« »

Cuckold Riding arrests and convictions

by janet on 1 December 2012 · 0 comments

Cuckold Riding arrests and convictions

By Janet Woodall

1848 was a time of great social change. Prior to the Rural Police Act of 1838, villagers were policed by parish constables, chosen from worthy men in the village and appointed by local magistrates. Everybody in the village knew them. The Police Act enforced a County Constabulary with men stationed wherever they were sent. They were strangers in the village. This was viewed with suspicion by many in the community and, like many other counties, Herts Constabulary wasn?t set up until about 1843.

The fact that our rector, John Harding, informed local magistrates that trouble was erupting, and that reinforcements were sent to back up the policeman stationed in Walkern, went down very badly. John Izzard Pryor noted at the church service a couple of weeks after the riot

?Mr. Harding preached the sermon, but before he began half a score of the labouring men left the church as they thought he had been instrumental in sending some of the rioters to gaol.’

Many men of the village were arrested on the evening of the riots and appeared before the magistrates the next day: In a related court case a few months later it was stated that ‘A strong feeling prevailed in the parish in favour of the men, – so strong that thirteen of those who had been apprehended by the police were discharged by the magistrates.’ Seven of them, however, were committed for trial at the Assizes, and it was stated that they were liable to be transported for life.

They were:
William Bracey a 19 year old agricultural labourer,
Benjamin Miles a 40 year old hay binder and family man living in Cambridge cottages, he struck one of the constables with a stick but was stopped by ?Gudgin? Miles.
James Warner known as ?Trouty?, aged 29 an agricultural labourer living with his wife and children in cottages near the Dovehouse (they had baptised their 3rd son just a few weeks before his conviction)
Joseph Harvey a 23 year old blacksmith, new to the village but soon to be married to Harriet Spriggins, daughter of a Walkern shoemaker.
Thomas Cox, a 28 year old agricultural labourer living with his new wife, Mary Ann, in Cadcroft common. During the riot he shouted to the police that ?they intended to kill them?
William Whittaker aged 52 about whom I can find no information.
George Pettit a plumber and glazier who having married the daughter of the landlord of the Red Lion, now ran the Three Horseshoes. The rioting crowd went to Pettit?s beershop and came out armed with sticks.

The trial was on 2nd March 1848 and was described by John Izzard Pryor in his diary:

‘A dismal drizzling rainy day throughout. I went in the carriage to Hertford, arriving at 10. I went into court directly to hear the trial of the seven Walkern men. It came on at 11 o’clock and lasted the whole day, Mr. Justice Coleridge presiding. There were three counsel employed for the prisoners and many witnesses were examined. But all were found guilty except Pettit who keeps a beer shop.

The others were sentenced to six months imprisonment, it being a serious matter in the eye of the law to assault the’ police, and had it been brought in by the jury an assault with intent to commit some bodily harm they might possibly have been transported. As it was the inhabitants considered it a heavy punishment as the police did not behave well and caused them to be much excited.’

Leave a Comment