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Forum Home > Other Crimes and Punishments. > Worcester, Hangings and Punishments.

Alaska.
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It was a bad year in the Black Country, some places worse than others. Around Stourbridge, Lye, and Halesowen, about half the population were on the meagre Parish Relief. Most certainly not the time to find out, that in a few months time, there would bo another mouth to feed. On the Lye Waste, amongst the population, concidered by many to be the most lawless and wicked place on earth, marriage was not a high priority, it did after all, cost money. Ann Cook, who had a good reputation , coming as she did, from a respectable nailing family in Oldswinford, had surprisingly taken up with a hawker, Michael Toll. He was of Irish descent, and possesed, so it was said, the gift of the gab. She helped him carry his wares around the region, sleeping anywhere they could find, and in the winter, returning to Lye, to a little mud house, which were a feature of the " Waste ".  Around the 24th August, Ann went missing. Her " Husband ", went searching for her that evening, around the local beer house's. It was known that he owed money to some locals, and after being accosted by one of them, said his "Wife", for whom he was searching for, had all the money on her person. He expresed many times, that he had a 'feeling' she was dead. He next went to Ann's family in Oldswinford, and told them of his concern, at her disappearence. The days went by, and on the 28th August, her body was found, 60 feet down an old mine shaft near to Oldswinford. Despite Tolls apparent distress, some were not convinced, even more so when the Doctor found several injuries to the back of Anns head. Arrested, Toll was charged with Wilful Murder, following a further disclosure that the poor woman was also pregnant when she died. The evdence suggests that several witness'es saw the pair together the day she died, quite near to the place her body was found. There was, for the time, a delay in carrying out the court sentence, Michael Toll was not executed until 12th March, 1830, outside Worcester Gaol. His body was anatomised.


Some 4 days before Michael Tolls hanging, another man was found guilty of stealing, a Cradley nailmaker, Thomas Mansell. He had gone to the man he worked for, and begged for a small advance on his wages, to feed his family, and buy a new pair of Boots. His plea fell on deaf ears, Thomas Crampton, who lived in Colmans Hill, was noted for being a very hard taskmaster. It being near Christmas, and Mansell, getting increasingly desperate, broke into Cromptons house, stole a large Ham, a greatcoat, and a pair of boots. Crampton wasted no time in having Mansell pursued, but he remained at large for several weeks, only being caught, after his starving wife and children had been admitted to the workhouse. He had been hiding in Rowley, where he had relatives, but had taken the risk, and gone to see his family. As unrest was sweeping through the area due to the low level of wages and lack of work, he was made an example of. Hanged by the neck, some weeks after Toll. Comparing the two, I know which one I feel sorry for.


Leaping forward in time, to 1840, and we find a change of direction. James Hodgetts, a nailer from Halesowen, was fortunate to escape the same fate. He had robbed another " Nail Master ", Mr Bissell, of £7, after breaking into his wharehouse. To his undoubted astonishment, he was saved from the noose by being given a sentence of transportation for 7 years. He lived, but his family would have been condemned to poverty, having no breadwinner in the house, and in all likelihood, ended up in the workhouse. There's no doubt, then when Laws were passed, and Justice served out, who they were meant to protect, is there.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 13, 2011 at 11:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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There are few more from the area, who were indeed lucky to escape the rope. A few years earlier, and they would have surely perished. Thomas Hand, who worked in an Iron foundry as a Puddler, unable to make ends meet, ( we've all been there ) stole clothes for his family. His punishment was 2 months hard labour, and ordered to be flogged. How the Magistrates made the distinction between each crime, I can't imagine, but John Wilkes, a labourer from Halesowen, was ordered to be transported for 15 years. His crime, stealing two quarts (4 pints) of Milk. The same sentence was handed down to John Oakly, from Dudley, for stealing a length of rope from the Colliery where he worked. Left to the mine owner,  I bet he would have hung him with the same piece of rope. Two almost indentical case's on the same day, saw completely different sentences. A Tailor, was given 2 months hard labour for stealing a Frock Coat, yet young Thomas Hughes from Dudley was handed 11 years transportation for virtually the same offence. Perhaps Dudley was viewed as a den of iniquity, and no punishment was concidered to harsh for simple theft. Samuel Westley, from Dudley, and Elizabeth Mason from Netherton, were both transported in this year, for stealing Brass, the time being 7 years. It should be remembered, that very few of these men and women ever came back from Australia, indeed some of them never survived the trip out. At least Elizabeth White, from Stourbridge. made a noisy and forthright protest, at being sentenced to be transported for 7 years. She had, after all, only stolen a Kettle. The year all these rather harsh  sentences were given out, by the way, was 1842.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 13, 2011 at 3:43 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Samuel Porter, 1901.


There have of course been a good many who should have been hanged, but for some reason, escaped the ultimate punishment. Born in Tipton, in 1866, Samuel Porter was one of them. From a young age, he was well known around the Pigeon lofts of his native town, not for his knowledge and expertise with the Birds, but for his penchant of nicking them. You may ask why, but as any fancier will tell you, a good racer is worth a lot of money. Sadly, he was a terrible thief, and soon became very aquainted with both the Police, and the inside of a prison cell. He turned his hand, to a bit of house-breaking, and was no more successful at this, than pigeon stealing. In 1898, his father had seen enough. Having spent long hours, trying to get his errant son to change his ways, they had a violent arguement, and Samuel left the district. To date, he had served at least 12 years in prison, and the old mans anger was fully understandable. I bet the local Police breathed a sigh of relief as well. He at last got himself a job, at the Berry Hill Colliery, Fenton, just outside Stoke-on-Trent, where his wanderings had taken him. He managed to obtain lodgings, and from close by, met a young woman, Mary Farr, whose husband had skipped, leaving her with two young children. He did not take them on, and they were taken in, and cared for, by Mary's brother, Thomas Salt, in Hanley. About 1900, Mary gave birth to Samuels child, but it died in infancy.  Within a few days, leaving Mary's children behind, they decamped from Fenton, and headed for a place Samuel knew well from his days of pigeon nicking, Oldbury. What Mary Farr saw in this rogue, is anyones guess, but her expectations couldn't have been very high. And so it proved. The accomodation they chose, a small two roomed house in Union Street (Furnace Row) was in poor condition, in one of the most run down areas of Oldbury. She was probably grateful she had a roof over her head, and that Samuel, had found a job as a puddler, in the local Iron works. It's not known when Samuel Porter began beating Mary, but stories suggest, that this was one of the reasons he had left the Potteries. Their new neighbours soon became used to the constant rows, and for most part, took no notice, it was far from being unusual in that area. The "trigger", that saw the violence increase, was possibly when Mary told him she was again pregnant. To Samuel. life had always been a struggle for survival, he had no social skills, very little experience of a family life, having spent most of his adult life locked up. The pent up anger, all his own fault I should add, It wouldn't do to be too sympathic to such a man, burst out on the night of 7th September, 1901. It being a Saturday, Mary had gone out with her friend, Mercy Atkiss, to a Pub called " The New Inns ", without Samuels permission. On the way back, (it was stated by reliable witness'es, that they only had one drink) she called in at another neighbours house, for matches, to light candles. At this point, the drunken Samuel Porter turned up, realised that Mary had disobeyed his orders, and began beating her on the yard. He kicked her several times, and the neighbour, Mrs Hannah Blewitt, threatened to call the Police. This was a mistake, as it only inflamed the situation, Samuel after all, had no liking for the Police. He then treatened to kill her, which caused her, and several others who had gathered, to retreat to the safety of her house, and dragged Mary indoors. During the night, screams, and pleas for mercy came from their home, but eventually it all went quiet, and the neighbours went back to sleep. Next morning, while filling a bucket with water from the yards standpipe, Mrs Blewitt noticed the door to Marys house was open. There were no sounds, and no sign of life, so she went in, calling Marys name. The sight she found was truely horrifing. The floor was covered in blood, as were the stairs, and sprawled across the bed, was the cold and battered corpse of Mary Farr. Her cries bought out a crowd, but Samuel Porter wasn't amongst them, he had long since fled the awful scene. News quickly spread of this outrage, and a discription of the wanted man was soon telegraphed around the Country. He was not long on the run was Samuel, a sharp eyed Policeman, in Fenton, spotted him coming out of hiding just two days later. He had run back to somewhere he felt safe, the Colliery he had previuosly worked at. Nobody would suggest, that Samuel Porter was very bright. He was taken back to Oldbury, under strong guard, as feelings were running high, and the Police did not want a lynching to deal with as well. At the inquest, Porter claimed that Mary had been drunk, began to fall about, and had banged her head on a table. She had then fallen down the stairs, from top to bottom, and he had put her to bed, to sleep it off. It didn't wash, and he was committed to Winson Green, pending the next Assizes at Worcester. The Coroner also had a go at the neighbours, all of whom failed to call for assistance, when the attack on poor Mary had started. On the 16th November, the day of his trial, Samuel Porter stuck to the same story, his defence lawyer claimed he hadn't meant to kill her, and he should have been charged only with Manslaughter. There was a great deal of conflicting evidence, and the jury must have struggled some time with it all. In the end, to the shock of all who attended, Samuel Porter was convicted on the lesser charge, and received a sentence of life imprisonment. That such a brutal murderer, should escape the consequences of his actions, was a surprise at the time. If anyone deserved to face the drop, it was surely Samuel Porter, Shame that he didn't, a thought that must have crossed the minds of many from Oldbury in 1901.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 12, 2011 at 11:52 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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Now in Worcester, as in other places, they didn't have a proper prison. Well, not one we would recognise as one anyway, for it was called, in the 1600s, a " House of Correction ". It held local miscreants for minor crimes, for anything up to 2 years, and the conditions must have been pretty grim. It also housed those charged with more serious offences, while awaiting execution at Redhill, not far away. The records show a variety of offences, which could get a person committed, including, in 1636, Katherine Farley, for having begat a bastard child. There's no record of the father being imprisoned, just her. He was however, under the law, compelled to support his offspring, and it's not likely he escaped scot free. Likewise, in the same year, Alice Tillers, was also sent into the house, although what good it would do, is anybody's guess. It was after all, far too late to " correct " their ways, the deed was long past being done. They weren't above committing the young either. In 1637, perhaps as a bit of devilment, or a prank, 9 year old Thomas Evans was sent there, for damaging Sir William Russell's Coach. Maybe he threw a clod of earth at it, the nobility were never very popular, and he was a very strict Magistrate. In a report for the next year, the poor lad was still in there, and to boot, being made to do hard labour. Now if I asked anyone when bad behaviour in a Pub began, I bet I would get a whole raft of dates. 1638, and John Waldren, and his wife Elizabeth, were dragged before the Quarter Sessions, for keeping a disorderly Alehouse. The charge also included, Poaching, stealing hunting dogs, and his wife was as bad, she being prone to uttering the most fearfull curse's, and oaths of revenge if anyone complained. Waldren's other job was as a scythe grinder, and no surprise there then, that most locals wouldn't testify. They probably didn't fancy being given a shave with a scythe. It wasn't safe at times to go wandering looking for work either. Two men, were given a month in the house for being " Idle and wandering persons ". It's not hard to guess the fate of Andrew Dufty, in 1637 for Sheep stealing, nor Joan Harper, Alice Cooke, and William Evans, in the same year, for Housebreaking. They were down for the big drop. Poor old Sir William Russell, you have to feel a bit sorry for him, for just after his Coach was damaged, some peasent actually stole his Lace curtains. Yes, you might have guessed, from his apparently jinxed Coach.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 16, 2011 at 3:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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William Perrall, a married man from Halesowen, with 4 children, was spared the noose in 1828. He was a Well Sinker, not a full time occupation at the best at of times, and in this year he must have been feeling the pinch a bit. On the 17th March, he stealthly sneaked into a former employers house, knowing there be food in plenty, and stole a Flitch of Bacon, a few vegetables, and an old coat. The coat was to wrap the stolen items in. Joseph Green, the former owner of the items, was a bit displeased, and when his servant told him he had seen Perrall hanging about the place, soon pointed the finger in his direction. Sent off to the Shrewsbury Assizes, Perrall would have been under no illusions, as to the fate that awaited him, should a Guilty verdict be returned. It was, but the Judge must have been having a good day, because instead of a sentence of death, he ordered William Perrall be transported for life. William was then aged 46, how long he lasted in the brave new world is anyones guess.


An Oldbury man, William Stevenson, ( the name in the Assize records, but corrected  for his eventual trial and hanging to William Steventon ) 31 years old, and a Colliery Labourer, found himself on a charge of Wilful Murder. He had got into a dispute, over the payment of maintenance money towards the upkeep of his illigitmate children. He was already married, had 5 children of his own, and the payments were affecting his rather drunken lifestyle. His case was heard before the Court of Requests in Oldbury, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. John Horton, an officer of the Court, and I should stress here, that he was not a Policeman, caught up with Steventon at the Whimsey Public House, , in Oldbury.  Horton knew he was a violent character, so, I presume, to keep the situation calm, agreed, while they were outside the pub, to Steventon going home to wash, and change his work clothes. At no time were any harsh words exchanged, nor did Horton offer any violence towards Steventon. When he returned, a short time later, he approached Horton, who was now back in the Pub. The court officer had no idea, that concealed in his coat, Steventon had a broken off length of sword, two feet long, and with a home made handle, forming a long and very sharp knife. He promptly stated, that he would stab any man who tried to lay hands on him. Horton, who was seated at the time, rose to try and calm the situation, only to be run through with the weapon that Steventon had produced from under his coat. The sharp blade went right through Hortons lower body, almost cutting his liver in two. Horton managed to take a few steps, before collapsing to the floor, announcing that he was a dead man. Three hours later, he was indeed, stone dead.  Steventon, defying any one to stop him, left the Pub, and vanished from the area. He was later apprehended in Pontypool, Mommouthshire, denied he had done it, sticking to the statement that he was as innocent as a new born baby, right up until the moment he was executed at Shrewsbury Prison. It should be noted, that at the time, Oldbury was part of the parish of Halesowen,, which itself was a part of Shropshire, based on the old Manorial system, which didn't change until 1841. There was never any question that Steventon had not committed the offence. There were far too many witness'es, and he had made the same threat against all the Court of Plea's Officers. The case did not last long, and the Jury does not appear to have been much impressed with the defendant, who was described as a having a depraved,debauched, and drunken lifestyle. He was sentenced to death, and his body ordered for dissection,  the date was then set for Monday 4th August,1828. The crowd of over 4,000 may have been a bit disappointed, for William Steventon showed the same disdain on the scaffold as he had displayed in Court, and the execution was over in minutes, Steventon himself helping the executioner to put the halter around his own neck. Blaming it all on the drink, and persistantly breaking the Sabbath, ( his alleged confession on the night before his tongue was silenced forever)  may have been confused with the executions that followed Steventon's. This was a more lavish affair, being a multiple hanging, and no doubt the crowd got their moneys worth, but thats another sordid story. Not wishing to miss a chance at ramming home the message to his flock, The Rev George Barrs, vicar of nearby Rowley, announced a special service for the afternoon of 17th August, and filled the Church,Saint Giles, Rowley Village, to the point of overflowing.The gist of his sermon was taken from the quotation below. I very much doubt, that anyone, in the then small community of Oldbury, shed any tears for William Steventon.


" Then lust having conceived, brought forth sin, and sin finished, bringing forth death "

 James, (i) verse15.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 14, 2011 at 4:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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1816, seems to have been a busy year at the Shrewsbury Assizes, perticulary for a few from the Halesowen area, who found themselves up before the Judges. Martha Riley, unmarried, with a young child, and without support, stole a few Potatoes from a nearby garden. The irate owner called the Constable and Martha was soon on the way to Shrewsbury for trial. ( Halesowen was under the administration of Shropshire until the 1840s.)  On January 10th, she was found guilty, and sentenced to a years hard labour. What happened to the child you may ask, simple really. it served the time with her in gaol. Another young woman, Sarah Beddowes, was convicted in March, of stealing a few clothes to replace the rags she was wearing. She was spared no mercy either, and again, with child in tow, had to do a years hard labour. A month later, and the flow of any compassion was hard to detect, when Edward Hastings, was caught stealing some brushes. Not only did he get a years hard labour, but after he had been in barely a week, he was taken and Publically Whipped, as a lesson to others. Poor old William Gilliam, he must have been on his last legs when he stole a quantity of Iron nailrods. Sentenced to just 3 months hard labour, he was released after 2 months, his health being too bad to finish the sentence. I suspect they just didn't want the hassle of him dying in the gaol, and all the form filling that would entail. At least none of them were hanged for such petty offences, unlike many before them, as the Law began to change and dropped a great many of the crimes from the Capital Punishment list. Still, the list included attempted Murder, as another local man, William Handley found out to his cost. For shooting at John Bannock, in 1833, he got his neck elongated. Some 3 years later, in 1836, Lawrence Curtis, 21, Patrick Donnelly 30 and his brother Edward Donnelly, 42, were given the distinction of being the last highway robbers to be hanged in the County. John Williams, in 1842, became the last man from the area to be hanged at Shrewsbury, prior to Halesowen being handed over to Worcestershire.  He had savagely murdered Emma Evens, and reputedly fed part of her to his Pigs. Obviously an animal lover then, as he doesn't appear to have had much time for human company.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 20, 2011 at 2:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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On a more lighter note, but a serious matter for the Parish Councils of old, was the number of illegitimate children it had to support. They must have welcomed, with open arms, the act of 1743 which gave them the power to reduce the costs. It directed, that any man, charged on oath with fathering a bastard child, could be arrested,, thrown into gaol, and the only way out was to obtain a guarantee, This had to be in the form of a bond, usually about £40, to be paid by the bondsman in the event of the fathers failure to pay up. The signers of the bond, had to be of good standing in the parish. The next bit is an extract from the Bromsgrove Poor Law and Settlement Documents, 1750.


Smith, Elizabeth.  Singlewoman, who, about the 5th of May last year, did prevail with Samuel Hockleshire of Beoley, to lie with her. At the time aforesaid, she saith he did lie with her and had carnal knowledge of her body too several times, at the house of William Ashfield, at Lydemore, in the parish of Bromsgrove. Whereby the examinant, Smith, is now big with child of the bastard sort, and the examinant further saith that no other person before the said Samuel Hockleshire had ever carnal knowledge of her body.


Bang to rights you might say, well and truly stitched up was poor old Samuel, who for some reason, was better known in the district as " Fustian Sam ". He had to quickly find two other men to stand surety with him, otherwise he faced a lengthy spell in the chokey. Samuel Troth, and Thomas Gower, both yeomen of the parish, guaranteed, along with Hockleshire, who was a yeoman of Beoley, the sum of £40, should Elizabeth Smith, who had sworn that the father of her child was Hockleshire, have a future need of parish funds. How sad, that today, so many manage to evade the responsibilties, that come with fathering children. Just think how much money, the long suffering taxpayer would have saved, if the system was still in place. The one we have know, only penalises those that admit the error, pity really, you can't father any more children when you're banged up.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 5, 2011 at 11:43 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
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It's a strange thing, but just like the criminals of old, most modern thieve's have a prediliction to always steal similar items. Samuel Porter, ( see posts above ) stole pigeons, and Moses Shrimpton, was renowned for poaching and stealing Hens. Shrimpton was born in 1819, at Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire, spent some part of his early years in Aylesbury Prison. moved to Redditch, Worcestershire, in the 1840s,and by the time of this story, was 65 years old, and with a criminal record as long as both of your arms. He had served terms of imprisonment at Worcester, but his main abode after being caught, was Winson Green. Shrimpton was what we would term as a hardman, never easy to give in, he suffered periods on " the Treadmill ", and time turning a handle on " the Crank ".  He had one other trait, he hated coppers. One policeman in particular, P.C. James Davies, was a constant thorn in old Moses side. On the 28th Febuary,1885, as soon as it was dark, old Moses set off on one of his nightly " expeditions ". There had been a spate of hen stealing from the local farms, and P.C. Davies was on the lookout. He caught the thief in Eagle Lane, Wythall, but was destined never to charge the miscreant. In the early hours of the next morning, John Twigg, a farm labourer on the way to work, found P.C.Davies's mutilated body in the lane. There had been an almighty struggle, as the officers whistle and chain was found almost 200 yards from his body. Blood was spattered along the route, and a set of footprints was observed, leading from the raided hen house of the farm. Following a new procedure, P.C Whitehouse quickly took impressions of the footprints, by pouring in a mixture of plaster. These were to prove a vital clue in convicting the murderer. It didn't take long for the Police to work out who was the likely suspect, and, that Shrimpton had a very long record, and his Photograph was in the files. When in trouble, Moses Shrimpton always hid in the narrow crowded and dirty streets of Birmingham, but in this instance, an alert Officer at Duke Street, recognized the face. He was arrested at his friends house in Bartholomew Street. Although this friend, ( later to be identified as Moses Shrimpton's legitimate wife ) Mary Morton, had a string of convictions, she refused to supply Moses with an alibi. The killing of a policeman was then, as it is now, a step too far. ( even for his wife it seems ) At his trial on 7th May, his knife, bloodstained clothes, and the perfectly matching plaster cast footprints were presented in evidence. There was to be no escape for Moses Shrimpton, he was sentenced to death, the hanging set for 25th May at Worcester.


The hangman for the occasion, James Berry, was not a very happy man. One of his " Jobs " had already gone badly wrong, the convicted man having suffered partial decapitation, due to a miscalculation in his weight, and the height of the drop. Moses Shrimpton was to be another of Berry's mistakes. Described as being a scrawny, wasted individual, the drop worked out by Berry proved to be a few feet too much. It was not a pleasant sight down in the pit underneath the gallows for those who had to take down the body. Shrimptons head had been violently torn from his body, the pit walls were covered in blood, and two prison officers had to be treated for shock. The Doctor and the Prison Warden both wrote scathing reports of the incident, and when almost the same thing happened at a later date, James Berry was asked to resign. By a stroke of luck, some hours before P.C.Davies was so brutally killed, he was photographed outside a Public house, The Swan, not far from the crime scene. View it in the Gallery, and see if you can spot the face of Moses Shrimpton, who by another strange twist of fate, was in the Pub at the time.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 2, 2011 at 4:38 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Worcester Goal, was also the scene of the hanging, of one of the oldest men to be so dealt with. On the 15th November, 1862, William Ockold, 69, a Tailor, who had lived for many years in Oldbury, Worcestershire, brutally murdered his wife. Not an easy man to get along with, (although they had been married for nearly 50 years) he had frequently been heard quarrelling with her. She was at the time, sufferring from severe stomach pains, and was very ill. This made not the slightest difference to Ockold, who was only concerned with his own comfort. Taking a heavy mop. he beat her so hard that the handle snapped, and then leaving her on the bedroom floor, he went off to have a drink. Sophia, 73, the wife, was bleeding heavily from the wounds to the head, and shortly after he left, she died. The next morning, his sons wife came to see how the old lady was, and Ockold refused to let her go upstairs. Being a typical Black Country wench of the time, she easily barged past him and found her mother-in-law in the bedroom. William Ockold denied any knowledge of the affair, and displayed an indifference descirbed as quite callous. The verdict at the trial was as expected, but because of his age, the jury recommended mercy. Not so the Judge, who donned the dreaded black clothe, and promptly sentenced him to death. An appeal was made, and most folk expected him to be reprieved, but his callous attitude, and his continual denial of his guilt, precluded the Home Secretary from showing any mercy. Even on the day of the execution, the crowd of almost 5,000, gathered at Red Hill, were not hopeful of seeing a " show ".  On one of those rare moments, in his long and varied career, William Calcraft made a excellent job of this hanging. Which was just as well really, as he had another two hanging that week to carry out, assisted by that reprobate from Rowley Regis, the one and only, George Smith.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 17, 2011 at 3:02 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Perry Wood in Worcester, is now a nature reserve, and an ocean of tranquility from many years back. This ancient area of forestry, has seen many odd happening I suppose, but back in 1862, it was the setting for a nasty murder. The victim was an attractive 19 year old woman named Emily Jones, who lived with her mother and stepfather at the Falcon Inn, in the towns Broad Street. She was courting a young man, Timothy Grundy, a Blacksmith, born in The Tything, and who was lodging with his sister, in Foundry Street. They went off for a walk one Sunday, and on his return, he informed his relatives that he had done away with her. A quick search revealed the battered body of young Emily beside a pond in the woods. She had been attacked with a fencing stake. Timothy Grundy, was by all accounts, a strange young man.  It was not known to Emily's family, that he already had a criminal record, for Larceny with violence, for which he had been given 30 months hard labour in 1856, when he was 19. There was no doubt that he was responsible for her death, the reason for which was never established. A petty argument perhaps, or more likely she was dumping him. When he appeared in Court. the judge ordered that he be detained in a Lunatic asylum, while it was concidered if he was fit to plead. He had to wait sometime for the results, but the next year, on the 5th March 1863, he was found not guilty of murder, and instead, ordered to be held for life in a Lunatic Asylum. He never came out again, dying in Broadmoor in 1908, aged 71.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 15, 2012 at 12:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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By far one of the strangest case's in Worcestershire though, is a murder that failed to attract any punishment at all. Mind you, it did take a great many years to solve. There was of course, very little understanding of Forensic Science, in 1830, and it was the unexpected help of a branch of todays knowledge, the preservation of bodies, that identified the killers.


The little village of Oddingley, lies some 3 miles south of Droitwich, famous of course for it's Salt and Brine baths. It has a small church, Saint James the Apostle, and in 1806, a population little more than 120 souls. The Church, like many others had a right to collect Tithes and Taxes from this small community, and although these had never been regularly collected, the incumbant new Rector, The Reverand George Parker, put in a special effort. He was what in modern terms, would be described today, as a " Jobsworth ". He was not a very popular man in the district, especially amongst the farmers and landowners he collected from, whom he chastised at every opportunity. Six of them decided, enough was enough, and payment had to cease, otherwise they would be bankrupt. The method chosen to stop payment was fairly simple, they hired an out of work carpenter from Droitwich, Richard Hemming, to kill the Rector. On the afternoon of 24th June, 1806, kill him he did, by first shooting him, and when that failed, beating him to death in the Church grounds. Hearing the shot, some villagers ran to the scene, and one brave soul gave chase. He soon gave it up when Hemming, who had been recognised, turned and fired another shot. The murderer then vanished, and despite a reward offered, of 50 Guineas, ( an enormous sum of money in 1806 ) no trace could be found. It was later assumed that he had fled abroad, and after burying the unfortunate Rector, life went back to normal. Without having to pay any further Taxes, the inhabitants of Oddingley could enjoy a period of prosperity, for what Rector,in his right mind would commence what had cost the last one his life. Many years passed, and one of the farmers who had been involved in the plot, found himself overspent, and had to sell his property. The new owner, in 1830, decided to do some alterations, and started on one of the farms old barns. To his surprise, his workman uncovered a body, or rather what was left of a body. Even more surprising, the body was still in a recognisable state, possibly due to the ground conditions and the old barn being pretty weather proof. From Droitwich, they now fetched the widow of Richard Hemming, not just on the off chance either, suspicion was mounting. She easily identified her late husband, and Thomas Clewes was not surprisingly required for an interview. Perhaps he had held the secret for too long, as he now told how they had hidden the murderer, until he decided that he could make a better living Blackmailing the six farmers, rather than cutting up timber. They did to him what he had done to the Rector 25 years before, they shot him. As there wer only 3 of the six still alive, and 2 of them were now very public figures in the area, it was decided to take no further action. Now that was a strange thing to do you might think, but given that in Worcester, during 1830, they had already hanged three men, I suppose they thought that enough justice had already been done. Micheal Toll, Charles Wall, and Thomas Turner, the men hanged, would surely not have agreed. One law it seems for the rich, another for the poor.

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January 27, 2012 at 11:57 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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All of Worcester was agog in 1888, at the news that one of the towns Publicans, had been despicable poisoned. Not, I should add, as some would have it, by his own beer either. Henry Powell, was a well known figure in the Town, having served for many years in the Worcester Militia, where he had risen to the rank of Staff Sargeant. He seemed to be happily married, to Mary Eleanor Powell, who came from Preston, Lancashire, and was 10 years her husband junior. Around 1863, he left his cosy little house at 6, Kingston Terrace, Cherry Orchard, and took up the licence at the New Inn, Freeth Street. There now appeared a fly in the ointment, one James Henry Keatley, who rapidly became a regular customer. The beer was the reason he frequented the place, but the main attraction was 35 year old Mary. Now James Keatley, wasn't a very nice man, a hairdresser by trade, he had a wondering eye, which two years before he met Mary got him into trouble. On 16th January,1886, he was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment for an " Attempt to have carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 ".  He was released in May,1887, so had no job, no prospects, and more importantly, no money. Mary Eleanor Powell was a godsend, she had, so to speak, everything he desired, including an insurance policy on her husband, for the sum of £200. They decided to do away with Henry Powell, and put into his morning coffee, a dose of Morphia. If they were hoping it would be recorded as a natural death, they were mistaken, most of the customers at the New Inn knew about the affair and soon tongues were wagging. Arrests followed when half a grain of Morphia were found in Henry's Stomach, they even arrested the bar maid, Helen Humphries. The charge of murder had to be reviewed before the trial, because it was claimed that the pair had not intended to kill him, but only render him ill, so they could carry on with their affair. The charge was therefore reduced to one of Manslaughter, and the servant, the young miss Humphries, was aquitted. Not so the two lovers, they both got 12 years penal servitude, and most people thought they had got off lightly, you may think the same. An insight into the state of Prisons at the time, can be found on the Prison Conditions Page.

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January 31, 2012 at 3:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Now I know some folk like to collect interesting, but otherwise obscure, facts and figures. Here are a couple for someone's little black book. In 1834, Robert Lilly, was found guilty of murdering one John Wales, stabbing him several times after a argument in apub in Bromsgrove, and was duly hanged at Redhill, Worcester. In March,1837, William Lightband, aged 30, was hanged  outside the County Gaol, for the brutal slaying of shopkeeper Joseph Hawkins, in Areley Kings, in September the previous year. An uneducated Carpenter, with a lifestyle described as " irregular ", it was only on the morning of his execution that he contrived to show any remorse at all  There were no more Executions then for some time at Worcester, the Citizens expressing some distaste for Hanging, until 1847. What changed their minds on this occasion, was the totally senseless and brutal murder of Mary Ann Straight, on the 5th December 1846, at Broughton. She was only just turned 15, and most believed that only a madman could have inflicted such injuries on a child. Robert Pulley, a 49 year old local labourer was arrested, and the High Sheriff, also believing he must be mad, hired a Lawyer to defend him.  A petition for mercy was duly signed, but it became clear, that he was far from mad. Found guilty, he was hanged on the roof of the County Gaol at noon on the 26 th March,1848. Nothing unusual in this fact, except it was, as the records prove, " the last hanging in Worcester, for the next 24 years."  In a previous post, which you can find above, I mentioned a hanging in 1862, one William Ockold from Oldbury.  At 69, he was one of the oldest I had come across, but no, I have found another. Samuel Crowther, in 1888, maybe well into a second childhood, decided to steal some fruit from a local orchard. Just a bit of " scrumping " as most of the young lads of my day called it. ( Yes I did do a bit as well ) Unfortunately, he was caught by the Gardener, John Willis, and instead of owning up, and saying sorry, he stabbed the poor man to death. Admittedly, Crowther had a long record of petty theft, but had never ever used any violence. Dispite many cries for clemancy, and a petition, he was hanged at Worcester, by James Berry, on 11th December, 1888. He was 71 years old.

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February 8, 2012 at 4:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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I should, at the beginning of this topic, made it a bit clearer where all the executions were carried out. Worcester had two principal Goals, The County Goal, and the City Goal. The latter was only used for crimes committed within the old City Walls, and each had their own Execution Grounds. Down the A44, the Pershore and Evesham Road, near the junction with modern day Spetchley Road, will be found Red Hill, where the unfortunates from the County Goal met their maker. It was in use for this purpose from at least the 1530s, and maybe even ealier. Following the Gunpowder Plot, in 1605, three men were hanged on this site. Humphrey Littleton, John Wintour, and a local farmer called Perkes, all in 1606. In the years afterwards, over 350 Men and Women came to be Hanged at Red Hill, a few to be transported back to the scene of the crime, and hanged in chains. ( Gibbetted ) The City Goal had a site within the walls, at a place called Pitchcroft. This was a large flat area, near to the River, more familiar today as the Worcester Racecourse. So if you discover, that a long gone relative was hanged at Worcester, it would be useful to know just where he met his fate. Pitchcroft, as already said, was reserved mainly for the blackguards of Worcester.

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May 8, 2012 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Another famous character who met his end at Worcester, was Captain James Hind. Now Hind was well known around the country, being quite successful as a Highwayman. He was not though, born in the county, but at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, about 1618. He ran away to London, when he was 17 years old, craving a bit of excitement,  soon finding it through the bad company he kept. A staunch Royalist, he was a bit upset when Charles I misplaced his head, and forever after, tried to rob those whom he believed had been responsible, the Puritans.  At one stage, in Suffolk, he and a companion tried to rob a coach carrying Oliver Cromwell to London, not realising, that just behind, were seven of Cromwells armed men. His friend was taken and hanged, but he escaped. He had a reputation for non-violence, but this was broken in 1650, when he shot and killed a servant, riding after his master, whom Hind believed was chasing him. Not being short of courage, when word reached him that Charles II had landed and raised an Army, he rushed off to Worcester to join in. Sadly, we know what happened next, Captain Hinds was again lucky to escape. Returning to his trade, he was caught, and tried for his crimes in Berkshire. At this point, an Act of Parliament was passed, that pardoned anyone who had committed crime, except those against the state. He was, under this act, found not guilty, but he wasn't to escape that easily. He was arrested again and charged with High Treason, for his involvement in the Battle of Worcester, and sent, under guard, to Worcester. Found guilty, he was then, on the 24th September, 1652, Hanged, Drawn, and Quartered, in the City. His head was stuck on a pole, and used to decorate Bridge Gate, the other surplus body parts being set up on the other City Gates, as a warning to others. Captain James Hind's head was buried the next week, but his other bits were left to rot in situ. I suppose, being a puritan, Oliver Cromwell was a bit short on the humourous side of life.

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July 11, 2012 at 2:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Worcester, has a great many connections with other places around the world, which of course, it being a very old place, you would expect. Its citizens, both past and present, have spread out around the globe, not all of them on a voluntary basis. Take for instance, a place on the West Coast of Australia, the port and Town of Freemantle. Unlike the inhabited areas on the East Coast, it was not originally founded as a Penal Colony. In 1829, colonists wthout a criminal past, arrived to settle in an area then called The Swan River Settlement. These were folk, with a simple desire to escape the grinding poverty of their native land, and begin life again, with free land. So many arrived in the early years, that a problem that had been overlooked, threatened to sink the Colony without trace. They simply did not have enough skilled men to sustain the growth. This became much worse in the late 1830s, when over half the population booked passage on ships, and left for the more properous East Coast. In the 1840s, a depression made the situation very much worse, and so the Government were petitioned to send out Convict Labour. As the Colony had not been established for this perpose, it could not be done, so in 1849, swallowing their pride, Swan River was declared a Penal Settlement.


Learning from the lessons of the past, Convicts who would be sent, were choosen for at least having some skills, and a not very serious criminal career. The first ship, ' Scandian ', was a fairly standard 650 ton two masted Bargue, built in Sunderland, in 1844. She would carry 200 passengers on the voyage, ( Soldiers, Warders, Clerks, and their families ) but only 75 Convicted men, who would commence building the prison. Among these men, were six from the Worcester County Gaol, already awaiting a ship for transportation of between 15 to 20 years. Francis Best, born 1814 in Warndon, Worcester, a married man with 3 children, and convicted of House Breaking on 6th March,1847. He was by trade a Carpenter, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and of a slight build. William Carter, born in 1822, possibly in Kidderminster, single, by trade a butcher, and had been convicted in 1847 of Horse theft. ( Evidently, not everyone knew what type of meat they were consuming, for the Horse was never recovered ) He was described as 5 foot 6 inches, stout, and ginger headed to boot. James Osborne, born around 1824 near Worcester, he was another carpenter, single, and convicted in 1847 of House breaking. Stout to middling so the record says, and he was tall for the period, 5 foot 8 inches. George Postins, probably born in Droitwich about 1830, a Labourer, and convicted in 1848, again of House breaking. His sentence, the longest of the group, was one of 20 years, so he must have been a prolific thief despite only being 17 years old. James Smith, born in Dudley its believed, in 1822, and with his brother who follows, convicted in 1848 of House breaking. A Baker by trade, and his skill would have very useful in the new settlement. Not surprisingly, he was recorded as being stout, with a menacing scar on his left cheek. William Smith, born in 1820, a Tailor by trade, and like his brother, on the stout side, although 4 inches shorter at 5 foot 3 inches. The ship left Portsmouth, Hampshire, on 4th March,1850, and arrived at Freemantle on 1st June,1850. A little bit of Worcestershire had now been transplanted on the far side of the world.


They were not the only ones among the 75 who had come fron the Midlands though. There were three from Staffordshire as well. John Dobson, a 31 year old thief and Pick Pocket, William Johnson, a Carpenter, who at 30 years old, was a man who had a penchant for setting fire to Farmers hay and straw ricks. The second man from the Midlands sentenced to 20 years. Francis Westmoreland, a 46 year old Farm Labourer, married with 5 children, who had been convicted of Sheep stealing, a crime that a few years before, would have seen him hanged. And of course, there was a lone Brummie, one Frederick Ward, 30 years old, a Labourer, and a persistant thief, who had been sentenced to 15 years transportation. If anyone has these men in thier family tree, I would be grateful for anymore information on them if possible.

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November 4, 2012 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Now I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression, that every case that ended up in court had a very sad conclusion. They didn't, as this little tale will illustrate.


A remote little spot was Headless Cross, just outside Redditch, Worcestershire, in 1879. Most of the folk either worked the land, or found jobs in the nearby Needle Industry. The work was hard and dirty, subject to fluctuations in trade, so when William Henry Ballard, a young Needle grinder was served an Affiliation Summons, he was very much a bit miffed. The summons accused him of fathering a child, and also for him to support a child born out of wedlock, and required him, on pain of being, arrested, to attend the Magistrates Court in nearby Droitwich. There was very little doubt that the child was his, and his anger was more to do with the reduction in his beer money that would result from an order being made. The Court was about halfway through the hearing, when he suddenly sprang from the dock, and attempted to cut the young ladies throat. He then attempted to cut his own, but was wrestled to the ground by the Policeman who had served the summons. Thankfully, the wound suffered by the young lady was only superficial. He was later charged with Unlawful Wounding, as the Magistrates would not sanction a charge of Attempted Murder. So the 9th July, 1879, he stood in the dock at Worcester Assizes, in front of, as it turned out, a Judge with a sense of decency. Listening carefully to the young ladies evidence, he was very impressed when she said, that dispite what he had had done, she would still marry him. He then discharged William Ballard, with a bond to be of good behavour, or forfeit the cash. A week later, the church of St Mary Magdalene was packed to the rafters, after word spread about the trial. The High Sheriff and the Magistrates, arranged, and paid for, the special licence needed. The Judge, paid for the ring, and the Police Sargeant who had stopped him cutting his own throat, was honoured with giving the bride away. Flowers and posies exchanged hands, and a small party finished off a splendid day. As I said, it wasn't all doom and gloom in the Courts, and lets hope that the happy couple had a long and fruitful married life.

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November 14, 2012 at 4:00 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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And in answer to a few requests, there are only seven recorded executions for Sheep Stealing, in Worcestershire, in surviving documents from 1735. Samuel Rowley, 1742, Thomas Jepson, and John Wilkes, in1789, Thomas Atkins, and Samuel Walford, in1800, Benjamin Jones, 1801, and William Mantle, who became the last one, in 1821. The crime was removed from the Capital Punishment List, in 1831. There will of course, be others from before 1735, and if anyone can supply, and confirm the names and dates, I will be more than happy to include them. Incidently, there were double the number, ( 15 in total ) who were executed in the neighbouring county of Shropshire, for the same offence, during the same period of time. Perhaps it was because the sheep were mostly taken to feed starving families, thus lowering the level of support from the Parishes poor relief funds. Then again, Shropshire may have had twice as many sheep to steal.

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December 26, 2012 at 11:05 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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And now, back to that den of iniquity which was called Dudley. Born in the Town in 1799, Edward Clark, just one of many Labourers, was finding the going tough in 1840. The price of both Coal and Iron had fallen, men had been laid off, and money was scarce. What to do to earn a crust was the big question, and Edward thought he had found a way. There was money to be made, especially on market days so he opened up his house to a few " friends ". It soon became very popular, although not with the Law Officers, who arrested him in August, 1841, for running what was called at the time, " A Bawdy House ".  He very soon found himself facing a Judge at the County Sessions, who didn't find it at all funny, and sentenced him to 4 months imprisonment in the County Gaol. George Chapman, a young Collier, possible thought he got off lightly by lying about his age in 1847, claiming he was 13. He was up before the Court for stealing three Oat Cakes, and a large Pork Pie. Taking his age into account, he was given a very light sentence of just 7 days. You would have thought that would be a lesson to young George, but oh no, he was back in front of the same Court, just 4 months later in June,1847. This time he had stolen a Shawl, a Shirt, some Bread, Beef, and several pounds of Cheese. And this time, they were well aware of his age, which was actually 16. For this, his second crime, he received a sentence of 7 years Transportation, and no ammount of Porkie Pies would save him this time, for he was shipped out in October,1847. Wollascote collier Emanuel Chance, aged 19, lived up to his name in April, 1848, for he was given a second chance, when the Grand Jury offered no evidence against him, for the theft of several Iron Rods, from the mine he worked at. His family were local Nailers, and the Iron would have saved them a fair bit of money. Back in Dudley, and the last person you would suspect of stealing Coal, would be a miner, but thats what young William Bagley, aged 14 did. At the Worcester Sessesions, in February,1849, he was given a short sharp shock, and 7 days in the lock up. Now William Bagley obviously didn't work at one of The Earl of Dudley's Mines, because if he had, he would have regreted it. James Ashman, aged 21, another Collier, did work for his Lordship, and his crime wasn't stealing coal. He was convicted of stealing a Rabbit, the property of the noble Earl, and given 6 weeks imprisonment for this terrible crime. Obviously, the Earl had far more coal than Rabbits, and valued them highly, but as James Ashman could have told him, you can't eat coal.

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July 12, 2013 at 3:27 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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Everybody loves a good Prison escape story, especially one that contains an element of risk. The success or failure, depending on the brain power of the people who dare to carry out the deed. As the records show, some plans would have been best left on the drawing board. At the Worcester Assizies, in October 1734, several men, and a woman, were convicted of various crimes, mainly theft and burglary. The sentence, which reflected the Gentlemen of the Counties thoughts, was Transportation. No, not to Australia, that would come later, but to his Majesties Plantations in the new world, in this case, Virginia. To this end, they were all loaded aboard a decked vessel at Worcester, and sent down the River Severn, to end up at the busy port of Bristol. One of the men, Robert New, born in the County about 1705, a man with a fertile mind and low cunning, who had already escaped being hanged, by informing against William Manley, at a trial in Stafford, hatched what he thought was a brilliant plot. He shared the plan with William Vaughan, birth about 1705, and Thomas Spinner, who was 4 years older, and a very persistant poacher and petty thief. When the boat neared Bristol, the plan was to smash a hole in the hull, and escape during the confusion, as the boat took on water. Vaughan appears to have been the strongest, so taking a large rock that was being used as ballast, he pounded a plank until it broke, and the water, as planned rushed in. Shouting the alarm, Robert New expected the Captain to release them from the hold, but the Captain had other ideas which included the safety of himself and his crew. Steering for the shore, he just managed to beached the stricken vessel on the Estuary Mudflats. Vaughan had been a bit too energetic in his efforts to cause a leak, he had managed to cause a flood. The crew manage to pull out, of the by now almost flooded hold, six of the convicts, including the woman, before the boat capsized. Sadly, Robert New, William Vaughan, and Thomas Spinner didn't make it, they all drowned. A clear case of not looking before you leap, and I can't help but think, that they would have been better off picking Tobacco leaves, in the sunny climes of Virginia.

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September 14, 2013 at 3:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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