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A Village Life of Crime

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

Earlier this month we told something of the history of policing and crime in the village with a few tales of poaching and other misdemeanours together with a couple of serious stories that have affected our community. Now we have had a chance to look through some more 19th and early 20th century reports in local newspapers. Though obviously serious at the time, now they can be viewed as history and they provide an insight into the long ago preoccupations of villagers, some of them the predecessors of people we know today.

The drunken landlord

The Metropolitan Police Act of 1839 extended the powers of the constabulary which established for London ten years earlier to counties around the capital including Buckinghamshire. We do not know the name of the eager constable who in 1840 chose to exercise his newly acquired powers charging the landlord of The Green Man with enjoying rather too much of his own hospitality. The Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette reported on his conviction for being drunk in public.

The judge in tears

In 1851, Tom Poole was a gardener living next door to the grocer’s shop we know now

as the restaurant, Da Remo. Five years later he was working as the village constable. It was his tragic duty on 3rd July 1856 to respond to a call out from Elizabeth Brown of Uxbridge who had come across a baby wrapped up in a bundle lying in a ditch near the Queen’s Head pub.

Two weeks later the child’s mother Mary Anne Jones found herself in the dock at the Buckinghamshire Summer Assizes accused of murdering her infant son by giving him laudanum, a tincture of opium believed by Victorians to be an efficacious analgesic but now known to be addictive and highly dangerous in the wrong doses.

Mary told the saddest of tales. The child was just three weeks old, born in the Lambeth workhouse. By 3rd July Mary was back on the streets desperately searching, but failing, to find lodgings. Witnesses described how they saw her with the child clearly ill and distressed. Exhausted Mary had laid down to sleep, her head on some stones by the side of the road. She had woken to find her son dead beside her. She admitted she had given the baby laudanum to quiet him. Unknown to her the dose she gave was bound to be fatal.

The learned judge, Lord Campbell, was moved to tears by Mary’s story. When he had recovered enough to address the jury he railed against the practice “common in England” of administering laudanum to children. He instructed the jury that they should not reach a verdict of murder, but deeply regretted that he had no choice but to recommend a verdict of manslaughter. The jury duly convicted bit Lord Campbell imposed the mildest of sentences - one month’s imprisonment.

The Parish Clerk accused

Thomas Gurney was the Parish Clerk, an office of considerable substance in 19th century England. He had the onerous responsibility for keeping all the parish records of births, christenings, marriages, deaths and other significant parish events. He was also the village shoemaker living next door to The Swan. Quite how he came to be accused at the Buckinghamshire Lent Assizes in 1858 of the manslaughter of Elizabeth Thornley is left unexplained by the brief report in the Bucks Herald, but whatever had happened, the jury was uninterested, no evidence was presented to support the charge and Mr Gurney was duly acquitted. The incident had no obvious impact on his job. The 1861 census tells us that he was still the Parish Clerk.

Fields laid waste ?

William King farmed the Ivy House Farm. Given the number of times his name appears as a victim in the crime reports of the 1860s, he seems to have attracted quite a bit of attention from the local miscreants. There are also hints that he was no stranger to the courts as an accuser and litigator without much to support the claims he made. Perhaps he made himself a target.

However Mr. King certainly did suffer a loss to a thief in 1867 which threatened his ability to give his crops the fertiliser needed to ensure a good harvest. On 15th November 1867, labourer Frederick Cooper had the effrontery to steal Mr. King’s dung fork.

It wasn’t Cooper’s first conviction. He’d earlier been found to be in illegal possession of some timber, a charge made out when it could be established whether Cooper had nicked the timber himself or received it from somebody else who had stolen it.

The consequences were harsh. Fred Cooper was sentenced to one year’s hard labour, no doubt made all the worse as he wasn’t of course allowed to keep the fork.

As for William King, he was in the news again in December 1869 when someone set fire to a couple of his wheat stacks.

Highway robbery

Margaret M'Loghlin was just passing through when she was robbed. 25th March 1867 wasn't one of her best days. She'd been with her glass and china mender husband, James in Rickmansworth where he had been up before the magistrates accused of larceny. She was on her way home to Windsor passing through Denham when she was attacked by Joseph Glenister who then ran off with the box of her husband's tools which she had been carrying. Retrieving her bonnet and in some distress, Mrs. M'Loghlin sought the assistance of a small boy who showed her where she could find the village constable. With a good description of the robber provided by Mrs. M'Loghlin, P.C. White set off in hot pursuit and apprehended Glenister the following day in Watford.

Glenister, described in his army record as being of "incorrigibly bad and worthless character", was later convicted and sentenced to five years penal servitude.

Two Daniels and a black mare

In 1877 Daniel Bunce was a retired farmer who had employed his namesake Daniel Edlin as his foreman. They fell out over the sale of a horse which Bunce kept in Denham and which Edlin meant to swap for a black mare plus £7.

The ensuing wrangle over the true value of the mare and a somehow related mowing machine involved a local dealer called Yewer, the landlord of the Eagle pub in Uxbridge, his housekeeper and another pony whilst the black mare just got fatter - and more valuable.

Finally Daniel Edlin got himself a lawyer. Turning up at Yewer's home he produced his lawyer's letter to the housekeeper who then duly gave up the black mare to Mr. Edlin.

Mr. Bunce was very cross and sought the prosecution of Edlin for stealing the mare.

The magistrate was unimpressed. Observing that occasionally disgruntled business people might turn to the criminal courts to put pressure on those against whom they had complaints, he noted that "when a man stole a horse, he did not usually do it by lawyer's letter". He stopped the case.

A feverish scramble to lay blame

On 20 June 1893 Mr. Fellowes, the Member for the Ramsey Division of Huntingdonshire, rose in his place in the House of Commons, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, "the increasing prevalence of swine fever in many parts of the country, and the persistent neglect of Her Majesty's Government to take adequate measures to check it."

He was assured that the matter was in hand and later that year legislation was enacted to place responsibility for getting rid of the disease under the control of the Board of Agriculture. Under the Board's direction, local authorities, Bucks County Council amongst them, stepped up their preventative measures including prohibitions on the movement of pigs without a licence.

Edward Gibson, a cartage agent of Westbourne Grove, fell foul of the restrictions early on. Early in September 1894, he instructed his employee Thomas Sudbury to deliver six pigs from Uxbridge station to Edward Harbour, the landlord of The Green Man. He had no licence under the County Council's Swine Fever Order.

The case came before the Magistrates at the Bucks Petty Sessions in October. Everybody involved had an excuse from the fact that the orders had come from "head office" to the fact that the poor pigs had been on the road from Bury St. Edmunds for two days without food or water and needed a new home. Somehow, amongst all the recriminations, blame seemed ultimately to rest on the station master at Uxbridge Station and Gibson escaped with a fine of one shilling per pig plus costs. By the end of it he was short of £2 two shillings and six pence.

A foolish old man

On 17th May 1910 Harriet Bowler was employed to do some washing at Joshua Lipscombe's Rush Green farm in Denham. She put some of the washing out to dry that morning - including a couple of Mr. Lipscombe's flanelette shirts. The shirts went missing.

John King already had ten or eleven convictions. He really ought to have learned that if he was going to steal, it would be better for him to keep out of sight whilst doing so. In fact he had stopped for a brief conversation in the farmyard with another of Mr. Lipsombe's employees, Melinda Barrow. He had asked after "the Guvnor" and begged for food before wandering off.

The local constable, P.C. Sanders, tracked him down to lodgings in Uxbridge where he found one of the missing shirts wrapped in a brown paper parcel. Then with a nice touch of forensic work to sew up his case, P.C. Sanders was able to match King's footprints with those he had found in Mr. Lipscombe's garden.

Though obviously caught red-handed, King still protested his innocence nonetheless convicting himself of his past crimes by saying that since he had become an old man, he had left off doing such things as stealing. Suppressing their laughter, the jury members duly convicted him. He was 71 years old. Despairingly the judge told him that he was "such a foolish old man" before sentencing him to two months hard labour.

A very fishy story

The Lee, now the site of the Anoopam Mission, was in 1929 the home of members of the Gilbey family of gin distillers. On 10th May 1929, Bill Miller and Fred James turned up in their lorry at the Lee looking for scrap. They bought some tyres from the chauffeur, Mr. Saunders, and then approached the gardener, Mr. Simpson asking about scrap metal. It was then that they noticed 13 fish hatching troughs which the gardener said he would sell for 5 shillings each. Miller agreed and said he would come back for them the following day.

True to his word, Miller turned up next day. Mr. Simpson was out but Mr. Saunders was still around. "That'll be £3 five shillings to come for them," said Mr. Saunders.

Mr. Miller regretted that he didn't have the money, but he would call again to settle up. He took the troughs - but, of course this being a crime story, he didn't reappear at The Lee to pay his debts.

But Bill Miller failed to take account of the local networks. It wasn't long before the Mr. Simpson got to hear that the troughs had been offered for sale to a nurseryman called William Newport in Hillingdon. Miller subsequently confessed at the Bucks Quarter Sessions and after other offences he admitted were taken into account, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour.

Fred James walked. He told the court that he was just helping out his friend and didn’t know anything about who had paid for what nor of Bill’s attempts to sell the troughs he hadn’t paid for. The jury acquitted him and he went on his way.

Hard Labour

Hard labour as a punishment for crime was abolished in the UK by the Criminal Justice Act 1948.


We have also had a few stories given to us by readers.

Where's my dinner ?

There is an entry in the logbook of the Denham School for February 16th 1902.

“Several children having complained of their dinners being stolen. A watch was set. A youth named. . . . . . . . .was surprised creeping cautiously towards the girls’ lobby. He at once made off and Police Constable Payne was sent for. The constable was of the opinion that as the youth was not caught in the act, nothing could be done at that time. After some trouble he caught the boy and brought him up to the school at noon. The boy was cautioned and it is to be hoped he will not reattempt.”

Local beat

Margaret remembers the local beat policeman during her time as school secretary at Denham First School. She recalls a pretty officious-looking large man in full uniform with all sorts of gadgets attached to his waist belt. He would regularly arrive at the school during the lunch break and settle down with his sandwiches to chat amiable with the children out at play. All the children knew him and enjoyed talking with him, never afraid of the formal regalia in which he was dressed. Getting to know him in this way meant children saw the police as those who help others, learned to trust him and knew they could talk to him if they were ever in any kind of trouble.

Can any of our readers remember him and help us with his name?

A blazing row

Gerard Gilbertson writes, “I do remember the police station at Tatling End being built, and was like many people very annoyed that it was labelled Gerrards Cross police station rather than Tatling End. I knew it had recently been deactivated, but I was not aware it had been demolished to make room for housing.

“I remember my father having a blazing row with one if the constables when we were out for a walk along the pavement from Tatling End to Gerrards Cross - the constable tried to insist that I rode my bike on the main road, not on the pavement (I was about 10 at the time, and had a small kids bike). Bad language was exchanged, but it did not come to blows. I do know my father (who had red hair and corresponding temper) went to the station the next day to apologise in person to the policeman involved.”


Maybe there are more anecdotes out there. We’d love to hear from you.

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