Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > PathstoCrime > Man of Means

Man of Means

To tie in with our centenary exhibition at Wardown Park Museum this time we take a look at the man who built the house in which the museum is situated - Frank Chapman Scargill.

Mr Scargill was a solicitor who married a wealthy widow. However, we come across him in the Quarter Sessions records in the role of an employer and man of business. In 1873 Mr Scargill takes his own coachman to court on the charge of stealing 4 bushels of oats and 4 bushels of beans and one truss of hay (QSR1873/1/5/4). Walter Thrower had been keeping a horse at a stable on Old Bedford Road claiming that it belonged to Mr Scargill and had used Mr Scargill's account to acquire food for the horse before he was arrested having taken a truss of hay from Mr Scargill's loft.

As well as learning about Mr Scargill's coachman, who had been employed by Scargill for about 3 years, we also find out about his groom, William Read, who appears as a witness.

In 1887 Mr Scargill is once again having trouble with his employees. As well as being a solicitor, Scargill owned the Luton Brick and Lime Company. He had employed Edward Dutch as manager of the company for about three months before things went badly wrong. Dutch had gone to Liverpool without leave and on his return to Luton was drunk Scargill was telegraphed an account of Dutch's return he met Dutch at the railway station and dismissed him. Dutch brought a claim against Scargill for wrongful dismissal, he also alleged that Scargill had been negligent when acting for him in the purchase of a house in Round Green. Scargill in his turn accused Dutch of stealing three bricks but did not pursue the matter as it would have appeared before his own bench. Then, on examining the company accounts, he found that £10 had been marked down as being paid to John Gurney, an engineer and millwright, but Gurney claimed never to have received the money. This was the final straw and Dutch was arrested for embezzlement.

As well as great detail about how the business kept its accounts the evidence also gives us an insight into the business of John Gurney. We find out that John's daughter, Ada, generally signed her father's receipts because he could not write well. (QSR1887/2/5/1).

Mr Scargill appears in the Quarter Sessions once more under rather more pleasant circumstances. In 1878 he applied to have the public footpath across his park diverted. At the time the park was called Bramingham Shot - It didn't take on its name of Wardown Park until a new owner took over the house after Scargill left Luton. The old footpath was said to be long and unpleasant and didn't come out on the Old Bedford Road in a useful place, the proposed diversion would shorten the route and join up two other paths that would be much better for the public. After some deliberation by the town council and the Quarter Sessions bench the diversion was approved. The plan (QSR1878/4/10/1/e) shows that the route does look far better for people getting between Old and New Bedford Roads but it also enabled Mr Scargill to enjoy his park with only minor inconvenience from the public walking through his grounds.