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Fires and Thefts at Wickhamford Manor and Manor Farm (1846-1855)

Wickhamford Manor, owned by the Sandys family of Ombersley Court, was under tenancy to Samuel Taylor from about 1817 until his death in 1856.  At the 1851 census he was described as a farmer of 790 acres, employing 25 men.  This acreage included Manor Farm in Wickhamford and some land elsewhere.  In 1861, his son-in-law, John Nind, was tenant at the Manor and his holding was given as 344 acres, which was the area of Manor Farm.

During the period 1846-1855, the newspapers reported on seven cases involving unfortunate incidents at Wickhamford Manor and Manor Farm.

Theft of perry and cider

The Worcester Journal of 7th January 1846, reported on the theft of a barrel with 18 gallons of perry and another with 18 gallons of cider.   Three men who worked for Samuel Taylor as labourers – William Shillon (34), John Winnett (21), and William Cook (16) were found guilty.  Cook who had been previously of good behaviour, and recommended for mercy, was given a sentence of one week’s imprisonment.  Shillon and Winnett were imprisoned for a month.

John Winnett was the eldest of seven children of Richard and Fanny Winnett and aged 17 at the 1841 census when the family lived in Wickhamford.  That year, William Cook was only 8 years old and a silk throwster, who lived at the present-day Robin Cottage, Manor Road, Wickhamford.  He would have been only 13 years old when imprisoned for a week, not the 16 reported in the court case.  There was a man called William Shillom living the village in 1841, a 30-year-old labourer, so he may have been the instigator of the theft.

Despite the theft, John Winnett’s father, Richard Winnett, was living at Wickhamford Manor in 1851, whilst working as an agricultural labourer. Samuel Taylor appeared not to hold a grudge against that family.  

Theft of valuables

The Worcestershire Chronicle of 19th December 1849, reported on a case of theft at Wickhamford Manor.  On 8th December, Samuel Taylor came down in the morning to find that a desk, that he had left safe the night before, had been broken open.  Various valuables had been taken and also £3 in silver coins.  Suspicion rested on two of his servants, Thomas Heeks and Thomas Howes, who were remanded in custody.  The newspaper of the following week stated that both men had been released from custody, the magistrates not deeming the evidence of a nature to warrant their committal.  In 1841, there were a father and son in the village, both with the name of Thomas Howes.  The elder was a 27-year-old labourer and the younger was aged 6, so would have been about 14 in late 1849.  He may have been a servant at Wickhamford Manor.  The only Thomas Heeks living in the area at the time of the robbery was a son of John and Mary Heeks.  He was baptised in Badsey in 1841, so would probably be too young to be a servant at the Manor in 1849?


The Worcestershire Chronicle on 12th March 1851, reported on events that took place on the previous 3rd and 4th December 1850.  Thomas Taylor, 36, a butcher and farmer, described as ‘decently-attired’, was arraigned on three indictments charging him with setting fire to stacks of wheat and barley in Badsey and Wickhamford.  The first fire was at Mr Applebee’s farm on the evening of 3rd December, follow soon after by a blaze at the premises of a Mr Wilson, both in Badsey.  These were extinguished when a third blaze occurred at Samuel Taylor’s Manor Farm, Wickhamford.  Thomas Taylor was a nephew of Samuel Taylor.  When accused, Thomas Taylor said that it was his determination to burn the village from one end to the other!  Numerous witnesses gave evidence at the trial as to his whereabouts at the time of the fires and his drunken condition and threats.  Surprisingly, the jury returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’, after a case lasting seven hours.  The Judge warned him about his future life and the necessity of his reforming his drunken habits.  At the 1851 census, soon after these events, Thomas Taylor was living at the present-day Glebe Cottage, Mill Lane, Badsey, lodging with the Aldington family.  He was married to Ann and his occupation was given as a butcher.  He had married Ann Baylis in 1845, when the Banns were read in Wickhamford, where he then resided.  Their daughter was baptised in Badsey in late 1846, when he was recorded in the Register as a farmer.

Accidental fire

 Soon after the fire caused by Thomas Taylor at Manor Farm, another blaze occurred there.  The Worcestershire Chronicle of 2nd May 1851, reported on a serious fire in the rickyard of Samuel Taylor.  It consumed five wheat ricks containing between 400 and 500 bags of wheat and also a straw rick of about 15 tons.  In this case the cause was put down to an accident, being caused by a boy, Alfred Bearcroft.  He was employed by Samuel Taylor to shoot rooks and the wind blew the wadding into the straw rick, setting it on fire.  An Alfred ‘Barcroft’ lived in Evesham and was 16 at the 1861 census, but it seems unlikely that he was the boy involved, unless he was allowed use of a gun when only 6, in 1851?

Theft of hay

It seems as if Samuel Taylor was having a lot of bad luck with his hay in 1851.  Before the accidental fire in May, he had some hay stolen from a rick.  The Worcestershire Chronicle of 15th January reported that four men had been accused of the theft – John and James Begley, Henry Ellison and John Gray.  They had been apprehended by Sgts Pardoe and Potter and P.C. Ball.  They were remanded in custody until the following Tuesday, when the examination resumed.  The prisoners were fully committed for trial at the next sessions and bail was set at two sureties of £20 each.  The case was heard in March 1851, and the Judges thought it would require a minute examination.  It appeared that the rick had been cut and someone had passed by and pulled out a quantity of hay and taken it off, but Samuel Taylor did not know who had done it.  A turnpike gatekeeper between Blockley and Evesham said that two carts had passed through during the night of the robbery.  A hand was put out to him and tendered half-a-crown and he heard a voice which he knew to be John Begley’s.  In court, Begley admitted this was him.   John Begley’s house in Evesham was searched and a bit of hay was found, which Samuel Taylor said corresponded to that he had lost. Ellis and Gray were found in Begley’s stable and they acknowledged that they were with the carts on the night concerned.  The Judges were to wait for further evidence to satisfy themselves that a charge could be sustained or not.  In the 1851 census, taken on 30th March, John Begley, a sweep aged 30, lived in Bewdley Street, Evesham. (No report of the final outcome of the case has been found, so far.)

The turnpike keeper referred to was probably at the toll house in Bengeworth, which was at the junction of Port Street, Elm Road and Broadway Road.

Theft of wool

 Some wool was stolen from three dead sheep, belonging to Samuel Taylor, and reported in The Worcestershire Chronicle of 3rd May 1854.  (No further details have been found.)

Theft of a lamb

 The Worcestershire Chronicle of 11th April 1855, reported another case involving Thomas Taylor, who now lived in Murcot.  He was committed to jail on a charge of stealing a lamb, the property of Samuel Taylor.  It had been seen with its dam at 10 a.m. on 6th April but was missing by 4 p.m.   Suspicion fell on Thomas Taylor, who was tracked across a wheat field.  Sgt Pardoe and P.C. Ball searched his house and found part of the lamb boiled and other parts in the garret.   Samuel Taylor’s nephew had obviously not mended his ways after the earlier case in 1851.  (His sentence has not been found.)

Samuel Taylor died in 1856 and was buried in the churchyard of St John the Baptist on 17th July, aged 58.  So ended a decade of interesting events at Wickhamford Manor and Manor Farm.

Tom Locke – February 2023

See also:

Samuel Taylor of Wickhamford Manor