Saturday, 13 July 2013

Suffolk law before the police, and the Barking Association

The Fox, Barking Suffolk 

Most of us if we go back far enough into our family history expect to find a farming ancestor sooner or later,  and it is often at this point that we get stuck without being able to find out anything further about their ancestors.

In the case of my Suffolk Moore ancestors this had occurred when I got back to my  paternal 5 x great grandfather James Moore (1765 to 1831), and until recently, I had assumed that this would be as far as I would be able to get.  I thought that he was probably a peasant who had spent his days trudging along in the mud behind a plough, leaving little if any further trace of his life.
Recently I have been really surprised to find him turning up in the scanned local newspapers held on the British Library website. 
What has been great fun to find is that he and most of his closest friends seem to have all been members of the Barking Association that met at the Fox pub in Barking in Suffolk.  

James Moore rented and ran the water mill at Badley for many years.  He had become the tenant in about 1797, and to have been an active member of the local community, joining the Barking Association.

This association was one of a very large number of similar associations set up across the country formed by farmers and larger householders and small tradesmen in villages, primarily to raise rewards for information on, or for the capture of thieves, or rick burners.

In those days there was no police force and such justice as there was, was in the hands of the local Justices of the Peace and of the village Constables. The Constables were ordinary villagers chosen annually, often selected unwillingly, by the parish vestry to try to enforce justice and to apprehend thieves or criminals. They also were expected to collect taxes and were therefore often unpopular with the other villagers and little supported.

The farmers were generally the richest people living in the villages, with the landlords often living in London, or many miles away.  The farmers often felt themselves to have been under siege from the villagers, and local town poor, as their fields, full of valuable animals including horses attracted the frequent attention of ill disposed, and often semi starving villagers or passing thieves.  The only solution was for the farmers and other members of the community, at this period before the police force had been invented was to club together to offer rewards for the apprehension of thieves and other malcontents.

An advertisement for the half yearly meeting of the Barking Association.
The Ipswich Journal, January 30th 1796.
All to soon James himself would need to call on the services of the association.
BARKING ASSOCIATION. WHEREAS some time in the Night of the 18th inst. the Home Barn of Mr, JAMES MOORE, of Badley, was broken into, and a quantity of dressed WHEAT was feloniously stolen from the heap. Any person who shall apprehend, or give information of the offender or offender, so as he or they may be lawfully convicted of the said robbery, will be intitled to and paid the sum of 2£. 10s. out of the public stock of the said Association, by applying to Mr. Sam. Harwood the Treasurer.  And the said James Moore hereby offers a further reward of 20£. to be paid on conviction as aforesaid. 21st Dec. 1801.
It hasn't been possible to find out if anybody was caught stealing the wheat.

The Association would continue to meet at the Fox Inn at Barking for many more years to come, and as the following advertisement from the Ipswich Journal dated Saturday 28th June 1824 shows, both my great great great great grandfather James Moore of Badley, and his sons, James Medows Moore of Darmsden, and John Kirby Moore, of Combs were regular attendees at these dinners at the Fox Inn.

J.W. Pennington of Combs listed above was Joseph Pennington, a gifted land surveyor, land agent and steward since 1772 for Lord Ashburnham. [2]  He was living at Holly Oak Farm at Combs, and it appears that John Kirby Moore was living at the farm, possibly learning to farm.  In 1831, John married Joseph Pennington's daughter Henrietta. He was later to become steward for Lord Ashburnham.
With the aid of the newspapers, and also records in the Ipswich Records office, I have been able to fill in the backgrounds to many of the other farmers listed above, and they will feature in many forthcoming posts.
I find myself imagining them all carousing into the evening around a roaring fire, and although the Fox is nowadays a Chinese restaurant, I hope one day to be able to visit it during opening hours.
[1] The Ipswich Journal - Saturday 26 December 1801
[2] The Journal of John Kirby Moore of Badley.  Edited by Michael Durrant, published by the Suffolk Family History Society, August 2001.