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Break-in at All Saints

All Saints from the south-east June 2008
All Saints from the south-east June 2008

The Northamptonshire Mercury of 29th March 1834 reported a break-in at All Saints: "On saturday week, between the hours of eleven and one in the day, the parish church of Leighton Buzzard was forcibly entered, and a large quantity of books stolen therefrom. Suspicion falling on John Emerton (who had been released from Bedford gaol on the preceeding Monday, where he had suffered twelve months imprisonment for stealing linen), he was pursued, and apprehended at Toddington, when fifty-nine of the stolen books were found in a bag in his possession, and one in his pocket. He has been committed to Bedford gaol, to take his trial for the offence. On the Wednesday night preceding, the house of Mr. Sharp, shopkeeper, North End, Leighton Buzzard, was broken open, and various articles stolen. In consequence of some words being dropped by Emerton's sister, upon his apprehension, a man named Joseph Smith was taken into custody, and has been committed to take his trial for the last-mentioned offence".

The affair had a Boy's Own sequel as the Mercury reported on 5th April: "A man named Emmerton, under confinement in Bedford gaol for sacrilege and house-breaking at Leighton Buzzard, succeeded in making his escape on Sunday morning last. He accomplished his object during Divine Service, by tearing his smock frock into slips, and tying the pieces together, and thus forming a sort of rope ladder, by means of which he scaled the prison walls. A reward has been offered for his re-apprehension, but hitherto without effect. Another prisoner made an unsuccessful attempt to escape about the same time".

The register for Bedford Gaol [QGV10/1] gives Emmerton's details. He was 24 years old, quite tall for the day at 5 feet 9 inches, with brown hair and a pale complexion. He lived in Leighton. he evidently ran as far as London because his entry in the register states: "Escaped from prison by scaling the boundary wall Sunday 30th March 1834. Brought back from Bow Street 14th April 1834". At the Summer Assizes he was given Transportation for Life and was delivered to the prison hulk Fortitude at Chatham [Kent] to await transportation on 21st August.