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Harrold Odell Paths to Crime Walk stop 7 Field

Field Between Little Odell and Great Odell

A Missing Coat

On the afternoon of 1st March 1863 Thomas Askew, a shoemaker from Odell, was walking to Harrold wearing his great coat. Finding he did not like walking in the coat he took it off, tied it up in a cotton handkerchief and put it inside a hovel in a field occupied by George Kendall of Odell. When he returned from Harrold about an hour later the coat had disappeared.

Askew made enquiries locally and spread the news of his loss. Someone had obviously seen or heard something that made them suspect a young man named Ezra Foskett, as a couple of days after the theft Thomas Askew's wife visited Foskett's sister Mary Ann and asked whether her brother knew anything about the coat. When Ezra returned home later in the day Mary Ann spoke to him about it. Ezra admitted having taken the coat to Wellingborough where he had pawned it for six shillings. Realising it was Askew's coat (and that Askew was on his tail!) Ezra went back to Wellingborough and redeemed the coat. On 4th March the coat and handkerchief were returned to Askew by Mary Ann Foskett.

Meanwhile PC Thomas Cooke had been making his own enquiries and discovered the coat had been pawned with Arthur Cryer of Wellingborough by a young man named Foskett and then taken out of pawn the same evening. PC Cooke met Ezra Foskett in Wellingborough and took him into custody. Foskett told the policeman that he had returned the coat and asked rather hopefully "there will be nothing said about it will there?" In fact it seems Askew was simply happy his coat was returned and did not intend to take the matter further. In his deposition he explained that he had not taken the coat to PC Cooke and did not instruct the police to take Foskett into custody. Foskett was found not guilty of theft.

It may be that Foskett came under suspicion because at the age of nineteen he already had a chequered past. He had been convicted of housebreaking in 1860 and sentenced to two years in the new Reformatory for juvenile offenders at Carlton. He did not learn from experience and within three months of the stolen coat case he was convicted of stealing a "slop" (overalls) and sentenced to penal servitude for three years. His final conviction was in 1879 when he spent two months in the House of Correction for stealing ticking. It appears from the censuses that Foskett never married, worked as a labourer in various parts of the county, and in the 1911 census he was resident in Bedford Workhouse. Despite his poverty it appears Foskett was in good health as his death is recorded in 1939 at the ripe old age of ninety five.

Ezra's family appear frequently in the Quarter Sessions and Gaol records. His eldest brother Charles had been transported to Tasmania for sheep stealing in 1850. His sister Mary Ann also had a conviction to her name, having been gaoled as a debtor for ten days in 1857. She was described as freckle faced, with two missing upper front teeth. His brother John had problems of a different sort and was incarcerated in Bedford Lunatic Asylum in June 1858 with mania and delusions:

John Foskett in Bedford Asylum 1828

 He was discharged as recovered in January 1859 but was readmitted a week later and in the following April was sent to the Worcester Asylum:

John Foskett readmitted to Bedford Asylum 1859

The previous generation had a string of criminal convictions. In 1855 their father William Foskett was sentenced to ten days hard labour or a sixteen shilling fine for causing wilful damage. William's youngest brother James was convicted of being a rogue and vagabond in 1843. Their unusually named brother Valentine turns up in the gaol registers several times between 1842 and 1853 for offences ranging from stealing tea, to smoking in the Bedford Union workhouse and failure to pay arrears in respect of a bastardy order. A third brother, John, died of apoplexy in Bedford Gaol in 1875 following a conviction for indecent assault:

Coroners Inquest on John Foskett 1875

 The Coroners Inquest Book notes the death of John Foskett from apoplexy 1875 [ref.Co/Inq2/1/2]

Faced with this litany of offences by his relatives, coupled with the death of his mother in 1848, it seems Ezra's chances of a blameless life were slim.

References: QSR1850/1/5/28,29a; QSR1860/1/5/3-4; QSR1863/2/5/1; QSR1863/3/6/13; PRIS2/2/1; Gaol register database