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Alaska.
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Posts: 1404


Large crowds gathered to witness the Law takes it's course.


As the pace of industry increased, so did the populations of the regions Towns. Attracted by better wages, many deserted the land, and headed for the nearest place that had work available. Miners, Iron Workers, and people willing to learn, flooded in from all around the country. Beer shops sprang up overnight by the dozen, bringing with them all the problems which we still see, and associate with today. The old Parish Constables were overwhelmed by the lawlessness, so a new system had to devised. Watchmen were employed, men of good character, paid at a rate of 10 shillings a week in Summer, and 12 shillings in the Winter. These men were under the control of the Constable, and were, in all but name, the forerunners of the modern Policeman. They had, just like today, much to contend with. There are several books dealing with the subject, mostly published in the 19th century, and they make interesting reading, if only to compare the problems with today.


Holiday times appeared to be the worst. Every town suffered from an excess of drinking, as men, and sometimes the woman as well, went " on the town ". These extracts are from the 1820s. " A great many people out. I was knocked down. The parties ran away and escaped justice." Being on your own, and trying to control a rowdy crowd was not, as it turned out, a very good idea. " Much fighting tonight, but got them off home as well as possible ".  Discretion, as important then as now, saved the poor watchman from a possible beating. It also saved the town a bit of money by not having to lock them up and feed them. " It being Fair time, there were many quarrels and fights in the town. Eight or ten men locked in the watchouse ".  A sign of a bit more organisational ability here, the watchmen must have gone in mob handed this time. Lessons were being rapidly learned. A Wolverhampton watchman though was not so lucky. " William Horton was badly beaten. After much trouble and a chase, the offender was caught, bought to justice, and was made to pay all expenses ".  He must have beeen jailed as well, for that was a serious offence, but it's been left out of the report. Some time after the Fair left, the Holiday being over, it was reported, " Very peaceable this night ".  I bet the watchman breathed a huge sigh of relief at this news, well until the next holiday anyway. The cause of all this, was the strong drink available, on almost every street in some quarters of most towns. They had strikes and riots to deal with as well, although they could call on a local Militia, when it all got really out of hand.


Wolverhampton had a population of around 20,000 in the 1820s, and just 12 watchmen and a Constable. Greatly outnumbered as they were, it was a good job not all the citizens were drunken louts. Someone was kind enough to list the names, of these brave and dedicated souls, so if you have a relative amongst them, you can be sure he was of sound stock. John Mason, James Samson, William Robinson, John Skey, Thomas George, John Walker, William Pool, William Carding, William Babs, Joseph Jones, Thomas Iron, and John Parton. They were all capable of looking after themselves in a fair fight as well, that would have been a qualification, and they all needed to have a very loud voice. To a fixed rota, when they were on their " beats " , at midnight they all had to shout out, " Past twelve o'clock, and alls well ".  The Constable, standing in spot where he could here them all, was then assured that his men were on the job. Failure to be heard, could result in loss of pay, so I suppose non of them lingered long over that "swift pint ".

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

September 7, 2011 at 4:41 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Back a little farther in time, and we can take a look at what life was like for a typical Parish Constable. Jeremiah Needham, was in this post, in the Parish of Handsworth, Staffordshire,  in 1804. His job included attending Inquests into the deaths of the inhabitants. Sometimes, they took the time and trouble to suffer him some inconvenience, like dying outside the Parish. Mind you he could and did, charge the Parish for his time. After attending an Inquest in West Bromwich, he put in a bill for £1.3s.0d, and the next month, for the same thing, he charged them £1.6s.0d. Inflation is obviously not a modern problem. Also charged for this second inquest, was a Surgeons fee of £ 1.1s.0d, for opening up the body. He was required to visit the Licenced ( Beer )  Houses in the Parish as well, to see that the regulations were being kept. He only charged 1s 6d for this service. Woe betide any beer house keeper who failed to pay the fee, he charged the Parish 4s.0d for for the Summons, and and another 5s.0d for serving it. It then cost the failed licencee a great deal of money in fines to get it back. Being such a key figure in keeping order, he could of course read and write, he had the duty of entering all the names of the Jurymen in the Parish into a returns book. Most of those eligible couldn't write, so the Parish was charged 7s.0d. Admittedly, he was a good scribe, he had a fine style. One strange entry in the records, was the charge of 2s.0d, for following one Sarah Danks to West Bromwich. No prizes for guessing she must have been up to no good. In the September, the Parish had a murder, a young child was killed. Jeremiah was then required to advertise for the mothers whereabouts, she had obviously skipped the district. It's not recorded if  the 6s.0d paid out did any good, but a few days later, he was to be found on his way to Measham, delivering the womans children to their relatives. Still no sign of the mother, and the two day trip cost the good ratepayers of Handsworth, a further £1.2s.0d. Several more inquests followed, in West Bromwich and Smethwick, it would seem to be that travelling could very hazardous to ones health. The Parish Overseerer found a poor old soul wandering on the road, and sent him to Jeremiah who gave his charge as 2s 0d for looking after him. Next day another 7s 0d was expended, as he was escorted to the nearby Workhouse. It was not all hard work though, for looking after a woman all night, he only put in a bill for 2s 0d. An entry a bit further on in the records, shows a charge for 12s 0d for looking after Mary Marks. This was for 13 days, and included giving her 2s 0d as well, which makes the previous entry a bit open to comment. The largest item in the document is for the Militia. This includes 400 blank forms, costing £1. 8s.8d, delivering them, filling each one in, and bringing them back. Cheap I suppose at £5. 3s 0d, which included the fee for swearing in that they were correct. Jeremiah was a lucky man really, elsewhere, others were starving, out of work, and apparently dying by the roadside. Mind you, for a local inquest in Handsworth, he still charged £1. 3s 0d, and every time he was summoned on Parish business, a handy little 5s 0d. And not an arrest in the records, now thats what I call a nice little job.

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

September 8, 2011 at 5:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Unicorn
Member
Posts: 46

I wonder if he was just paid a retainer and had to make his wages in fee's?

September 9, 2011 at 1:18 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

When the legislation, to strengthen Sir Robert Peels Police Act of 1829, came into force, in 1839, it really made life difficult for the Criminals. They could now be chased anywhere, and chased they certainly were. From 1840, every town began to employ competant men to run the small, and by now, mobile Police force. Dudley was just such a place, and in selecting one Henry Smitheman as their Superintendent, they had a stroke of luck. He turned to be rather good at the job, as the following little tale recalls. ( Photo in the Gallery )


John, ( Gornal Jack ) Jones, was born in Gornal around 1809. To earn a living he started off as a Lime Burner, went on to become a Collier, and earned a reputation as a thoughly bad man, and a vagabond. Many people passed through Gornal, as did a great number of animals, especialy small horses.  Pit Ponies. It was through this trade, that Jones found work at Craven Arms in Shropshire.  Being rather a crude man when it came to women, he soon lost this post, his employer, Enoch Morris, had three young daughters on his Old Castle Farm. He met a man at The Red Lion in Craven Arms, like him a farm labourer, Eli Biggs. A family man, Eli was blessed with a rather buxom wife, and several children. John Jones began to take a lot of interest in just when Eli would be working away from home. Biggs took on work at Clungunford, which meant he would only be at home weekends, Jones seized his chance.


Diana Biggs, already in bed, heard a knock, on the lonely cottage door in early February of 1842. It was Jones, whom she knew was a friend of her husbands, asking for a drink. It's not hard to imagine what happened, she ran from him and up the upstairs, where he broke down the door, and tried to rape her. Unsuccessful at this, he then stabbed her in the chest several times and fled the scene. By a sheer miracle, she survived. Word quckly reached Ludlow, and the search for Jones began.


Robert Jones-Lewis, like Henry Smitheman, had not long been installed as Superintendent of Police, and with a Sergeant and some Constables, set of in pursuit. Jones had already stolen some pistols and a horse, and fearing he was heading back to Gornal or Dudley, sent a man with posters discribing the wanted man.They chased Jones through Hereford, into Pontypool in Wales, and then on to Newport, but he was always one step ahead, and he escaped. After a few days, and disguised as a tinker, he made his way back to Dudley, where he found lodgings next door to the Albion Inn. The towns new Superintendent though, was on the lookout, and he  recognised Jones, arrested him, and personally took him back to Ludlow, in chains. Sir Robert Peel's new ideas had worked, and the two Officers must have had a great deal of satisfaction at the result of the chase. John ( Gornal Jack ) Jones did however escape the death sentence for an attempted murder, it had been abolished. He did get 15 years transportation, and I hope he suffered hell and damnation for ever one of them. He most certainly deserved too.

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

October 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It seems all to easy today, a spot of blood, a hair, a fingerprint, CCTV camera's, any one of which will get someone locked up. At the start of the 20th century however, it was far different. It was man born in Smethwick who added a great deal to the methods of dectection. Francis Galton, or as he became in 1909, for his work in this field, Sir Francis Galton. Many others have followed his example, and forensic medicine is all the better for them. I have been asked many times since I started the site, about other criminals. One that keeps cropping up is Nurse Dorothea Waddington. It's true that she was hanged in Birmingham Prison, Winson Green, but her crime wasn't here, but in Nottingham, where sadly, they didn't have any equipment to send her to hell. It's not the only connection though, she began her " Nurse Training ", in a Staffordshire Workhouse.  ( Burton -on - Trent )  When she moved on, it was with a reputation as a petty crook, and almost compulsive thief and liar. She did also work for a time in Birmingham, as a cleaner in the Jewellery Quarter, but got the push when samples from the firms products, were found in her handbag. She swore she would only ever come back to Birmingham in a Pine Box. She got that wrong as well, she's still here, resting in an unmarked spot in one of our graveyards. There's a photograph of the self styled " Nurse ",  in the Gallery, together with her partner, Joseph Sullivan. She was hanged on 16th April,1936. I have decided to include a few examples, of some of the methods used to identify the less law abiding amongst us. Also, a few pictures of some other famous faces, although you will have to look up their stories, most of them are certainly not any of " ours ".

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

March 16, 2012 at 5:17 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In days gone by, one punishment handed down to the perpetrators of petty crimes, was a sound thrashing with a sturdy Birch Rod. There are some who will read this, who would welcome it being bought back. West Bromwich High Street, has seen it's share of rowdy behaviour, as recent events have shown, and it was no different at the start of the 20th Century. Mr. Kemsey-Bourne, who ran a Pharmacy in the street, was appalled at the amount of rowdyism in the area, perticulary on Sunday evenings. Windows were broken, fittings removed, Awnings torn down, and some shop doorways were being used for purposes they were not designed for. He suggested, in addition to the strong application of the Birch, the culprits should also be " made to stand in public, and give a vigorous rendition of Hymn singing ". That, he said, " would relieve the monotony of their dreary little lives ".  I don't know if his idea was ever taken up, but it was somewhat overshadowed by the 1914-18 War. There was certainly to be very little monotony for the youngmen later on, struggling and dying in the mud of Flanders

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

April 26, 2012 at 11:17 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In 1360, in the reign of Edward III, it was decided to set up a court to protect and control the nations Shipping and Navy. Although there had been some form of control prior to this. The High Court of Admiralty, dealt with all aspects of seafaring, Contracts, Loading, Salvage, Wreaks, Ships taken as Prizes in War, Mutineers, Murderers, and of course, the scourge of the seas, Pirates. It did not though, have the power of prosecution on land, it's only had jurisdiction, up to the high water mark, in whatever area the offence took place. Staffordshire, (well at least one of it's more prominant inhabitants) had a link to this court, through the marriage of his daughter. The Rev. Walter Bagot, (whose family had been in the area from 1360) Rector of the 13th century Saint Leonards Church, Blithfield, and who lived at Blithfield Hall, must have been rather pleased when Elizabeth married Joseph Phillimore, ( Later, Sir Joseph ) in 1807. He was already a prominant Barrister, and in 1809, he became the principal Judge of this Court. Later on, he also became Chancellor of the Diocese of Worcester. The court always sat without a Jury, which must have been a relief when dealing with over 1,000 claims a year, for prize money from the many ships captured during the war with France. But it's for another role, that interests the most, the executions.


These were conducted at a specially built place called Execution Dock, at Wapping, on the River Thames. The apparatus, was sited just below the low water mark on the foreshore, and was in regular operation up untill 1830. The last men executed, George Davis and William Watts, had murdered their Captain at sea. The convicted were mostly kept in the Marshalsea Prison, before being taken by cart, (as at Tyburn ) followed by huge crowds to Wapping steps. Pirates, were afforded some very special treatment. They were all hanged on a short rope, which slowly strangled them. The leg movements, during this grotesque spectical, was called the Marshalls Dance, after the man who led the grisley parade. The hanged pirate/s were then left until three tides had been and gone, and then cut down. The more notorious ones, such as Captain Kidd, ( who had to be hanged twice in 1701, as the rope broke ) were coated in pitch, and hung in chains. In his case, for three years at Tilbury, for the others, at Blackwall Point, and other places on the river where they could be seen by passing ships as a warning. These practices ceased in 1800, and Joseph Phillimore, a humane man, would have been grateful to be spared such sentencing. He held the post until his death, in 1855, when his son took over the role, although by now, they no longer handled any death sentences.

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

August 15, 2012 at 4:39 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There are those, who life story is one long trail of crimainal activity, a one man crime wave as it were, or in this case, a one woman crime wave. Emily Turberville was born in September,1862, not in Kingswinford, as she told the Census man, but in Wordsley, down the road a bit in Worcestershire. Whether or not she had some mental condition, isn't recorded, but Emily, from an early age, displayed an alarming tendency for violence. She was already well known to the Police in the area by the time she was sixteen, and the pasing years showed no slowing down in her rages. She was, in modern terms, a one woman crime wave, and had been up before the Magistrates, no less than 14 times up to 1881. She had been locked up for short periods of a few weeks, supplemented by a few stays in the Workhouse as well. Her appearence for Violence and  Obscene language in July of that year earned her another short sentence, her 15th Court case. Even being in the workhouse failed to dim her hobby for battering folk, for on her release, she became a " disorderly Pauper ". That she was indeed a bit mental must have been apparent, but by 1884, they had all enough of her antics and she was sent for trial at the Assizies and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, this time for Larceny. She managed to stay out of trouble for a while, but in 1887, she had a relapse, and once agin resorted to violence. She inevitably got another 12 months for this offence, but salvation was just around the corner, she was pursueded to join the ranks of the Salvation Army. Probably during a tour of the many public houses in the area of Brierley Hill, and in Pearson Street, which at the time led to the old Level Street Ironworks, she and five others held a pray and song meeting. This blocked the road, both in Pearson Street and in the High Street, and word soon reached the Police Station in Fenton Street. Needless to say, our Emily. egged on by a crowd of around 200, protested indignantly about being asked to desist. She told the Magistrates that although she had turned over a new leaf, the Police simply wouldn't leave her alone, and that she was only serving Jesus. ( She hit at least one Policeman, and spat at another ) It worked, and she was let off with a caution. This escape did teach the 26 year old a lesson, for after having spent a short time as a Breeze Maker, in a local Coal Yard in 1891, she was back in the workhouse in 1893. The rules were that you had to work while in the establishment, and Emily didn't see why, so once again she hit out, assaulting one of the Porters, and the two Policemen who had been summoned as assistance. She was lucky again, for another caution was issued, and off she went to Stourbridge, where she seemed to have settled down a bit. In 1911, she was living in a mean little house, number 1, back of 7, Green Street, out of work and probably destitute. 4 years later, at the age of just 53, she died qiuetly in the former workhouse infirmery, the one woman crime wave had finally receded.

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

April 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Just to demonstrate, that even when things did not go strictly according to the plan, justice still prevailed. Even in the wilds of Somerset.


The town of Bath, that genteel of places, so revered by the Regency elite, wasn't at times, all it seemed. In early August, 1748, Richard Biggs, a bit of an inhuman monster, beat his wife Ruth Biggs to death, and callously threw her tortured body into the river. When found, she was a mass of bruises, and other injuries, of which there were many, may have been missed at first. She was however soon recognised, and Richard Biggs found himself in goal. He was a sullen prisoner, slow to take any orders, and seemingly unmoved by what he had done. He adopted the same attitude in court on 23rd August, and barely acknowledged the sentence of death that was placed on him. He did though, blink a bit faster when the second part of his sentence was read out, he was to be Gibbeted, and hung in chains. As you will read in other examples on the website, this, and being disected and atomised, was feared even more than the hanging itself.



Once back in Ilchester Goal, he sank back to his sullen and surely ways. Around the 7th of September, a week before he was due for the drop, a Blacksmith arrived, to measure him up for his brand new after death suit, several lengths of chain and a cage. He went berserk, so violent was he that he had to be chained to the floor, as the Blacksmith feared for his life. So, on the morning of the 14th September, this evil example of manhood, was loaded into a cart, which set off for the place selected for his execution. As it turned out, within sight of where he had lived, a mile outside Bath called Odd-Down. A vast crowd of over 20,000 had gathered, as Biggs was taken from the cart and put on the ladder, resting against the scaffold from which he would shortly be turned off. As the executioned stepped forward with the rope, Biggs leapt off the ladder, just before it was secured around his neck. Once on the ground, he turned into a gibbering heap of flesh, his legs unable to hold him up, crying like a baby and pitifully pleading for mercy. It was of course ignored, as he in turn had ignored his poor wifes plea's. They couldn't however get him back up the ladder, so reached a comprimise. Tying the end of the rope to the ladder, with the other end now securely around his neck, they placed him on the hind quarters of a horse, and as it was urged forward, Richard Biggs was at last suspended by the neck. This bought forth a howl of indignation from the crowd, not at the unusual arrangement you understand, but due to the fact that the hanging was a low one, and most didn't get a very good view. This was not surprising, for most of them had travelled many miles to see the event. This wasn't the only disappointment, as the sullen Biggs hadn't made a speech either. They got a better look later on though, when his body, with an elongated neck, was Gibbeted at Three Holes Down. As I said before, back then, nobody escaped the sentence imposed.

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

September 18, 2013 at 3:55 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

So the song goe's, " A Policeman's lot is not a happy one ", as a few stories, dredged from the muck and silt of the past, will go to prove. All the effort required to actually get the person into court, could sometimes be to no avail when the evidence disappears. The West Bromwich Police Force, no worse than most, but not eactly top notch either, had a few ups and down, here are a few of the down.


William Smith, who was the Landlord of The Queens Head, along what is now Soho Road, Handsworth, but was then in Staffordshire, was an accomplished producer of fine Pigs. Not just ordinary Pigs, but veritable monster Pigs. Lord only knows what he fed them on, but in May, 1860, he had reared one that weighed between 500 and 600lbs. This " Champion Pig ", was duly dispatched at the back of the Pub, and the enormous sides were hung up on his Kitchen walls, at the back of the house. The bacon would go a long way to feeding his family, and also act as a treat for his many customers, for William Smith had a keen sense of business. Having to go out on business shortly after the side had been secured on the walls, he left his married daughter, Caroline Lloyd in charge of the Pub. Now times were hard in the 1860s, and one of his regular customers took a fancy of a bite to eat with his beer. Waiting until most of the other customers departed, he sneaked into the Kitchen and cut off about 10 lbs of Bacon. By the time Caroline noticed something was amiss, George Gardner, and of course the Bacon, had vanished from sight. William Smith was mightily annoyed when he returned and shot off into West Bromwich to report the theft. PC Hillcox, a man with good local knowledge, took down the details and set off to view the crime scene, and obtain a discription of the pig pilferer. Caroline Lloyd kindly supplied the name as well, and PC Hillcox set off in hot pursuit. Within a few hours, he had arrested his man, and took him along to the Police Station for charging. A search of the house however revealed nothing more than a sharp knife in Gardners pocket, oh. and the lingering smell of freshly fried bacon. Sadly, you can't arrest a smell, and when the case came to Court, without a witness to say that they had seen Gardner actually take the bacon, it all collapsed, and the fortunate man was discharged. He was lucky nobody "squealed " on him.


The man in charge of the Police at this time was one Major M'Knight, a ex Army Officer of some distinction. That's not to say he was wise in the ways of the Staffordshire underworld of West Bromwich. A serious vice in the district, was one of gambling, which took place almost anywhere men could gather, which of course meant the various Ale, Beeer, and Public Houses of the district. The Major though, had a plan. He selected one of his most trusted officers, PC Hollis, and ordered him to go around the many drinking dens wher he wasn't known, and arrest those indulging in such wicked goings on. So it was then, that in early May, 1860, with his mate PC Beard in tow, he set off into that den of iniquity that was Handsworth. They travelled far that night, and a bit footsore, at 11.15pm, entered a Beer House in Booth Street, run by William Grant. Lingering just long enough to see that no gaming was in progress, they went on to the nearby Oakfield Tavern, run by a man called Beesley. During the course of their short stay, according to PC Hollis, he thought he may have been recognised, so to put them off the scent, he indulged in a game of toss the coin, the prize being a quart of ale. It's not recorded if he won or lost, but shortly after, the pair left. Now to be honest, it would appear that the pair had been recognised by William Grant previously, for as they retraced their steps to go home, they were assaulted by at least 15 men, among them was Grant. PC Beard was flung into Butchers shop, but poor PC Hollis suffered greatly, for his jaw was fractured, and he was sorely bruised about his body. It was to be several days before he was fit again for duty. Inspector Holland, Sergeant Richards, and PC Hillcox, managed to arrest several of the attackers, after a few struggles, during which some men suffered a few black eyes and broken bones. Seven of the men were fined £4 each, or six weeks in the poky in default, William Grant, who was classed as the ringleader, was fined £5, and lost the licence for his establishment. Interestingly, nobody was arrested, or fined, for the Gambling. Major M'Knight was unavailiable for further comment on the matter, but for ever afterwards, he was short of any volunteers for this kind of undercover work.


The last in this saga, is the unforunate story of a young Constable and a problem that has caused undue stress to many Landowners of the past: Poachers. Beyond West Bromwich, and as far as the boundry with Walsall, the area was very much rural. The roads were mere tracks, and in the area around  Great Barr was thinly populated. Ideal grounds for the Poacher. Mr Bragg, one of the Farmers, had made a complaint about the problem to Major M'Knight, and so he sent young PC Thomas Simpson to keep an eye out. On the night of 16th May, 1860, he was walking with Mr Bragg's gamekeeper, and, as it was now after midnight, Simpson was thinking of making his way back to the Police Station. As the pair were passing a plantation of trees near Great Barr Common, a gang of men burst through the treeline, and attacked them. Well at least they attacked PC Simpson, for the gamekeeper escaped without a scratch it seems. The Officer was very badly beaten and subsequently required some urgent medical attention. So much in fact, that the Major sat at his bedside over the next two days, taking down his statement in case he didn't recover. Thankfully he did. There's no record of anyone being charged with the assault, but I would have wanted a word or two with that gamekeeper. Not a good month then, for the men of the West Bromwich Police Force, who certainly did not have a lot to be happy about.

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

April 22, 2014 at 4:20 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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