|published courtesy of wiltshirelady|
Court cases were covered in great detail, often including asides made by the defendant in the dock. However, the case that appeared before magistrates at Cricklade Petty Sessions was no laughing matter.
A report in the North Wilts Herald in June 1881 tells how a husband and wife both appeared on two different, but related charges.
John lles, an agricultural labourer from Pavenhill, Purton appeared accused of failing to send his two sons to school, thereby breaching a previous order. lles blamed the neighbours, saying they encouraged the boys to work in the fields, paying them in food. As the story unfolded it seems likely this might have indeed been the case.
Meanwhile his wife Sarah faced a prison sentence for an assault on her thirteen-year-old stepson George. On the day in question Sarah had been beating the younger of her two stepsons, seven-year-old Albert. When George intervened, holding a stool between his brother and stepmother to fend off the blows, Sarah then turned to beating him, first with a stick and then with the stool he had held as a shield.
Witness Jane Bunce told how her daughter, having heard the boy's cries, had told her 'they were killing George lles.'
Neighbours at Pavenhill who came to George's assistance, told how his head was bleeding from a deep wound and how Mrs. Bunce had to hold him up to get him to Mr. Waldegrave's surgery in the High Street.
When agricultural labourer Charles Mills, went to the house to ask lles 'if he meant to see to his child' the reply he received was ‘I didn't do it, and shall take no notice of it.’
Evidence given by Mrs Bunce, the wife of GWR labourer, James Bunce, was damning. She told of the neglect the boys suffered and said 'the children were good boys, and well looked after when their own mother was alive.'
George's evidence revealed the level of violence the two boys suffered at the hands of their stepmother and how they frequently went hungry.
The Chairman of the magistrates warned Sarah that she faced a six-month gaol sentence. In the event she was sent to prison for 7 days 'to see if that would have any effect upon her.' She was also charged with 5s 6d (about 77p worth today £56) costs and threatened with a further 7 days in prison if she defaulted on payment.
In his summing up the Chairman told Mr. North (Police Superintendent in Swindon) to instruct the police to keep a good look out at the defendants house for the future.
Swindon Advertiser founder William Morris
Swindon Advertiser offices, Victoria Road.