Poison, farm animals & hay ricks – all work for a policeman

Bridport Division of Dorset Police Constabulary is a rural area. The selection of cases that came before the areas magistrates that I have chosen in this post reflect this. Controlling farm pests with poisons has always been dangerous, in the spring of 1932 Mr Hussey of Netherbury was charged with killing his neighbours sheep dog. Not far away at Marshwood, Tom Bishop’s dogs killed some of his neighbours sheep in September. In June the following year, a boy was sent to Industrial School for setting a hay rick alight. The last case happened in December of 1931 in the town, as it involved cattle and it amused me, I have included it here.

Poisoned Eggs in Trees

Mr Ernest Hussey of Strode, Netherbury admitted and accusation of knowingly putting down strychnine poison on April 16 and May 8th 1932 and pleaded in extenuation that he did so without knowing that he was violating the law. The poison was put into eggs, which he placed in trees to kill crows . The crows were collected after they died and 16 of the dead crows where burnt but 4 were buried. The dog broke loose from its kennel one night and dug up a crow. The sheep dog later died from eating the poisoned bird. The crows had been a perfect pest to the defendant. They had robbed his hen roosts and actually killed one of the lambs.

The law regarded the offence in so serious a light that it provided for a maximum penalty of £10. Supt. Beck asked the Bench to consider seriously whether this was not a case where the full penalty should be inflicted. It was extremely difficult to bring these prosecutions before the court.

The magistrate, Capt. Carter said: “You must understand this is a very very serious matter and it is only because of the plea by Mr Roper (representing Mr Hussey) that we do not inflict the full penalty. You will be fined £5.”

Dog attaches Sheep

In September 1932 at Beaminster Petty Sessions, Tom Bishop, of Lodgehouse Farm, Marshwood, was summoned for failing to keep two dangerous dogs under proper control. On September 3rd Mrs Kathleen Hann saw a cow dog and lurcher attacking the sheep, one of which was held by the throat and the other the hind leg. She drove them off. Later her and her husband found three other sheep injured.

Supt. Beck: How many sheep altogether were injured? – Seven are now dead; they were badly bitten on the loins by dogs.

One of the dogs was shot and the other kept chained up. Supt. Beck, pointed out that a person who kept a dangerous dog was liable to prosecution in a police court and the magistrates had the power if they so wished of making an order for the animal’s destruction and if the damages were not over a certain figure of calling upon the owner to pay for the loss sustained.

Supt. Beck prosecuting and Mr. Roper defending the accused disagreed on why the case had been bought. Mr. Roper held that it was about a future civil action for compensation but Supt. Beck took exception to this remark.

“This prosecution,” he said, “has nothing whatever to do with any subsequent civil action. Regardless of what was going on I gave instructions for further enquiries to be made, and as soon as I got certain evidence I instituted the present proceedings. If the money had been paid that very day and the whole thing settled up, there would still have been a prosecution.”

The chairman (Major H. B. Nicholson) said the defendant must keep the remaining dog under proper control in the future, and he would have to pay the cost of the prosecution.

Shows nearly completed Hay Rick. Man up ladder which is held by lady in long dress. Another women is at bottom of ladder with girl who is holding 2 jugs.
Making a Hay Rick Wytherston Farm

Set fire to a hay rick

An eleven-year old boy appeared in a special children’s court in June 1931. The boy stole a box of matches from his home and on his way to school had used them to set light to a hay rick. The reason given by the boy was because “he liked to see fire”.

Supt. Beck added the boy had been giving his parents quite a lot of trouble. He outlined other incidents of the boy’s mischievous conduct.

Col. Colfox (magistrate), addressing the lad, said “not so very many years ago a boy was hanged here in this very town of Bridport for setting fire to a rick. Nowadays, however, we do not look at it in quite so serious a light as that. After very careful consideration we have decided to send you to an industrial school and you will remain there until you are sixteen. If you make up you mind to be a good boy and do what you are told you will not have a bad time at all”.

Parade of Prize Cattle Cause obstruction on the streets of Bridport

On December 16th 1931 a large crowd formed in West Street, Bridport to watch six prize cattle outside a butchers shop. Mr D Lawrence had invited the beasts and their handlers to advertise his butcher’s shop. On Tuesday 5th of January 1932 Mr Dan Lawrence was summoned for causing an obstruction. Supt. A. P. Beck giving evidence said the whole of the street was obstructed and as a consequence there was a considerable danger. The animals were paraded from the bottom of West Street to Barrack Street. People congregated to see them and many cried “Shame” regarding the way in which they were being taken through the town. In fact he [Supt. Beck] received many complaints. Mr Roper defending Dan Lawrence submitted that the obstruction was not caused by the animals but by the crowd which collected.

Supt. Beck: I am not complaining of the block in the pavement. The road itself was completely obstructed at one time and it was quite impossible for any vehicles to get through.

The Mayor (Mr. F. W. Knight) said that by a majority the Bench had decided to dismiss the case on payment of costs. It was the desire of the magistrates that these parades should not take place in the future.

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All original content by Sylvia Collins is copyright protected.

References Quotes in Italics:
Bridport News: 10 June 1932 p6; 30 September 1932 p7; 19 June 1931 p8; 6 January 1932 p7

6 thoughts on “Poison, farm animals & hay ricks – all work for a policeman”

  1. I wonder what happened to the boy after he did his time at the Industrial School, did he return to his home town? He was probably called up within a few years of his release to fight in WWII.

    1. Heather, yes I wonder how he got on but as the papers didn’t give a name so we shall never know. I thought the magistrates comment was interesting!

  2. Sylvia – fascinating stories from the life of the policeman great grandfather of yours. I wonder if they were thought to be extraordinary in those days, or just thought of as “normal.”

    1. Shelley, thank you for commenting. I am enjoying your blog as well.

      Grandad Beck seems to be a modest man, so I don’t think he would have considered it extraordinary at all. Though he did comment on the amount of walking a policeman did in the early days. From Lyme Regis they walked a prisoner to Bridport railway station (about 11 miles) to take them to Dorchester prison. They had to change trains at Maiden Newton. If it was a female prisoner they were allowed to take a horse and trap!

  3. Who would have thought that crows could kill a lamb or that someone would put poisoned eggs in a tree! I love the way you are turning all sorts of things through the history of one person.

    1. Alison, Thank you for your comment. While I have to be aware that the Newspapers can give a distorted or narrow view or just be plain incorrect, there is a lot of interesting information in them. I am very lucky that we have a local Newspaper, that has been published since 1850s, based on our town and local area.

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