Would You Believe It?
by Julie Bunting
Brassington Association for the Prosecution of Felons
From the latter part of the 18th century, people in many towns and larger villages formed Societies for the Prosecution of Felons. In those days prosecutions for vandalism, theft etc. had to be imposed at personal expense. Members of these early self-help associations paid subscriptions and in return would be reimbursed for any prosecution costs, or sometimes the payment of a reward, in connection with a crime against their property.
Brassington Association for the Prosecution of Felons was founded on 7 April 1796. It was laid down that annual meetings would be held on the first Saturday in November at the house of Ralph Lomas in Brassington. The treasurer’s accounts would be settled and members’ subscriptions renewed.
Pursuit of prosecutions and payments of benefits were the responsibility of a committee, originally drawn from members Robert Allsop, Thomas Millington, James Swindells, George Toplis, George Marshall, George Torr, Peter Buxton, William Toplis, William Toplis (Lidgate), William Fearn, John Prestwidge and Robert Lee.
The committee had the power to direct any person who knowingly received stolen goods, or compounded any felony, to be prosecuted at the expense of the Association. Fixed rewards would be paid to informers (not being subscribers) for every person convicted of specified offences committed against any member
For murder, burglary or highway robbery
For stealing any horse, mare, gelding, bull, cow, ox, sheep, lamb, or pig
For robbing any dwelling-house, shop, warehouse, outhouse, waggon, cart or stall if the value of the stolen property amounted to at least 5s. or upwards
If of less value than one shilling
For stealing poultry of any kind (except game cocks)
For stealing, cutting, breaking down, or destroying any tree, hedge, gate, stile, post, rail, or any kind of fence
For stealing or wilfully injuring any carriage, or any implements or utensils of husbandry
For stealing peas, beans, turnips, potatoes, cabbage, grass, hay, straw, clover, corn, or any sort of grain, or for robbing any garden
in the night 1.1.0
In the day 10.6
For stealing apples, pears, or any other kind of fruit
in the night 10.6
In the day 5.0
For stealing any lead ore, or stealing or wilfully damaging any kind of mineral implements or utensils
For wilfully damaging or destroying, or letting off, or taking water from any meer
For any larceny not mentioned above
Men from Aldwark, Grangemill, Hognaston and Parwich were represented amongst the 40 founder members. It is not known for certain how long the Brassington Society for the Prosecution of Felons was in existence but a small number of other branches have survived around the Peak.