Life & Death, Crimes & Punishment – News of Fontmell in the 19th century

Page from the Dorset County Chronicle of May 17 1900 which has the report on the death of R.J. Moody of Middle Farm, Fontmell Magna

Life & Death, Crimes & Punishment – News of Fontmell in the 19th century

 The following represents just a small sample of reports and articles published in the Dorset County Chronicle & the Western Gazette during the 19th century.

28th, May, 1863.

The Chronicle reports of the 26th anniversary celebration of the Fontmell Magna Friendly Society. Nearly all the members of ‘This excellent Society’ mustered on the previous Friday and attended divine worship in the school-room (the church not yet finished). The sermon was preached by the Rev. R. Salkeld, the rector. After the customary perambulation the members and their friends sat down to a very excellent dinner, served up in capital style by Mr & Mrs Easton of the Crown Inn.
The Reverend Salkeld presided, and was supported by Mr Bennett, the surgeon to the society, Mr W. Monckton, Mr F. Miles, Mr Brown, Mr James Domoney & c. After the dinner the proceedings were enlivened by the performances of the Fontmell brass band, who played some selections of music in a style which did them infinite credit. We are glad to observe that the funds of the society are in such a prosperous condition, and rapidly increasing, the only charge for the year being £29 0s 6d for sick pay, and a small sum of £1 7s 6d for management and printing. The society, which was established in 1837, can now boast of an invested capital of upwards of £500. We hope that it may for many years continue to flourish under the same careful management which has attended it from its formation.

15th, October, 1863.

Determined Suicide.
Last Friday morning, this quiet little village was thrown into a state of excitement upon it becoming known that an elderly man of the village, named Jeremiah Steel(sic) (probably Still), had committed suicide by hanging himself. The deceased was a very profligate character and much addicted to drink, and appears to have lived on very unfriendly terms with his wife and family, and from the information we have been able to gather he appears to have premeditated the act for some considerable time past, and more than once has been found suspended by the neck; and it seems that this very evening he told some men with whom he had been drinking, that he should go home and hang himself, and this he appears to have done effectually, for on the following morning he was found by one of his children, suspended by his neckerchief to one of the floor joists, and was quite dead. An inquest was held on the body, and a verdict of ‘felo-de-se’ recorded. He was buried on Sunday evening without any sacred rites being performed over his grave.

The 1861 census shows the 51 year old Jeremiah Still, an agricultural labourer, (probably living in West Street), with his wife Mary and their 6 children.

22nd, September, 1864.

The sale of Mr Charles Mayo’s live and dead farming stock took place on Wednesday last, when a numerous and highly respectable company assembled. A capital luncheon was provided in a barn, tastefully decorated with evergreens and flowers; the chair was taken by R. Graves Esq., supported by Sir Edward B. Baker, Bart. And the Rev. H. Bower, together with many of the leading gentry and agriculturalists of the near and distant neighbourhood. After the usual routine of toasts, Sir Edward Baker, in his usual kind hearted manner proposed the health of Mr Mayo, wishing him a good sale, and said he had no doubt that the beautiful rain now falling , and which had been so long wanted, would be the means of putting shillings per head on the sheep stock about to be offered. The toast was responded to in right good earnest, after which the company repaired to the sale ground, where the arrangements were admired by all. Mr Rossiter, in opening the sale, nade a few well-timed observations respecting the stock and the purport of the sale, after which biddings commenced and continued very spiritedly throughout, most of the company remarking that they seldom or ever saw a better arranged and conducted sale, the prices obtained being considerably higher than those at the recent sales and fairs…………. Mr Mayo’s excellent dairy of cows and remaining dead stock will be sold about January next, when we sincerely wish him as good a sale as Wednesday last.

The 1861 census does not state where Charles Mayo was living, but does confirm that, in 1861, he was a 61 year old widower and Farmer of 300 acres, employing 10 men and 5 boys. A housekeeper (Selina Rogers) and a House servant (Hannah Hunt) are living with him.
The 1851 census shows him living in Lurmer Street, so it is likely that he farmed Middle Farm. His wife Emily was alive at that time and living with him.

26th, October, 1865.

County Petty Sessions.
John Moxham & James Turner were summoned by Thomas Stark, gamekeeper, for trespassing on lands at Fontmell Magna in search of game. Fined 40s and costs each, or two months hard labour. They were also fined 40s or, in default, 2 months hard labour for a similar offence at Melbury on the same day.

14th, December, 1865.

Special Petty Sessions.
Charles Dibben and Albert Tuffin, labourers, living at Fontmell Magna, were brought up before the in custody, charged with burglariously(sic) breaking open and entering the dwelling house of John Smith, at Sutton Waldron, and stealing therefrom a shirt, several pairs of boots, and divers other articles. John Smith said he was a dairyman and lived at Sutton Waldron. On the morning of the 3rd, December, a little before six o’clock, he discovered that his home had been entered into in the night. A pain of glass in the back kitchen had been removed, the casement opened, and an iron bar bent in as to admit of a person getting in. He missed a smock frock, a shirt, some boots, cheese, gloves, a work box and sundry other articles. The accused were subsequently caught in possession of the stolen goods and committed to trial at the next assize.

John Dibben of Fontmell Magna, labourer, was brought up, charged with aggravated assault on his wife, Sophia Dibben, at Melbury Abbas, on their road home from Shaftesbury on Saturday the 9th last. Sentenced to be imprisoned for 3 months with hard labour.

15th, February, 1866.

County Petty Sessions.
Richard Lawrence, an old offender, was summoned for wilfully committing damage to an elm tree upon land at Fontmell Magna, occupied by Mr John Haskell. P.C. Kimber said that he saw the defendant up in the tree on the day in question, and he threw down a large stick about 12 feet long. Witness spoke to him and told him to come down, but he would not. He was sentenced to be imprisoned for two calendar months with hard labour.

Thomas Cole, of Fontmell Magna, was summoned by Supt. Hare for the removing of a calf from one parish to another, in this division, and not producing the certificate for such removal when required to do so. It appears that the defendant had obtained the necessary certificate, but was not in possession of it when the superintendant asked to see it. He was therefore fined in a nominal penalty of one shilling and the expenses.

1st, March, 1866.

County Petty Sessions.
Henry Lawrence of Fontmell Magna was summoned for ill treating a donkey, by working it in a galled and unfit state, at Cann. P.C. Kimber proved the offence and the defendant was fined 10s and costs.

12th, April, 1866.

County Petty Sessions.
William Broadway and Henry Lawrence of Fontmell, were summoned by the excise for selling one quart of beer to one Charles Lawrence, without a licence. The case was adjourned. They were sentenced at a subsequent session, with Henry Lawrence fined £5 and William Broadway ordered to pay costs.

Stephen Mullens was summoned for stealing a rabbit trap at Fontmell, the property of Thomas Stark, gamekeeper. The defendant admitted taking the trap from where it was set, but thought it was a poacher’s. As this case was not sufficient to constitute a felony, the defendant was ordered to pay the expenses.

Henry Young was summoned by Sarah Broadway of Fontmell, for the support of her child. The case was settled out of court.

 26th, April, 1866.

County Petty Sessions.
John Dibben of Fontmell Magna, dealer, was summoned by P.C. Moore for obstructing the highway in East Street, Blandford Forum. The charge was proved by P.C. Moore, who stated that in the afternoon, he saw the defendant’s cart standing under the churchyard wall, and that it remained where he saw it for upwards of two hours. When at last he spoke to the defendant about it, he abused him very much. The defendant did not appear and was fined 10s and 11s 6d costs, or to be imprisoned for 14 days.

14th, February, 1867.

Thomas Ridout of Fontmell was summoned by P.C. Payne, for riding asleep in his wagon in Gillingham, without any person in charge of the horse. The defendant said he was sorry and hoped the bench would not be too hard upon him this time. He was fined 10s and costs.

George Hunt was summoned for assaulting a lad named Henry Tom Hunt at Fontmell. The defendant admitted the offence and was fined 5s and costs.

Robert Cosser, Labourer, was summoned for allowing his family to become chargeable to the common fund of the Shaftesbury Union, he being a person able to work and to maintain them. He was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment with hard labour.

4th, April, 1867.

County Petty Sessions.
Charles Feltham of Fontmell Magna was summoned for leaving his horse and cart on the highway at Compton Abbas, thereby causing an obstruction. Fined 2s 6d and expenses.

John Bradley was fined 5s and costs, for being drunk and incapable at Fontmell Magna.

William Hunt and Alfred Street, two boys, were fined 2s 6d and costs each, for assaults committed at East Orchard.

 26th, September, 1867.

County Petty Sessions.
Walter and Charles Ridout of Compton Abbas, were summoned for assaulting Albert Tuffin in the parish of Fontmell Magna. After hearing the evidence, the bench considered that the assault complained of, was of a most aggravating nature and the defendants (who had both been previously convicted), were each sentenced to two months’ imprisonment with hard labour.

Thomas Ridout of Fontmell Magna, for allowing his horse to stray on the highways, was fined 5 shillings and costs.

Alfred Street of Fontmell and George Roberts of West Orchard, two boys, were summoned for stealing damson plums growing in a garden at East Orchard, the property of Mr Luke Tucker. Street, who had been several times convicted lately, was sentenced to be imprisoned for one month with hard labour, and Roberts was fined 5s and costs.

James & John Hunt, John Ralph, Thomas Roberts, Richard Moor & Elijah Ridout, all boys, were summoned for obstructing the highway at East Orchard, near the Wesleyan Chapel there, by standing thereon and preventing divers persons from passing. The Chairman severally censured the boys for their conduct and they were all fined penalties varying from 5s to 10s each.

24th, October, 1867.

County Petty Sessions.
William Young, a shoemaker of Fontmell Magna, was brought up in custody, charged with stealing a pair of long boots, the property of Frederick Vincent. The prosecutor stated that about 4 or 5 months since, he missed a pair of boots from his residence, and on Tuesday last he saw them in the possession of a man named John Smith, who said he bought them of the prisoner. He also said the boots may have been taken a month before he missed them. The prisoner admitted selling the boots to Smith, but said he bought them of a travelling umbrella mender. The bench was of the opinion that there was not sufficient evidence to send the case for trial, and accordingly dismissed the prisoner.

14th, November, 1867.

A newly erected organ in the beautiful church of this parish was opened, a few days ago, by Mr Frank Spinney, son of Mr T.E. Spinney of the Paragon, Salisbury, who, after the service, gave an organ recital, consisting of choruses from the works of Handel; “Fuges” by Sebastian Bach; “Offertoires” by S. Wesley’ & C., to a delighted congregation of the elite of the neighbourhood.

20th, November, 1874

Concealment of Birth.
An inquest was held at the Crown Inn, on the body of a newly born infant that was found by a woman named Still. The body was found in the vault of a closet on the premises of Mr F.G. Miles. The child was still-born. A young woman named Sarah Macey, a servant who resided at Fontmell, was brought before the magistrates, charged with the offence. The prisoner was committed for trial at the next assizes (see below).

12th, March, 1875.

At the county assizes, Sarah Macey (21), servant, was indicted for endeavouring to conceal the birth of a male child on the 10th, November, 1874. Eliza Still, the wife of a labourer, said she recollected the 9th, November, as she was at Mr Miles’s house on account of her having left home. She slept with the prisoner that night. The prisoner was a servant there. At about two o’clock the next day she went to Mr Miles’s again, and on going into the closet saw marks of fresh blood on the seat of the floor. In consequence of this the closet was searched and the body of a male child found on top of the soil. The police were sent for and the witness ordered the prisoner to go to bed, but she refused, declaring there was nothing the matter with her; she afterwards went to bed. The policeman came and took the body from the closet. On being charged the prisoner said “I do not know anything about it; I never saw it”. Edward Wykes, surgeon of Shaftesbury stated that he examined the prisoner and found she had recently given birth to a child. He also examined the child’s body and found it was not born alive; in fact decomposition had set in, showing that the infant had been dead some time.

The outcome was that the judge directed the jury and, because no act of disposal had been committed, they returned a verdict of not guilty.

The 1871 census indicates that Frederick G. Miles lived on the road from Bedchester to Fontmell. He was described as a Farmer & Miller of 80 acres, employing 4 men and 3 boys. As a Miller, it is likely that his home was Piper’s Mill. In 1871, he was a 43 year old man, living with his wife. It is of course possible that he was at Hurdles Farm.

There is no sign of Sarah Macey in the village in 1871. 

23rd, April, 1875.

A fire, which nearly proved fatal to a child, occurred in some cottages belonging to and occupied by persons named Dibben. It is believed that the fire was caused by a lad who is a lunatic, and had it not been for the same lad, an infant which was in one of the houses, must have been burnt to death. The two cottages were reduced to ashes, and the larger portion of the poor people’s furniture destroyed.

 June , 17th, 1887.

A fire of an alarming character took place in the village on Monday afternoon at three o’clock. How it originated is not known. The fire took place on the premises of Mr John Butler, in a yard near the barn. In an instant the barn was in a complete blaze, and messengers were immediately despatched to Shroton and Shaftesbury for fire engines. The Shroton brigade, under Captain Rogers, were first to arrive and began to play at once on the flames. The Shaftesbury brigade arrived 20 minutes later, but their services were not required.. Before the arrival of the engines, a band of most willing helpers, men of the village, worked most assiduously and were successful in checking the flames. The farm house escaped and the fire was confined to the barn, which was burnt down, together with the machinery in it, and cow stalls, piggeries and sheds. A litter of young pigs and a fine calf were the only animals burned. The property was fully insured.

It is not easy to identify the name of the farm in the 1881 census, but it is situated on a road called ‘Turnpike’. The enumerator appears to be walking down North Street to the Crown Inn and then out on the Sutton Road.
John Butler is described as a Farmer of 354 acres, employing 9 men and 3 boys. He is 37 years old and living with his wife, Ellen, and their 5 children, aged from 2 to 10. He  was born in a place named Monckton (probably Tarrant Monkton).

24th, July, 1896.

Whilst working on a hay rick, Charles Still had the misfortune to fall to the ground, breaking his collar bone. ‘First aid’ was rendered by messrs Gladdis and Edwards, and the sufferer was conveyed in a trap to the Shaftesbury Cottage Hospital by Mr Charles Tuffin, for whom he was working.

16th, October, 1896. 

Fontmell Magna man killed.
A fatal accident to a man named Frederick Lawrence, aged 65 years, a labourer in the employ of Mr Perrett, of Hatch (near Tisbury), occurred on Saturday evening. It seems that the deceased was carrying some apples to the house of the gateman at Hazelton Gates, situated about one mile from the station. He had gone through one of the gates for passengers and crossed the line, but instead of passing through the gate opposite to the front door of the gateman’s residence, he seems to have gone a few yards up the line to the back door, where there is no proper entrance. It was at this place that he met his death. The time when the train passed was about 6.30pm, consequently it would have been dark. It is reasonable to suppose that the deceased never noticed the train, and from the way he was struck he seems to have had his back to the rails. As will be seen from the engine driver’s evidence, the basket was struck by the footplate of the engine, and this must have been the part of the engine which also laid open in a frightful manner, the side of the deceased’s head, from which the brains were protruding. He leaves a widow and grown up family, and was until about 4 years since a resident of Fontmell Magna. A collection was made at the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Sunday for the widow, who is in poor circumstances and 13s 10d was raised.

29th, April, 1898.

Otter Hunting.
On Thursday morning in the last week, Mr Tracey’s Otter Hounds visited the brooks in this locality. To the delight of the spectators the hounds found a warm trail in Mr Genge’s water meadow, but the quarry had beaten a safe retreat in the earlier morning.

Author: Dave Hardiman