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Harrold Odell Paths to Crime Walk stop 9 Bell Inn Odell

The Bell Inn, Odell

Neither Drunk Nor Sober

Samuel Freeman worked as a gardener and also kept a beer shop and lodging house at Olney. On Friday 20th March 1846 a group of rag and bone men including a certain Joseph Oastler came to lodge there. The men spent their days out collecting items for resale. On the Monday evening they mentioned that if they could hire a truck or a horse and cart they could collect a great deal more. On the Wednesday Freeman agreed to lend them his truck for the day. One of the men returned on Thursday afternoon and told him that Oastler had gone to Bozeat and would be back that night with the truck. Oastler did not return, so the next morning Freeman set off in search of him and found him "tipsy" at the Bell public house at Odell. Unfortunately he did not find the truck, which Oastler had sold the night before to Thomas Kennedy, a carpenter of Odell, for eighteen shillings. Kennedy said that at the time Oastler had been "neither drunk nor sober".

Deposition of Thomas Kennedy 1846

Oastler confessed to Freeman, saying "Sam, don't hurt me. I have sold your truck and will give you what money I have got left!" He offered to make up the money within a week and get the truck back from Kennedy, producing seven shillings and sixpence on account. Freeman agreed to wait on condition that Oastler would go back to Olney with him and work for a week to get the rest of the money. Oastler refused to go with him so Freeman put the matter into the hands of the police. There seems to have been some question as to the value of the truck and whether it was roadworthy. Freeman said it was worth thirty shillings; Oastler claimed his group were going to buy the truck without wheels for ten shillings and he himself had paid twelve shillings for wheels and repairs. Oastler was presumably bailed as he does not appear in the gaol register and there was enough doubt about the circumstances for him to be acquitted.

In 1850 a case was brought at the Quarter Sessions, this time involving a theft from a rag merchant rather than by one. William Thorp of "Chelsea New Town" (now Linslade) was driving his donkey and cart along Back Lane in Leighton Buzzard when a lad was spotted taking something from the cart. When the boy was caught by PC Charles Stuart he was found with part of a "smock frock" Thorp had bought earlier in the day hidden under his own smock.

Brickworkers wearing smocks 1867

Brickworkers wearing smocks in 1867 [ref.AU46/102an]

Fourteen year old Jesse Sharp was sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour for one week. Jesse had been acquitted the previous year of stealing two iron washers, but this proved the beginning a long and inglorious career as a petty criminal. Over the next twenty three years Jesse was convicted of six offences, ranging from gaming on the highway to passing counterfeit coin and stealing a horse rug, for which he was sentenced to seven years penal servitude.

References: QSR1846/2/5/10; QSR1846/2/3/3; QSR1850/3/5/8