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General => The Common Room => The Lighter Side => Topic started by: Grothenwell on Friday 15 July 16 06:53 BST (UK)

Title: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Friday 15 July 16 06:53 BST (UK)
John Wagstaff was my 4th great Grandfather. Searching some old archived papers, I found a small snippet of a case where he had some coal stolen by a Cornelius Stephens, and another snippet saying accused not guilty.

Years later I found a fuller account of the case in a different newspaper that appeared to paint John in a very poor light, indicating it was likely a malicious charge caused by Cornelius setting up as a Blacksmith rival to John, his former master, and the only witness was the lowest of the low!

Was it just a feud gone wrong about setting up as a blacksmith rival in Bredon, where likely there wasn't enough work to go around? In combination with perhaps a perceived lack of gratitude in having taught Cornelius his trade, and this was seen as a stab in the back?

That is not the end of the story though, at the same time I found the court case report, I also found the story of the drowning tragedy that occurred a few years before court case. The story of the drowning of 3 youths of Bredon in a boating accident on the Avon that I am sure must have had a bearing on the court case. Two of the three drowned youths were a Wagstaff and a Stephens. I later managed to find the Wagstaff was Thomas, 18 year old son of John (I have yet to find the forename of Stephens - and his likely close relationship to Cornelius).

Did John and Cornelius blame each other's relation for causing the tragedy? Both the drowned youths were blacksmiths - was Cornelius a blacksmith on his own by then or after the accident? Did the youths argue with drink involved - a scuffle that caused the hat to fall/thrown into the river?

The drowning incident was reported on 23rd May 1835 Worcester Herald, and the larceny court case on 1st March 1838 Worcestershire Chronicle.


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Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: jim1 on Friday 15 July 16 14:27 BST (UK)
With regard to the drownings they were unfortunately a common occurrence & in a small town or village with large extended families it wouldn't be unusual to have a lot of people with the same surname.
I think the court case is more to do with the relationship between Master & apprentice.
There would have been an understanding that an apprentice wouldn't open his business in competition with the Master. This didn't happen for whatever reason & would certainly have antagonised the Master. The fact that he was doing so well would only have added fuel to the fire.
It looks to me that the Master has set out to discredit him & brand him little better than a common thief which would have damaged his business.
So I think this is more to do with livelihoods rather than lives.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Friday 15 July 16 22:45 BST (UK)
Hi Jim,

Thanks for replying. I'm tempted to agree with your summation, however someone with contacts with Bredon told me there were at least 3 smith businesses in Bredon (I suppose someone with access to the 1841 census might be able to confirm). I also think losing a son to an accident might cause anger to a family you feel is responsible. And depending on the drowned Stephens relationship to Cornelious perhaps a conflicting view of who was to blame.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: jim1 on Saturday 16 July 16 11:18 BST (UK)
John would have considered it a slap in the face & against the "gentleman's agreement".
He had no control over the other blacksmith's shops.
I suppose you'll never really know if there was also antagonism over the drowning.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Saturday 16 July 16 13:44 BST (UK)
Thanks Jim,

I think you are likely correct, probably a professional rivalry, a relationship soured. And as you said we will never know for sure.

But I'd still like to find out the drowned Stephens kinship with Cornelius?

We're there apprenticeship records for smiths kept by any guilds then?

Would there be church session records about either incident?
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: mowsehowse on Sunday 17 July 16 15:31 BST (UK)
What a sad but interesting tale.  :'(

Are you aware of The Blacksmiths Index?

>  http://blacksmiths.mygenwebs.com/index.php  <

Worcestershire does not seem to be represented, so perhaps you would like to make a contribution?
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Monday 18 July 16 00:45 BST (UK)
Hi Mowsehowse,

Yes I thought so too.

I wasn't aware of that Index, it looks very interesting - I'll definitely check it out, thanks.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: jbml on Friday 29 July 16 16:31 BST (UK)
I think you need to test your assumption that there wasn't enough blacksmithing work to go around, if there were (not so long before) two additional blacksmiths, who drowned in a boating accident ...

But on the whole, yes, it is important not to see cases such as this as isolated incidents but to try to understand the full background circumstances and how th eparties related to one another - partcularly in smaller communities where the principal actors had probably lived alongside one another for all of their lives, and would probably continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

Historic communities were very different creatures from modern so-called "communities", and we overlook this at our peril ...
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Friday 29 July 16 18:57 BST (UK)
Hi jmbl, thank you for replying. I agree with what you say, but don't know how to test it.

I believe that Thomas Wagstaff must have been an apprentice of his father John, whether Cornelius Stephen was a blacksmith on his own by this stage and whether the deceased Stephen was an apprentice for who remains to be answered. A friend looked up Blacksmiths of Bredon in 1841:
District 1 The Hamlet of Bredon

Cornelius Stephens 25 Blacksmith
William Bulingham 15 Blacksmith app (I think that's what it says)
John Wagstaff 60 Blacksmith
James Underwood 15 Blacksmith app (I think that's what it says)

District 3 The Hamlet of Kinsham

John Hatch 20 Blacksmith

District 4 Norton by Bredon

Joseph Smith 30 Blacksmith
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: sante on Saturday 15 August 20 22:59 BST (UK)
Great reading.  I am researching John Wagstaff family as mentioned in the 1841 Census and his son George Wagstaff who went to NZ and was the blacksmith and farrier in Howick in 1855. But I can't find his bap/birth in Bredon in about 1831.  Have found the others in the said 1841 Census with John and Ann (she appears to be perhaps Nancy Adams).  Any help would be greatly appreciated to find George Wagstaff bap or departure records to nz. 
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Sunday 16 August 20 00:11 BST (UK)
Hello Sante,

Sorry I canít help with the birth of George.

But can I just add a note of caution that perhaps that John and Ann (Nancy) may not be his parents. The ages in 1841 were rounded down to 60 and 55 respectively, (strangely in 1851 they are 70 and 71); so Iím suggesting that perhaps they may have been too old in 1831 to have George. He may be a grandson for instance.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: jbml on Sunday 16 August 20 07:18 BST (UK)

I believe that Thomas Wagstaff must have been an apprentice of his father John



Sorry I missed this first time around.

I consider this exceedingly unlikely, since men taking their own sons as apprentices was forbidden by law in the early - mid 18th century (I can't recall the exact date, but I'm pretty sure it was in the 1730s or 1740s).

My great x4 grandfather John Burrows, a shoemaker, had an apprentice called Benjamin Gooding. There was probably a family connection as John Burrows' brother Joseph had married a Gooding (Hannah Gooding).

In time my great x3 grandfather (also John Burrows) was apprenticed to the selfsame Benjamin Gooding who had been his father's apprentice.

So apprenticeships could be kept closely "in the family" ... just not a father taking on his own son as an apprentice.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Sunday 16 August 20 10:34 BST (UK)
Hello jbml,

A very interesting fact, I wonder what date this was repealed? Certainly it is not enforced nowadays if it is still one. But if it were still in force in 1831 perhaps the Stephenís lad (still to find his relationship to Cornelius) may have been another apprentice to John Wagstaff, after Cornelius? And Johnís son Thomas an apprentice to another Blacksmith.

Unfortunately the original cuttings posted have disappeared.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Bookbox on Sunday 16 August 20 10:44 BST (UK)
men taking their own sons as apprentices was forbidden by law in the early - mid 18th century (I can't recall the exact date, but I'm pretty sure it was in the 1730s or 1740s).

This statement doesnít tally at all with my own findings. I can see no such limitation in the Statute of Artificers of 1563 (5 Eliz I, c.4), which effectively held sway until 1814. A reference would be very useful, if you could find one, please?

It is well known that in some trades (e.g. Thames Watermen) sons were successively bound apprentice to their fathers over many generations, extending back through the 1800s to at least the early 1700s, and this is borne out by the apprenticeship binding-books. I can hardly imagine that such widespread practice contravened the law.
Title: Re: Connection between tragic incident and court case?
Post by: Grothenwell on Sunday 16 August 20 11:32 BST (UK)
The story of the drowning of 3 youths of Bredon in a boating accident on the Avon that I am sure must have had a bearing on the court case. Two of the three drowned youths were a Wagstaff and a Stephens. I later managed to find the Wagstaff was Thomas, 18 year old son of John (I have yet to find the forename of Stephens - and his likely close relationship to Cornelius).

Perhaps the Stephens surname is a co-incidence and there is no connection between the drowned youth and Cornelius.

I found Thomas Wagstaff when I had a subscription to Findmypast, and it gave me details (his age, burial info), unfortunately my Ancestry subscription gives little detail in comparison. Could some kind soul with FindMyPast do a look-up for a May 1835 death in Worcestershire for Stephens (other youth was Trapp) please?

Update on Ancestry found Daniel Trap (same church, day after Thomas burial) but no Stephens.