Stealing four tame chickens and four tame ducks

I have strong family connection with Blackheath, which is not far from where I live today. But what I didn’t realise until recently however was that this connection can be traced back over 200 years to the areas of Blackheath, Lee Green and Greenwich. I’ve done most of this research mainly through parish records and censuses, but these records can get slightly repetitive – they’re just dates, names and occupations. It’s when you find records from other sources, which contain much more information on the life of an ancestor that you feel like you’ve struck gold.

Because of a great new research tool which has digitised all the proceedings of the Old Bailey between 1674 and 1913, I was able to find out about the past of one of my ancestors in Blackheath.

My great great grandfather Alfred Jackman (pictured right) was born in Blackheath around 1849, he was one of at least six children of John James Jackman and Caroline Stone. When he was 18 years of age, he was accused of stealing livestock from a house named ‘Conduit Lodge’ in Blackheath Park. He stood accused at the Old Bailey on 19th August 1867.

Before Robert Malcolm Kerr, Esq.

GEORGE COSTON (16) and ALFRED JACKMAN (18), Stealing four tame chickens and four tame ducks, the property of William Brown.

MR. POLAND conducted the Prosecution.

JOHN LAWRENCE. I am gardener to Mr. Brown, of Conduit Lodge, Blackheath Park–on Saturday night, the 13th July, about ten o’clock, I saw some ducks and chickens safe on my master’s premises–I shut them in the coop, five in one lot and eight in the other–the chickens were three weeks and five days old–on the following morning I missed four out of the lot of five, and also four ducklings–a policeman came to me on the Monday morning and showed me four chickens, which I identified–I could positively swear to them–one of them had five claws on one foot and four on the other–I have not seen the ducklings since–the chickens were in Jackman’s yard–I took them away–Jackman told me they were seven weeks old, and that he had bred them.

WILLIAM LAWS (Policeman 67 R). On Sunday morning, the 14th July, about 6.30, I saw Coston with a boy named Woodley–from what took place then I took him into custody for being concerned with Woodley in stealing chickens–I took him to the station, and he told me if I went to Alfred Jackman’s house I should find some chickens and ducks that were stolen–I took the last witness and three other gardeners to the place, and found a quantity of young chickens and ducks, and out of them he identified four chickens–Jackman lives with his father–there was no appearance of any hen–I did not see Jackman until after the gardener had taken the chickens away, but on that night I was crossing the Heath just at the corner of the Park, and I met Jackman and Coston–Jackman said, “I am going after those chickens that were taken away from my place”–I went with them, and we got to the house Jackman said the four chickens were his property, and that he had hatched them–I showed them to Lawrence, Jane Thomas, and to Mrs. Lawrence, and they picked them out–they were mixed with other chickens–Coston told me that he and Jackman had been out several nights together, and that they had taken chickens from different places and sold them, and that Jackman and the others had not given him his share of the money.

COURT. Q. Did you tell Coston that what he said would be given in evidence against him? A. No.

ANN LAWRENCE. I am the wife of John Lawrence, gardener to Mr. Brown–I saw the four chickens–I am able to say that they were Mr. Brown’s property.

Witness for Jackman.

MRS. GUILLAUME. I have known Jackman nine or ten years–his general character is very good–I saw these chickens in Jackman’s house a month before Mr. Brown lost any–I saw seven in a bushel basket before the fire.

Cross-examined. Q. How came you to count the chickens? A. Mrs. Jackman showed them to me–they were very young–I saw no ducks and no hen, and no coop–they keep chickens, hens and ducks–the chickens were two or three days old when I first saw them–I said to Mrs. Jackman, “I do not think you will bring those chickens up without a mother,” and she said “Oh! yes, I have done so before.”


Alfred Jackman was not seen in court again it seems. His ‘friend’ George Coston was, however:

GEORGE COSTON (16) was again indicted, with WILLIAM WOODLEY (16), for stealing two tame chickens, the property of John Harvey Eugene.

THOMAS FIELD. I am a gardener in the service of John Harvey Eugene of Blackheath Park–about 7.30 on the morning of the 11th July I missed eleven chickens from the coop–they were safe at half-past eight on Wednesday night–on the following morning constable Laws showed me two chickens, and I am able to say that they are two of the eleven that were missing–I put them to the hen and they took to her.

WILLIAM LAWS (Policeman 67 R). About 6.30 a.m. on Sunday, the 14th July, I was coming up May’s Hill [sic], Greenwich–I saw Coston and Woodley together–just as they were passing I heard some chickens squeak–Woodley ran away and I after him–he threw two chickens over a wall and got away–I secured Coston and the two chickens, and afterwards took Woodley on Saturday night; he said, “Oh! can’t you let me be until Monday? I intended coming up on Monday morning”–I showed the chickens to Mr. Fields and Mr. Chamon.

PHILIP CHAMON. I am in the service of Mr. Harvey Eugene–the two chickens were brought to me, and I identified them as two of the eleven that were missing.

The Prisoners’ Statements before the Magistrate:–Coston said, “I found them in a field.” Woodley said, “The boy Crowle went in and drove the ducks out, and the fowls I found in a field.”



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  1. Trackback: The chicken rustler and Conduit Lodge | The Blackheath Bugle

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