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JOHN CRUWYS AND THE STOLEN COW

Transcribed by Debbie Kennett

The following article was originally published in Trewman's Flying Post on 27th July 1848.

EXETER ASSIZES
John CRUWYS, 32, was charged with having on the 26th or 27th of May last at Chulmleigh, stolen a cow, the property of Robert BAKER. Mr. LEMPRIERE was for the prosecution. Mr STONE for the defence. Attorney, Mr Merlin FRYER, St Thomas, Exeter. Robert BAKER said he had a cow in a field at Chulmleigh on the morning of Friday, May 26. He went as usual to see his cattle on Sunday and missed his cow. He saw her on the Monday in a field near Okehampton, in the possession of a policeman. - Wm. CHUBB saw the prisoner and this bullock in Okehampton market on Saturday the 27th of May. He had it for sale, - asked to whom it belonged? He said to Mr SKINNER, of Ringsash, (Ashreigney). A man named CARPENTER was looking at it, and said he was to give eight guineas for it; but after some negotiations, it was driven to the Barnstaple Inn, and having strong suspicions that all was not right, I told a man he should run and call the police, and a policeman came. Cross-examined by Mr STONE. - This was about 10 o'clock in the forenoon. There were not above 3 cows or calves in the market that morning. Did not know the prisoner, never saw him before. He was given into the custody of the police. I saw him again on Monday at Chulmleigh, he was in custody, and SAMBELL the policeman was there. The prisoner was differently dressed, but I know him to be the same man.

Benjamin SAMBELL is a police officer at Okehampton, and apprehended the prisoner about 12 at noon on Saturday the 27th of May. I told him the offence he was charged with. He said nothing for some time and then began to cry. He said this is the first time I ever did anything, - up to this time I always had a good character. He told me his name was SKINNER. I took him to the prison in Okehampton and locked him up. - I saw him 7 or 8 times between this and 12 at night. At half-past one I was called, he had set fire to the rafter, - the woodwork of his cell. I then handcuffed him with his hands behind his back. At ten minutes to 2 o'clock I was called and found he had escaped by making a hole through the roof. I saw him again on the following Monday at Chulmleigh in custody of a man named ROBERTS. I knew him again though he was dressed very differently. He was in a smock frock on Saturday, as a labourer, on Monday he was respectably dressed. I gave the cow up to Mr BAKER, - he claimed it. I have understood Chulmleigh is 18 miles from Okehampton. Cross-examined. - From the roof of the prison it was 16 or 17 feet to the roof of a pigstie, and that was about four feet from the ground.

Francis Benjamin SAMBELL, is son of the last witness, and saw him in the prison as stated by his father. The prisoner is that man. Several farmers saw him in prison, and John DOWN, one of these knew him.

John DOWN, of Winkleigh told the police officer, - he (the prisoner) is not one of Ringsash, he is one of Chulmleigh, his name is John CRUWYS. I have known him for years. He is a labouring man, and works about with his horse and cart. I think he had some ground.

Mr BAKER recalled - I took the prisoner into custody about 11 o'clock on Monday morning in bed, in Chulmleigh - ROBERTS was with me - I told him to take him - I know Mr. SKINNER of Ringsash, he never had anything to do with this cow. - I know the prisoner, he belongs to our parish.

Rev. W. H. KARLAKE was the committing Magistrate. The prisoner was duly cautioned. - What he said was taken down in writing. I do not recollect whether he signed or not, but I signed it. Deposition put in and read, by Mr GURNEY, - He denied being at Okehampton on the day stated, but said he left his home at half past 5 in the morning and went to Southmolton, and thence to Northmolton; and attended divine service there, and at the Briannite meeting house in Southmolton on Sunday evening, having interviews with his mother, a sister, and others.

Mr STONE addressed the jury for the prisoner, strongly contending there was [a] mistake, and that the prisoner was not the man with the cow at Okehampton on Saturday.

And called to character, Mr. Wm. BORNE, of Chulmleigh - known prisoner from his infancy, always bore the highest character. Mr PARTRIDGE, a saddler at Chulmleigh - known prisoner 15 years, he has been highly esteemed for his character.

The Judge summed up, and the jury, after some deliberation, withdrew, - the Foreman saying we can't agree on this point, my lord, and therefore we had better perhaps withdraw.

A new jury were now called. One of these objected to being sworn. - He said I am not a Quaker, nor ever was, but I have the same objection to taking an oath, as the Quakers have. - Mr. HORN: You had better leave the box. Which he did. The Jury being sworn.

[The next few paragraphs refer to the case of Samuel Thomas WARD, 19, who was charged with stealing 300 printed sheets of "Foulston's Architecture", value £3, from the property of Eliza FOULSTON.]

In the case of John CRUWYS, at nearly half-past one o'clock, the bailiff who had the jury in charge, came into Court, and stated to his lordship that the jury wished to ask the policeman a question. - The Judge: Certainly, let the jury come in, and the policeman be called. And this being done, the Foreman said to Benjamin SAMBELL. - In your evidence just now you said, the prisoner said nothing for some time, and then began to cry, saying he had always borne a good character up to that time. Now we wish to know whether this was the first or second time you apprehended him? SAMBELL: I did not apprehend him but once. The Judge; Permit me, gentlemen, to set you right on this. - SAMBELL only apprehended him once, and this was at Okehampton. It was at 12 o'clock on Monday that the second capture was, and this when the prisoner was in bed at Chulmleigh, by ROBERTS, a police officer at Chulmleigh, and in the presence of Mr. BAKER.

The jury consulted, but after a few minutes expressed a wish again to retire, and were escorted out of Court.

In about half an hour, having in the whole been absent an hour and [a] half, the jury again came into Court, and returned a verdict of guilty. The Judge did not sentence, but directed that he should be put back.

[The next paragraph concerns the case of William BRADDICK, 17, John STEVENS, 16, and Henry COLES, 15, who were charged with stealing three scythes from the property of John BORD and Charles TALBOT.]

John CRUWYS was directed to be again placed at the bar, and the Judge having addressed him, sentenced him to be imprisoned 12 calendar months, and kept to hard labour.

Transcriber's note:
John CRUWYS was the second son of William CRUWYS and Margaret EASTMOND. He was baptised on 17th November 1816 in Mariansleigh but grew up in the nearby parish of Burrington. John married Ann ROWE, a lacemaker, at the Independent Chapel in Chulmleigh on 26th July 1838. Ann was the daughter of Thomas ROWE, a carpenter. John started out his married life as a husbandman but presumably, like many farmers, found it increasingly difficult to make a living from the land and, by 1841, he had become a shoemaker. The 1841 census finds John living at Great Shoote, Chulmleigh, with his wife Ann, his one-year-old son William, and his mother Margaret, who was working as a charwoman. John's father had suffered from epilepsy for a number of years and by 1841 had been admitted to the South Molton Union Workhouse. In 1842 Ann gave birth to a daughter, Mary Ann. Nearly three years later Ann was pregnant again. John was now working as a labourer but work must have been in short supply and the prospect of another mouth to feed was too much to bear. Ann decided to have an abortion from which she tragically died on 26th February 1845 in Chulmleigh. Mary Skinner of Chulmleigh was in attendance at the death and signed Ann's death certificate with her mark. She was presumably responsible for the botched operation. There were four Mary Skinners living in Chulmleigh at the time of the 1851 census: Mary Skinner, 65, born in Cheldon, the wife of George Skinner, an agricultural labourer, living at Great Shute Street; Mary Skinner, 64, born in Winkleigh, the wife of William Skinner, a Chelsea pensioner, living at Gay House, East Street; Mary Skinner, 60, born in Chulmleigh, the wife of John Skinner, an agricultural labourer living at Little Shute Street; and Mary Skinner, 21, a house servant living at Sydham. It is not known which Mary Skinner was responsible for the operation but the two agricultural labourers' wives seem to be the most likely candidates.
At some point either after Ann's death or after John's imprisonment Mary Ann was sent to the South Molton Union Workhouse, where she was probably accompanied by her brother William. Mary Ann sadly died in the workhouse of atrophy on 25th February 1850. She was just six years old. She was buried on 1st March 1850 at Holy Trinity Church in Burrington. After John's release from prison he moved to Cornwall with his son William. At the time of the 1851 census they were living at West Street, Millbrook, in the parish of Maker. John was now a gardener and William, 13, was a printer and bookbinder. It is not known what became of John and William as neither of them can be found in the 1861 or 1871 censuses and there is no likely record of their deaths in the GRO indexes.
Brief articles on the trial of John CRUWYS were also published in The Times and the North Devon Journal on 27th July 1848.
John CRUWYS was the brother of William George CRUWYS whose will is published on the Burrington page of Genuki.

Last updated - Brian Randell, 18 May 2006

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