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Finally, a scatty but hilarious report concerned the farcical 1849 election of an unopposed Lord Lennox, the only candidate for the Rape of Bramber that year. Sparsely attended due to a bitter, northerly wind on that December day and conducted in East Street near the south-east entrance to the churchyard. It included Lennox, John Shelley (the deceased poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s brother), an ancient town crier who hardly had the strength to shout and a heckling, anti-Lennox, one-eyed fisherman waving a kipper! Wonderful stuff!
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Humour though did emerge from time to time. One report (1831) mentioned an Irishman who on passing the signboard of the Sussex Pad inn exclaimed ‘Sure now, I’ll be after getting me a pint of beer here for the honour of ould Ireland for it’s the only place in England that says Success to Pat!’ On another occasion (1842) a churchgoing woman not blessed with spelling and punctuation skills whose husband was going to sea passed a prayer for his wellbeing to the St. Mary’s vicar that read ‘A man going to see his wife desires the prayers of this congregation’ which when read out ‘set the congregation in all of a titter.’
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In 1826 a Shoreham oyster merchant demonstrated a great deal of ingenuity in solving one particular crime. Owner of one of the oyster beds in the river that had suffered a series of thefts of his stock he suspected a fellow trader. At low tide he wrote his name on a number of scraps of paper, inserted them between the half open shells that the oysters instantly closed. Next day he purchased and opened oysters from the suspected man, found the scraps with his name and the man was arrested.
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Shoreham’s home-grown justice was also used for other offences. In 1799 the miller at Southwick windmill was prosecuted for selling flour deficient by 5lbs in the hundredweight. This so incensed the populace at Shoreham (to whom he apparently sold his flour) that they ‘exhibited the miller in effigy about the streets’ then burnt it on a bonfire. Another man was known to have ill-treated his wife (1848) so some 200 townsfolk paraded through town carrying an effigy of the offender on a pole ‘chanting some doggerel rhyme,’ marched to his house in the High Street, let off fireworks and burnt his effigy in front of him.
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In 1853 following three break-ins to his Buckingham House residence and expecting another, Harry Colville Bridger had his servants lie in wait at night with guns. When the burglar returned for the fourth time he was shot dead – the court returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.
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Some things never change (1853 report)
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Punishment for criminal offences was very harsh. In Shoreham stocks were still being used for lesser offences well into the 19th century. The thief who stole goosebarries from Barruch Blaker’s garden was ordered to receive ‘a good whipping through Shoreham’ administered by the parish constable (1819); a number of months’ hard labour was the sentence for minor theft and other misdemeanours; John Hindess received six months hard labour for keeping a brothel (1842); John Banks was found guilty of stealing a cow (1823) and after attempting to escape across the river near the Pad was re-arrested and later executed; John Baldock of Shoreham also received the death penalty for burglary 1838; Charles Packett was convicted of stealing one of John Glazebrook’s sheep (1838) and sentenced to be transported to one of Australia’s harshly run penitentiaries for ten years – all this at the time an increasing number of emigrants had been voluntarily sailing from Shoreham for a new life in that country and Canada (1832).
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Hotmail is nothing new – this from the 1780’s
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Crime seems to have been a particular problem for Shoreham. With a population then of just 1,000 it seems a disproportionate number of crimes were being committed prompting the correspondent of one report to suggest that the fortnightly Petty Sessions at Steyning should be held on alternate weeks at Shoreham – and they were!
Continue reading “Life in 18th and 19th Century Shoreham”
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The first ever Shoreham regatta took place in 1854 but only the second one seems to have been reported (August 1855). An occasion involving sailing and rowing boat races only (the associated carnivals didn’t happen until later) the events starting at the Custom House quay then down to Kingston and back. The occasion drew 3,000 spectators and was followed by a fancy dress ball at Swiss Gardens.