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  1. #1
    Loves to help with queries barbara lee's Avatar
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    Default £112 in banknotes and gold in 1870

    This isnít a question about tracing a missing ancestor, itís more a social history thing, and something to exercise your imaginations.

    In early 1870, Thomas Wearden, my ancestorís brother, was walking around Blackburn late at night with about £110 in his pocket, and was robbed. In court the money was carefully itemised as £20 or £22 in gold, a £20 note, four £10 notes and the rest in £5 notes. Itís a sordid tale Ė he was very drunk and he went with a woman to her house for sex. A sitting duck, of course. She took his money, he left her house, then found his purse was missing. Before he came back to accuse her, she had passed it to her lover, with whom she was thinking of running off to America. In court the woman, her husband and her lover were all found guilty and variously sentenced. The money was never recovered.

    But, I ask myself, why did nobody enquire as to how Thomas came by all that money? He was treated in court as an innocent aggrieved citizen, with apparently no awkward questions asked. He was 48 years old, a wheelwright, with a wife and several children. A few years before he had been the landlord of the Cattle Market Tavern in Blackburn. You can see him a year after the robbery, on the 1871 census, at 13 Richmond Hill, Tontine Street, Blackburn (RG10 / 4182, f 4, p1.)

    £110 was a HUGE amount of money. For instance, he offered Nancy a shilling for her services, whereas Iím told by a probation officer of my acquaintance that nowadays itís £25 in the back of a car. Thatís 500 x inflation, so his £110 would have been roughly equivalent to £55,000. Hereís another example: his brother William owned eight houses, and his estate was valued at £600, so it looks like £110 was more than the value of a small terraced house. I think a skilled tradesman earned about £1 10s a week then, so £110 was about 1Ĺ yearís income.

    How on earth did he come to have all that money? Itís far more than heíd get even for a big job at work. It wasnít in small change either. Ordinary people didnít often see large-denomination banknotes then, did they? Who had he been dealing with, to get money in such large notes? Had he been somewhere on the train, as Nancy suggested in court? Playing cards with the gentry and fleecing them? A win on the races? Or was he a bookie himself? There is a list of 19th century racecourses and race meetings on Wikipedia, and nowhere held a race meeting in January, so that doesn't seem likely. Could it have been something illegal? Dog fighting? Cock fighting? Street gambling? Even that doesnít seem likely to generate such a huge sum of money, and it would all be in smaller change, surely.

    Thereís something very fishy about him having all that money, and it being in banknotes. It looks like heíd been paid off by someone with even MORE money, some kind of Mr Big. If it were nowadays Iíd immediately think of drug dealing, to be honest.

    Iím not wanting any further info about Thomas Wearden's parents, grandparents, siblings, chidren etc., I already have that. Iím hoping for someone who knows something about ďunderworldĒ activities and can make a plausible suggestion about what he might have been up to.

  2. #2
    Valued member of Brit-Gen emmteeyess's Avatar
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    A great story - worthy of Poirot himself.

    Sorry I can't answer your 'social history' questions - just ask the same, and wonder why he wasn't questioned further on the source of his fortune.

    Giving him the benefit of the doubt - could he be an agent for selling one of his brother's houses?

    Presumably there was more to the court proceedings?

    I'm intrigued too!

    Cheers, MTS

  3. #3
    Loves to help with queries barbara lee's Avatar
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    Yes, lots in the papers. If you have access to newspaper archives, see
    Preston Herald Saturday 5 Feb 1870 for the Blackburn Petty Sessions
    Preston Herald Saturday 26th Feb 1870 for the Blackburn Magistrates and
    Preston Herald, Saturday 9th April 1870 for the Preston Easter Quarter Sessions.
    The star witness was Nancy's nine-year-old daughter. When Nancy suggested her lover wasn't at the house that night the little girl said "Oh yes he was!" or words to that effect. Great stufff.

    Interesting idea, that Thomas had been selling one of his brother's houses. But William had died four years before, and left the eight houses to his widow, who enjoyed the income from the rents until 1904, about 40 years. William seems to have been the sensible one, whereas Thomas was definitely not an ideal husband!

  4. #4
    Valued member of Brit-Gen emmteeyess's Avatar
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    Couldn't resist the newspapers. Looks like it made the Nationals too!
    Pretty much the same article made it into the Manchester Courier, Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Pall Mall Gazette, Grantham Journal and Whitstable Times among others.
    Still no hint of where the money came from, but it was taken and hidden in the ashpit then moved to the yard, according to the daughter - out of the mouths of babes eh?
    Some nice expressions used too, like 'fell among thieves'. and a note he was threatened with a poker by the husband, who had been asleep in the chair while Thomas and the wife went into the kitchen.
    Also seems like the local bobby was a bit negligent in not arresting the felons.

    Still no further forward with any explainations as to why he had the money with him tho. Interesting tale tho. Thanks for introducing that.

    Cheers, MTS

  5. #5

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    This is fun. I'm trying to think of less sinister reasons for his loaded wallet.

    I know of two instances (in family history) where people came up with large sums from mystery origins. In one case it was proved to have been from a lottery win. Lotteries have always existed, and I believe the sums one could win were huge, even back in the 18th century. So this would be a possibility.

    Any sign of a legacy? Or of a lawsuit where he might have won a settlement?

  6. #6
    Loves to help with queries barbara lee's Avatar
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    Thanks Daleway
    His surname was a fairly unusual one (Wearden) and I think I have seen most of the reasonably-likely wills in that name, and in his mother's maiden name - the ones in that area anyway. No sign of a legacy so far. He had an older brother still alive (two had already died) and that brother ("Edward the Tailor") shows no sign of a change in his circumstances at that time. I imagine that brother Edward would have had a share in whatever legacy Thomas might have got, but HE didn't get rich suddenly. So legacy not looking likely.
    But a lottery ! That sounds good. It sounds like poor daft Thomas was out on the town, celebrating his windfall, and a lottery win would fit. How might I find out about lotteries at that time? Winners names in the newspapers? I haven't done a full trawl of the papers for his name over a wider time period. The search I did to find this court case covered just Lancashire, January to June 1870. You have also sparked another idea - a Tontine. It was a scheme where a group of people put in money and the last one alive got the pot. The winners were usually much older men, though.
    Food for thought!

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