RE-OPENING MONDAY, 17th MAY !
by Ed Grimsdale
William John Stevens was a 24 year old, Buckingham man who had returned to his hometown after a spell in London that had ‘not improved his morals’. Bill was a short tailor who worked for the draper Mrs Sarah Ladd who also owned The Buckingham Advertiser. Bill dressed nattily yet Buckingham lasses did not regard him as a prize catch. Bill lived with his father in Nelson Street. Their immediate neighbour was Mrs Elizabeth Leeson, a laundress and a member of the Wesleyans. Mrs Leeson had two daughters, the younger was Anne or Annie who was a pretty 18 year old. Annie returned home at weekends but during the week she was a servant of Mr James Uff, a single man who ran a grocery and butcher’s shop in what is now the Spar shop further along Nelson Street. Annie was a playful and lively girl who chatted and flirted as young girls are wont to do. Bill Stevens misread her intentions and sent Annie two expensive Valentines to press his suit in February, 1864. Bill told his fellow tailors of his passion for Annie; they relayed back to him that she treated his attachment as more of a joke than a serious affair as she didn’t reciprocate his feelings. Stevens raged with jealousy at the sight of Annie giggling and gossiping with his colleagues. About a week later Stevens bought a razor and told his workmates of his intention to cut, threaten or ‘do for’ Annie. We don’t know what Stevens said at home but his moodiness caused his father to confiscate and lock up the weapon. Sadly, Bill recovered it. What happened next was described graphically in the County Assizes later in the year.
The case started with a moment of levity as a thirteen year old witness, Robert Woolhead, was being cross-examined. Counsel was checking that Robert understood what the gravity of speaking under oath, so he asked Robert “and suppose you did tell a lie, what would be done to you.” “I should be put in gaol, Sir.” The Judge intervened and asked Counsel to establish what the boy thought would happen after his death. Counsel tried again … “ some day you will die and if you tell lies here what will happen to you?” “I shall go to gaol, again.” Counsel & Judge realised that they were beating their heads against the stone walls of Buckingham’s [Old] Gaol and so they accepted that Robert understood that serious retribution would follow if falsehoods were spoken under oath.
Robert reported that some time after 5pm on Saturday 24th February, 1864 he was proceeding out of town along Nelson Street when he saw Annie Stevens collecting water from a pump opposite the churchyard. He followed her - well, she was pretty- and she left the pail outside her mother’s house. A little later, she came out, picked up her bucket of water and headed towards Mr Uff’s. Stevens ran after her from the house next door. Woolhead was at the end of Norton Place when Stevens caught up with Annie outside of the house on the corner of Tingewick Rd. He went on to describe how Stevens put his arm around Annie’s neck and drew something around her throat and she yelled, “Murder!” Stevens ran back to Norton Place and Annie stumbled across the road towards her employer’s shop.
Mr Uff took up the story. “I was in my shop that evening when she presented herself to me at the counter with outstretched arms and her throat cut most dreadfully. She did not say anything. . Her throat had hardly begun bleeding. … I ran round the counter, caught her, and took her into the back room, and held her there until she expired.”
Cross-examined, James Uff added, “I know the prisoner. I had heard that he was very fond of the deceased… I have never seen him with her further than their being at the door together.”
Elizabeth, Annie’s sister, was next on the stand. “Three or four minutes after [her sister had left], I heard a noise in the passage, as if someone had fallen down. I thought the prisoner had got hold of my sister, and I immediately went out and found William John Stevens lying on the stones… He was bleeding very much and appeared nearly dead. My sister and the prisoner kept company together. He said he as very fond of her, and I believe from his manner in saying so that such was the case.|”
PC Humphrey Ray of Buckingham Borough Police produced a razor in Court that had been given to him by “the prisoner’s mother on the 27th February 1864. The razor was covered in blood, and was snatched by Mrs Stevens as the prisoner was lying in the [Norton] passage with his throat cut…. I was employed to watch him. I have heard him say many times over ‘My dear Annie, how could I do it; how could I do it?’”
Witness Finch said to Stevens, in front of PC Ray, “Bill, where did you do it?”
Stevens had replied, “Against Mrs Spicer’s. [Mrs Spicer lived in the corner house, then a shop, between Nelson Street and Tingewick Rd]. I spoke as civil to her as a man could speak, and she wouldn’t speak to me, but swung about, and then I done it.”
Mr. Robert Death [later De’Ath!] surgeon, said, “I am practising at Buckingham. [His oractice was in Weet Streetwhere his son Dr. Geirge De’Ath wascto build Hamilton House] On the evening of the 27th Feb. I saw the body of Ann Leeson, and also the prisoner at the bar. I first saw the prisoner. He was lying in a pool of blood… he had a long wound in his throat. (The prisoner was nearly at death’s door.) I attended him and he recovered under my direction… I saw the body of the deceased, Ann Leeson, at Mr Uff’s house. I found a cut in her throat… it extended from one ear to the other and severed all the muscles and major vessels. I consider that was the cause of death.”
[Stevens was initially too weak to be moved from his father’s house. Throughout his incarceration, Stevens was reluctant to eat or to drink Later, he became a prisoner in Buckingham’s [Old] Gaol for several months and was attended in his cell night and day by two nurses and two police officers, lest he be tempted, again, to resort to suicide. Apparently, Stevens showed little or no remorse and he refused to see his mother whom he blamed for all that had happened to him. During his family’s farewell visit, Stevens physically attacked his mother and the warders had to separate them and escort her from the Old Gaol.]
The Judge, in refusing a plea of manslaughter, counselled, “…the evidence would not justify the jury in reducing the crime to one of manslaughter. It would be dreadful if it did so – that because a woman refused a man who was not acceptable to her she should be punished by death.”
After an absence of only 15 minutes, the Grand Jury containing many local gentry returned with a verdict: “GUILTY.”
The Judge assumed his black cap and passed sentence of death for wilful murder ‘in an impressive manner”. We are told that the prisoner was removed to the cells ‘apparently less affected than many who were present in Court’.
The wretched Stevens was the last person to be hanged outside Aylesbury Gaol. The scaffold was built high above the main entrance, and on Friday, August 5th 1864 a crowd of some three thousand people, mainly women and young girls, gathered on a bright, sunlit morning. Stevens, who had earlier joined in loudly in his own funeral service, averted his gaze from the onlookers and muttered “God Help Me,” and went quietly to his fate supervised by the expert hangman, Calcraft. The behaviour of the crowd differed greatly from the ribaldry and jesting that accompanied most city executions, the people of Aylesbury Vale were quiet and reverent; one eye witness said that “the scene was of a very solemn character”. Later, Stevens’ body was cut down and buried within the grounds of the Gaol.
Stevens’ appalling crime of passion happened nearly 150 years ago but the affair rumbles on in that part of Prebend End that is the University of Buckingham. Stevens, we are told, discussed his fate whilst in Buckingham Gaol and said that he greatly feared being hanged and buried in lime in Aylesbury Gaol. He cursed his slow recovery under the great Dr De’Ath, he’d have preferred to die, a suicide, in Norton Place and thence to live with his Annie in heaven. Poor dreamer.
Some University dons believe that Annie, or the spirit of Annie, remains imprisoned in her mother’s house: no. 28 Nelson St.. Buckingham University uses the house as temporary lodgings for visiting lecturers. They report hearing footsteps, sensing movement, feeling a female presence, and are unsettled feeling that they are never alone in the house. The house, especially the ground floor, is so oppressive that many people cannot remain in it for long. Whether one believes in ghosts, there’s no doubt that the ghastly crime of the wretched Stevens continues to haunt this old part of Buckingham.
The Escape of John Westley From Buckingham Gaol
culled from the Bucks Herald 16th January, 1864 by Ed.
On Saturday morning last, as a man was passing by the Borough Gaol, about seven o’clock, he observed a rope hanging from the top of the building. He at once informed Mr Giles, the governor [from 1839 to 1866], who on going to search for his customer – for he had but one inmate – found he was non est. The prisoner’s name was John Westley and he had been incarcerated for a month in consequence of absconding with the union [Buckingham Workhouse] clothing. [Earlier, at his trial, Westley had been described as known to Buckingham folk as a cadger*.]
His time for being set at liberty was on the following day but it appears that the county police were waiting to receive him on account of some little affair at Hillesden. He had whilst in gaol been set to cut and pick oakum*, and concealed sufficient of this with which to make a ladder and a long rope. With the former he got from the roof to the top of the gaol, and with the latter he let himself down into the street. It appears that the cell door was unlocked. [!] He has got clean away, and no trace has been found of his whereabouts. He bore a very bad character in the town.
In Victorian society, cadger meant a serial scrounger, a local, importuning beggar who probably covered his tracks by assuming the guise of a hawker. Perhaps we can catch a glimpse of John Westley in Mary Kendall’s poem “The Ballad of the Cadger” (1887):
Remember the old hawker
With Trumpery tin ware,
Brooches and pins, and medals
Containing the Lord’s Prayer?
For an ideal vagrant
He would not be one’s choice.
He had a leer rapacious
And a discordant voice.
‘Philanthropy, they call it
Is all the rage,’ said he,
‘But bless your ‘art, the gentry
‘Ud never look at me.’
‘They wants a blooming orphan,
Blue eyes and yaller curls,
Or they wants a wasted wider,
Or half-starved girls.’
And then the pallid curate,
Knowing a sign sufficed,
Said, ‘Raise your hand, my brother
If you believe in Christ.’
Then over the hawker’s features
A smile of cunning broke,
And his hands seemed groping after
The medals as he spoke:
‘The Bulwarks of Religion,
Penny complete, all there!
Together on a farthing,
The Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.’
[Hugh Brown had published an evangelical hymn called Bulwarks of Protestantism in 1868.]
Oakum was tarred fibre used in shipbuilding for packing the joints of timbers in wooden vessels, and later, the deck planking of iron and steel ships. Picking oakum was one of the most common forms of hard labour in Victorian prisons. Prisoners were given quantities of the gritty, tarred rope, which they had to untwist into corkscrew coils. Cutting the oakum was done to create approximately 9inch lengths, in an attempt to inhibit prisoners from accumulating lengths of material that could easily be turned back into [escape] ropes. They then had to take individual coils and unroll them, usually by rolling them on their knee using their hands until the mesh became loose. It was a dull, sticky, unpleasant task that left the prisoners’ hands sore, raw and open to infections.
Thomas Dandy had been in post for about a decade when he died either in late August or early September, 1831. We know of his activities through three or four pieces in local newspapers.
One of these told the tale of his life being saved by a prisoner. That prisoner was Thomas Lovelady the “squire” of a group of strolling gamblers Strolling gamblers were akin to strolling players, both repeating their acts in front of fresh, innocent audiences. The group had been apprehended in Buckingham and Lovelady, as the gang’s leader, was given three months imprisonment in Dandy’s Gaol. About a month into his sentence, Lovelady was in the Gaol’s yard with another prisoner, a soldier in the 58th regiment who had been arrested whilst drunk and quarrelsome. One day, as Gaoler Dandy entered the exercise yard, the soldier ran at him with a pitchfork. There was no way of escape, we’re told, but the “squire” made a “sudden spring of several yards” and tore the pitchfork from the soldier’s hands just as he was about to plunge it into Dandy’s chest. Dandy reported to the Magistrates that Lovelady had saved his life. The Squire was immediately released, two months early.September, 1831.
The following year Dandy had refused Mrs White permission to speak to her husband, William, who was in Dandy’s Gaol awaiting trial on a charge of attempting to murder with a “paddle” James Cadd , note his surname that remains so common in N.Bucks. Cadd was the Duke of Buckingham’s Gamekeeper in Hillesden. A paddle, by the way, was a local name for a bill-hook specially designed to cut thistles. Although Cadd had suffered no more than a cut on his forearm, things were looking bad for White and he was facing a possible capital sentence. Mrs Dandy bumped into a drawn, cold Mrs White just after the Gaoler had refused permission for Mrs White to meet her husband. Mrs Dandy felt sorry for the distraught lady, and took her into the Gaoler’s room to warm up. A little later, Mrs Dandy opened a window that overlooked the Prisoners’ exercise yard, enabling Mr and Mrs White to exchange a few words. Mrs Dandy heard where White had hidden his paddle weapon whilst William was whispering to his wife. No doubt, Mrs Dandy felt burdened by the tale for she confessed to her husband what she had done, and what White had told his wife. Thomas Dandy wasted no time but rushed on his horse to Hillesden where he found the bloodied weapon wrapped in straw and carefully concealed. Did the story have a happy ending? Well, the Judge told the jury that if they thought that White had attacked Cadd with the intention of killing him, they must find him guilty of attempted murder. The Jury did so but recommended mercy as White, on Cadd’s testimony, had never been a poacher and Cadd had earlier threatened to kill William’s working dog, Loo Loo. William White was spared capital punishment.
Things were not always “neat and Dandy” for our esteemed Gaoler. Forward to May, 1829 and Dandy was on a nice, little earner: conveying two prisoners to Aylesbury Gaol. The men were poachers caught in the act of casting a net into a “river” to catch fish near to Stowe House. They had been sentenced to two months in The County Gaol by the Reverend Coker. Dandy put Cross and Mends in the back of his cart and drove off on a bright, summery morning. No doubt, as was usual practice, the men were covered with tarpaulins to avoid prying eyes and coarse comments. With a cheery, polite “Good Day, Mr Dandy,” Cross, who had already quietly slipped over the back of the cart, was away, vaulting a gate as he raced, successfully, to freedom. Meanwhile, Mends, too timid to join his chum, stayed and, probably, saved Dandy’s bacon.The story I like best about our intrepid Dandy happened in January, 1826 and was reported in the Windsor and Eton Express. Dandy popped to Winslow in his gig to apprehend a young man suspected of fathering an illegitimate child. The arrest caused no concern but Dandy had an appalling return journey to Buckingham Gaol. Firstly, his gig ran over a young, innocent girl, breaking her arm. Dandy was probably badly shaken and he hadn’t gone much further when his gig collided with another driven by farmer Worley. The farmer and his daughter were thrown out but neither was badly hurt. Their gig, however, was seriously damaged. Dandy was thrown from his gig, and was, we’re told “punished for his carelessness” by suffering a broken collar-bone. OUCH! Wasn’t it kind of the young suspect to help each victim in turn back into their gigs? Well, you can judge for yourselves, for he didn’t climb aboard Dandy’s battered gig, but ran and ran and ran! I guess Thomas had a bone to pick with him.
Whatever the ups and downs in Dandy’s uneven career as Gaoler his obituary suggests that his own family, or local well-wishers, thought highly of him for the announcement termed Thomas as the GOVERNOR of Buckingham Gaol, quite a lofty expression for the poorly paid, part-time Gaoler of a small borough’s lock-up.
The Old Gaol Museum Trust continues to uncover incredible material specific to the lives and tales of those who were imprisoned in or who worked at Buckingham Old Gaol.
Tales of murder, tragedy, injustice and repression will be revealed as will instances of daring escapes, forced labour and police brutality.
As the DNA of the Old Gaol, these tales will be given tremendous focus in the coming weeks and months, and we look forward to presenting them to you.
Following the success of our 2018 summer exhibition, 'Dippers, Drunks & Poachers' find more information on former inmates of the Old Gaol within the museum. Ask one of our friendly volunteers for more information as you enter.
From the Bucks Herald 11.12.1841
BUCKINGHAM. The crime of Poaching is still on the increase in this neighbourhood, but there are certain cases with which one cannot but commiserate. A lad, who is an apprentice to Mr. Freeman, the blacksmith, of Gawcott, left his master’s service, and went with William.Merry to fetch some pigs: in passing along the Stratford road, they met the carter of Mr. Neal, of Thornborough-Mill, with his master’s team. He told them, that a little farther along the road, they would see a hare in a snare; they did see one —were so foolish to take it out—and were caught in the fact; the lad sent to Aylesbury jail for one month.
Merry escaped, he did not touch the Hare although he lent the knife to cut the string by which the snare was fastened!
William Paragreen [of Bufflers’ Halt] was sentenced to two months imprisonment for taking a hare from a trap set in his mother’s garden: his cousin, who had set the trap, has absconded. [“Hare today, gone tomorrow.”]
was a different case from the preceding one, Mrs. Paragreen having had brace of hares given her the day before by/the Duke of Buckingham. [William Paragreen was an enthusiastic and prize-winning gardener - such folk detest marauding hares and rabbits.
(Paragreen, as a surname, seems to share an origin with Peregrine and Pilgrim i.e. people who travel, or come from outside.)]
William Varney was born in 1852, one of eight children. Like so many children of the time he was without formal education and thus without prospects. The young William would help out at a local mill where he learnt about machines. He was, as his brother described him,’ ever busy in tinkering something up’.
William invented tin handles to attach to the earthenware jugs then used in public houses and because he needed a source of intense heat, he produced his own coal gas. This ended in an explosion and poor William had to find new lodgings in Norton’s Place. Here he continued his tinkering but his need for cash forced him to begin his life of crime. He was soon caught and punished for his various robberies.
After two convictions William planned to go straight but he was unable to obtain a Hawker’s licence because of his previous record. He returned to his old ways and he made coin impressions using Plaster of Paris. With these he started his own Mint and soon deluged Buckingham and the surrounding area with counterfeit coins. The authorities quickly learned the source of this flood and 'Coiner' was apprehended by Constables Lait and Wate, who also the key evidence: coining moulds hidden in the chimney.
William’s previous stays in the Gaol gave him the insider knowledge to help him escape the clutches of the law. He had hidden oil to quieten the locks and a knife to remove screws about his person. The screws were replaced by wet bread camouflaged with soot.
Gaoler Nobes carelessly stored his ladders outside William’s cell and on one dark night the escape took place. Protected by friends, the police sought him everywhere. However, he finally turned himself in and received seven years.
After his release, he was soon back at his old tricks and, after a break-in, he was arrested and 'banged to rights'. Did he fall through a ceiling during his capture or was he pushed by the long arm of the law? We shall never know but poor William has suffered a fractured skull and permanent brain damage. He was transferred to Stone Asylum outside Aylesbury where he ended his days.
from research by Ed Grimsdale, Honorary Local Historian @ Buckingham Old Gaol
Early in 1868, John Wade, a tramp, was caught breaking into Buckingham Railway Station. he stole a gold watch in a waist-coat and some money. Our Town’s Magistrates sentenced him to eighteen months in their Borough Gaol. Buckingham Gaol was proudly independent – it wasn’t a “County” Gaol but a “Borough” one. However, prison reform was in the air and local gaols were under scrutiny for offering sub-standard accommodation and punishment that didn’t fit the crime. That's why John Wade was put on transfer list to be moved to more acceptable conditions in Aylesbury’s “County” Gaol. All that Superintendent Howe, Head of Buckingham’s Police and Town Gaoler, needed was a signature indicating Aylesbury’s readiness to accept Wade, and the thief would be off his books.
But then ,…, but then…, one Friday morning Howe unlocked Wade’s cell double doors only to find no prisoner inside; in the lingo of the time: NON EST! The Gaoler quickly surmised that the prisoner had tampered with the doors’ locks during an exercise session and later had turned his clothes into a rough rope. During the night, Wade had put his hand through the peep hole and turned the handle on the outer door. There was evidence of his rope on the inside of the exercise yard’s wall but nothing dangled over the exterior. Howe knew that the first morning train was soon to leave Buckingham Station. He briefed his men to fan out across town whilst he, the Head Honcho hot-footed it to the station where he was confident he’d catch the rascal on the trai ... NON EST!
Later, the police team reassembled at the Old Gaol and all admitted that there had neither been sight nor sound of the felon. Their Super sent messages to nearby police forces stating his prisoner was on the loose and that he might be crossing one of their areas. ...On Saturday morning, as the Superintendent was doing his regular round of inspection during the prisoners’ breakfast of gruel and dry bread, he heard a frightened, hollow-sounding whimper. Everywhere was searched... NON EST!
One of the Gaoler's policemen suggested, cheekily, there's a Ghost in the coal-hole, Sir. When Howe reluctantly, searched that coal-hole, he found, we’re told “to his great surprise and disgust” prisoner Wade, lying on top of the heap of coal. Wade admitted that he’d lost grip whilst ascending the perimeter wall and had plunged 20 feet into the coal-hole. He felt in terrible shape, and feared that he’d broken his back. Wade was hauled up somewhat peremptorily by a red-faced Howe and his rather more merry men. Surprisingly, John Wade was only battered and bruised so he soon recovered sufficiently to be transferred, no doubt thankfully, to the County Gaol.
In the end, it was Superintendent Howe’s reputation that suffered the more permanent damage, as the Chief Constable & Gaoler who raised a hue and cry across the Southern Midlands over a prisoner who, far from escaping, had precipitated himself into Buckingham Gaol’s ‘black as coal’ coal-hole.
DEATH IN THE BOROUGH GAOL
BUCKINGHAM 26, 1864. Transcribed by ED
On Saturday last death paid a visit to the Borough Gaol and released a prisoner lying there under sentence of six months' imprisonment for stealing fruit from the rear of the Rev. E. A. Uthwatt, in August last. This man’s name was Jesse Robarts, a character well known in the neighbourhood. During the first few weeks of his incarceration he gave the Governor a great deal of trouble, and amused himself in endeavouring to make his escape. One trial he made was cutting at the bottom corner of the panel in the gaol door, which he doubtless hoped to remove. His attempt was however discovered, and led to his being more closely watched, and having his liberty somewhat curtailed. He had a wandering mode of talking, which impressed Mr. Giles with the idea that his prisoner was not quite sane.
On Jesse’s death becoming known in the town various stories were soon in circulation as to his having been ill-used and harshly treated. An inquest was held, when sufficient information was laid before a highly respectable jury to convince them that the reports in circulation were mere idle rumours, having not the least foundation. In fact, so far from Jesse having been ill-treated, it was learnt that he had been indulged in many things by his keeper, which added to his comfort. Thinking that his mind might be injuriously affected if he was confined too closely to oakum picking, Mr. Giles humanely allowed the deceased to pick any quantity he was able, and many days he did not pick any at all. We give below the evidence given at the inquest, which will, we think, convince every one who carefully reads it that the unfortunate deceased died, the jury said, from Natural Causes.
William Giles, Governor of the Gaol, said: Deceased was at the time a prisoner in the Borough Gaol, under a summary conviction. He was given into custody on the 20th August last. Whilst he was in prison he threatened to kill me. and also policeman Holland. He tried to get out of the Gaol by cutting the door. In consequence of these misdemeanours I locked him up in his Cell. Before he misconducted himself he had more than four hours’ exercise during the day at different intervals. After he had misconducted himself had but one hour. After he was locked up he had a better diet than before. The Gaol allowance was a pound and a half of bread per day, and three-quarters of a pound of meat twice a week after the first six weeks.
I am sure that what food deceased had was sufficient to maintain him. Last Thursday I noticed a change in his appearance. His head looked very rough, and his voice seemed changed. I had doubts about his sanity when he first came in, but he afterwards appeared to get better. He picked oakum. About 4 o’clock on Thursday, he was locked up. About 6 o’clock the Vicar came down to see deceased. Myself and the Vicar went to the cell. When the Vicar came from the cell he said he could not make anything of him. I saw deceased again about 10 o’clock on Thursday night, and he told me he felt all right. He was in bed then. He got out of bed to adjust his bedclothes, and he then staggered and fell on his hands and knees. He got into bed again, and seemed all right. I fetched Mr. Haslop [the Surgeon] the same evening to see him. Just before 1 o’clock I saw him again, and I considered him better. Deceased said he was all right. I saw him again at 7 o’clock on Friday morning, and it being dark I noticed something white under the bedstead, some bed clothes lying on the bed, and some on the ground. There was a utensil in the cell, which had been used during the night. The bedclothes were stained with human excrement. I went up to the white object under the bed, and found it was the body of Roberts. The body was quite warm. I could not tell whether he was breathing. His head was against the wall. I got assistance and put him on the bed. He was then alive, and breathed quite freely. His face was covered with blood. He was then removed into another cell. He lingered till 3.35 on Saturday, when he died. He was not sensible, and had not been so since Thursday. He was 35 years of age. He did not complain of the coldness of the cell. Four years ago a man died in the Gaol. I dare not put deceased in a cell where there was a fire for fear of accident. He did complain of his arm being cold on Thursday, but it afterwards got warm. When prisoners take exercise no one attends them. Deceased never complained of the dampness of the cell or of his dietary. The upper cells are driest and females are put in them.Deceased had various illusions about having money left him. I gave deceased some brandy and water after I found him, but he swallowed a very little.
Charles Sabin: I was called to the Gaol on Saturday morning about 7 o’clock to sit with Roberts. I found him with acrattling in the throat. I was there when he died. The rattling in the throat continued all day till about two minutest before death. He did not struggle just before death. I washed him after he died. There was blood on his face, which I washed off. His wife came to see him twice whilst I was he was quite insensible.
William Mills. On Friday morning I was called into the Gaol, and found the body of Jesse Roberts under his bed in the cell. His head was against the wall. I laid hold of one of his legs to help get him up. They were cold. This was about a quarter before eight. His face appeared very dirty. After he was laid on the bed he turned his head away. He had only his shirt on, and that was rolled up. The cell struck me as very cold.
Dr. Haslop: I was requested to visit Jesse Roberts Tuesday last, with a view to his release from Gaol on a plea of ill-health or insanity. I could not give a certificate. He told me that he was quite well and happy, and that he had gained a stone in weight. On Friday Giles came to me and said he thought Jesse was not quite right. I went down and found Jesse in bed. He said he was all right. I felt of him, and he had a nice, warm glow. I thought he would rally and soon be himself again. On Friday morning I was sent for again, as Giles thought Jesse was dying. I immediately got up and went to see him. He was quite insensible. He was on the bed and breathing with difficulty and mucous rattling in his throat. I sent down a blister to be applied to the back of his head. I saw him again on Friday afternoon, when he was about the same. I also saw him again on Saturday morning, and considered he was quite past recovery, and beyond medical aid. The blood on his face was not from haemorrhage, but probably from his biting his lips.
I saw him twice on Saturday. My opinion is that death was caused by rupture of a vessel at the base of the brain, there probably being an effusion of blood on the brain. I have examined the body since death, and find no marks indicating suspicion- I did not think on Friday evening it was necessary to give directions for anyone to sit up with deceased.
Verdict—“ Natural Causes.”
Rev. Eusebius Uthwatt b. 1807 lived the White House, Buckingham which his wife, Jane, had inherite
12th June, 1869
The Duke of Lancaster and the Lock-Up
Tuesday last the Superintendent of the Borough Police received information that a distinguished guest was staying at the Swan and Castle Inn, where bad been located some days. It appeared that the Duke Buckingham had received a letter from the gentleman in question, and judging from the tone and signature of it that it must come from insane person, his grace sent down the Swan and Castle about it. At the same time Superintendent Howe received a communication from Northampton giving the description of missing lunatic from the asylum, and, on the Superintendent going the Swan and Castle he found a visitor there who answered the description. He said he was the Duke of Lancaster and at first refused to accompany the Superintendent, but after some little persuasion he agreed do so, and went with him to the gaol, where was taken care of. A telegram was accordingly sent to Northampton, and few afterwards a keeper came and took back the poor fellow to his quarters in the Asylum. During his stay at the inn he ordered hot meals and paid for the same in a very rational way. He, however, rather alarmed the inmates at night ringing the bells and making a great disturbance.
Buckingham Express (in prosaic mode)
ESCAPE OF A LUNATIC.—OR Monday, a man named Thomas Chaloner, a pauper lunatic, who, it appears, had escaped from the Northampton Lunatic Asylum, found his way into the town and was noticed by several persons as a somewhat peculiar stranger. He was arrested by Superintendent Howe, and taken care of, who telegraphed to the Superintendent of the Asylum, who sent an attendant, by whom he was taken back on the evening of the 8th of June.
The Duke of Lancaster
Beached in the Dee Estuary .
(image adapted from TripAdvisor)
A sad OLD GAOL Christmas Story told by
Ed Grimsdale, Hon. Local Historian to Buckingham Old Gaol Museum
Females, young or old, were rare “birds” in Buckingham Old Gaol although one suspects that it housed a few overnight, held whilst they dried out, having imbibed a festive tipple too many.
Exceptionally few young girls were confined in our Borough Gaol but I have traced one: Anne Read who spent a month “inside” after surrendering her £20 bail and appearing at the Buckingham Quarter Sessions two days before Christmas in 1875. At her trial, Anne was described as only 12 years old, born of good parents who despaired of ever stopping her habit of obtaining goods by deception.
In November, 1875, Anne had handed Misses M. and Louise Simmons who ran a Fancy Repository next to the Post Office in West Street, a piece of paper purporting to come from Mrs Hudson, requesting that Anne be supplied with two skeins of wool, one purple, the other yellow. Louise Simmons handed the wool to Anne telling her it would cost Mrs Hudson 8d but could be changed if the colours were wrong. Harbouring suspicions caused by the juvenile scrawl on the note, Louise Simmons took the piece of paper to Mrs Hudson. Anne Hudson was horrified and hoped that Anne should be prosecuted as she had heard that Anne had “previous” which her parents had “corrected” but to no effect.
Anne’s situation was aggravated when Supt. Howe revealed to the Court that since being bailed on the false pretence charge, Anne had stolen money from a man who was lodging with her “very respectable” parents in their home on the Chewar which backed on to the Bucks and Union Bank whose manager was Anne Hudson's husband ,Thomas.
The Court quickly convicted Anne and in announcing its punishment, the Recorder told Anne that she would be confined in the Borough Gaol for one Calendar Month and then transferred to a Reformatory School for four years. He hoped that on her release she would come out a better sixteen year old girl and grow up to be a respectable woman.
Anne, who cried loudly at her sentence, was led away to spend a miserable Christmas and New Year in our inhospitable Old Gaol. Meanwhile, Supt. Howe was toasting the Mayor, Mr. Bennett who had given him a fine, fat goose for Christmas plus 5s. for each constable in the Borough Police force.
AFTERWORD; Reformatory Schools had been established in the 1850s , thanks to a campaign by Ms Mary Carpenter. On the whole, they were successful and forward-looking institutions. Few of them were for girls but one hopes that the worst part of Anne's sentence was the one lonely, cold Christmas in Buckingham Borough Gaol.
An Early Reformatory & Mary Carpenter
JOSEPH BLISS: the BREAK-OUT BURGLAR
Hearn and Nelson’s Solicitors (see above) became news in April 1867 when it suffered an apparent break-in that developed into a break-out. Money and valuables worth around £40 were removed from cash boxes, including those of Buckingham Burial Board, and the County Court, both held in the office safe. The modus operandum was that a young junior clerk named Joseph Bliss, who was responsible after the premises were secured at the end of working days for taking its keys to Mr Hearn’s home across West Street in Castle House, failed to do so one evening but remained in situ to unlock the solicitor’s personal office and later, under cover of darkness, but not unobserved, to steal away with his booty through a hole he had hewn in the wall of office. The “break-in” was discovered the next morning, and Borough police were summoned. Inspector Howe, noting that “County” cash was involved, asked for support from an excellent sleuth: Inspector Breene of the Aylesbury police.
Above : Solicitor Henry Hearn
Acting on intelligence gained from Emma Grantham, a cook in Dr. Haslop’s house that lay opposite Hearn’s premises, the thief was identified as Joseph Bliss, the most Junior Clerk in Hearn's Solicitors. Out went the call, “Where’s Bliss (he had not reported for work) and where’s the money?” The police became certain that Bliss was “their lad” after they searched his lodgings and found the loot under his bed. Bliss, not yet 14 years old, was soon apprehended, and at the Borough Quarter Sessions he was pronounced guilty and sentenced to one month in Buckingham Borough Gaol whilst a reformatory place was found where he might serve a further five years.
The Bucks Herald quoted a chastened Henry Hearn, “I would rather have lost all of the money than he should have done it.”
It's probable that Joseph led a miserable life after release. He had a string of menial jobs and ended in Newport Pagnell Workhouse.
KNOCKED THE WRONG DOOR
Bicester Herald 27.07.1879
A poor man one day felt of hunger the pain,
And he asked for a morsel of bread,
When a voice spoke in tones of cunning disdain -
“You have come to the wrong door,” it said;
“You must journey with me for two miles and a half,
Where a Lock-up will lodging afford;
Your case I will lay before a great man,
And justice you’ll have, on my word.’
Inside a lone cell sat the hungry man,
Till they fetched him the great man to see.
And the beggar was charged with asking for bread,
“I am guilty, your Honour, “ said he.
The man at whose door the man had knocked,
Was called and his statement was heard:
“This man knock’d my door , and to him I said
‘You have knock’d the wrong door’, on my word
I took him and searched him, and on him I found
One Penny, which seemed all his store;
At least when I searched him from head to the ground
I couldn’t find one coin more.”
The great man looked stern as the sentence he passed:”
“Seven Days with Hard Labour, in Gaol.”
And the poor man was taken with felons to live,
And his hard lot in life to bewail:
He thought of the days when he gave away bread -
When he had enough, and to spare.
When asking for bread never entered his head,
When he lived on excellent fare.
And he couldn’t help saying, when lying at night,
On a bed nearly hard as the floor,
“The time may arrive when others
Like me may find they have ‘knocked the wrong door’,
I know it is said in a book I have read,
That some will go knocking in vain;
P’raps, I may be fed when they require bread
And never know hunger again.
When freed from this cell, I know very well
My wanderings will not be o’er,
But I shall not forget, wherever I dwell
The day ‘I knocked the wrong door’.”
Padbury 19th July, 1879.
(In the same Newspaper)
BEGGING AT PADBURY
At the Magistrate’s Office, Buckingham, on July 15, before Laurence Robert Hall, Esq., a wayfarer who gave the name of Isaac Norrish, labourer, Plymouth, was brought into custody, charged with begging at Padbury, on July 15.
P.C. William Bates stated that he was a police-constable stationed at Padbury. Whilst sitting in his house that morning, the defendant knocked at the door and asked for some bread. The witness told him that he had knocked at the wrong door this time, and took him into custody. He also searched him and found one Penny in money on him.
Prisoner pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour.
OH DEAR, WHAT CAN THE MATTER BE?
Buckingham Borough Gaol closed for ever in May, 1878
Prisoner Norris would have been transported by train to AYLESBURY GAOL to serve his sentence. At what cost to the community?
What a palaver
All because he…
KNOCKED AT THE WRONG DOOR!
Mr J.Tibbetts, a local builder, accepted the contract to build a new Police "Bucks County Council" Station in January, 1892, with the proviso that the Council were happy for him to lower the path along Moreton Rd, to ease the carting of materials onto the tricky sloping site.
BCC encountered problems borrowing the £2,050 needed to pay for the work when the government told it, as the papers were about to be signed, that it was illegal to borrow the money from the Police Pension Fund.
Prudential Assurance stepped into the breech but its mortgage was half a per cent higher at 3.5% per annum. The site had cost £1650. One presumes that building was completed within the year - 1892 - since that date is carved in a stone arch head over its main public entrance. Possibly coincidentally, in the 50th year of the station's creation, 1942, local builders, Pollards, erected a 35' by 20' wooden Police Social Clubroom including a full-sized Billiards Table used for recreation by both "Regular" and "Special" Police Officers, down ‘the slope’. The main station remained in use for 120 years until it was closed in 2012.
Anthony Morton adds
There have been a number of posts recently on fb regarding the lack of a police presence in and around Buckingham. This reminded me of the 1950s -1960s when the 'old' Moreton Road Police Station was still in use. The right-hand side of the building was the Inspector's accommodation until it was absorbed into the 'nick'. There was also a detached house (now demolished) down the slope behind the Police Station which was occupied by one of Buckingham's two sergeants.
Constables were housed in various locations in and around the town and these are the ones I remember - but there may be more.
In town:- Addington Terrace (1), Western Avenue (1), Moreton Road (1), Bourtonville (2), Bourton Road (5), Westfields (1), Stowe Rise (1),
Villages - Maids Moreton (1), Padbury (1), Tingewick (1), Westbury (1) . It has been suggested that the Police House at Whaddon was under the control of Buckingham but that is being checked.
The officers patrolled using a mixture of cars, motorcycles, bicycles and regular foot patrols. There was always one bobby walking around the streets of the town right through the night. This represented a sufficient deterrent to prevent too much nefarious nocturnal activity, as the officer did not walk a regular route during his shift.
Today I suspect that a good many of the town's residents would have trouble locating the Police Station, let alone find a policeman.