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Thursday 4 December 1851 – Disputes between Thomas B Langley of Badsey Mill and the Tewkesbury MP

Category Badsey and Aldington
Worcester Journal
Transcription of article

Before the Mayor (N Chandler) and Lewis, Esquires.

It appears that our Member of Parliament, H Brown, Esq, and Mr Langley of Badsey near Evesham, two great silk throwsters, are not on the best friendly terms.  Some of the hands of Mr Brown left his employ and entered into the employ of Mr Langley; amongst others were four boys, and Mr Brown obtained summonses against them for leaving his service in the middle of the week under 6th and 7th Vic which cases were now heard.  The case of George Johns was first proceeded with.  Mr Haynes, from the office of Mr Eades of Evesham, appeared for the defendant.  Mr Goodwin, manager to Mr Brown, deposed that he was the agent of complainant, that he had hired defendant under his authority; that the commencement of each week was understood to be reckoned from every Saturday morning and terminate every Friday evening at seven o’clock; that defendant left on Monday Nov 17th without any authority whatever.  On cross-examination he said there was no contract in writing, neither was it usual to have any.  It was also the custom for the master to discharge his hands momentarily without notice.  Mr Haynes addressed the Bench and, in the course of his remarks admitted the defendant having left in the middle of a week, but contended that inasmuch as it was the custom and a privilege for the master to discharge his hands momentarily, the same custom and privilege should be extended to the servant on giving up his wages.  The Magistrates consulted, but considered the case proved, and fined the defendant 1s and 9s 3d costs or seven days imprisonment.  The three remaining cases being precisely similar, the same fine and costs were imposed.  Mr Brown made application for a summons against a Mr Shaw and David Clark, in the employ of Mr Langley, for combining to obstruct and [?] his workmen, and grounded his application on the recent decision lately in the Sittings in Banco in the case of Mr Perry’s men of Wolverhampton, but the Magistrates held it distinguishable, and refused the application.  (There appears another case of difference between these gentlemen under our Evesham news.)

* * * * *

A month and a half later a report appeared in "The Gloucester Journal" of Saturday 24th January 1852.  The action was now brought against Thomas Bolland Langley rather than his employees, Ralph Shaw and David Clark:

TEWKESBURY COUNTY COURT – Humphrey Brown v Thomas Bollard Langley

Among the cases disposed of last week was the above.  It was an action to recover damages from the defendant, who is the proprietor of silk mills at Badsey, for enticing away from their work, certain individuals in the employ of the plaintiff, Humphrey Brown, Esq, MP, who is proprietor of the Tewkesbury mills.  Mr S Brookes appeared for the plaintiff and Mr Eades for the defendant.  The following evidence was given:

John Ryder:  I am inspector of the Tewkesbury police.  In the month of November last, I went to Badsey mills to serve summonses on some boys who had left Mr Brown’s work.  After some opposition I was allowed to serve the summonses.  Remember Mr Shaw being examined.  Mr Langley was present.  Shaw said he was the manager or agent; he bought and sold silk; also took on hands and discharged them.

Cross-examined:  Part of the boys were brought before the Tewkesbury magistrates and fined.  I was present at the time.

Henry Wood:  I live in the Oldbury in Tewkesbury.  Worked at Mr Brown’s mills.  Was there in November last.  I remember seeing Mr Shaw.  Told him I could not leave work without giving a week’s notice.  Shaw told me to go after Wilkins, who had worked at Mr Brown’s mills.  Said I had no shirt.  Shaw promised to find me one if I would go and fetch Wilkins.  There were a good many boys in the Oldbury.  We were to go to Glover’s and he (Shaw) would be there in two or three minutes.  This was close to Mr Brown’s mills; we were coming from dinner.  I went to Glover’s with the boys Godsall, Johns, Stephens, Nuden, Kirkham and another.  When Shaw came, Clark was with him.  They locked the door.  From Glover’s we went to the Black Bear where we had two quarts of beer and some bread and cheese.  Clarke and Shaw said we were to get on the road or our mothers and old Goodwin would be after us.  Went to Badsey.  Saw Mr Langley who asked me if I was engaged also at Tewkesbury mill.  Told him – Yes, and so many coming out of one room Mr Brown would send a summons or a warrant after us.  Told Mr Langley, Shaw engaged us.  Was served with a summons and Mr Langley had it.  He said it was only done to frighten us.  Had 3s 6d per week in Tewkesbury.  Was to have more wages and more victuals if we would come to Badsey.

Cross-examined:  The wages I had at Badsey was 3s 9d per week; that, with my lodgings, would be equal to 4s 3d.  Am working for Mr Brown now.

Henry Watkins, James Godsall and Henry Kirkham gave corroborative evidence.

Thomas Goodwin:  I am the manager of Mr Brown’s mill at Tewkesbury.  I consider loss has been sustained by the plaintiff, the absence of the boys putting a stop to a considerable portion of the machinery.  The wages differ according to the nature of the employment.  On Friday we finish the work and commence on the Saturday.  If any of the hands leave before then, they are paid for the time they have been at work but, if discharged during the week for want of work, they are paid the full week.  The terms of contract are from week to week.  Had they stopped the week, I do not think any notice would have been taken of it.

Mr Eades applied for a non-suit, in support of which he produced several authorities.  The application, after a lengthy argument was refused.

Mr Humphrey Brown:  I have some recollection of some boys being convicted, but how many I do not know, neither have I received any benefit from it.  Did not wish to punish the boys by sending them to prison, as it might be serious to the parents to give them such punishment, as I considered there were other parties more guilty than they were.  The mayor and other magistrates said they had power to levy a fine, but that adjudication was to be no part of compensation from pecuniary loss; I told the magistrates I intended to bring an action for the recovery of damages against the proprietor of the Badsey mills.

This was the case for the plaintiff.  He called the following:

Thomas Bolland Langley:  I am the defendant in this action and reside at Badsey.  The boys came to the house where I reside and I asked them where they came from.  One of them replied from Tewkesbury.  Asked them where they had been working and they replied at Mr Brown’s mills.  That is all that took place.  I did not understand they had left Mr Brown’s employ at that time.  I saw neither Clark nor Shaw.

Cross-examined:  Knew Mr Brown had a silk mill in Tewkesbury.  Clark and Shaw went to Overbury* on the day.  They did not go for the express purpose of engaging hands.  They did not go to Tewkesbury by my directions.  My impression was the boys were not in Mr Brown’s employ.  Afterwards saw Shaw, and he told me he had engaged them.  Made no observation to the effect how nicely we had jilted the Tewkesbury people.  Shaw has worked for me the last eight years.

By His Honour:  The highest wages given to boys was 3s 9d with lodging.  To the eight boys I gave 3s 9d, sixpence being deducted for lodging.

Ralph Shaw:  I reside at Badsey.  On the 14th of November last, at a place called the Oldbury, in company with Clark, a man employed in the mill, I met a boy of the name of Wood.  I did not speak to the boy, but Clark did.  The boy said to Clark, “Halloo!  What do thee do here?”  Wood also said, “Do you want hands at Badsey?”  Clark said, “We could do with two or three hands.”  I then went away, but some time after returned and saw between 30 and 40 boys playing in the Oldbury.  They all came up and said Wood had told them hands were wanting.  Clark said, “Those who like to go, if they go to Glover’s we will talk to them.”  They all went, and I went also; nine or ten went into the house, the rest remained outside.  The boys who remained outside tried to come in.  I shut the door.  They again tried to come in, and Mrs Glover’s boy locked the door.  We engaged eight in the house.  They said they wanted something to eat and drink.  Had something at “The Bear”, after which they started.  Not a word was said about their being in Mr Brown’s employ, neither did Wood or any of them say they could not leave Mr Brown’s factory without giving a week’s notice.  Did not know they were in Mr Brown’s employ.  Never heard any of them say, “If we all leave we shall have a summons after us.”

The examination of four of the boys closed the case for the defence.

His Honour said he did not think Mr Langley culpable only, in a legal point of view.  Mr Langley was responsible for the acts of his manager in his business.  He employs Shaw to manage his business.  Shaw, for the interest of his employer, injures his neighbour, and that injury is sustained in the exercise of Shaw’s duty as servant to Mr Langley; therefore, Mr Langley is so far responsible for what Shaw has done.  His Honour then proceeded to give judgment, strongly animadverting on the evidence, particularly that of Shaw.  It appeared to him that Shaw was determined to find hands at any rate, no matter what injury a neighbour sustained.  Taking the whole of the circumstances into consideration, his Honour gave judgment for plaintiff – damages £5 5s.


* The newspaper report clearly says Overbury (where there was a silk mill), but earlier references in the report are to the Oldbury which is a district of Tewkesbury where there were a number of factories, including one for silk throwing.