Odell SharnbrookPaths to Crime Walk stop 2 Odell Castle
Odell Castle Estate
Charles Stratton, the sweetmeat thief who died on the Cornwall reformatory ship, was the son of George Stratton, gamekeeper to Mr Crewe Alston. He is described in the Reformatory admission register entry for his son as of "indifferent" character (below) but on the single occasion he appears in the Quarter Sessions records he is on the right side of the law.
In 1855 he set a vermin trap in a drain in a field between Odell and Harrold. The trap could not be seen from the footpath although it was nearby, but Stratton thought attention may have been drawn to it by a stoat which he had hung on a hedge after catching it in the trap. He saw the trap on 12th March but by 15th March it had gone missing. He later heard that a certain Henry Foskett had the trap and went with PC Charles Barker to search Foskett's house. They found the trap in a lower room of the house on a shelf. It was branded with large letters and therefore easily identifiable as his master's property. Foskett had two previous convictions for poaching, but this time his defence that he had simply found the trap was accepted and he was acquitted.
Henry Foskett was a cousin of Ezra Foskett, the culprit in both the stolen sweetmeat and missing coat cases. Henry's father Thomas was a brother of Ezra's father William. In 1851 Henry appears to have been working as a farm servant for William Robinson, a native of Harrold who was the farmer of 53 acres in Spratton, Northamptonshire. PC Barker's deposition tells us that at the time of this case Foskett was living at Harrold and was a labourer on the railway at Souldrop. He would have been working on the construction of the Leicester to Hitchin line, which was built in order to help meet demand for the transportation of coal from the east Midlands coalfields to London. The line opened for coal freight in 1857 and for passengers in 1858. The section from Bedford to Hitchin was eclipsed by the more successful line from Bedford to St Pancras via Luton and St Albans and was closed in 1964; the Leicester to Bedford section remains in use as part of the current Midland Main Line, although the local station at Sharnbrook closed in 1960. Presumably the construction of the railway gave Henry Foskett an opportunity to find employment closer to home, having married a local girl, Irene Westley of Odell, in 1853.
References: QSR1855/2/5/8; QGV12/1