Early years of law and order

The Tudor villager was subject to a complex system of controls. Central Government imposed political and social legislation which was enforceable at local level by a system of civil and criminal justice.  Religious legislation and moral sanctions were in the hands of church courts, while Manorial courts were entitled to enforce their own obligations and customs.  Initial enforcement was implemented by local officials such as constable, bailiff, third-borough, churchwarden or overseer of the poor.

This system was evident also during the Stuart period.

The role of Third-borough or deputy constable during James 1 reign in Radcliffe was held by brothers Richard and then by William Dewsbury 1610 – 1618, Henry Parr then took over followed by John Parr and William Hutchinson until 1641.

Manorial courts 

The majority of people in the village were tenants on a manor and regular appearances at this court were a permanent feature of their lives. Rents were paid, tenures regulated and any changes in ownership were recorded. It was also where complaints could be aired and occasionally minor infringements of the law dealt with. A presiding steward protecting the lord of the manor’s rights would issue general orders re: the keeping of highways and watercourses clean, fences mended and animals under control.  

During the 1650’s  a number of tenants were brought before the court- namely brewers of ale and bakers of bread.  Six of them broke the assize in 1651, one of them John Taylor a local fisherman was also fined for fishing within unlawful ingress.  Unfortunately after Charles II returned to the throne it became increasingly difficult to find enough tenants present at court to form a jury and parish administration, upkeep of highways, care of poor and maintenance of law and order were better dealt with by other agencies.  

A lot of cases coming before the manorial court at this time dealt with farming problems. People were fined for keeping sheep in a cornfield or tethering cows in a cornfield after Lammas (1st August) or for putting horses upon the common.  A Mrs Brightman allowed her swine to trespass in Great Johnson Close and had to pay 1shilling in 1671.

Church Courts

The church in the 16th century controlled much of the behaviour of the community.  Courts were held every fortnight in Nottingham and it would seem likely that that was where Radcliffe people would have travelled to answer charges at St Mary’s or St Peter’s church. The majority of misdemeanours before these courts concerned sexual transgressors, failing to attend Easter communion, offences committed on church property and those accused of slander.  Fines may have been imposed but punishment in immorality cases were implemented in the local church. Two ladies from the village, Johanne Patterson and Elizabeth Pare were accused of sexual incontinence before marriage and they had to stand on a stool before the full church congregation, dressed in a white sheet, bare-headed and bare-footed, holding a white wand and making a full confession of their sins.

Other cases included being quarrelsome, ‘cursing and banning’, contending seats in church and chiding and talking in church. Vicars were also known to have breached regulations, such as failing to administer services at an appropriate time, serving without a full licence or not appearing at a synod. Churchwardens also appeared in court for failing to carry out repairs to the fabric of the church and maintaining church accounts.

Another court was the Archdeacon’s Court and during the Stuart period offences were predominantly of sexual morality.  Of some 147 cases so far found, about 40% deal directly with such issues.  Examples were two women who were said by ‘common fame’ to be whores and a man and woman were charged with being bawds in connection with another case.  Three men were charged with ‘harbouring’ women who were either suspected of fornication or who had had an illegitimate  child. 

Disorder on  church premises also increased in the 1630’s with 3 cases reporting:- 

  • One parishioner pulling another out of a seat in church
  • One laying hands on another’s servant
  • One misdemeanour in words within the church

Later on between 1634 and 1640 forty other cases occurred such as:-

  • Allowing swine to damage the churchyard
  • Fighting and brawling in church
  • Breaking a man’s head with a stone in the churchyard (a woman was charged with this offence)
  • Ill language to the minister after divine service

Before the Civil War the parish constable would have administered justice. In some areas the office rotated annually among more prestigious villagers but in Radcliffe he seems to have been chosen by lot.  This office was unpaid and not until 1662 was the holder entitled to claim expenses from the ratepayers.  He was expected to ensure the upkeep of the stocks, inspect alehouses, deal with vagrants, apprentice pauper children, supervision of jury service, collection of maintenance from the fathers of illegitimate children, look after militia requirements, supervision of church attendance, convene meetings and collect taxes locally. The ubiquitous constable was even required to impound stray animals  Another duty prior to the civil war was to set the watch in the parish.  Normally watching was only compulsory from Ascension Day (21 May) to Michaelmas (29 September), but a watch could be set at other times and every able-bodied man was bound to take his turn, properly weaponed  or find a substitute.  In 1631 Thomas Symon refused to watch and was fined 6d. The constable was subject to official reprimand if he did not perform adequately and abuse from his neighbours if he performed them too well.  Not surprisingly those chosen did not always welcome the responsibility.

An example of avoiding duty as the parish constable occurred in May 1640 when John Gamble tried this and was summoned before the magistrates.  He attempted to hire John Long, alias Thrave to execute the office in place of himself. The court had been informed that for divers reasons Mr Long was unfit to serve, being quarrelsome.  The court ordered that as John Gamble was able, fit and lived in Radcliffe he should execute the office and not hire any other to do it for him.  Mr Gamble was obviously not as fit as the magistrates thought as he died in October 1640.

Justice of the Peace (J.P) was the office that the constable took village offenders to. Justices of the Peace originate from 1362 but in Nottinghamshire, records only survive from early 17th century.   They were appointed by the Crown from landed gentlemen of each county and until 1906 a substantial property qualification was required for holders of this office.  They met four times a year in what became known as the Quarter Sessions.  Surviving records of these proceedings which began in 1603/4 but like the records of manorial and church courts they were interrupted by the Civil War.

Radcliffe cases fall into three main categories, robberies and misdemeanours, miscellaneous breaches of community laws and poor law enforcement.

Robbery and larceny of goods over 12d in value were amongst the capital offences (homicide, arson, burglary and rape being others).  

Petty larceny was prevalent during the Stuart period in Radcliffe.  Punishment  was a spell in the stocks (from 1405 stocks had to be provided in every town and village) after which the offenders were stripped to the waist and whipped until the blood flowed (there is no documentary evidence that the whipping post in the village was ever used for this purpose). This was carried out by the Parish Constable on a Sunday after divine service when most of the community would be present. 

Whipping post replaced by a Replica east of St Mary’s Church

Misdemeanours and breaches of Community Law in Radcliffe:-

  •   In 1620 William Wilson, a labourer, was fined 18d for contempt.
  •   In 1630William Hutchinson, yeoman, fined 10 shillings for trespass  
  •   In 1636 Thomas Johnson, labourer, presented for wandering at night 

Other concerns was the orderly running of the alehouses.  Several cases of Radcliffe people who were brewing without a licence, refusing to sell ale according to the assize (the price officially set), keeping a disorderly house or allowing people to drink in an inn on the Sabbath-

  •   Francis Grocock a husbandman, who also brewed ale was a persistent offender.
  •   In 1608 he was discharged from keeping an inn because he had been harbouring vagrants, vagabonds and suspicious persons.  Later on he was charged with brewing without licence. 
  •   In 1633 two women victuallers, Juliana Linney and Elizabeth Taylor, were before the bench for  running a disorderly house.

The maintenance of the roads was a constant topic brought before the JP’s court. Lady Frances Pierrepont was fined 12d in 1619 because Holme Lane was in decay.

The Parish Constable’s work was the maintenance of law and accounts for Radcliffe 1772-1836 show that the scope of duties far exceeded what might be expected from the title. He had to attend the sessions courts and inquests, organise special constables during a time of disturbance and look after the ’round house’ or lock up.

Before enclosure in 1787 the constable was concerned with the agricultural routine of the community.  Grazing rights, movement of stock and extermination of vermin came under his supervision. All this and no pay.  From 1792 however he was paid £3.3s.0d rising to £4.4s.0d in 1803, £8.6s.0d in 1828 and £12 by 1832.  He also collected taxes.  The Quarter sessions imposed a quarterly rate based on  tradition, proportions of land and property. This tax paid for maintenance of bridges, building of gaols and relief of  poor parishioners. Radcliffe constables paid the collected taxes to the high constable of the south division of the county.

The Constable had to attend coroner’s inquests which were usually held in a local inn.  One particular case concerned the death of Thomas Burgess or Burbage.  He was described as an industrious labouring man.  He had collapsed and died in the church belfry while ringing at a local wedding in 1810.  The inquest verdict was that he died by the ‘visitation of God’.

Familiar names of constables are Gervase Parr in 1778 and again  1791-1800, George Duke, who served 1802 – 1820 and William Morley 1821–1836.  These men also held roles as parish clerk churchwarden or overseer of the poor, whilst  also being a parish constable.

A hue and cry, originating from 1285, was a pursuit of a miscreant.  In 1776, 1779 and 1784 the constable had to organise a hue and cry in the village, no details are given but 6d was paid on each occasions, perhaps for ale to quench the thirst of exhausted pursuers.

After 1800 Radcliffe had a place of detention, it was at least heated as there is a record of coals being purchased, though whether its occupants lay on straw or whether it had a thatched roof is not clear.  A pair of ‘Hand Kuffs’ was bought for 5 shillings in 1801 together with two staffs for 2s.6d.  In 1846 a staff specifically for the constable was bought for 4 shillings. 

Between 1710 and 1800  a few cases concerning theft, extortion and assault by village inhabitants were bought before the magistrates court-  John Hudson, a labourer who was found not guilty in  1738 of stealing two cocks and two hens. In  1791 John Cooper and James Jackson were found guilty of stealing one hen worth 10d.  Jackson was sentenced to three months hard labour at the House of Correction in Southwell, while Cooper was sentenced to transportation for seven years.  This was one of the harshest sentence passed on any Radcliffe inhabitant.

In 1772 Joseph Morley, a labourer, was involved in a riotous assembly and an assault and battery on Thomas Warwick with nine others mainly from Cotgrave.  He and the rest were found only 1d each. John Burrows a butcher from Radcliffe was fined 1d for extorting money from John Keen by pretending to be an official of the Peveril Court at Basford.  In 1792 Francis Fletcher was found guilty of assaulting Elizabeth Fisher a labourer’s wife.  He was sent to Southwell for three months and fined 10 shillings. By the 1790s magistrates were imposing heavier sentences perhaps a reflection of their concern at the growing disorder in and around Nottingham.

19th century Law and Order

Between 1800 and 1827 theft and disorderly conduct increased, coinciding with a rising population and increasing hardship. Theft mainly involved clothing and food.  A mans new leather shoe worth 1 shilling and some leather and nails worth 1/6d were stolen in 1801 from Jacob Gee (a shoemaker) by John Gadsby- he was sentenced to nine months in Southwell, two of them in solitary confinement.  James Staples stole a very expensive hat worth 5 shillings and a sixpenny handkerchief from John Vickerstaff in 1828 and he was sentenced to a month’s hard labour at Southwell.

In 1821 John and Mary Richmond, a Radcliffe labourer and his sister were accused of stealing 5lbs of bacon worth 10d from John Tugman a joiner.  Mary pleaded guilty, was reprimanded and discharged, John however,  pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty and sentenced to two months hard labour including fourteen days in the penitentiary division.

Riot and disorderly conduct increased after 1800.  An intriguing case of disorder concerned the Carnell family, one of the village’s problem families.  In 1835 John Carnell was the victim of affray involving seven other Radcliffe residents, five of whom were under age and three of them girls.  One of the girls was Elizabeth Carnell for whom Edward Carnell stood surety.  All seven were specifically bound over to keep the peace towards John for twelve months.  

Numerous other matters reflected the everyday concerns of a busy local community such as infringements of traffic regulations which ranged from driving a cart without reins which carried a fine of 2s 6d. to obstructing the highway with soil, manure or night soil.

Another common offence was poaching, a full penalty of £5 fine or imprisonment if it could not be paid.

Henry Parr who was running the Black Lion in 1865 was accused of poaching.  The court proceedings were enlivened by a gamewatchers account of being knocked down in a scuffle which preceded the surrender of seventeen eggs from Henry Parr’s pockets.  A partridge was also said to fly out of his coat.  Henry’s guilt was confirmed by the evidence of a boy who had been offered a bribe of 5 shillings if he would say that there had been no eggs in the nest.  A fine of 5 shillings per egg was imposed. Illegal fishing was another common offence, one such case involving William, John and Samuel Richmond who used spears and a boat to catch eels. They were jointly fined £3 with costs or alternatively two months in the House of Correction.

Burglary and theft

Burglary was a rare occurrence  but if a suspect was caught they would most likely be sent for trial at Quarter Sessions in Nottingham but some were dealt with by a magistrate.

Joseph Knight left his fishing rods under a seat in the Royal Oak on Whit Monday in 1875 and they were taken by William Jarvis.  On the following Saturday Jarvis returned them apologising for taking them in  a ‘drunken freak’,  however the magistrates took the view that if he was being really honest he would have brought them back sooner and sentenced him to 21 days hard labour.

Much of theft was probably due to genuine hardship.  John Magrath and James Ryan entered Thomas Hallam’s house and stole part of a loaf of bread, but the case did not proceed and both men were discharged in August 1857.  Scrumping also occurred, four boys were charged with stealing pears from William Sanday’s orchard,  Mr Sanday did not press charges as he only wanted to put a stop to the practice.

Domestic disputes

A number of domestic matters and neighbour disputes were recorded in the 1800’s.  William Richards was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment for cruelty and maltreatment of his wife Mary Ann.  In 1887 Arthur George Parker, a hedge cutter, expected his breakfast one morning at 6a.m, but was told by his wife Elizabeth that having no money she could not provide him with one.  Now according to her evidence he seized her by the shoulder and violently kicked her with his knee in her back and lower part of her body.  He also caught her by the throat and inflicted wounds from which blood flowed.  It appeared that previously she had inherited £25 which she had handed over to her husband who then banked it in his name.  Elizabeth had been unable to gain access to this money.  Arthur protested his innocence, claiming his wife was very provoking and he had only shaken her.  He was fined 15 shillings.

Drink and disorder

An increase in the number of drinking cases was thought to coincide with the increase in the number of visitors to the village where they took advantage of the excellent hostelries as well as the scenery.  Here are a few examples of cases taken from the local newspapers-

In April 1875 George Wood and George Wilson were charged with drunkenness and fighting one Sunday night in the village.  Sgt Stevenson found them stripped to the waist and ready to fight, he moved them on but they only moved further down the street and renewed the fight.  They were fined 15 shillings each.  Another case was of two men named Smith and Ward drunk in a cart and apprehended by Sgt Stevenson.  They were galloping down the street shouting at each other and they were fined £1 each.

In April 1877 a complicated case involved West Bridgford and Holme Pierrepont as well as Radcliffe.  Radcliffe’s part in the affair concerned the refusal by nine young Nottingham men to leave The Manvers Arms, they had assaulted James Bell (who lived there at the time) and obstructed the highway.   They had apparently been drinking for most of the day in the village and had damaged chairs and tables in the public house. When the men left the village they arrived at HP just after church service.  The men stripped off for racing, insulted the parish clerk, threw stones, pursued the choir boys with a stick and assaulted the rector and a Mr Edward Pierrepont, son of the American Ambassador.  The magistrates discharged one man and fined the rest the ‘low sum’ of one guinea each.

The authorities decided that there would have to be a clamp down on drinking in the village and so began a campaign against landlords who allowed Sunday drinking outside licensing hours under the law relating to ‘bona fide’ travellers.  An undercover operation was undertaken in 1878 and plain clothes policemen visited The Manvers Arms and the Royal Oak.  A number of drunken men were found in the Manvers Arms around 5.30p.m. But the landlord Sam Bell said the men were from Nottingham and fulfilled the criteria of bona fide travellers. The magistrates had no option but to dismiss the case on this occasion.  However at The Royal Oak another undercover policeman had visited at 11a.m where he was served by the landlady’s brother and no questions asked.  He returned  shortly before 6p.m on the same day and was again served with ale.  The defence stated that PC Wilson had indeed been a traveller but as he had not been asked the necessary questions before being served Sarah Fryer the landlady was fined £5.  The Black Lion were similarly fined.

In August 1882 Sgt Allwood had been passing The Cliffe Inn and was called in to eject Joseph Baxter whose conduct had been annoying customers.  Baxter was forced out onto the road, turned violent and said ‘you b—– I’ll throw you over the wall’.  He did not succeed.  The landlord of the Cliffe Inn when applying for a full licence at the end of the month was turned down.

Women drinkers were also becoming a problem during the early 1880’s,  Mary Ann Smith, ‘ a wretched looking woman’ had been so hopelessly drunk that three men had had to take her to the police station in a cart.  She was fined 12/6d in September 1880.  In March 1881 PC Asher found Mary Small drunk on the road in the middle of the night wearing nothing but a cloth round her neck.  She claimed her husband had thrown her out.  She was fined 15 shillings.  Anne Durant, an elderly woman was fined 15 shillings for being drunk and disorderly on the highway but she repeated the offence in September and was then fined 21/-s.  On this second occasion some men had been wheeling her about in a wheelbarrow much to the amusement of an assembled crowd.

Traffic and other offences

In June 1892 Jacob Poyser of Newark was summoned for furiously riding a bicycle at Radcliffe on Trent.  Sgt Dobinson said that about 7.30 in the evening the defendant came through the Main Street on a bicycle at top most speed and not less than 20mph.  There were a great many people in the street, several of who narrowly escaped collision.  A number of witnesses apprehended Poyser and took him to the police station.  It appeared that it was a growing practice for cyclists to drive their machines at a furious pace and that very evening, a little later, an old man was knocked down in the village and hurt somewhat badly.  Poyser was fined £1.

Drunkenness cases receded after 1893 but traffic offences and poaching occupied much of the time at the petty sessions.  It was not until 1901 where a case of grievous bodily harm with attempt to murder was recorded.  At the trial the domestic circumstances of the accused was taken into account and a sentence of six months imprisonment with hard labour was imposed.  Compare that with a previous sentence of seven years transportation for the theft of a hen in 1791 and another one of stealing potatoes in 1847.  Perhaps it reflected society’s greater concern for the protection of goods rather than people.

Village Policemen

The County Police Act of 1839 was to point the way for law and enforcement. Magistrates were allowed to set up a paid county force and Nottinghamshire took the opportunity of doing so about 1840. However the new ‘rural police’ were not always welcome and in January 1842 the Nottingham Journal reported that a petition against them had been signed by every ratepayer in the village of Radcliffe.  A number of meetings throughout the county in 1843 complained of the expense of maintaining such a ‘useless body and wished to be rid of so vexatious and unconstitutional burden’.  Radcliffe subscribed to this view.  However when the magistrates met to consider the matter the county police were given a reprieve.

The first identifiable county constable for Radcliffe was John William Parsons who was active from the mid 1840s.  Constable Blyton, Cooke and Webster followed in the 1850s and William Eason, (P.C. No. 65) from 1856, He had joined the force in 1845 aged 34 and the Nottinghamshire Constabulary’s Descriptive Register notes that he was 5ft 7¾ins tall with grey eyes, dark brown hair with a sallow complexion.  He moved to Mansfield in 1861.

Two figures dominate policing in Radcliffe namely John Stevenson and George Allwood.  The former was born in Radford and joined the police in 1857 at the age of 23.  He was 5ft 9ins tall, grey eyes, brown hair with a fresh complexion. He came to the village in 1863 with his wife Ann, after serving in Mansfield. He must have found it a lot quieter here.  After ten years in the village he was made up to Sergeant, his pay was £1.8s.0d a week.  He was quite popular as shown by gifts from grateful villages.  A present of £1 from Richard Butler for assisting  at a fire in 1869 and a gift of a watch and purse worth £25 from the inhabitants of the village in 1875.  Although crime was relatively low he had to cope with the increasing problems of drink and violence.  After two cases in 1878 when he suffered violent assaults he was moved to Burton Joyce.  He was discharged in 1884 at the age of 50 as ‘incapacitated from infirmity of body’.

George Allwood was a direct exchange from Burton Joyce.  He was born in Wellow, joining the force in 1860 aged 25, with grey eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion and 5ft 8ins tall.  After a short spell at Sneinton he spent two years in Radcliffe (1861-3), but returned in 1878. He was then a sergeant and had to deal with the growing disorder during the 1880’s.   Sgt Allwood’s last Radcliffe case was in January 1891 and he was discharged in August of that year. 

The Police Station (above) on Main Road was built in 1875 at a cost of £650. Although the village population of 1,340 in 1881 did not justify the building of such a deterrent the increasing number of drunk and disorderly cases resulting from the many visitors to Radcliffe was making it impossible for the police to cope with the situation.  The Chief Constable recommended in 1874 that a police station with an attached lock-up and accommodation for two married constables be built.  Land on the main street was rented from Lord Manvers for £10 per year. The station was also used as an occasional court house.  In 1891 it was reported in the Nottingham Daily Guardian that the building was in a bad state of repair – 

the walls were in a bad condition, the cells without any method of heating, and so damp as to be unfit for occupation.  The well of drinking water was within 4 yards of the outhouses. There was no scullery and the outhouses were of the old vault principle.

The police station closed in 1973.

The overwhelming impression was that Radcliffe was a law abiding community in the 19th  and 20th  centuries.  Policing, however, is very different from the force that the village grew up with and most villagers will have fond memories of seeing a ‘bobby on the beat’. They also lived in the community and would have been known to most of the residents.

Sgt. Carlin