Updated 1 Mar 2002

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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The Trials of William BOWN

Sheep stealing in 1828 and the penalties, researched and contributed by Steve Farmer of Australia

Hi all,
I was wondering if SKS could help with any suggestions as to where Mr 
BOWN may have lived, somewhere near Hognaston perhaps, where there 
seem to be generations of BOWNS.
I don't know about anyone else, but I find it slightly odd that out 
of a flock of 45 sheep, my ancestor decides to steal the five with 
the blue dot on them !!
Steve Farmer, Australia

Derby Mercury 15th August 1827
William Bown, aged 21 was indicted for stealing at Kirk Ireton, on 
the 2nd April last, five hog sheep, the property of Joseph Matkin. 
The prosecutor stated that he was a farmer residing at Kirk Ireton 
aforesaid, and that on the 2nd April last he had a flock of sheep in 
number of forty-five depasturing in a close called Gorsty Hill, all 
of which he saw safe about 11 o'clock in the forenoon of that day; 
that on the following Wednesday he went to look them over and found 
five of them (two ewes and three wethers) missing and that about six 
weeks before the robbery he had purchased the same five sheep of a 
person named Dean, and when he received them in to his possession 
they had been previously marked with a blue dot upon the hip; that 
in about a month after he had first missed the sheep he saw them 
again in a field on Wirksworth Moor, in the occupation of Mr. Thomas 
Hall, and that Dean, the person from whom he had purchased them, was 
with him at the time. Mr. John Ford, farmer, at Bradburn, stated 
that he was in a Lane called Hognaston Old Lane on the 2nd April last 
about 8 o"clock in the evening, and saw the prisoner with five sheep 
trying to drive them over a bridge; that witness assisted the 
prisoner in getting them over, and having known the prisoner several 
years, afterwards accompanied him as much as half a mile on the road, 
that in the course of conversation prisoner told witness he had 
purchased the sheep at Wirksworth Fair on the 25th March last for 
18s.6d. each: he was driving the sheep in a direction from 
prosecutor's close called Gorsty Hill, towards Hognaston. Samuel 
Smith knew the prisoners very well and on the 2nd April last overtook 
him on the road leading to Tissington between ten and eleven o'clock 
at night with five sheep; witness walked with him about a mile. Mr. 
Thomas Hall, farmer, at Middlteton, stated that he was at Ashborne 
Fair on the 3rd April last, and bought five sheep from the prisoner 
at 15s. a head, having one shilling returned; that he left the sheep 
in the care of a butcher named Slack, with directions to drive them 
to a farm occupied by witness at Hopton; that they were subsequently 
taken to his farm a Middleton, and having been marked on the ear, 
were sent to depasture on Wirksworth Moor; witness was quite sure 
they were the same five sheep he purchased of the prisoner at 
Ashborne Fair; he could speak to them from their general appearance, 
and from the particular notice he took of them when he bought them; 
they had each a blue mark upon some part of the body, but he did not 
positively remember where. He afterwards stated that he thought it 
was on the hind part. Witness being cross-examined, said the 
prisoner told him his name, and where he came from, and that the 
sheep were exposed in the open fair at Ashborne, which was about 
three miles from prisoner's home. John Dean was then called, and 
confirmed the fact of his having sold five sheep to the prosecutor 
marked with the blue dot as before described. He further stated that 
on the 28th April last, he went with prosecutor to Mr. Hall's field 
on Wirkworth Moor, where he saw five sheep, which on examination 
proved to be the same five he had sold to prosecutor; they had then 
witness's blue mark on them, and in addition and ear mark; he was 
confident they were the same sheep. Mr. John Brittlebank of Ashborne 
and two others with all of whom prisoner had lived, spoke favorably 
of his character. The jury found the prisoner Guilty, but 
recommended him to mercy on account of his youth, and good character 
given him. Guilty - Judgement of death recorded. 

Derby Mercury 26th March 1828
CROWN BAR. - Friday March 21st 
The court assembled this morning at nine o'clock, and the first 
prisoner placed before the bar was William BOWN, aged 22, charged 
with being at large before the expiration of the term for which he 
had been sentenced to be transported. Prisoner pleaded guilty; on 
which judgement of death was immediately recorded against him.


Dear Steve He was a very wise man. He only stole the sheep who had been covered by the Ram. Rams wear a little apron with die in it and when they serve the sheep it leaves a little blue/green/red, etc., coloured spot on them. He was hoping the sheep were pregnant so that he had actually stolen two or three sheep for every one he actually had. Perhaps you don't have this method in Oz. It is still in use here in Britain. This is only a supposition but I cannot see any other reason for this. Regards Judy in Derbyshire
Hi John, Only a little on William on my website at www.farmergroup.com/ He ended up being a fairly wealthy landowner and there is a BOWNDS street in Albury NSW named after the family. He is buried in the pioneer section of the Wodonga (Belvoir) cemetery. We should also acknowledge the invaluable help I obtained from the Derbyshire Libraries & Heritage people, they looked up the details based on the information I emailed them and then copied the newpapers and mailed them to me in Australia , quite wonderful !! >Presumably William wasn't executed but transported and you are >his descendent? Correct he was my GGG Grandfather >Can I add your e-mail address, in case someone wants to >contact you about William? Most certainly, and my website address if you like. Regards Steve Farmer

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