1845: Christmas in the Jailhouse
Christmas in the Jail House
This article appeared in the Dec 2013 / Jan 2014 issue of the Walkern Journal
As you tuck into your Christmas dinner, spare a thought for poor John Beadle, who on Christmas day 1845 suffered an injustice that could have seen him transported to Australia for seven years, or left him rotting in debtor?s jail.
John Beadle was 23 years old and had only recently moved to Walkern from his parent?s house in Benington. He had set up home in Cambridge Cottages, the row of three cottages that used to sit along Bockings opposite the church. He had his own business as an independent higgler, a travelling dealer with his own pony and trap. He dealt in poultry.
On Christmas morning 1845, Inspector Good and two Police Constables of the newly formed Hertfordshire Police Force were summoned to Ardeley Bury (then called Yardley Bury) by Sir Robert Murray, a baronet and Magistrate for the county. Sir Robert believed that some of his prize fowl were missing and he was determined to find the culprit.
Acting on ?information? given by Sir Robert, the police immediately went to Walkern, where they found some fowls in John Beadle?s stables appearing to answer the description of Sir Robert?s missing birds. Beadle claimed the birds were rightfully his, he had bought them and he could prove it.
Beadle put 15 of his birds in a basket to assist the police in clearing the matter up so that he could continue his Christmas day. Inspector Good told Beadle to walk across the fields to Ardeley Bury, while Inspector Good, and the basket of chickens travelled there by cart.
Sir Robert was fetched from the Christmas service at Ardeley church. He declared that he recognised three distinctive fowls from the 15 as his own: ?I make fowls my hobby, and no one can identify them so well as myself?.
Beadle again gave the names of the people from whom he bought the chickens, but to no avail. He was taken into custody, handcuffed and chained to the cart. His shoes were then removed, taken by the Inspector and Sir Robert to compare with footprints nearby, while Beadle was left alone, handcuffed, chained to the cart, barefoot in the depths of winter.
Beadle was then carted back to his house at Walkern and his shed