington. The four men were Richard Lawe of Southam a chaplain, John Whetele a Banbury vintner, John Webbe also of Banbury and probably Whetele’s servant, and Nicholas atte Grene of Balscote. They stole ten marks of silver (£6.13s.4d) and goods valued at six shillings and eight pence, from the home of Philip Harryes in Warmington. No further detail has been traced.

In the early modern period – say from the time of the Reformation until the eighteenth century – crime and its punishment came within the province of both ecclesiastical and civil courts. Ecclesiastical courts dealt with testamentary matters, sexual offences, church absences, swearing, drunkenness, misuse of the church building and churchyard, penance and excommunication, and the licensing of physicians, midwives and schoolmasters. I have not studied the Warwickshire records of these ecclesiastical or ‘bawdy’ courts, as they were sometimes known.

The local civil courts of the early modern period had responsibilities which overlapped with those of the bawdy courts, particularly in the sphere of public morality. Each parish was responsible for its own poor and for maintaining its highways. Failure to meet these obligations was an offence punishable by fine at Quarter sessions. The Justices of the Peace had wide ranging powers and duties in their own area of the county, and at the quarterly sessions of court. The JPs, or magistrates, for this part of Warwickshire tended to be drawn from the Holbech family of Farnborough, the Mordaunts of Walton, the Newshams of Chadshunt, the Bentleys of Kineton and, by the nineteenth century, from the Bolton Kings of Chadshunt and the Perrys of Avon Dassett.

Records of the Warwickshire Quarter Sessions were published by an enlightened County Council in the 1930s. It is from these publications that the next instances of crime in Warmington are drawn.

In the seventeenth century it was a crime if one did not conform to the religion of the state – there are instances in this area of nonconformists, both Roman Catholic and Quaker, who were particularly and repeatedly penalised for adherence to their faith. The Ralegh family of Farnborough, owners of the manor for many generations, adhered to the ‘old faith’, while a scatter of Quakers from local villages held Meetings in Radway. The Compton Census of 1676 shows that of all Warmington adults, 114 were conformists, none were Papists and four were Quaker. The Warmington Quakers are believed to have been the Enock family of Arlescote and some members of the Judd family of Warmington who married into the Enock family.

Many of the Warmington entries in the Quarter Session record books of the seventeenth century relate to neglect by residents of their duty to maintain the highways through the parish, for which collectively they were repeatedly fined. Several named residents from time to time stopped up, dug up or partly enclosed the various highways. Some of the yeomen farmers such as the Claridges, Enocks, Burrows and Judds were fined for such activities.

Among the more colourful crimes and incidents are the following. In 1640, Thomas Perkins, a blacksmith who was also parish constable, was indicted and fined for assaulting Ezekiel Huggins. Ezekiel was a tailor, and founding father of a dynasty of land owning farmers in the parish.

A later Thomas Perkins, son of the blacksmith constable, had two leather halters, value 10d. stolen from him by a Warmington labourer, John Sanderson, in 1681. Sanderson confessed to the theft and was flogged.

In 1687, Charles Judd a Warmington yeoman was indicted for stopping up a watercourse leading to the town well. Today the remains of this well can be seen on Chapel Street – the spring water flowed through the “scutch yard”, where the Judds retted their flax, to flow on, somewhat contaminated no doubt, to other users lower in the village.

During the Civil War period, the most prominent of Warmington citizens was its rector, Richard Wooton. He deserted his parish, where he spent little time anyway, long before the Edge Hill battle, gathering troops and horses for the Parliamentarian cause. He is supposed to have been imprisoned for a time in Warwick Castle, by his fellow partisans, for ravishing the Lady Verney’s maid. However that may have been, he was certainly in trouble with the civil authorities in 1647 for non-payment of rates. How’s this for character assassination?

“Mr Wooton, vicar of Warmington, whose tithes and glebelands are worth £100/16/- per annum, is a man of that refractory and perverse condition that he refuseth to pay his proportionate part of all levies with the rest of the inhabitants and parishioners of the parish there and yet supplieth not the care being elsewhere beneficed, and hireth one for £13 per annum or thereabouts to do his duty.”

Thirty two years later, in 1679, the then rector, John Wooton, believed to have been son of the aforesaid Richard, was in trouble for just the same offence. This passage is worth quoting at length, as it also helps to illustrate how rates levied on parishes were used to finance expenditure in the county.

“ORDER  On information on behalf of the present and late constables of Warmington parish, that John Wootton, clerk, rector there, refuses to pay his proportion of several levies and assessments there made and to be collected by the constables, under pretence of exemption from such payments in respect of privileges alleged by him to belong to the clergy. ……….. The court orders Mr Wootton to pay for his glebe and tithes in the parish of Warmington all his arrears of levies there made for the raising of money for the repair of county bridges, the maintenance of the county militia, damages recovered for robberies, the conveyance and legal relief of rogues and vagabonds, the maintenance of the house of correction, the relief of poor prisoners in the King’s Bench and Marshalsay, maimed soldiers and mariners, and of felon prisoners in the county gaol, and he is to continue the payment of his proportion of such levies for the future, in default whereof any of the next Justices is desired to bind him over to the then next Sessions to answer his refusal.”

Continuing our review of crimes and misdemeanours appearing in the QS record books, in 1692, Thomas Knight, lord of the manor, was reported for obstructing the poor law overseers in their duty. The overseers wished to place Joyce Waring, a poor widow with three children, in one of the three cottages standing together in Warmington usually inhabited by the poor. If Knight were to continue to obstruct them, he was to be bound over by the nearest JP for contempt of court. (The cottages were on land belonging to the lord of the manor, then or later known as Little London).

Three years later in 1695, three Warmington residents, William and Robert Draper and their sister Katherine Draper were indicted for a riot and assault upon the rector, Gilbert Wharton. They were bound over in the sum of £20 to appear at the next sessions. Presumably they were found guilty, for the next mention of the Drapers is that they were ‘discharged from prison’. The Drapers were a long-established Warmington farming family, with an impressive memorial in the church, though this has long since vanished. The cause of their dispute with the newly arrived rector is unknown, but Gilbert Wharton did not stay long in Warmington. He was rector only from 1694 to 1697.

Another case of around that time concerned a man called William Gifford. In 1696 he was languishing in Warwick gaol because he had threatened to run away and leave his children a charge on the parish. The court decided he should be turned over to the house of correction, until he guaranteed to maintain them. The parish register shows details of William’s numerous progeny. His wife’s first two pregnancies resulted in twins! The couple had ten children in all, although several died in infancy. Mary was probably expecting her eighth child when William was taken to prison.

Moving forward in time to the nineteenth century, I have among my papers a few entries for misdemeanours in the early years of that century. In 1812 Elizabeth Dilling, a single woman, was begging in Warmington. The then Poor Law overseers, Ezekiell Judd and Thomas Wady, took her to the nearest JP, William Holbech of Farnborough. Elizabeth and her bastard daughter were sent to the house of correction in Warwick. In bastardy cases it was the responsibility of the overseers to ensure, if they could, that the child would not become a charge on the parish. They would ascertain the father’s name and secure maintenance from him. It was also an offence to harbour a pregnant single woman.

Ann Greenaway was a persistent offender and a number of bastardy orders were issued naming her, with another Warmington resident Thomas Beesley as the father, during the 1820s and 1830s. Thomas Beesley was a married man with a simultaneously growing legitimate family. His wife, Sarah, eventually left him and moved into another house in the village. A certain piquancy is added to this tale as Sarah was also the village midwife ……

To obtain a licence, a midwife had to be recommended by matrons who had personally experienced her skill. The minister of the parish had to support her application and certify that she was a member of the Church of England and that her conversation and way of life rendered her suitable. Midwives had an important part to play with single mothers: they were required under oath to question the girl rigourously, withholding assistance until the last moment, to force a reluctant girl to name the man concerned.

In 1813 the overseers had a rather different case on their hands. Sarah Alliband’s husband, William, was a prisoner in Warwick gaol. The overseers carted off poor Sarah and her two babies to Bishop’s Itchington, thinking that the overseers there would provide for them. For some reason they had to bring them back to Warmington, where they were received ‘as our parishioners’. Sarah Alliband spent the rest of her long life in Warmington, but it was possibly a troubled one during her husband’s lifetime, for he was in prison on at least one further occasion. William Alliband was a dealer. In 1837 he was charged with stealing a smockfrock belonging to a Martin Miles of Drayton. Held in Banbury gaol overnight, he was transferred next day to Oxford for trial.

It is easier in some instances to discover the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators. In the 1830s and 1840s John Castle of Warmington plied his carrier’s cart back and forth between Warmington and the market town of Banbury. In November 1830, his cart was robbed near the Duke of Wellington public house in Neithrop by a man called Webb.

In 1834, three Neithrop men were arrested for robbing Wilkins of Warmington near the Drayton Hand Post. They were committed to Oxford by the Broughton JP, the Revd C F Wyatt. Thomas Wilkins, the man who was robbed, was a tailor with a young family.

In 1836 Isaac Cockbill of Warmington spent one night in Banbury gaol on suspicion of injuring some calves belonging to Mr Huggins of Warmington. Mr Huggins owned Hill Farm, later known as Ironstone Farm.

In 1843 Thomas Cockbill of Warmington, a pig dealer and grocer living in School Lane, brought a charge against Robert Taylor of Banbury, for assault by riding against him and trying to ride over him. While on bail awaiting trial, Taylor committed a violent assault on a Mr Fowler of the Red Lion Hotel. On Taylor’s behalf his friends set up a plea of insanity. The surgeon’s evidence did not prove insanity – Taylor only showed insanity for some days, after he had been drinking to excess. Taylor was removed to Oxford and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

These last few offences occurred in Oxfordshire and therefore appear in Oxford records. But what of offences committed in the village itself? The following cases are drawn from the new Warwickshire website. In 1826 a youth of 19, Alfred Allibone was accused, but acquitted by Warwickshire Quarter Sessions, of poaching at Warmington. Setting traps for rabbits etc., was a customary side-occupation for many agricultural labourers at that time. Even when work was available, their wages were inadequate to feed their families.

In 1847 Richard Herbert, aged 53 was accused of theft from Samuel Huggins of Warmington, but was discharged. Richard continued to live in Warmington as an agricultural labourer. He had probably worked on the Huggins’ farm – Richard’s first wife, daughter, and stepdaughter had all died twenty years earlier in a typhus epidemic brought into the village by Mr Huggins’ waggoner.

In the same year, 1847, William White 22, Michael Deverell 20 and James Hall 27 were all found guilty and sentenced to four months hard labour for a theft from William Wyatt. William Wyatt was a farmer, wheelwright and publican, carrying on his various trades with the help of several sons at what is now called the Wobbly Wheel.

In 1874 a man called Robert Ayres claimed to be a victim in Warmington, of a theft by Mary Ann Mullis, an illiterate woman. The case was not proved and Mary Ann was discharged. (This is the only mention of these two characters in Warmington records!)

The records show two cases of sacrilege in Warmington, one in 1839 or 1840, and one in 1880. Details are scanty. Information for the earlier case is drawn from the churchwardens’ accounts and involved the vestry in a good deal of expense. William Curtis the tenant farmer of Grove Farm was churchwarden at the time and William Harrison was rector. Two persons, unnamed, were prosecuted. The Banbury Police Force had been established three years earlier in 1836, with William Thompson as its first Superintendent. The churchwardens accounts show ‘£2 paid to Thompson, Police Officer’. £10.5s.10d was paid to Messrs Walford and Beesley, Attorneys, for conducting the prosecution. A further £2 was paid (presumably to Curtis or Harrison) for four days’ attendance at Oxford.

This case has long intrigued me but my enquiries at Oxfordshire Archives some years ago drew a blank. It seems somewhat curious that the accused were not brought to trial either in the diocese, or in the county, where the offence was committed. Recently, further details of this case have come to light. More

The second case of sacrilege occurred forty years later in 1879, shortly after William Taylor became rector. The details on the web site are again tantalisingly brief, although more could be discovered from the Quarter Sessions record. A semiliterate man, Samuel Croley aged forty and a tailor by trade, was sentenced to six months’ hard labour for the offence. Two years later, the 1881 census shows he was an inmate of Winson Green Prison in Birmingham, in which city he had been born.

A few years later in 1897 the rector again had a problem when he, and his housekeeper, Miss Elizabeth Kaye, were the victims. A young servant of 16 attempted arson and theft at the Rectory. Nothing is known about the servant girl Emily Pearce, except her name and age. Every other report I have had of parson Taylor and Miss Kaye suggests that they were kindly people and good employers.

The last of the Warmington cases listed in the Warwickshire web site is a sad affair in 1900, when a 14 year old Arlescote lad stood trial for manslaughter. The Warmington parish register records that on 1st May that year William Plummer, a 50 year old bachelor, was buried and that he had been accidentally shot by John Hale, a boy with a toy pistol. Hale stood trial and was discharged. He had been born in Grinstead where he and his younger brother had attended school, before their admission to the Warmington Board School (Warmington School Admissions’ Register). John’s brother, born in the year of Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, rejoiced in the name of Arthur James Jubilee Hale. When the brothers were eight and ten years of age, their father, also John Hale, took employment in Arlescote as a coachman, presumably with the Misses Loveday. After only three years in post, the father died, some four years before the unhappy affair with the ‘toy’ pistol. The Hales seem to have left the parish shortly afterwards, for they were not here when the 1901 census was taken.

The cases listed here between 1826 and 1900 on the Warwickshire web site could be more fully investigated at the Warwick Record Office. Similarly the Banbury cases could be pursued at the Oxfordshire Archives. More conveniently perhaps, many of the cases would have been reported in the press. Copies of the Banbury Guardian and Banbury Advertiser are available on microfilm at the Banbury Library. But I very much doubt if anyone could discover where the house of Philip Harryes stood, that house which was feloniously broken into on a Monday night in February in 1382.