Monday, 19 May 2008

A curious case

Some days you just get lucky.

When I was in Wells earlier this year I started browsing through copies of old newspapers on microfilm. I wasn't really looking for anything in particular, and the first one I looked at was The Shepton Mallet Journal, Wells Reporter & County Advertiser, Friday January 3, 1890. Imagine my surprise when I come across an article about one Joseph Webb of Croscombe. This I am sure is my great great great grandfather. He is the only Joseph Webb living in Croscombe at the time of the 1891 census, and his son of the same name is no longer there. So here is the story. Not exactly something to be proud of, but possibly the only time any of my ancestors made it into the press.


Joseph Webb of Croscombe was charged with stealing a pair of boots, value 7s 6d, on the 24th of Dec., the property of Joseph Badman.

Prosecution who lives at Pilton with Wm. Green, a thatcher, gave his evidence through the latter, as an interpreter, the prosecutor being deaf and having an impediment with his speech.

Joseph Badman is a wood-worker. On Tuesday last he bought a pair of boots of Mr. Stephenson, giving 7s 6d for them. He went to the Hare and Hounds tap, where he saw the defendant. Prosecutor had two pints of ale and went outside the door. He left the boots on the table, telling the defendant to keep them till he came back. He went out a second time, and when he came back the defendant and the boots were gone. He waited about for an hour, but the defendant did not come back.

Defendant said that the prosecutor gave him the boots, and went out; and as he did not come back for two hours, he took them home with him, to send them on to his family the next day.

Mrs. Webb, wife of an ostler at the Hare and Hounds, said that between one and two, she took her husband's dinner to the Hare and Hounds Tap. The old man and the defendant were there. The parcel was in the settle, between them. She heard the prosecutor Badman say he had lost his boots. No one but Webb had gone out.

P.C. Colmer, stationed at Croscombe, said that on the evening in question, he was on duty in Old Wells road, and near Natchet House the prisoner passed him. A parcel fell out of an old coat he was carrying. Witness questioned him as to what it was, and he said it was a pair of boots which he had got from Mr. Chard's at Shepton Mallet. He seemed a little worse for beer. He repeated the story twice.

P.C. Marshalsea proved going to the prisoner's house at Croscombe, and obtaining possession of the boots. His wife said "I knew there was something wrong about them." Prisoner said "I got them for old Joe Badman. He is going to call for them to-morrow morning." On charging prisoner he said, "I didn't steal them; he gave them to me."

Defendant said that the man was tipsy, and witness wasn't much better. He only took care of the boots, at the prosecutor's request. He said that he would call for them the next morning.

P.C. Colmer, recalled, said the defendant was drunk when he met him.

The Bench dismissed the case.

It's hard to tell who was telling the truth isn't it? If anyone knows the other players in this story, do let me know.

The Hare and Hounds was on the cross roads in the middle of Shepton Mallet, opposite the Nat West Bank. It was pulled down in the 1960's.