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Stealing a Hat at Hunshelf

How investigating the theft of a hat turned up an interesting story

Stealing a Hat at Hunshelf – 1864

In my book A Drink with our Ancestors I included a report from 1864 about some men being in trouble for stealing a hat. Not much of a headline, perhaps, but I think it is fascinating how much information we can wring from such a story. We perhaps think that we know so much about how our ancestors lived, but stories in the newspapers, and information gleaned from Coroner’s reports, can add so much more to our knowledge.

The basic story was that two men were charged under the Vagrancy Act with stealing a hat from the house of a Mrs. Jukes. The Vagrancy Act of 1824 had made it an offence to beg or sleep rough. The men, George Firth and Allan Hoyle, were both labourers, and had been in trouble four years earlier for assaulting a police officer.

Mrs Martha Jukes lived at Dyson Cote, Hunshelf, and was married to Benjamin Jukes. Giving evidence in court, Martha stated that around 5pm one afternoon the two men had called at her house asking if they could buy some bread. She refused, but she did give them some oatcake and milk. The following morning, she noticed that her son’s hat (which was always hung up behind the door) was missing, and she informed the police. Her son, Joseph Charlesworth, identified the hat in court as his. The landlord of the New Inn, Henry Liles, also gave evidence, and said that the men had called at his beerhouse that day, and that he had given them a quart of beer “on the hat.” He gave the hat to the police. The men were apprehended three days later, and both denied stealing the hat. This was said to be a first offence – there was no mention of the assault charge – and they were each committed to 14 days in jail with hard labour.

Martha was born at Paw Hill in 1814 the daughter of Jonathan Howard and Elizabeth Reyner. When the 1841 census was taken, she was living at Dyson Cote near Snowden Hill as housekeeper to Benjamin Charlesworth, who farmed 26 acres of land there. Martha was two days past her 18th birthday when she gave birth to a daughter, Ruth Charlesworth Howard, in 1832. Another daughter Martha Howard was born in 1841, before the couple married in 1844. Two more children were born - Joseph in 1844 and Mary in 1849 - before Benjamin died in 1857. He died of a stroke (“apoplexy, three days, no medical attendant”) at the age of 59.

Martha married a widower called Benjamin Jukes the following year. They lived at Dyson Cote, where they farmed 39 acres. It seems that all was not well at home though. By 1866 Benjamin was working as a labourer for George Swinden at Snowden Hill. He ate all his meals there, and one neighbour, Ann Gill, reportedly asked him if he slept there too, to which he replied that he went home to sleep, but perhaps not for much longer. “I have always gone to Dyson Cote to sleep but I do not know how long I may do.” He told Ann that “they are queer folks at the Cote” [Dyson Cote] and that they were “very curious folks.” What on earth could he have meant?

Things came to a head in July 1866. The Jukes had been married for 8 years. They still lived at Dyson Cote, along with a servant called David Howard, who could have been related to Martha, but proof is not forthcoming. By this time three of Martha’s children had married and moved out, with only Mary remaining, but she spent the week at Stocksbridge where she worked as a dressmaker, usually only returning home on Sundays.
On the 3rd July 1866 Benjamin got into an argument with his stepdaughters Ruth and Mary. When it seemed that he would hit them, the farm man David Howard intervened, and both men fell to the floor, scuffling. A Mr. John Pearson was in the house but didn’t get involved. For a week after this Benjamin complained every day of a pain in his head and chest. He told people that he’d been “roughly used” and “ill-used” at home. People reported that he was in low spirits and that his ears were bloody, and he had some scratches. He continued to work for Mr. Swinden, although he took one day off because he was in so much pain.

Then on the 12th July, whilst he was stood in Tenter Lane talking to Ann Gill, he suddenly collapsed, falling forwards and hitting his forehead on a stone. He died within a minute or so, without moving. His body was put in a cart and conveyed to his home, and the Coroner held an inquest the following day at George Swinden’s house.

Those who gave evidence were Ann Gill of Snowden Hill, Thomas Armitage of Oxspring, Benjamin’s step-daughter Mary Charlesworth, Hannah Swinden (wife of George), Joseph Thickett of Underbank and Martha Jukes, Benjamin’s widow.

Thomas Armitage was also labouring for Mr. Snowden and said that he had sat with Benjamin when they had their dinner and that he seemed to enjoy it. Armitage and the other workmen then went back to work, leaving Benjamin to follow on. The Leeds Mercury reported that Benjamin had eaten a “very hearty dinner” and was on his way to the turnip field when he died, but the Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported that he was on his way from the field to have his dinner

The verdict was that Benjamin had died from natural causes. Nothing was made of the scuffle, and David Howard was not called to give evidence.

After this, Martha went to live with her unmarried daughter Mary Charlesworth at Stocksbridge, and when the 1871 census was taken, David Howard was there too. Mary married Alfred Pearson from Snowden Hill in 1874 and they lived at Ash Lane, Deepcar. Martha lived with them until her death in 1883 at the age of 68.

Farm man / lodger David Howard could have been related to Martha, but I can find no evidence of this, and neither can Alan Sutton who has researched this family in depth. If there was a close relationship, I’d have expected it to have been mentioned at least once. In 1881, Martha was living with her daughter and son-in-law at Ash Lane, Deepcar, but David appears to have been lodging with Wilson Staniforth and his family at George Street, Stocksbridge. I have never come across George Street before, but it appears to have been off Victoria Street. His name was written as Hayward, but his age and place of birth (Langsett) match. The 1891 census records him at Temperance Terrace [Button Row], still living with the Staniforths, this time recorded as David Heward. As far as I can tell, David died at the Workhouse in 1900, but his age was given as 66, when he’d have been about 75. This could just be because no one knew his real age. He was buried at Ecclesfield.

The Charlesworth / Jukes household had one other occupant who seems to have been a permanent resident: Daniel Dougherty (correct spelling unknown). He was recorded with the family on the 1841 census as a male servant, on the 1851 census was a pauper, and on the 1861 census as Benjamin Jukes’ nephew, a labourer [he was Benjamin Charlesworth’s great-nephew]. I think that Daniel was the son of John Doughirty, a gardener, who lived at Underbank Cottage. John Doughirty had married Elizabeth Charlesworth at Penistone in 1826 and Daniel was born in 1828. They had two other children, Ruth (1826) and Martha (1829). However, I am sure the vicar got Daniel’s mother’s name wrong; he wrote Ann Tomlinson. Because all the other facts fit (father’s name, abode and occupation, as well as being Martha’s nephew), I am sure that’s what happened here.

The surname was spelt Doughirty, Dority, Daraltry and Dorothy. John died at Underbank in 1830 aged 39 and Elizabeth died there in 1837 aged 40. This ties in with Daniel going to live with his relative Benjamin Charlesworth. I have been unable to trace him after 1861.

Census returns, BMDs etc. from Ancestry and Findmypast
Leeds Mercury Friday 13 July 1866, Sheffield Daily Telegraph Saturday 14 July 1866 for the reports of the death and the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 14 July 1866 for the obituary. All from Findmypast
Pearson, Claire. A Drink with our Ancestors, Amazon 2020, p173, The New Inn
Information kindly sent to me by Alan Sutton, who is distantly related to Martha Jukes. Martha had married Benjamin Charlesworth, the brother of Alan’s 3x great grandmother Mary.
Benjamin Charlesworth’s death certificate
Coroner’s Notebooks from Ancestry

Photo: 1854 OS map with the places mentioned in the inquest highlighted in yellow.

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