East Anglian Ancestors

Norfolk & Suffolk genealogy

Transgressions transcribed


One of the great joys of genealogy is to be able to flesh out the facts and get to know more about our ancestors’ lives. Judging by the transcriptions below, my ancestors had more than their fair share of trouble. I transcribed some newspaper articles relating to my ancestors in Brettenham & Thorpe Morieux a few years ago and I’ve just taken the time to add some family history charts in for clarity. It is disturbing to note how many members of the same family fell foul of the law. Perhaps it’s in the genes? Hopefully not. My greatest misdemeanour was a parking ticket about ten years ago, so I’m guessing all the law-breaking stopped in the mid 1800’s. Anyway, the various transgressions of my relatives are recorded below.

2 Sep 1887 Ipswich Journal

James Race labourer, Stonham Aspall, was charged with assaulting Alice, the wife of James Race labourer, Stonham Aspall, at Stonham Aspall on the 22nd ult. – Defendant pleaded guilty. – It appeared that the defendant slapped complainant’s face and used very bad language, and threatened to run the fork through her.  Defendant alleged that the complainant called him a liar, and he thereupon slapped her face. – The Rev J G Pooley said defendant had a violent temper – Defendant was fined £1 1s including costs, which he paid.

James Race

Bury & Norwich Post & East Anglian 10 Mar 1841

Inquisitions taken by Harry Wayman, Gent., Coroner for the Liberty and Borough of Bury St. Edmunds: – On the 5th inst., at Brettenham, on the body of a new-born female infant.  Ann Horrex, a labourer’s wife, deposed that Mary proctor, her daughter in law, whose husband had been transported, and who co-habits with John Winter, was delivered of a female child on 24th ult.  Winter came and informed the witness’s husband, and she went to the house, when she found Mary Proctor in bed and a female child lying dead on the floor, not having been washed or anything done for it.  Witness wrapped up the child, and laid it aside.  She suspected her daughter-in-law to be in the family way. – William Bird, whose wife is mother to Winter, deposed that at Winter’s request he made a box to bury the child in, and put the body into the box, and gave it to the clerk to be buried. – Thomas Oxer, the parish-clerk, deposed that on the 26th, William Bird gave him a box, which he said contained the body of a child, and he buried it; last night he took the box up again. – Mr. Growse, surgeon, deposed that the body was that of a full grown and perfectly healthy foetus; there were no external marks of violence, but the umbilical cord was not tied, and it appeared to have been brought forth without proper aid or attention; he opened the body, and found the lungs had been inflated, from which he inferred that the child breathed after the birth; his opinion was that the death of the child arose from its not being properly delivered, and from the want of what was necessary in the birth. – Ann Hoddy, a married woman living under the same roof as Mary Proctor, deposed that no alarm was given to her on the night of the birth, or she could have rendered assistance, having herself had ten children.  Mary Proctor was about 26 years of age, and had had children before. – The inquest was adjourned till the following day, to enable Mr. Growse to make a further examination of the body. – Mr. Growse then deposed that he found the vessels were not empty, and therefore he was of opinion that the child did not die in consequence of neglect to secure the umbilical cord; it appeared to have breathed but a very short time after its birth; there was nothing to account for its death, which probably arose from the sudden manner of its being brought forth, and this need not necessarily attaché any distinct want of precaution on the part of the mother. – The jury returned a verdict of Natural Death, the jury adding that the mother was highly culpable for not obtaining proper assistance by which the life of the child might have been saved.

Winter Horrex

Bury & Norwich Post & East Anglian 29 Dec 1841

County Petty Sessions Bury Dec 22

Burglary – Joseph Ranson & George Bird, labourers, were charged with burgariously entering the house of Mr. Alfred Melton, junr., of Brettenham, grocer, – Mr. Melton deposed that on the night of Tuesday the 30th of November, or morning of the 1st of December, he was disturbed from his rest by a noise like more than one person moving about in the house.  He got up and fired a gun out of the window to alarm his neighbour, Mr Horrex who got up and prosecutor let him into the house.  They then went into the warehouse, which adjoins the shop, and found three candles burning, and saw that some porter had been spilt about the floor.  Mr. Melton missed 8 stone of pork, which he had put into the pork tub on the Monday before, 4 stone of moist sugar, 3 pots of butter, about one stone of raisins, about 1 dozen bottles of ginger wine, apiece of pickled port about 4lbs. in weight, 3 small ribs of beef, a wrapper marked £Pickering, Bury,” a plum bag, some Lucifer matches; all of which things he had seen in the warehouse the night before.  A plough coulter was left by the burglars in the warehouse.  On going out at the back of the house, footsteps of two or three persons were seen; and in a meadow behind the house one of the missing pots of butter was found.

William Levitt, rat-catcher, of Brettenham, deposed, that on the 11th instant he was out rat-catching in the stack-yard of the Rev. Mr. Cole; when the dogs found against the cart-lodge, under some straw a bag containing 6 stone of port.  In another place was also found a check apron with 3 or 4 stone of sugar, 9lbs of raisins in a handkerchief, 2 bottles of ginger wine, &c.  Witness sent for Mr. Melton, and then took the things to his house, where he left them.

Mary Crick, wife of James Crick, labourer, of Brettenham, identified the apron in which the sugar was found; she made it herself, and on the night of the 30th of November it was hanging before the fire-place, when she went to bed at nine o’clock.  After she had gone to bed the prisoner Bird came to her house with her husband and another man, at about a quarter-past 10.  She saw Bird as he went with her husband to draw some beer.  They did not stay 10 minutes, and when they left, her husband went to bed, locking the doors and taking the key up as usual.  When she got up in the morning, at half past five, the door was locked, and the house all secure, but the apron was gone, and also two shoe brushes which she had also left the night before on a shelf before the fire.

The prisoners declared they knew nothing about the matter.  They were fully committed for trial.

 The Bury & Norwich Post & East Anglian 3 Aug 1842

Housebreaking. – James Bird was charged with breaking open the dwelling-house of the Rev. S. Cole Brettenham, and stealing there from sundry articles of plate.  The Rev. Samuel Cole. Deposed –On Sunday, the 3rd of July, all my family went to Church.  When I returned I found the back door broken open.  Part of the door is glass, and one pane was broken, so that a person could put his hand through and unlock the door.  The property stolen consisted of four silver table spoons, 4 dessert spoons, 6 tea spoons, soup ladle, meat skewer, sugar tongs, all silver, marked C, also 2 forks which are not found.  Prisoner lived at Brettenham.  His two sisters were, about 5 years ago, servants in my family. – Mary Brady, cook and housemaid to the prosecutor, deposed that in addition to the things stolen from the pantry, seven sovereigns, a half-sovereign, some silver, a punch bowl, and a silk handkerchief, were taken from a box in her bed-room. – Several witnesses spoke to the prisoner being in the neighbourhood that day, and John Norman, driver of the Telegraph swore the prisoner was a passenger on the night in question, and got off the coach near Mile End. – Augustus T. Fish, pawnbroker, Hackney, deposed that the prisoner called at this shop on Monday the 4th inst., and offered for sale a bent soup ladle.  He gave him in charge to James Attwood, one of the metropolitan police, who found on him 4 table spoons, 4 dessert spoons, 6 tea spoons, a silver skewer, a pair of sugar tongs, soup ladle, 2 knives, a comb, and 5s. 2d. in money, which were identified. – Robert Seaman, constable Bildeston, produced a piece of earth with marks on it, corresponding with the nails in a boot taken from the prisoner. – The prisoner entered into a rambling defence as to the possession of the property, stating that he bought it of a person at Ofton, but could not produce him. – The Jury returned a verdict of Guilty.  A previous conviction for felony was proved against the prisoner, and his Lordship sentenced him to be transported for life.  After sentence was passed, he demanded to have returned to him two knives, a comb, and a pair of boots. – His Lordship only allowed the boots to be returned.

Ipswich Journal 19 Jun 1850

Committed to Buy Gaol – Edward Sewell, by the Rev. J.S. Henslow, charged with having, at Hitcham, feloniously stolen from the person of Emma Last, an umbrella, the property of John Scott of Brettenham, farmer.

Bury & Norwich Post 12 Nov 1856

Plough boys: – 1st prize of 1/ to John Bird, in the employment of Mr. John Scott of Brettenham.

Bury & Norwich Post & Suffolk Herald 12 May 1857

Inquisition before G.A. Partridge, Esq., Coroner for the Liberty. – On the 7th inst,. At Brettenham, on the body of William Risby, one of the twin illegitimate children of Eliza Risby, of that place. – Mrs. Hoddy, a neighbour who had been accustomed to feed the children, which were born about a fortnight back, and who was present when they died, said they did not take their food so fast as some infants.  She had heard their mother say they would not suck. – Mr. Growse, surgeon, who attended Eliza Risby in her confinement, said the children were premature and he did not expect they would live.  He had made a post mortem examination of the female child and attributed death entirely to natural causes:  there was nothing to excite suspicion in any way.  Verdict accordingly.

Bury & Norwich Post & Suffolk Herald 28 Jan 1862

On the 24th Inst., at Brettenham, in this county, by the Rev. J. Betham Joseph Bragg, to Louisa Hoddy.  The bridegroom is 80 years of age, and has gone on crutches the last twelve years.

Bragg Hoddy

Bury & Norwich Post & East Anglian 2 Oct 1839

Suffolk Show -…Rewards

Labourers from bringing up Families 21. Each – Amongst others, James Saddler, Thorpe Morieux, 9 children, little relief, none within last 13 years, and 38 years’ service.

Ipswich Journal

28 July 1855

ALLEDGED ABDUCTION – About eight weeks ago, a man named Alfred Bowers, aged 42 years, of Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk, absconded from that place, taking with him a young girl (Mary Scarffe) of prepossessing appearance, under the age of 16, against the will of her parents.  They had been lost sight of till last Friday, when they were discovered at Littleport, living as man and wife.  Bowers was apprehended, and the girl taken care of until Monday, the 16th inst., when he was taken away by the officer of Thorpe Morieux.

Bury & Norwich Post & Suffolk Herald 24 Nov 1857

Inquisitions held before G.A. Partridge, Esq., Coroner for the Liberty. – On the 19th inst., at the Bull Inn, Thorpe Morieux, on the body of John Green aged 73 years. – Ebenezer Snell stated that between twelve and one on the previous Monday, while he was littering some bullocks down in a shed on Mr. Hustler’s farm, the deceased came into the yard and spoke to him about the beasts, and suddenly fell down.  Witness went and lifted him up, but he died almost directly.  He immediately ran and called a man named Howe, who was at work in a field close by. – Howe corroborated Snell’s testimony, and the Jury returned a verdict of “Natural Death”.

Ipswich Journal 28 May 1859

TRESPASS.  – Henry Bird, of Thorpe Morieux, labourer, was charged by Mr. Walter Rossiter Scott with trespassing in search of conies.  Bird was fined 1s. and 11s. costs, which he was allowed one month to pay.

The Bury & Norwich Post & Suffolk Herald 3 Mar 1868

County Petty Session

Affiliation – John Osborne, of Thorpe Morieux, was summoned by Matilda Horrex, of Felsham, who charged him with being the father of her illegitimate child. – The Bench made an order for payment of 1s. a week and costs.

The Ipswich Journal 11 Nov 1882

Fowl Stealing. – Maria Bird, wife of John Bird, of Thorpe Morieux, labourer, was charged by Mr. Henry Hunt, of the same place, farmer, with having on the 18th October last, at Thorpe Morieux, unlawfully stolen one fowl, value 2s. 6d., his property.

Mr. James Hunt proved missing some fowls, and he believed the remains of the fowl produced were part of one that was lost.

Eliza Salmon, prosecutor’s servant, stated that defendant was at her master’s house and expressed a wish for some fowls.  She afterwards saw her lay her hands on a fowl, and go into a meadow to count some stockings which was an unusual occurrence.  She was gone about ten minutes.  The head of the fowl and feathers produced were those of a fowl that was in the meadow.

Policeman Barnard stated that from information he received he went to defendant’s house and questioned her.  She fetched a pan containing the head and feet of a fowl, and part of a fowl was being stewed in a saucepan.  Defendant stated that a dog had dropped it, and she brought it home.  She afterwards said it was a fox.

Defendant wishing the case to be summarily dealt with she was fined £2, including costs.

Six weeks allowed for payment.

Game Tresspass – William Bird of Hitcham, labourer, was charged with trespassing on land, the property of T. B. Beale, Esq., at Brettenham, in search of game, on the 20th October last.

Defendant did not appear, and service of summons having been proved, the case was heard in his absence.

James Hassell, gamekeeper to Mr. Beale, proved hearing the report of a gun, he went in the direction of the smoke and saw defendant in Mr. Beale’s field.

Defendant having been four times convicted since 1881 of similar offences, he was fined £2 and 8s. 6d. costs.

Author: Jacqui Beard

Writer and property/finance professional having an obsession with genealogy bordering on the unhealthy. When not "playing with dead people," as her husband so charmingly puts it, Jacqui can be found writing or walking through the glorious Cotswolds.


  1. Hi Jacqui, I purchased your book, The Fressingfield Witch, and really enjoyed it. Yesterday, I purchased Vote for Murder. I was so excited to see parts of it were set in Stonham Aspal. Then I looked at your East Anglia Ancestors website and I see we would be very distantly related. My 2nd great grandmother was Julia Race (her father was Henry Race and Henry’s father was William Race (born 1801). William was brother to your Thomas Race. I haven’t quite finished Vote for Murder (70% read in one day) but parts of it sound similar to my family. Julia and her husband, George Smith, were married 6 days before the birth of my great grandfather (at St. Lambert in Stonham Aspal). George Smith was the town drunk and I have various arrest reports on him for drunkenness, thievery, etc. So, they are similar to Mary Cage and her husband. With my family, George and Julia moved to Ipswich and Julia died shortly after the birth of her 4th child. My gr. grandfather told my mother that his father (George) got drunk, fell in a canal and drowned. Then great grandpa (Herbert Smith) had to take his little brother to an orphanage. His two sisters went to live with other cousins and Herbert went to live with his grandfather (Robert Smith). Herbert later worked for the parish priest in Thelnetham, then as a groomsman for a rich lady who brought him to America with her when she came over with her horses. Herbert actually came to this country twice and later, his fiance (Ethel Ludbrook) followed him over to New York state. My question for you: I’m guessing you are very busy writing your wonderful books and don’t do much research for other people – can you recommend another East Anglia genealogist who could find a death record for George Smith (we have no clue where he died or when he died) and who could look into orphanage records for his son who was also named George. Great grandpa said little Georgie was adopted by a family named Fox and taken to Canada but we can’t find record of that under either Smith or Fox. I understand adoptions were not done then as they are today – little Georgie was probably one of those workhouse/orphan children sent to Canada to be a servant. And being the right age, he probably wound up in WWI and died, but we would like to know what happened to him, if possible. Again, I have very much enjoyed your books and recommended them to other people I hope you continue to write more genealogical mysteries! — Vicky Lunick

    • Dear Vicky – Thanks so much for your kind words about my book. It’s really appreciated. The story of your Race ancestors is fascinating (there’s a book in there somewhere!) and the depth of your research on Ancestry is really impressive. I don’t know any East Anglian researchers but the Suffolk Records Office are very helpful and have their own research department https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/services/research-service/ I have a copy of the Suffolk Family History Society Burial Index & have searched for George, but there are no burial entries that fit the age/time/cause of death. Julia is in there, but you already know about her death details. I hope you find out what happened to George Fox – not an easy task by the sound of things, but it would be fascinating to know. I have managed to break down a few brick walls recently through DNA. Thanks once again for contacting me, Vicky. Kind regards Jacqui

      • Thank you for your quick response! I will try the suffolkarchives with crossed fingers! I used a researcher that I “met” through ancestry, Ian Pitts, to find out a lot of the information on George Smith the father. For all I know, after his wife died he went to another county entirely. Ian didn’t seem too eager to try to get old orphanage records so I left that thread alone. But he was a great researcher, if you ever need help in that respect. Again, best of luck with your writing. I look forward to some more mysteries! — Vicky

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