Law and order

© Maxwell Adams 2003-2007

Version 17 February 2008

Like all places Lelant had people, adults and children, who lived life differently, who did not conform, who broke the law of the day, who showed that frailty to which we are all prone, who practised devilment and mischief. Villain is too hard a word for most of them. Scattered among state, quarter session, and church documents, and among newspapers from the late eighteenth century to the present, are numerous Lelant instances of offences and offenders. They give us not only glimpses of crime and mischief and frailty but often insights into the everyday life of Lelanters and the circumstances under which they lived. Desperately poor people sometimes did desperate things and for the most part the circumstances behind the offences are not known to us.

I explore some instances in Murders most foul, Lelant vicar jails Cinderella, Victorian justice in Lelant, By work or other means, O call back yesterday, and even Market and fairs. Who the law then said was the most at fault is not always how we see it today. By and large I have not repeated here the many examples from those articles.

History throws up numerous examples of trivial and serious offences connected with Lelant and Lelanters and this is a random and hotchpotch selection from the safe past, except for the last one. They are in date order. After them I have put some sketchy details of the police at Lelant.

In 1513 there was a dispute before the church consistory court about the payment of mortuary fees to the vicar of Lelant. J and W COKYN argued that they did not have to pay. In 1516 Stephen GUNWYN argued that people at Gunwyn did not have to pay the fees.

In 1564 George BERRDE was in court because he arrested three men without the proper documents and in 1577 Sampson CAUNTER was fined because he let unauthorised people use the cattle pound [POOL P.A.S. 'The Penheleg manuscript' in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1959, pages 183, 184].

In 1572 Cecily JAMES, wife of Henry James, of Lelant was accused of defaming Agnes DAVY, wife of Moriryshe Davy, of Lelant of defaming her inside St Uny's church in the morning on Allhallow Day. The record notes that Cecily called Agnes a "hore" and "horebytche" and that there were more than forty people in the church at the time [DRO Consistory Court Deposition Book 1569-1572]. The names are variously spelled. Defamation among Lelanters appears several times in the court records.

Thomas UREN was found guilty of trespass and misdemeanour and fined sixpence [Quarter sessions 15 January 1751].

John BANFIELD a tinner of Lelant, was found guilty of stealing goods worth tenpence from Henry TONKIN. His punishment was a public whipping [Quarter sessions 16 July 1751].

Christopher UREN, a tinner of Lelant, is a debtor in the Stannary Prison, Lostwithiel [Sherborne Mercury 4 May 1761].

John KEMPE Junior was charged with assault [Quarter sessions 8 October 1799].

John EDWARDS, a labourer of Lelant, found guilty of assaulting Charles ALLEN and his wife Barbara ALLEN. He was fined one shilling [Quarter sessions 8 October 1800, 13 January 1801].

1/7/83, Charles ALLEN, a labourer of Lelant, was found guilty of assault and battery and was fined one shilling [Quarter sessions 13 January 1801].

John ARTHUR, aged fourteen, short hair, lame on his right side, apprentice to William TREDINNICK, a cordwainer of Lelant, has run away [Sherborne Mercury 28 September 1801].

Bridget WALLIS, a single woman, Margaret ARTHUR a widow, and Alice ARTHUR a single woman, all from Lelant, were charged with stealing two bushels of barley from Thomas HOSKING. All three women were acquitted [Quarter sessions 11 January 1803].

Andrew ROSEWALL, a yeoman of Lelant, was found guilty of assaulting Thomas HOSKING. He was fined three guineas and bound over to keep the peace [Quarter sessions 15 April 1806, 15 July 1806, 7 October 1806].

Jenefer OATS, a single woman of Lelant, was found not guilty of stealing a two shirts and a pair of cotton stockings from Margaret HOSKING [Quarter sessions 14 July 1807].

Richard OATS, a labourer of Lelant, was found not guilty of stealing a petticoat from Margaret HOSKING [Quarter sessions 14 July 1807]

Andrew QUICK, aged nineteen, five foot four inches, ruddy complexion, rather a down look, short blue coat, striped waistcoat, corduroy trousers, red silk handkerchief, fur hat, parish apprentice to Thomas HOSKING, gentleman of Lelant Town, has run away [Royal Cornwall Gazette 24 October 1807].

At Cornwall Assizes Agnes GRIFFITHS was sentenced to death for stealing from the house of Richard HARRIS of Lelant apparel belonging to his daughter Thomasina HARRIS [Sherborne Mercury 19 August 1811].

"On Monday the 26th December last, from his master, Henry HOSKIN, Gent, of Lelant Town, in the County of Cornwall, John CURGENVEN, his Parish Apprentice, aged about fifteen years, four feet ten inches in height, fair complexion, and having a remarkable cut in his forehead. He wore away a blue short coat, thickset trowsers, with a blue linen frock over the same, and a new pair of shoes. Any person harbouring or employing the said Apprentice after this Public Notice will be dealt with according to Law. Lelant Town, January 10, 1815" [Royal Cornwall Gazette 14 January 1815]

Douch recounts that later in 1815 the Western Luminary reported details about a runaway apprentice, presumably John Curgenven: "a boy of fifteen was brought to our county bridewell about ten days ago pretending to be utterly dumb. His mouth was examined and the organ of speech appearing perfect, while his countenance at the same time betrayed consciousness, an arrangement was made in the boy's hearing to send for a surgeon to operate upon him. When in a moment of fear, the boy exclaimed, 'I can speak.' He now confessed that he had run away from his master in Lelant, that he fell in soon with an old vagrant who advised him to sham dumb; and he did so with such success that by the time he reached Exeter he had accumulated thirty shillings in silver, beside having bought himself clothes and food by the way." See DOUCH HL (1991) 'Gone away! Runaway apprentices in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries' in the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall 1991, 85.

Edward WALSH, a labourer of Lelant, was found guilty of stealing a cotton shirt from Richard HARRIS and sentenced to three months in Launceston jail [Quarter sessions 15 October 1816].

George NOALE of Lelant had been jailed for deserting his family and was now released [Quarter sessions 20 October 1818]

William BROAD, a labourer of Lelant, was found guilty of stealing a shirt from Thomas HOSKIN and was sentenced to three months with hard labour in Bodmin prison [Quarter sessions 20 April 1819].

Richard FOX of Lelant was kept in prison because he refused to pay for his illegitimate child [Quarter sessions 11 January 1820, 11 April 1820, 11 July 1820, 17 October 1820]. He was released 1 May 1821. His repeated refusal over sixteen months to pay suggests that he did not accept that the child was his.

The Royal Cornwall Gazette for 26 March 1825 reported that William DAVIS had been found guilty at Launceston Assizes of attempting to rape Maria Cooper FOX, aged eight, at Lelant sand hills on 29 September 1824. Evidence was given by "Thomas BALL, ferryman at the passage at Phillack" that he had "ferried the prisoner [Davis] over from the place to Lelant." Davis was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour.

Paul QUICK of Lelant was found guilty of trying to poach rabbits and game from Francis JOHNS on 11 November 1826 and was sentenced to six months hard labour [Quarter sessions 9 January 1827].

John ALLEN of Lelant, a labourer of Lelant, was found guilty of stealing comfits from Thomas FEAR. He was sentenced to a private whipping [Quarter sessions 16 October 1827].

Joseph ALLEN, a labourer of Lelant, was found guilty of stealing a hat from William CURGENVEN and was sentenced one week's hard labour at Bodmin prison. He was found not guilty of stealing stockings from John BANFIELD [Quarter sessions 15 January 1828].

John JAMES of Lelant, a laboure from Lelant, was found guilty of stealing a silver watch and watch chain, a gold seal, two watch keys and a pair of trousers belonging to William RICHARDS. He was transported for seven years [Quarter sessions 20 April 1830].

Frederick MULLER of Lelant, a labourer from Lelant, was found guilty of stealing a market cloth and other materials from Henry CURNOW and sentenced to a week's hard labour at Bodmin prison [Quarter sessions 19 October 1830].

William and George JENNINGS, both labourers from Lelant, were found guilty of assaulting John QUICK, the parish constable of Towednack. They were sentenced to three months hard labour in Bodmin prison [Quarter sessions June 1831].

Thomas CHARLES, a Lelant labourer, was found guilty of embezzling money from his employer, Frances MITCHELL and was sentenced to nine months hard labour at Bodmin prison [Quarter sessions October 1831].

"At a coroner's inquest held at Lelant on the body of Mrs Elizabeth RICHARDS, of the Praed's Arms Inn, who died from the effects of a bludgeon which pushed in one of her eyes, on the 16th of August last, by a man named Edward RICHARDS, who was employed about the premises, and at the time in a state of intoxication - a verdict of manslaughter was returned against Richards, who has absconded" [Royal Cornwall Gazette 26 November 1831].

Benjamin and John RICHARDS, both miners of Lelant, were found not guilty of stealing one thousand pounds of rope belonging to Philip ROGERS and others [Quarter sessions April 1832].

The following six instances are all of cases at East Penwith magistrates, Camborne; the date is of the court sitting:

25 July 1843: "Wm COLLINS, of Uny Lelant, was fined 17s 6d including costs, for having assaulted Thos LEACHER, of the same parish, on the 18th July" [Penzance Gazette 9 August 1843, 3/4]

25 July 1843: "Elizabeth BRIANT, toll gate keeper at Hayle Causeway, was fined 7s 6d, including costs, for having on the 20th instant, demanded and received from Alex. CARBINES, of St Erth, excessive toll" [Penzance Gazette 9 August 1843, 3/4].

Also 25 July 1843:"Alexander CARBINES, of Lelant, was charged by Adam JONES with having on the 22nd instant driven a horse and cart from off the turnpike road at Hayle Causeway in order to evade the tolls: fined �2-8s including costs" [also Penzance Gazette 9 August 1843, 3/4].

5 September 1843: "Henry TAYLOR, of Lelant, was fined 10s and 14s costs, for having assaulted Susannah BRANCH, of the parish, on the 1st instant" [Penzance Gazette 13 September 1843, 4/5].

24 October 1843: "James COOPER, of Lelant, was charged with having trespassed in pursuit of game on the property of William CHRISTOPHER, of that parish, and on promising not to repeat the offence, was dismissed on payment of the costs of the warrant" [Penzance Gazette 8 November 1843, 3/5]. The 1841 census shows at folio 8, page 11 a James Cooper aged 47, a stone mason, and his son James Cooper aged 19 living in Church Lane (ie Church Road), Lelant. William Christopher aged 34 is a farmer on Lelant towans, folio 4.

28 November 1843: "Gertrude ROWE and Sarah EDWARDS, of Lelant, were charged by Samuel KING with having broken and damaged several trees at Trevethow, on the 26th inst, and fined six shillings, including costs, with six shillings to be paid to the complainant; and in default, fourteen days; inprisonment" [Penzance Gazette 13 December 1843, 3/6].

John CORIN aged, thirty six, was found guilty of stealing and assaulting William MARTIN of Lelant parish on 21 April 1853. He stole in all a purse, two sovereigns, and three halfcrowns from Martin. Some he stole from Martin while he was drinking with Robert MICHELL in Fox's public house, Penzance. With another man he attacked Martin and Michell near Gulval on their way home and stole more from him. Both Martin and Michell had been drinking heavily and were semi-drunk. The identification of Corin, who denied the charge, was disputed. He was sentenced to seven years transportation [West Briton 29 July 1853, 3/6].

Henry PEARCE, aged twenty two, and George LAMSHIRE, aged twenty five, were found guilty of stealing three shirts from Ann RAWLINGS; they belonged to Grace ROWE for whom Rawlings did the washing [ West Briton 14 March 1854].

In June 1869 John Henry PHILLIPS of Perranzabuloe was appointed master at the National School in Church Road on the basis of his declared qualifications. Later that year he was dismissed as his claims of qualification and experience proved "to be without foundation" [Minutes of the school managers, CRO DDP/120/2/50].

Richard Trevarton EDWARDS, alias GUNNER, was charged at Camborne Court with breaking into the house of Prudence MORLEY at Longstone Downs: she escaped through a kitchen window. She was aged 78. Edwards was described as "a notorious scoundrel" (17 July) and "a most degraded fellow" (24 July.) He also tried to enter the house of Jane EDWARDS, a single woman at Lelant. He was also seen by Mrs Rowe, keeper of the Causeway turnpike house, near the house of Mrs BOND whose husband was a lunatic [Cornish Telegraph 17 and 24 July 1872].

On Tuesday 11 March 1879 at Camborne Court Richard Trevarthen EDWARDS was sent to prison for one month with hard labour for sleeping in an outhouse at Lelant on Monday [Cornish Telegraph 18 March 1879, seven years later]. Presumably he was charged under the vagrancy laws.

"Since the burial of a little child, who was a member of the church choir, her friends have been in the habit of placing flowers on her grave. Much annoyance has been given to these persons by some 'enlightened Protestants' (as they call themselves) who have discovered a new mare's nest, viz, the placing of flowers on a child's grave is popish! Some of these...on Sunday last, in the course of the afternoon, destroyed all the flowers and tore up and defaced the surface of the grave. A reward will be given to anyone who will give such information as will lead to the conviction of these ignorant bigots. [Is our correspondent sure that the desecration was not the mischievous action of boys or the thoughtless deed of children...]"[Cornish Telegraph 18 July 1873]. The end comment in square brackets is by the editor.

"Lelant. Alleged drunkenness. A correspondent writes that drunkenness, to a lamentable extent, exists here; the Sabbath being the favourite guzzling day. Last Sunday, from about half past two in the afternoon till late at night, drunken men were rambling about the roads much to the disgust of the decent inhabitants" [Cornish Telegraph 15 September 1875]. Also see entry below for 27 May 1879.

"The alleged drunkenness at Lelant. Dear Mr Editor, In the interests of our good name, as a community, I protest against the general and preposterously overcoloured allegations of drunkenness which your correspondent makes. It must have been the outcome of some gushing impulsiveness, unchecked by experience or reason. I find no sympathy whatever with the unqualified statement, for all alike come under the lash, whether inhabitants or mere sojourners; and seeing the number of the latter, and of a class too, that are proverbial for 'liking their beer,' but a morbid punctilio could have dictated it. Yours truly, T ANDREW, Lelant September 17 1875" [Cornish Telegraph 22 September 1875].

"John CARA, of Lelant, was fined 25s for having an unlicensed dog. Mr Cara thought he could keep a young one until it was twelve months old" [Royal Cornwall Gazette 26 June 1875].

"For some time timber has been missed from the railway works...Police Constable MITCHELL apprehended on Friday a man named William WEBB, who, it was found, had built a stable with timber, a large portion of which Mr Lang, the contractor at the works, identified as belonging to him and which he valued at twenty shillings" [Cornish Telegraph 20 October 1875].

"J and W GLASSON were summoned for trespassing in pursuit of game in the parish of Lelant and, the case being proved, were each fined ten shillings and 9s 6d costs" at East Cornwall petty Sessions, Camborne [Cornish Telegraph 20 March 1877].

"Whilst people were wending their way to divine worship last Sunday evening, the quiet little village [Lelant] was disgraced by the visit of six or eight drunken men, most of whom, if not the whole, hailed from St Ives. With some difficulty they reached a public house, and were admitted" [Cornish Telegraph 27 May 1879].

John MEDLYN of Lelant was found guilty of owing board and lodging to Henry GEE of Towednack [St Ives Weekly Summary 14 June 1902].

Arthur WRIGHT, labourer of Lelant, was sentenced to one months' jail at Camborne Court for stealing garments from the washing line of Mrs Charles LAITY on 27 April. Wright said that he had been out of work for ten months, he was in financial trouble, and he took the articles because the people in his house were short of clothing and even bedclothes. He had a previous conviction [St Ives Weekly Summary 8 May 1909].

At the Easter vestry it was said that ribbons had been stolen off wreaths in the churchyard [St Ives Weekly Summary 2 April 1910].

Alexander EUSTICE of Church Lane, Lelant [that is, Church Road] was fined 10s at Camborne Police Court on Tuesday for riding a cycle on the pavement in Hayle [St Ives Weekly Summary 10 May 1917].

John BOND was fined 7s 6d for riding a cycle in Lelant without lights. Police constable TOY gave evidence [St Ives Weekly Summary 7 March 1918].

William CHELLEW was fined five shillings for riding a cycle at Lelant without a rear light. Police constable TOY gave evidence [St Ives Weekly Summary 7 March 1918].

The poaching of rabbits, pheasants, and chickens from Trevethoe, Lelant is mentioned by Philp in his reminiscences. He says the gamekeeper, POST, could not catch the poachers [PHILP Des (1994) No time for tears Dyllansow Truran].

In April 1932 coal delivered to the National School in Church Road was stolen [Headteacher's logbook].

On the night of Saturday 22 June/Sunday 23 June 2002 eighteen cars in Lelant, mainly in the Church Road area, had their tyres deliberately punctured with a sharp tool. Some cars had three tyres punctured [Cornishman 27 June 2002, St Ives Times and Echo 28 June 2002, the accounts differ].


CRO Cornwall Record Office, Truro
DRO Devon Record Office, Exeter
Quarter sessions records are from the Quarter Sessions Calendars, used here with CRO cooperation. The calendars were transcribed for CRO by Cornwall Family History Society.

There are numerous examples of Cornwall quarter session criminal records on the Access to Archives of England website of the National Archives,

The police at Lelant

The earliest reference that has survived is in the 1861 census and is to William GLENDENING, police constable, aged twenty two, living at 6 Tyringham Place. The 1871 census records Jonathan CHAPMAN as a policeman in Lelant, aged twenty seven and married.

The St Uny's marriage register has an entry on for the marriage On 23 October 1875 of John MITCHELL, aged twenty three, police constable of Church Lane (ie the present Church Road), Lelant. There is a report in the Cornish Telegraph of 20 October 1875 that police constable MITCHELL had apprehended William WEBB for stealing timber from the railway works in Lelant.

The next sure record is the 1881 census which gives Thomas William STEVENS, police constable, aged twenty nine, living at Tyringham Row (that is now called Tyringham Place).

In the 1891 census John J LIDDICOAT, aged thirty seven, living in Church Road, is given as the police constable. His son, George LIDDICOAT, aged fourteen, who lives with him, is recorded as a police employee.

At some point the resident policeman was withdrawn because in 1896 the new parish council began asking for his return. The council minute books records their asking this of the county council on 27 March 1896 [CRO B/St Ives/12]. In April the council observed that "Since the removal of the [resident police] officer...several petty thefts had taken place and the supervision from St Ives is at present totally inadequate." This wording suggests that the resident policeman had not been long gone. In October 1896 they wrote again to county council about the need for a resident policeman; and at the end of the year at a parish council meeting it was announced that the county council have decided a policeman should reside at Lelant [Cornish Telegraph 12 November 1896].

The 1901 census records William C LYNDON as police constable, living in Lower Lelant, presumably at what was the police house.

Thereafter the resident policemen mentioned in various reports are:

William HODGE 1907-1913 [AR]

Police constable TOY who gave evidence in cases against Lelanters [St Ives Weekly Summary 7 March 1918]

Thomas Henry BASTIAN 1924 [TMC; left Lelant January 1925]

Ernest HOSKIN April 1925-left 1928 [CHESTERTON Margaret A Cornish policeman's daughter]

Cecil Fred MENEAR 1935-1939 [Electoral registers 1935, 1939, died 1942. See Reminiscences of Jack Menear.]

Police constable COLLINS 1942 [AR]

Victor Charles MEAGOR 1946 [AR; 1947 TMC]

KG PENHALIGON 1953 [AR; left Lelant April 1955]

AR Admission register of Lelant National School CRO SRA/LEL/2/1
TMC Baptism register of Lelant Wesleyan Methodist Chapel CRO MR/IHY/416

The police house was latterly 2 Langweath Cottages, Lower Lelant, the double-fronted one on the right, looking at the cottages by Trevethoe Lodge from the road.