Ipswich Journal 27 October 1838
ROBBING A FRIENDLY SOCIETY – Francis Flory, 34, and John Osborn (who had surrendered to take his trial having been admitted to bail) were charged with having on the 18th inst. stolen an elm box, containing 18L 12s 0d, and a promissory note for 40L, the property of the Bramford Friendly Society, who hold their meetings at the house of Mrs Rebecca Wiggin, the Cock Inn, Bramford. – Mr O’Malley – for the prosecution and Mr Prendergast on behalf of the prisoners. – James Chamberlain deposed that he acted as Clerk and Secretary to the Benefit Society at Bramford. The box, which was kept by Mrs Wiggin, was produced at a meeting of the Society held on the 7th inst.: the money was then placed in a drawer in the box, and the latter locked, and witness kept the key. Mrs Wiggins as usual took the box into her possession. Cross-examined: The title was “The Brotherly Love and Charity Club”. Osborn was a member, but the society being only young and there not being more than 37 members it was not enrolled. Each of the members kept his will in the box, and Osborn had deposited his will, with the rest of the documents. – Sam’l Laws, one of the stewards, said he counted the money on the 7th October, and gave the keys to the Secretary. He afterwards saw Mary Ann Wiggin, the daughter of the landlady, carry the box upstairs. Cross-examined Mrs Wiggin had stated on the present day, that she was answerable for the box in all cases, except fire – Mrs Rebecca Wiggin deposed, that she had the care of the box, and always kept it in her bedroom. She saw the box in her bedroom on the morning of the 7th October, about 7 o’clock. It was then safe. About 2 o’clock on the same day, she heard a rapping in the shed, and upon proceeding thither saw Flory lying by the side of the box. The bottom was broken out of the side of the box, and the papers lying by the side. She said; “What are you doing?” and he replied “I don’t know”, or words to that effect. She then told Hitchcock, a member of the club, who was in the house, what had taken place. A staircase led up to the bedroom, and a settle stood before the staircase door, in the kitchen. The prisoners were in her house on the day of the robbery from 9 until 2 o’clock, when witness went to dinner, and left them in the kitchen, with John Neale and David Hitchcock, members of the Club.
Cross-examined: the box was allowed to be in her possession for the benefit of the Society, but she never had entered into any agreement to be responsible for either the box or its contents. The prisoners and their friends drank four or five quarters of beer at her house on the day in question. Osborn was not in the pig-stye with Flory. The back door was not used by customers, unless they wished to go to the stable, and it led into the road. – David Hitchcock deposed that he saw the prisoners in the kitchen of the Cock public-house on the day in question, and remained there until the robbery was discovered. He drank three pints of beer, being on his road to work in Ipswich. Having been informed of what had taken place by Mrs Wiggin, he went and saw Flory in the shed, with his right hand in the club-box. Witness said, “Frank what have you been a doing of?” and he says, “Boy” says he “I don’t know”. Then took up the box and kept it in his possession until the arrival of a constable.
Cross-examined: The bottom was out of the box but the money was safe. By the Court: Mrs Wiggin gave a man named Flory, and a man named Lea, a quart of beer to carry Osborn out of the house, he being very drunk. – Lydia Hitchcock, wife of the last witness, deposed that she was in the Cock public-house on the day of the robbery, a little after 12 o’clock, and saw Osborn and Flory behind the settle leading up to the staircase. Flory said to Osborn, ‘’There is someone up stairs’’ and Mrs Flory said to her husband, “Frank don’t be a fool!” They then came from behind the settle and witness left the house.
Cross-examined: witness gave no information of what she had heard either to Mrs Wiggin or to the Constable; but she mentioned the fact to Mrs Flory, and also to her husband. She had no idea of what the prisoners were going to transact. – Susannah the wife of James Chamberlain deposed that she saw Osborn leave Mrs Wiggin’s a little after one o’clock, and go to his own home, and then return to Mrs Wiggin’s house through the back door. – George Simpson, the Bramford Constable, apprehended the prisoners, and received the club box from Hitchcock, which was produced and identified by Mrs Hitchcock, who stated that Osborn was taken out of the house at 10 o’clock, but he was not drunk. She gave the ale for the purpose of having him removed, and stated that it was done merely as a “lark” by the “Brotherly Love and Charity Club”. (Laughter) – Mr Prendergast submitted to the Court that no case had been made out against Osborn; but the Court decided in the affirmative. Mr Prendergast then addressed the jury on behalf of Flory, remarking that from the fact of Mrs Wiggin having, by her own account, given two men a quart of beer at 10 o’clock to carry a sober man out of the house, it was evident that the parties were in a half drunken state, and full of fun. Indeed the whole matter wore the appearance of a joke. The parties, for instance, might have wished to read the several wills deposited in the box, in order to ascertain their contents, shewing the curious connections, and feelings, and associations of the respective testators, so as to be enabled to provide amusement for the whole village. (Laughter) But the motive of Flory to commit felony, was not proved, and in order to convict him the jury must believe that he was a party to the removal of the box. There was not a little of evidence to establish the fact of his having been a party to the removal; and as the case amounted to mere suspicion, there was no question that the jury would give the prisoner the benefit of any doubt they might entertain. – The Chairman summed up the evidence and the Jury found a verdict of Guilty against the prisoner. – The Chairman: A very proper verdict. Flory: I assure you I am innocent as a child of the job. The Chairman: Aye that child is a sad fellow, as I said yesterday! (Laughter). The prisoner was then sentenced to be transported for seven years, and Osborn received a wholesome admonition, and was discharged.
Ipswich Journal – 3 November 1838
‘Convicts: The following convicts were removed and put on board the Gannymede Hulk*, at Woolwich dock-yard, by Mr Johnson and his Assistant, viz. Isaac Driver, for life, James Cock, alias Buck, 14 years, Francis Flory, William Sharman & Geo. Broom, 7 years each.’
But……. Flory was released after four years (spent in this country it seems) and reappeared in Bramford on the 1851 census. Soon after that, the Bury and Norwich Post shows that he was indicted for the manslaughter of his wife after they had both been drinking heavily at the Angel Inn. He was found guilty and sentenced to one year in gaol, because:
“There was no doubt that the bad luck of the prisoner led him to have a wife by no means of comfort to him.”
*Ganymede was the French frigate Hébé captured in 1809. She was converted to a prison hulk in 1819 and broken up in 1838.
The main protagonists were – in order of appearance:
Francis Flory – born about 1804 in Bramford.
Rebecca Wiggin born about 1781 in Bramford – was still running the pub in 1841.
John Osborn lived in The Street in 1841 and was a bricklayer.
James Chamberlain. Born 1786 he was a carpenter living in The Street in 1841
Samuel Laws – a bricklayer living in the Street IN 1841. He was born about 1806.
John Neale – no trace in the village in 1841
David Hitchcock born about 1803 lived in The Street (1851) worked as a carpenter
George Simpson – Listed as a Cooper in 1841 born about 1791. Born in Needham Market.
The job of Parish Constable before 1839 was usually part-time and unpaid. The County Police Act of 1939 lead to the establishment of County Police and professional police constables.