21 January 2009

Right side of the law

I worry sometimes about my ability to maintain some sort of concentration but today this weakness has been a blessing. I thought I'd write about Thomas Staden in today's blog entry and, by way of preparation, I went to Google and entered his name. Of course, his less-than-illustrious descendant Walter Thomas Staden was conspicuous amongst the search results and this led me to the wonderful Old Bailey website (http://www.oldbaileyonline.org) where I found one of my ancestors on the right side of the law for a change.

Richard Markham Culpin (1841-1895) was the son of James Culpin and Harriett Markham and started his working life in St Ives as a Post Office Messenger (1861 census). By 1871 he was a Police Sergeant in Kensington so it was no great leap to decide that he was the "Policeman P97" of the following tales.

In 1868, the Old Bailey saw the case of Johnson & Webb, up in front of the beak for "Stealing a lamb, the property of Daniel Phillips". The main witness for the prosecution was "Richard Culpin (Policeman P97)" who kept watch to catch Messrs Johnson & Webb with the lamb actually in the pot. These gentlemen lived and worked on Mr Phillips' farm and it seems that they tried to pass it off as bacon but the long arm of the law knew his stuff. The defendants went down for twelve months each.

In the second case, in 1869, Richard only got a partial result. The case was against Edwards Sims and Martha Lewis for "unlawfully attempting to break and enter the dwelling house .... with intent to steal". Or, according to William Larigan, Policeman P125, "for attempting burglariously . . . " What an excellent word! Anyway, my ancestorial Plod (Policeman P97) turned up just after the attempt and found a chisel lying on the lawn outside the kitchen window, together with a knife and a file. He concluded that "they would be useful instruments for getting into a house". Sims got two years but Lewis, who appeared to be an astonishingly useless look-out, was let off.

By 1881, Richard seems to have forsaken the constabulary and has married Selina Garland; together they are running a lodging house in Skegness. He was in the same business ten years later and died in 1895 in Derbyshire.

Remember the word of the day: Burglariously.

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