CRIME IN OLD ROTHERHAM: A Burglary by father and daughter

ON the evening of Sunday February 12 1841, a servant girl Maria Parker was sent by her mistress Mrs Didsbury of Canklow Lane, to go into the cellar and bring up some food for supper. She noted that the cellar grate was fastened and the door to the outside

A quantity of cheese, bread and butter, a small ham and some mutton and beef had been stolen. She also saw that the door which led into the wine cellar had also been broken open, and eight bottles of wine were missing. An empty bottle of wine, which had been drunk by the thieves lay broken upon the floor. Maria went back upstairs and reported the theft to her mistress.

A short time later the two women went back into the cellar and her mistress confirmed that the items had gone. Constable John Bland was called to the house of Mrs Didsbury, and confirmed that the cellar had indeed been broken into. He found several footmarks in the flower border near to the grate which led into the cellar. One of the prints was larger than the other, but both of them were very distinct and perfect. On the sole of the right shoe on the largest pair of shoes were three rows of small nails. One row came within an inch of the other. There was a single row also near to the heel of the shoe, which appeared to be very worn down. The other shoe had similar marking and was very visible in the soil. This shoe had a distinct crack in it, and he saw the same prints near to the garden gate.

The servant, Maria Parker, told the magistrates that after she had discovered the missing items, she had gone into the garden to examine the grating from the outside. There she found some of the cheese, ham and a piece of beef left by a wall. A night watchman Joshua Hemsill stated that about 1.45am on the Monday morning he was making his rounds on Westgate, when he noticed a light was on at the house of Benjamin Turton. He listened at the door for a while and heard someone walking about, before continuing with his rounds.

A little after 2am he went past the house again and once more saw a light. Another witness was a James Taylor, a shoemaker of Rotherham, who told the magistrates that on Monday afternoon about 1pm he was walking from the cattle market into Wellgate, when he saw Harriet Turton drunk on Quarry Hill. The girl was so drunk that she fell down into the channel at the side of the road. He helped her back onto her feet and she sad ‘oh dear what will become of me’. She then tried to walk away, but fell once more against a wall and hurt her head. Another witness claimed that she too had seen Harriet very drunk the same afternoon.

Constable Dearnelly told the court that on Monday evening of December 13 he and constable Bland went to the house of Benjamin Turton and found only Harriet and her mother were there. He told her that her and her father were under suspicion for the robbery, and he then searched the house.

The constable asked Harriet for her father shoes, and she told him that she was wearing them at the time, as her own shoes needed mending. He looked at them and found they corresponded exactly with the prints in the soil at Mrs Didsbury’s garden.

When her own shoes were found, the soles corresponded with the footprints in the garden.  On Thursday February 16 1841, both father and daughter were brought into the Court House at Rotherham charged on suspicion of committing the burglary. They were simply remanded in order for the police to continue with their enquiries. When the prisoners were brought back into court on Monday 20 they had a solicitor, Mr J Badger who was defending them.

Constable Bland stated that on Wednesday morning he compared the prisoner’s shoes, which had been removed when they were placed in the cells, with the footprints in the garden. He told the magistrates that the prints matched in every degree. The magistrates conferred briefly before stating that the evidence of the shoe prints, as well as the girl being seen drunk in the streets following the night of the robbery, was enough evidence to find them both guilty and he sentenced them to take their trial at the assizes. When the pair were tried at the Sheffield Quarter Sessions on Friday February 28 1842 they were both given six months imprisonment.


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