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THE YEOVIL CHEESE ROBBERY AND OTHER CASES

Two cheeses valued at five shillings were stolen from Jane Corry at the Yeovil Market under the Town Hall on High Street during the evening of 13 January 1854, and three teenagers went to gaol.

The three, sixteen years-old John Collins, George Vincent, 15, and William Sylvester, aged 16, appeared at the Somerset Quarter Sessions during the following March charged with stealing two cheeses the property of Jane Corry.

The said Jane told the court that she had purchased 68 cheeses at the market, but not being able to remove them all at once, she had found two missing on her return to collect those which remained.

Police Constable Trimby, testified that he had been on duty at the market and observed the three youths acting in a suspicious manner. Suspecting ‘something was wrong’, he watched them and saw Collins and another boy, whom he could not identify in the low light, go into the market and carry away the cheeses. Vincent and Sylvester were ‘hanging around’ near the entrance. The constable stated that he had apprehended Collins with the cheese in his possession, and a second was found near the entrance. Collins, Vincent and Sylvester were arrested and charged with stealing the two cheeses.

All three pleaded guilty, Vincent, described as ‘an old offender’ was sentenced to four years penal servitude, Sylvester who had previous ‘form’, to two years, and Collins to two months in gaol.

When he saw Joseph Mitchell, junior, jumping his horse over a wall and into a field of mowing grass at Long Load, owned by his employer Mr Benjafield, Joseph Tucker scrambled up onto the wall and shouted to the young man to stop. Joseph Mitchell, however jumped his horse over the wall again but fell off in the process. Remounting, he rode across the field but then turned and riding up to Joseph Tucker, knocked him off the wall, encouraged by his father, also Joseph by name, who had been watching the proceedings, and who shouted out – ‘Put it into him, put it into him! Pay him, pay him!’

The events of that afternoon were described by Joseph Tucker at the County Petty Sessions in Yeovil on 4 July 1860, when the two Mitchells appeared charged with assault and found guilty, each being fined £1 plus costs.

At the same July sitting, Ann Denty was summoned on a complaint by Sarah Higgins, following a dispute over a swarm of bees which Sarah had ‘taken possession’, but which Ann claimed to be hers. Sarah Higgins alleged that Ann had hit her with a stick, but in return, Ann stated that the complainant had thrown the contents of a bucket of water in her face. The magistrates, however, took the view that this was a private row, and at their suggestion, the case was settled between the two ladies.

Likewise at the suggestion of the magistrates, a case of assault at Chiselborough involving Jonathan Higgins and Noah Langdon, was settled between the two ‘disputants’.

Some thirty-one years later, on 17 January 1891, William Short, appeared at the County Petty Sessions in Yeovil, charged with stealing two fowls valued at five shillings, the property of George Cole, farmer of Yeovil Marsh.

Farmer Cole, told the court that he had discovered two of his fowls were missing on the morning of 10 January, and suspicion had fallen on his former employee, William Short. Two police constables had gone to William Short’s house on Coppice Hill, where they found a partly cooked fowl in a boiler over the fire, and in the back-kitchen a second was found already plucked, together with a basket of feathers. Farmer Cole had identified the feathers as being similar to those of the stolen fowls. The court was told that the prisoner had said ‘You won’t be hard with me, it’s my first time.’

William Short pleaded guilty stating that he had stolen the fowls because he had been out of work and his wife and family had nothing to eat. Farmer Cole told the court that William had been a good workman, and gave him an excellent character asking the magistrates to ‘deal with him leniently, this being his first offence’.

The magistrates, taking in consideration that he had been in custody for nearly a week and leniency had been asked, discharged William Short hoping that ‘it would be a caution to him for the future’.


Jack Sweet
October 2019

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