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The Complaint of Ridgmont

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service is lucky enough to have some stray Assizes records from the mid 17th century. The collection was bought in 1934 from a dealer who had bought them from a waste paper merchant! Some examinations for cases being bought to the Assizes in 1672, 1678 and 1680 all highlight the Aman family and their nefarious ways.

We know that the family were implicated in receiving stolen goods in 1672 and that in 1678 Hannah Aman junior was sent to prison for murdering a child. By 1680 the village of Ridgmont had had enough and brought a complaint against John Aman (Hannah's father) and Ann (or Hannah) his wife and Ann Bland (Hannah Aman junior) his daughter, which was heard at the Summer Assizes. The complaint, after allowing for the old spelling and grammar, is the sort of thing which might appear in today's more sensational tabloids [HSA1680S36]. It reads as follows [note the original spelling]: "They Humble shew that the said Towne of Ridgmont hath bin Continually troubled with the persons abovenamed for theis twenty yeares and upwards besides the Roague stealing what they Could git or Lay their hands on by Night or by day".

"First they stoale the sanctus bell out of the Steeple [presumably at Segenhoe church] and sold it. And also stoale A great part of the Viceridge house. They also have stoale hooks and Chaines and Iron worke About Gates. And also are notorious for stealing henns and wood out of men's yards in the Night. Her daughter having had severall bastards droping them sum tymes in one Place and sumtymes in Another [Hannah junior had obviously had several children out of wedlock in a number of places – in 1678 she was living at a place called Shortnold, possibly near Streatley] . And for making away of one as it was supposed shee was comitted to the Goale [gaol – this would be for the murder of Katherine Bowin or Bigg]. And at the tyme of the said Hanna's Imprisonment shee was got with Child in the Goale by A prisoner in the Goale which [child] wee at present keepe. And the wife of the said John Aman fetcht A warrant for her husband for gitting his owne daughter Hannah with Child in A Peas Cock [this may mean a small field of peas, the flowers of which were thought to be an aphrodisiac] before she was married to the said John Bland. And also the said parties doe harbour Roagues and vagrants and welling and offering to sell stoalen goods as well waring Apparrill [clothes], Cloath and other things. And bringing up their Children to thieving and never suffer them to goe to servis [divine service at church] they having bin taking wandering sixteene or seventeene weeks together with false passes and have made  their brags how well they have Lived and bin maintained and Caried from place to place".

"Their daughter that is now in Goale [Hannah junior] when she was a Great way off fained her selfe verey Ill and not Able to goe nor Ride in a Cart or horsbacke and was Caried in A Chaier on men's shoulders with a Coltstaffes [a strong pole on which men carried a burden between them – it sounds like a form of Sedan chair] from place to place till shee Cam neere home and then shee made her Escape by Running Away. And also hoing with false petitions to severall noble men and gentlemen's houses and Counterfitting and settinge severall of the sufficientest men's hands in the Towne pretending great Losses their being one found About her when she was Comitted to the Goale her Mother making her brags how well shee has bin maintained and Caried from place to place till she Cam within her owne knowledge. Theis are also the persons that are in prison for thetning to fyer severall houses as Upon ?[.]eden will appeare against them their hath bin formerly Two houses burnt. And the suspicion is that they ware the Cause thereof the said parties are Contemnors [people who are contemptuous] of Authorety and Abusing the justices of peace. And all the officers of the said Towne".

There must have been great rejoicing in Ridgmont because the calendar of prisoners in the gaol for the Winter sessions of 1681/1682 includes the following entry [HSA1682/W/5]: "John Aman and Ann Aman Remaine in Goale for not finding Sureties for their good behaviour and not paying their fine". Evidently Hannah had been released, perhaps because for her pregnancy. The couple were still in the gaol a year later [HSA1683/W/5-6].

Ridgmont parish registers show a John Aman baptised on 7th October 1620, he was the son of William. Hannah Aman married John Bland on 3rd May 1679. John Aman was buried at Ridgmont on 21st July 1691.