Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Crime in Radnorshire

Nothing in the Mid Wales Journal? Why not have a browse around the National Library's Crime and Punishment site, who knows you might come across some old relatives. Here’s poor Mary Morgan, hanged for infanticide in 1804 and her body delivered to the surgeons. Her gravestone in Presteigne a permanent rebuke to her betters.

Sheep maiming and hedge breaking were popular Radnorian sports although, no doubt, the class struggle was at the root of the matter. While Cecil Parsons, the Presteigne lawyer and cottagers’ champion, won a libel case against one local gent who described him as “a base, mean, dirty, unprincipled, good for nothing fellow, a consummate ass and a conceited fool.”

A noteworthy crime was rescuing a prisoner from the arms of the law, something that is still occasionally attempted in the wilder Mid-Wales market towns. Blackpatch Godwin, up before the court in 1747, sounds like my kind of gal, oh and one of her co-accused went by the name of Nimrod Powell. Blackpatch and Nimrod, there are two forenames that are due a revival.

Let's be honest, the handful of sexual cases have a certain tabloid fascination. One wonders if Thomas Barber’s profession of breeches-maker played any part in his trial for sodomy, while convictions for rape seemed particularly hard to obtain. Nancy Beavan was found guilty of perjury for making such an accusation and whipped for her troubles. Finally what of poor William Shakespeare of Knighton, falsely accused of attempted bestiality with a mare in 1826. Wasn’t it his more famous namesake who said “The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well?”

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