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James Dearman 1801-1834   The final trial

Ponders End and Enfield 1829-1830

By this time James must have been working at Bush Hill Park, a local manor house and estate of some 438 acres, which was the property of one William Mellish.  At his last trial it was stated that he had been working there for eighteen months.  As you can see from the engravings of the time below, it was an impressive property and William Mellish was a very rich and important man - a politician no less.


“At this date the bulk of the land between Bury Street and Lincoln Road was owned by William Mellish. He lived at Bush Hill Park, a large house which stood on the slopes of Bush Hill on a site now occupied by Ringmer Place. Mellish, who came from a Nottinghamshire family, was a director of the Bank of England and Tory MP for Grimsby and later for Middlesex.”  


Not a man to trifle with.  But our James was either stupid, cocky or desperate, because, yet again he decided to steal something - this time some wheat - he was working as a thresher at the time - that’s what the peasants at the top of the page and on the left and right are doing.  It would have been a seasonal occupation though, so the rest of the year he would have been doing something else.  We have already had him as a carter, and a servant, and ultimately, in Australia, he gave his trade as ploughman - so an agricultural labourer who could turn his hand to just about anything.  Including stealing the goods of his masters. 

Anyway,  here is the transcript of the trial which took place on the third of December 1830 at the Old Bailey:


“28. JAMES DEARMAN was indicted for stealing, on the 25th of November, 32 lbs. weight of wheat, value 3s. , the goods of William Mellish , Esq.

MR. CLARKSON conducted the prosecution.

JOHN MEAD . I am constable of Enfield. I received information on the 25th of November, in consequence of which I went with Watkins to the road near Mr. Mellish’s farm-yard - about five o’clock the prisoner came up, and we stopped him; he had a bag of wheat at his back, in a basket - this stocking of wheat was round one of his thighs, and this other stocking round the other, and this bag of wheat was tied before him under his smockfrock; we took him to the watch-house - I said I should search him; he said it was of no use, he would give it up, and he did so - I said, “Have you any at home?” he said, “No nothing but a few potatoes;” we went to his house at Ponder’s-end, and found about three bushels more of wheat - I have brought a sample of it, and there were eight or nine sacks of potatoes.

RICHARD WATKINS . I am a Bow-street horse-patrol. I was with Mead - what he has stated is quite correct.

CHARLES ROBERT BRADEY . I am bailiff to William Mellish, Esq., of Bush-hill Park. The prisoner was a thresher, and had been threshing wheat that day - I have looked at this wheat, and believe it to be Mr. Mellish’s, and likewise that found at the prisoner’s house; I have compared them with the bulk at Mr. Mellish’s - the prisoner has not worked for any body else for a year and a half.

GUILTY . Aged 29. - Transported for Seven Years .”  

From the evidence that came out in the trial it would seem that James had been steadily salting away various goods stolen from Mr. Mellish.  They found eight or nine sacks of potatoes as well as three bushels of wheat at his home - quite apart from the wheat that was found on him.  Although, it has to be said that he was not accused of having stolen those potatoes.  Somebody obviously informed on him too.  I wonder what that implies?  He wasn’t popular? Someone was jealous?  Or he was just stupid and the foremen noticed.  You would think, would you not, that with his big brother recently transported to Australia that he would have not risked his own future by stealing things.  Unlike Joseph who seems to have been unemployed, he had had a steady job at Bush Hill Park for at least a year and a half.  And he had a pregnant wife and children to look after.  Surely he wasn’t trying to emulate Joseph?

This was also a considered crime - he had stuffed the wheat into stockings and strapped them to his body beneath his clothes - a smock (as shown at right) is mentioned.  He didn’t just grab something he fancied or find something that had fallen off a truck.  But still it’s a pretty severe sentence isn’t it for goods worth only 3 shillings (£56.91 AUD$102.81 in today’s currency)?  And how do you tell one man’s wheat from another’s?  But then I know nothing about these things.

The judge was one William St. Julien Arabin, apparently known as an eccentric who was notorious for his confused pronouncements.  Not in this case though - pretty clear that James was to be transported.  And he doesn’t seem to have appealed - but then there was probably no point appealing against transportation.

The only other piece of information to be gleaned from this trial is that he was living in Ponders End, which is really a part of Enfield, on the River Lee, which was canalised and navigable.   The picture at left is of a fishing match in Ponders End - maybe this is what everyone did in their spare time - it looks pretty dismal countryside to me - damp looking.  And he was living in an actual house, not a tenement.


The Old Bailey Online - A wonderful resource.  Your ancestor does not have to be a criminal for you to find him or her here.  As well as the trials themselves there is a wealth of background material.  One of my alltime favourite sites.

The Georgian Underworld  - Not strictly our period, but this lengthy article gives an interesting descriptions of life in Newgate Prison, which is valid for the nineteenth century as well.

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