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Crimes:- "The case of the stolen peas"

Copies of the Kent Newspapers are available on microfilm at Ashford Library,
and the Centre of Kentish studies at Maidstone.


20 Mar 1860 of the Kentish Gazette

At the Ashford Petty Sessions, on Tuesday, before W. Burra, Esq. James Cook, miller of Brabourne, was charged with feloniously receiving two sacks of blue Imperial peas and two sacks of long-pod Bishop peas, which had been stolen from the store house of Messrs. Green and Eastes, corn merchants of Ashford.  

Stephen Sinden was the first witness examined. He deposed: I am in the employ of Messrs. Green and Eastes. On the 13th of last February I missed two sacks of peas, which stood in an out-place adjoining the store. I had seen them there on the Thursday or Friday previous. The place was kept locked, and the keys were hung in the harness room. I and Mills, my mate, had cheifly to do with the harness room; but others had access to it also. The store was locked up on the day when the peas were gone. One sack was marked 'Green and Eastes' and the other was plain, with a black stripe down the middle. The sacks produced are those which were lost and the peas are like those in my master's store. [ Stephen Sinden son of George Sinden of Great Chart]

Arthur Joseph Stokes deposed: I am clerk to Messrs. Green and Eastes. On Monday February 13th, the last witness Sinden came and told me that two sacks of peas were missing. I could hardly believe it possible that they were stolen, and I told him to go back and see whether they were not mislaid. As they could not be found, I told Mr Eastes of it the next day. We had in store peas of the same kind as those now produced. I can swear that this sack, with their name in full, is the property of Messrs. Green and Eastes.

William Dennis Heally deposed: I am a seedman, at Ashford. On the 21st of February in the latter part of the day, Mr. Cook applied to me to know whether I was a buyer of peas. I did not know him before. He offered me two sacks, one of blue and the other of white peas. I asked for a sample, the price and the names of them. He could not tell me the latter. I asked if the peas were of his own growth as we were particular in buying peas about the stock. He said he had grown them, and would send me a sample on the following Thursday. On Thursday no sample came; and I then wrote, calling his attention to the matter and asking for a sample, but have received no answer to that letter. I had received information that the peas had been stolen from Messrs Green and Eastes previous to the prisoner coming to me.

Albert Leeds: I am in the employ of Mr Palmer, grocer, of Brabourne. About three weeks ago the prisoner came and asked if my master was a buyer of peas. I said he was, and asked prisoner for a sample. He said he had not one with him; but would send samples both of blue and white peas across. He did not send any.

Stephen Else Palmer: I am a grocer at Brabourne. I called at Mr. Cook's mill and told the grinder whom I saw, that my young man had told me Mr. Cook had some peas for sale, and I could look at them. The grinder said he did not think they had any now. They had some but they were gone.

 [S.E. Palmer ch. 9 Nov 1828 Brabourne, son of James Palmer and his wife Ann Else, husband of Harriet Ford]


Superintendent David Dewar deposed: I received information on the 15th of last month that two sacks of peas had been stolen from Messrs. Green and Eastes. From further information, I went to Mr. Cook's mill at Brabourne, on Wednesday the 29th where I saw Mr. Cook. I asked if he had any peas for sale. He said 'No, I deal chiefly in wheat, beans, oats and barley; I have not had a gallon of peas in the mill for a long while.' I said, 'Have you not offered any peas for sale to any one?'

He replied 'No'. I said 'Did you not offer some peas for sale at Mr. Palmer's of Brabourne?' He hesitated, and then said he had. I then asked where those peas were. He replied he had not got them by him; and, finding he would not give a direct  answer. I said, 'it is very strange you should offer peas for sale when you have not got any.' He replied, 'I was going to have them from Mr. Marshall of Hastingleigh Court Lodge.' I said, 'Oh, has Mr. Marshall got some for sale?'

He said 'Yes' and added that he took samples from people, and went and got orders for them. I asked what sort of peas Marshall's were. He said he thought they were called nutmegs. I then asked if he had not offered peas for sale anywhere else, and he replied he had not. I said 'Did you not offer some to a person in Ashford?' and he replied again 'No.' I said 'You surely offered a person in Ashford a sack of white peas?' He then answered he had. I asked who the person was, and he said he didn't know. I asked whether it was in the corn market or where it was; and he said he saw the person in some passage. I asked where those peas were. He said he was going to have them from Mr. Brice, of Sheepcourt Farm. From further information on Tuesday evening the 6th instant, I went to New Barn Farm, Hastingleigh, in the occupation of Mr. William Cook, prisoner's father; and between one and two o'clock of the 7th I found concealed in a straw stack, a little distance from the farm house, a sack without a name (produced), which is sworn to as belonging  to Messrs. Green and Eastes, and which contained two bushels six gallons of imperial bue peas. I also found in the stack the other sack produced, with the names of Messrs. Green and Eastes upon it, which contained two bushels  seven gallons of Bishop's long-pod peas. On March 8th I apprehended the prisoner, and told him I did so on the charge of unlawfully receiving two sacks of peas  from some person at present unknown, which had been stolen from Messrs Green and Eastes warehouse last month. He said 'Very well'.

Samuel Brice, farmer Sheepcourt Farm Waltham, deposed that he had had a great many dealings with the prisoner, but that he has never offered him any sample of peas during the month of February,  and that he had had none for sale for the past twelve months.

[Samuel Brice born in Hackington St Stephen, the son of Daniel Brice and his wife Sarah.]

Austen Holliday deposed: I am waggoner to Mr Stickles of Merton Farm, near Canterbury. I have known the prisoner James Cook and his family for a long time. He drove over in his cart to see me about seven in the evening of the 1st March. He asked me if his brother Richard was there. I told him he was not, but I expected  he  would come. He asked me if I would ride down to Canterbury with him for a job. I said I did not mind, and went in and put my coat on, and got into the cart with him. As  we were going along he said he wanted me to buy some peas for him to take home as some peas had been stolen out there, and the police had been to him about them, suspecting his man had stolen them. He said his man had got them from another man's son, whom the peas belonged to. He did not say who the other man's son was. We got to Canterbury about eight o'clock, and put the cart up at the Nag's Head. While going up the street  the prisoner said his man had brought the peas home in his (prisoner's) cart, and he repeated  the story of his having bought them of another man's son. By direction of the prisoner I went into Mr. Dean's shop, and asked whether he had any blue and white peas. Dean said he had no white, but that he had blue at 7 shillings per bushell. I came out and told Cook the price, and he said he would buy two bushels. We then went to another corn contractor and asked if he had any white peas- I did not mind what sort.  He had only blue at 10 shillings a bushel,  which I came out and told Cook. We then went west to Mr. Twyman's a weaver, and prisoner sent me in to buy two sacks for the peas, and we returned with them to Mr Dean's and he measured two bushels  of peas into them for me, which I carried to the Nag's Head and placed in the prisoner's cart. I then had a pint of beer given me by  the prisoner , and put the horse in the cart, and we returned.  As we were coming he said 'We have put those peas  which the police suspect are stolen in a straw stack at New Barn Farm.' He further said he had bought the peas he has been for in consequence of the police having been to him; and that he intended to take the peas to Mr Marshall, as he had told them he was going to have some peas of Mr. Marshall. I told him he had better mind or he would be found out. He said he did not think any more of it would be known now; as he had seen his father about it, and the sacks had been placed where they would not be found. He said he had bought seed wheat of Marshall and was going to have some peas of him. When we reached Merton I got out and bid the prisoner goodnight. After I had got a few yards, he called after me,  and desired me not to say a word about buying the peas to his brother Richard or anyone else, and I said I would not.

[ch.27 Nov 1831 at Hastingleigh son of Thomas Holliday and Elizabeth Austen of Godmersham, and brother of Richard Holliday. Austin spent most of his early working life at New Barn with the Cook family]

Mr. Burra: In point of fact you understood Mr. Cook to say that he put the sacks in the straw stack, and that he had stolen them?

Witness Holliday: He said 'We have put them in a straw stack at New Barn Farm.' He also said he had bought the peas at a low price because the man's son, who had stolen them, was fond of drink.

Mr Burra: But he was taking you quite into his confidence. Why should he do so?

Witness Holliday: I knew him very well. I have lived with him for a very long time.

Mr. Burra: What did you do after he told you this? Did you say nothing to him?

Witness Holliday: I told him he must mind what he was about, or he would be found out, and the next morning  I told master of all that had passed between me and him.

Mr. Burra: That is the part of an honest man.

John Dean, corn chandler and

Charles Twyman, weaver, both of Canterbury , deposed that Holliday came to them as he had stated, and purchased the peas and sacks.

Edward Stickles, farmer, deposed that Holliday had lived with him for three years as waggoner and that his general conduct was good. He recollected Holliday being absent from supper on the night of March 1st, and was told that young Mr. Cook had fetched him away in a cart. The next day witness asked Holliday what Mr. Cook wanted with him, and he gave the same story as he had just related.

The prisoner declined either to question the witnesses or to say anything in explanation and was committed for trial at the Canterbury Quarter Sessionson April the 6th, bail being accepted to the amount of £200 for his appearance.

 [Edward Stickles b. 1813 Hastingleigh, husband of Sarah Marshall also b.1809 Hastingleigh,and married at Hastingleigh.]



Robert Charles Lunn aged 35 a butcher, and James George Cook, a miller (both out on bail,) were indicted for stealing two sacks of peas, value 40 pounds 10 shillings; and two sacks of wheat, the property of David Barling Greene and James Eastes, of Ashford on 13th February last.-

The prisoner Lunn pleaded 'Guilty' and Cook 'Not Guilty.'

There was a second indictment charging the prisoner Cook with receiving the peas and wheat knowing them to have been stolen.

Mr Russell conducted the case for the prosecution, and Mr. Ribton for the defence.

[James George Cook was the son of William Cook and his wife Letitia and was raised at New Barn Farm, Hastingleigh. Edward Marshall, one of the witnesses was his brother-in-law married to his sister Mary Ann Cook. JG Cook served his sentence and in 1859 he married Georgiana Kennett at Hastingleigh Church and had family.]

Mr Russell stated the facts of the case as reported in our Ashford police intelligence some weeks ago. It appeared that during the month of January the prisoner Lunn was in the service of the prosecutors, but was discharged from some cause or other. While he was there, however, the prisoner Cook went on one occasion and obtained some barley, which was supplied to him by Lunn, and for which he paid at the time. That was the only transaction the prisoner Cook ever had with the prosecutors. It had been the practice of the men in the employ of the prosecutors, when they had locked up the premises at night, to leave the key of the outer gate thrust under the gate, where any of the men employed about the premises could get it. This was certainly a very un-business like place to keep the key, and he (Mr. Russell) believed it had been discontinued since this robbery took place. The prisoner Lunn knew where the key was kept, and it was by acting on that knowledge the robbery was committed.

On 13th February, as he should prove by a witness named Beerling, who was in the prisoner Cook's employ, but on whose testimony he should not lay great stress for the support of his case, the prisoner and the witness left home with a cart, for the purpose of obtaining two sacks of beans. They went to Ashford, and, having found the prisoner Lunn, Cook told the witness Beerling to go with him to get the beans. The witness went with Lunn to Messrs Greene and Easte's store, where Lunn put the two sacks of peas and wheat into the cart, and the witness started for home. On his way he was joined by the prisoner Cook, who jumped up into the cart and returned home with him. At the Mill they found that the two sacks contained peas. He (Mr. Russell) should be able to show from the testimony of other witnesses the manner in which Cook tried to dispose of the peas, and that, when he was called upon by the Police, he denied having any in possession. Mr Russell was about to proceed with the examination of the witnesses, when Mr Ribton begged to submit that according to the opening address of his learned friend there was no case against the prisoner Cook to go before the jury. He was indicted for having feloniously received two sacks of peas well knowing them to have been stolen, whereas, according to the opening address of his learned friend there was no case against the prisoner Cook to go before the Jury. He was indicted for having feloniously received twosacks of peas well knowing them to have been stolen, whereas, according to the opening of Mr. Russell, he did not know them to be peas till afterwards.The man was sent for beans and did not know but he had got beans till after the sacks were opened at the mill; how then was it possible to support the indictment which charged the prisoner with receiving peas knowing them to have been stolen, when he did not know at the time he received them but that they were beans, which he had sent for.-

The Chairman remarked that the prisoner was found dealing with the peas afterwards.

Mr. Ribton said he was not charged with that. There was no doubt he had acted very foolishly by keeping the peas after they were found to be such. But he wished to ask the court to consider the youth of the prisoner, who was barely 20, being still an infant in the eyes of the law. They could hardly expect him to know what was best to be done under those circumstances. He would doubtless think, when he discovered that he had got peas instead of beans, that he had got in to a scrape, and take what he considered the best means to get out of it..

The bench overruled Mr. Ribtons objection and decided to have the evidence laid before the jury.

Stephen Sinden, in the employ of Messrs. Greene and Eastes, deposed that the key of the outer gate of the store was usually placed under the gate, where any one who had been employed upon the premises could obtain it. On the 13th February two sacks of peas were missed.

Arthur J. Stokes, in the employ of Messrs. Greene and Eastes, deposed that his employers had two different kinds of peas in their store prior to the 13th February. They were similar to the peas found in a stack on a farm occupied by the prisoner's father. Cook purchased some beans on one occasion from Messrs Greene and Eastes. He had eight bushels, for which he paid at the time. the store was usually closed about seven o'clock in the evening.

In cross examination this witness said that Cook had only dealt once with Messrs. Greene and Eastes since he had been in their service. On that occasion he was served by Lunn. He also paid Lunn, who handed the money over to the witness.

George Beerling deposed that he was a journeyman miller in the employ of the prisoner. One evening last month he went with the prisoner to Ashford. They went to Messrs Greene and Eastes' store, which was locked. He was then told to go to the prosecutors man, and he went to Lunn, and told him he wanted a quarter of beans. Lunn said he could get them for him, and the prisoner Cook told him to go with Lunn to the store. When in the store Lunn pointed out two sacks which he told the witness to take, and he did so and put them in the cart. Lunn then told him to take a quarter of wheat to be ground and dressed. When they got back to the mill they found out that, instead of beans they had got peas. The prisoner  gave him 15 shillings or 16 shillings and he gave that to Lunn in part payment for the beans. Some words were ensued, and Lunn threatened to shoot both him and his master, and he (witness) paid him some money to get rid of him. Altogether he paid Lunn 2 pounds 1 shilling for the beans.

In cross examination by Mr. Ribton, the witness said that when his master found out the sacks contained peas instead of beans he was very much alarmed. They left Brabourne for Ashford about 6 o'clock and his master told him they were going to get some beans from Messrs. Greene and Eastes, but when they got there they found the store closed. They had some difficulty in finding any of the prosecutors servants, but at last they were directed to Lunn, whom Mr. Cook believed to be in the prosecutors service. When Lunn gave him the sacks he believed they contained beans, and Lunn represented the wheat as is own, which he wanted to have ground. The wheat had been ground, and still remained in Mr. Cook's mill. When he had got the sacks into the cart Lunn locked up the store. He then drove off and Lunn got into the cart with him and rode for some distance. When Mr. Cook joined him, he asked what the sacks contained and he told him they contained wheat, which was to be ground for Lunn. About a fortnight afterwards Lunn came to the witness and he gave him 16 shillings, and on another occasion 10 shillings. The prisoner Lunn afterwards came again, and wanted to see Mr, Cook, who however refused to see him. He then said that if his (witness') master would give him £10 he would clear him of the job by making a full confession against himself.

Re-examined by Mr. Russell.- Witness believed the transaction to be an honest one. They did not take the peas back,  or say anything about them to anyone. It was quite dark when they got into the store, and they went in by the back way.

Mr. Ribton iterated his objection that there was no case against the prisoners; but the Court decided that it should go before the jury.

Mr. Russell was then about to call Lunn and examine him, but to this Mr. Ribton objected, stating that an arrangement had been come to, before the opening of the case that the witness should be out of the court and had he known it was Mr.Russell's intention to call Lunn, he should have applied to the court for him to be sent below while others  were under examination.

The court held the objecton to be good, deciding that Lunn could not be examined under the circumstances.

William Dennis Heally, seedsman, of Ashford, and

Albert Leeds, assistant to Mr. Palmer, grocer of Brabourne, respectively deposed that the prisoner Cook had called upon them to offer peas for sale in the month of February.

Mr. Dewar, superintendent of police for Ashford division, deposed that having heard of the loss of the peas from Messrs. Greene and Eastes' store, he went to the prisoner's mill at Brabourne, on 29th February. On asking him if he has any peas for sale, the prisoner said 'No; I deal principally in wheat, beans, oats and barley. I have not had any peas in my mill for a long time.' In reply to further questioning he said he had not offered any peas for sale; but at length he admitted that he had offered some to a gentleman from Ashford, and to Mr. Palmer. He had not, however, any peas by him, he said; but was going to have some from Mr. Marshall. He got orders for peas, which were supplied to him by Mr Marshall and Mr. Brice.

Witness afterwards found two sacks of peas in a straw stack belonging to the prisoner's father. On 19th March he received a telegraphic message from the prisoner's father, and on going over, the father told him his son was very uneasy about the affair of the peas and was anxious too tell him all about it. He (witness) cautioned him, and told him if he wished to make a statement he might do so; witness would take it down and the prisoner might sign it. He (Mr Dewar) produced the statemment, which was signed by the prisoner.

Mr. Ribton said that was a most extraordinary thing. There was not a word about the statement in the depositions. He must say it was, at any rate, a great oversight on the part of the clerk to the magistrates.

The statement was then put in and read. It was to the effect that in January last the prisoner went to Messrs. Greene and Eastes' store to get some beans, with which he was served by the prisoner Lunn. He paid for them at the time. Lunn then said he had some wheat of his own and asked how much he would charge for grinding and dressing it. On being told the charge and asked the quantity, Lunn replied 'about two bushels', and put a sack into the cart.  On looking into the sack Lunn said 'O dear these are peas. I  do not want these, give me a crown for them!'

Cook gave him 6 pence for them and took them away with him. Cook did not see Lunn again till 13th February, when he went, accompanied by his man, to Messrs. Greene and Eastes' store to get some beans. When they got there the store was shut, and he enquired for the clerk. He was directed to Mr. Sharpe's but as Mr. Sharpe was not in, Mrs Sharpe could not tell him anything. On further inquiries he was directed to Lunn, who represented himself as still being in Messrs Greene and Eastes service, and who said he could get them the beans. He told his man Beerling to go with Lunn to get the beans and he (Cook) would meet him at some place on his way home. As they were going home his man told him that Lunn wanted some money and that he had given him 15 shillings on part payment for the beans.

On the following day they discovered that, instead of beans, Lunn had given them peas and his man Beerling, on making this discovery said 'We are all right, we must keep this quiet.' Lunn afterwards called at his place and saw Beerling, who told him his master was at Canterbury. He said he did not care a damn, he would go to Canterbury to see him. He said he would do for them both, and showed Beerling a revolver. Beerling then gave him 26 shillings to get rid of him. When he showed Beerling the revolver he said he had shot two men in his time, and when Beerling and he were passing a man on the road Lunn said 'If I thought that man had any money I would have it.' Lunn afterwards called again and wanted to see Cook, but the latter refused; and he then sent word by Beerling that if Mr. Cook would give him £10 he (Lunn) would clear them both. Cook refused to see him or to give him anything.

After the reading of the statement Superintendent Dewar proceeded with his evidence. He said that inconsequence of what Cook had said he apprehended Lunn the same evening.

Mr Edward Marshall, of Hastingleigh and

Mr. Samuel Brice of Sheepcourt Farm,[Waltham] respectively deposed that they never authorised the prisoner Cook to sell any beans for them.

Austen Holliday, a farm labourer, deposed to going with the prisoner Cook to Canterbury some time last month, and he purchased some peas for him at Mr. Deans. The prisoner told him about getting some peas from a man's son who was given to drink, for less than they were worth and that he wanted the peas to take to Hastingleigh Court as the police had been to him to inquire about the peas  which he  had bought. The prisoner told him not to tell his brother Richard about it. Witness told him he had better be very careful or he would be found out.  The prisoner said he did not think he should as he had put them in a safe place.

Two more witnesses having been examined to corroborate the evidence given by Holloday, the case for the prosecution was closed.

Mr Ribton then addressed the Jury at considerable length on behalf of the prisoner, contending very strongly that the evidence did not bear out the indictment. Before they could return a verdict of guilty they must be quite satisfied that at the time the prisoner received the peas , when he got into the cart as they were returning home from Ashford  he knew the sacks contained peas and that they were stolen.

Several witnesses were called: Mr G.C. Rolfe, Francis Pilland, William Noble and Alfred Bourne- and examined as to the prisoner's character.

They had all known him a long time, some of them having traded with him, and they all found him to be honest, straightforward and always punctual in his dealings.

The Chairman then summed up, and the jury, after consulting together for about 20 minutes, resumed their seats.

In reply to the usual questions from the Clerk of the Peace, the foreman said ' We find the prisoner was guilty of retaining the peas after he knew that they were stolen.'

Mr Ribton submitted to the bench that they could not receive the verdict in that form; if the jury were not satisfied that, at the time he received the peas he knew that they  were peas and that they were stolen, they should return a verdict of 'Not Guilty.'

The Chairman said it did not matter whether the prisoner knew they were peas or beans, the question was did he know they were stolen.

Mr Ribton said he had no objection to the Chairman putting the case to the Jury in that form, provided the court would reserve the point he had raised.

The Chairman said he did not think there was any point to reserve.

Mr Russell said that what the Jury had to consider was whether, taking the whole of the case as placed before them, they were of the opinion it was a fraudulent transaction.

Mr. Ribton: That is an unfair way of putting it, and I must protest against Mr. Russell attempting to mislead the court and the jury as to what is the proper issue placed before them. Mr Russell knows as well as I do that the question is not whether it was a fraudulent transaction. All the gentemen round the table laugh at my friends law and well they may. I must say I never knew a prosecution so scandalously conducted, or a case so grossly miss represented in all my life.

Mr Russell said he would address what he had to  say to the bench, and not again speak to Mr Ribton.

Mr Ribton: What I have stated is the truth. I am very sorry for it.

Mr. Russell: I hope Mr. Ribton will see the propriety of withdrawing the expression and express his regret for having used it.

Mr Ribton: I am exceedingly sorry it should have been necessary for me to use it.

The Chairman said the jury had better consider the point, whether the prisoner knew they were stolen peas or stolen sacks.

The Clerk of the Peace made some observation to the bench, the purport of which we did not hear.

The Jury then proceeded again to deliberate upon the point put before them, and after about half an hour, as there was no prospect of them agreeing, they retired to a private room where they were locked up.

After an absence of more than two hours they returned into court and in reply to the usual questions of the Clerk of thePeace, the foreman announced that they had found the prisoner 'guilty of receiving the peas knowing them to have been stolen.'

Lunn then addressing the court, said that was the first time he had ever been convicted of a criminal offence and he  hoped the court would deal as leniently with him as possible.

The Chairman briefly addressed each of the prisoners on the enormity of the offence of which he had been found guilty, and sentenced Lunn to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.

The magistrates were disposed to make a distinction in reference to the case of Cook , in consideration of his youth and his previous good character; but still the sentence of the court would be a severe one. It would be to the effect that he should be imprisoned and kept to hard labout for the space of nine calendar months.

Robert  Charles Lunn convicted of Breaking in to Warehouse and stealing therein.

James George Cook convicted of receiving stolen goods.