Case of Poaching
22 January 1846: Rev. E. R. Benyon to his uncle.
'We have had a serious brush with poachers at the Folly, and that Ayres
(Thomas Ayres, head keeper) is much hurt tho' not dangerously. His
right arm is broken in two places between the wrist and elbow, and his
head a good deal cut, but he is doing very well. None of our other men
were much hurt, except a broken head or two.
The fact is we have been on the look out, for the last three weeks,
after seven fellow who have been all over the country at Elden
(Elveden), Livermere, Fornham, Cavenham etc. For the last fortnight we
have had a strong party out, and so they have at Elden.
On Tuesday night (20 January) our men went out at eight to the Folly,
five in number, three on one side, two on the other, and Ayres was out
also, walking about. About eleven the men heard an air gun going off
several times, and they made up to the end of the Folly, the old part,
when seven fellows came out, and they at once began the fight. Ayres by
this time had come up and engaged with two of them, knocked one down
and then we suppose received the blow on his arm from a gun.
However they succeeded in taking four out of the seven, with an air
gun, a new patent cane, and a gun with bullets, caps and a whole lot of
tackle. They each had two hats apiece so that they might disguise
themselves, and also some false hair, and Ayres says the fellows he
engaged with, and got away, he was quite sure had sham whiskers and
false hair on. This is quite a new form, of course. Ayres could not
move our of bed yesterday, and so I went to Bury myself, and sent the
poachers with my five men in the Break to Bury, had them examined, and
they are sent to gaol till Wednesday. When Ayres I hope will be able to
appear, and this will give us time to look for the others as we know
two of them are marked.
This of course will be an Assize case, and I hope we may send them
across the water, and by this means break up a desperate gang. They
were Ampton and Livermere men, the worst sort in the world particularly
the Ampton ones. My curate at Ingham says they are as bad as can be,
and so they will be if there is no one to look after them. (i.e. no
They have an illicit Beer House there, just as Hawkes used to be at
Timworth, which is kept by the father of one of the fellows we have
taken (Rickwood). He also keeps a horse and cart, and goes to Bury
twice or three times a week, and has been seen taking these parties out
late in the evening'.
26 January: Rev. E. R. Benyon to his uncle.
'Curious enough, we have been able to get hold of the remainder of the
gang, and quite by accident. There were six in the gang, four we took,
and the other two were quite strangers to these parts, and were working
on the Rail with one of the four, Abrey who was gangman on the Rail.
This Abrey (of Timworth) and Rickwood of Ampton were at the bottom of
all his and drew these two fellows in. These two lodge at the Tollgate
near Bury ...Abrey
asked these two fellows to go to Culford after some 'longtails'.
28 January: Rev. E. R. Benyon to his uncle.
'I am only just home from Bury having been at the Bench hearing our
case all day. All six are committed to Quad, to take their trial at the
Assize. They had nothing to say for themselves, except the youngest
stranger who said Abrey asked him to go, and he went and told the whole
The six men were tried at the Bury Assizes on 18th March. Robert Lake
of Hargham, Norfolk, railway labourer, who had attacked Thomas Ayres
was sentenced to seven years transportation; Charles Abrey, railway
gang master of Timworth, who had a previous conviction in 1839, to one
years imprisonment with hard labour; Eleazar Rickwood, labourer of
to nine months with hard labour; Nathaniel and John Channell, both
labourers of Livermere, and James Middleditch, railway labourer of
Stanningfield, all received six months with hard labour. (18)