Corn Stealing in Great Chesterford

Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 26 August 1904Friday 26 August 1904



On Tuesday, at the Saffron Walden County Bench, before Major Biscoe, in the chair, Major Pelly, E. B. Gibson, J. Bell, and H. Stear, Esqrs.

Herbert Parsons, 23, a builder, of Ickleton, was charged on remand with stealing two bushels of of crushed oats, one bushel of whole oats, one bushel of tail wheat, two sacks, and one bag, of the total value of 13s., the property of Mr. J. C. Middlehurst, farmer, of Great Chesterford, on August 13.

Thomas Newman, 39, a farm foreman, in the employ of Mr. Middlehurst, was charged with aiding and abetting Parsons to commit the offence. Mr. B. L. Ackland appeared for the prosecution, and Dr. Cooper, of Cambridge, defended Parsons.

Robert Charles Howe, a gamekeeper, stated that on the day in question he was at Chesterford Park Farm at about 2.30. He went to the house and knocked on the door. He remained there about twenty minutes, when Mrs. Newman and defendant Parsons went to the door. He had a conversation with Mrs. Newman in the presence of Parsons. He heard Parsons ask Mrs. Newman where Newman was, and she said, "On the Pett Field, driving away wheat." Witness left the farm, and went towards a wood, when he saw Parsons in his cart on the Pitt Field, talking to Newman.

John Reynolds, a boy, of Great Chesterford, said he was near the Greyhound Inn, Great Chesterford, on the afternoon in question. He saw Parsons' horse and cart standing outside the Greyhound. He afterwards saw Parsons come out of the Greyhound, and asked him to give him a ride to Ickleton, which he did. Witness saw two or three sacks in the cart. One was full and the other two sacks were half full. Witness sat on one of the sacks. It was about four o'clock. —Cross-examined: He left the cart before defendant got to his house.

P.s. Wood, stationed at Great Chesterford, stated that at 4.30 on the day in question he went to Ickleton and saw Parsons in his mother-in-law's house, in Mill Lane. he told him ——

Dr. Cooper: Did you caution him? —Witness: No. I told him I was informed that he was seen coming from Chesterford Park just previously with some sacks in his cart, which it was believed contained corn. I asked Parsons to accompany me to his premises. P.c. Huckle was there. We went to Parsons' stable, and there found a sack containing two bushels of crushed oats, a bag containing whole oats and beans mixed, about a bushel in all, also a sack containing about a bushel of tailed wheat, all of which I produce. The tailed wheat was in a sack on which was the name of "E. J. Pilgrim." One bag had no name on it, and another had a foreign brand on it. We took the corn out of the stable, and I asked Parsons how he accounted for the possession of it? Parsons replied, "I may as well tell the truth." I said, "Perhaps that will be the best." Parsons then said, "I went up to Chesterford Park this afternoon to see Thomas Newman. I saw his wife, and she told me that Newman was in the field carting corn. I went to the field to Newman, and we spoke about the corn they were carting. Newman said to me, "If you want any oats you can take some; there is also a little tailed wheat in the brewhouse you can have." I then went to the farm and helped myself to the oats, and took the wheat from the brewhouse, where Newman told me it was."

Witness added: I then told Parsons that I should have to take possession of the corn. Parsons said, "I should like to see Mr. Middlehurst, and I hope he will look over it. I would not have had this happen for £1,000. As we could not get a conveyance to take the corn to Chesterford, Parsons put his horse in the cart and took it to Mr. Middlehurst's. I rode on my bicycle behind him. Mr Middlehurst was not at home, and I went to an off-hand farm and made a communication to him. After a time prosecutor arrived home at the Manor Farm, where Parsons still was. Mr. Middlehurst said to Parsons, "What's the meaning of this?" Parsons said, "I am sorry, and hope you will forgive me. I would not have had it happen for £1,000." Mr. Middlehurst said, "What happen?" and Parsons replied, "Taking your corn." Mr. Middlehurst asked Parsons how long it had been going on? and he replied, "Since I started work up there." Mr. Middlehurst asked how often, and Parsons replied, "Every week or so." The prosecutor asked Parsons if he had had anything else besides oats and wheat and he replied, "Yes, a bag or two of chaff now and again." Mr. Middlehurst asked Parsons what he had given Newman for it, and he said he had given him a shilling or two and an old dogcart. Newman afterwards came down to the Manor Farm. He was not cautioned. Mr. Middlehurst called Newman on one side and said to him, "I have sent to you on very serious business." Newman replied, " I know nothing about it; I was not there. He took them himself." Mr. Middlehurst said, "Nothing about what?" Newman replied, "Nothing; you will get nothing out of me." Parsons was sent for, and asked what was paid in the field that afternoon. Parsons said he asked Newman if he might have a little corn. Newman told him he might help himself, and that there was a little tailed wheat in the brewhouse which he might have. Newman denied this, and said, "You asked me where your tools were. I did tell you there was a little tailed wheat in the brewhouse; you could have that." Mr. Middlehurst afterwards gave both men into custody. On the 14th I went to the barn with Mr. Middlehurst and P.s. Howlett, and took a sample of crushed oats from a heap on the floor. We then went to the granary, and found three bags of oats and beans mixed. One was about a bushel short. All corresponded to the corn found on Parsons' premises.

Prosecutor stated that he lived on the Manor Farm, and occupied two other farms, one of which was Chesterford Park Farm, the latter being about a mile and a half from the main road. Newman was his foreman, lived at the Park Farm, and had been in his employ about three years. Newman's duties were to superintend, but he had no authority to buy, sell, lend, or give anything away. Parsons took some work at the farm about Christmas time, which he finished about two months ago. He had had no business there since that time. Witness corroborated the Sergeant as to the conversation with the defendants. He added that Parsons said he had a little corn when he first went to the farm. Newman had given him some pretty often, but he had helped himself several times. Witness concluded that he had compared the samples with the contents of the bags, and he believed them to be the same. He knew the sacks. —Cross-examined, witness said he went to the farm nearly every day. he had Newman watched two months ago.

Edward Town, in the employ of Parsons, said he remembered the police going to Parsons' premises. There were no oaths there on the morning of the 13th. On the evening of that day there were some crushed oats on the premises, some of which he gave to the horse. He was not sure that the bags came from the Park Farm. He had brought wheat away from the farm. Parsons told him to fetch the wheat, and on another occasions he fetched some grass.

P.s. Howlett deposed to receiving the charge at the police-station. He gave the accused the usual caution. Parsons said, "He told me where the oats and wheat were." Newman said, "I never told him about any oats at all; I told him about the tailed wheat."

Dr. Cooper, addressing the Bench, submitted that there was no evidence against Parsons. The law, he said, did not allow a man to be apprehended on suspicion without a caution. In the event of the Bench considering that there was a prima facie case, he would ask that it be sent for trial at the Assize, so that it might come before a judge

Parsons pleaded not guilty. Newman said, "I am guilty of what I have done, but nothing else."

The defendants were committed for trial at the Essex Quarter Session, bail being allowed.