The Monks Gate Murder

For the British motorist of the 1990’s, it is relatively unusual to have to pay a toll to use a road. Indeed, virtually all the toll roads are now over bridges or through tunnels, though the government is threatening to introduce more toll roads in order to finance improvements to the road system. If they do so, they will be following what was normal practice in the 18th and 19th centuries. Two hundred years ago Sussex roads were notorious throughout England for their appalling condition; Horace Walpole wrote of one journey through the Weald in winter “The roads grow bad beyond badness, the night darker beyond all darkness, our guide frightened beyond all frightfulness.” One can well imagine the discomfort of an unheated and poorly sprung coach being compounded by the ruts and potholes in the roads.

As a consequence of these conditions, legislation was passed in the form of the Turnpike Acts, allowing tolls to be collected on certain roads. The first such turnpike in Sussex was on the Reigate to Crawley road, following an Act passed in 1697. They were called turnpikes, it is said, because the bars placed across the roads had spikes or ‘pikes’ which revolved on a turnstile. Later the term was applied to any road on which a toll was charged. Interestingly, the word survives in current usage in North America where it is applied to toll roads such as the New Jersey Turnpike.

The last toll gate in the Horsham area was at Picts Hill, and this one was removed as late as 1885. A year earlier, on November first 1884, the gate at Lindfield, known locally as ‘Paygates’, was removed amid much rejoicing, which culminated in the gates being thrown on the bonfire on November the fifth. There is however a less joyful connection with the name of Lindfield, and this was concerned with the toll gate on the Horsham to Cowfold road at Monks Gate.

Back in the early 1800’s, the tolls were collected at Monks Gate by an old woman and her daughter. The daughter was a cripple, and was well known to those who passed by since it was she who generally opened the gate and collected the tolls. She was courted by a man called Lindfield, (his first name is not recorded,) who was evidently of a somewhat jealous disposition. His jealousy had been aroused by a man called Naldrett, who apparently also had designs on the gate-keepers daughter. At 6 o’clock on the morning of 14th October 1810, Lindfield went to the house and shouted for the daughter to come out. When the old woman asked what he wanted he announced that he had come to shoot her daughter. Not unnaturally, the old lady started screaming and the noise aroused Naldrett, who apparently lived nearby. When Lindfield was confronted by his rival he promptly shot him through the heart.

The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against Lindfield, who was committed to Horsham gaol to be tried at the next Assizes. It used to be said at this time that “tis safer to kill a man than a hare”, which proved to be the case in the Assizes of March 1811. Whilst a fourteen year old boy was sentenced to death for stealing a bank note (later commuted to transportation for life), Lindfield was let off the capital punishment on the grounds that as the lady in the case was 30 years old, hopelessly deformed and otherwise ill-favoured, he must have been non compos mentis at the time! He was sentenced to imprisonment during His Majesty’s pleasure.

I have not been able to confirm the identity of the Lindfield in the story, and have not yet attempted to search the court records of the time, assuming that they still exist.

However, the Lin(d)field connection with Monks Gate toll house does not end in 1811. We find, in the census returns of 1841, a Daniel Lindfield at Monks Gate, living with his wife Sarah. He is shown as a labourer, aged 68, and she as a toll collector. This would indicate a date of birth for Daniel of 1773, and we find a baptism on 28th March of that year at Nuthurst of Daniel son of William and Sarah. There is also a marriage recorded at Nuthurst in 1801 between Daniel Linfield and one Sarah Randle. Both are shown as being of Nuthurst parish.

Baptisms are recorded of four children between 1802 and 1807, though three of them appear to have died before they were a year old. A Sarah Linfield of Beeding is shown as buried in 1807 and whilst there is no evidence that this was the same Sarah, it seems quite possible that she died as a result of some complication following the birth, and death, of her fourth child. If this Sarah was indeed the wife of Daniel, and if this was the same Daniel who is recorded in the census in 1841, then it would appear that he remarried, to another Sarah. Interestingly, there is a marriage recorded at Slaugham in 1808 of a Daniel Lindfield and Sarah Noldred. It is entirely possible that Noldred is a corruption of Naldrett or vice versa, and that the second Sarah was in fact connected with Naldrett, the victim of the shooting.

However, as to any connection with the murder in 1810 we have no evidence, since we do not know the full name of the murderer. It is possible that Daniel was courting the toll collectors daughter, following the death of his wife some three years earlier, and that he eventually married her when he was released from prison. However, we need a few more facts before we can establish the full story. The details currently recorded in the database show the the children of William and Sarah as follows:

 

1. William Linfield #195 b. 1727, Nuthurst, son of William Linfield and Sarah Dave, bp 29 Feb 1727, Nuthurst, m. 20 Jan 1756, in Nuthurst, Sarah Penfold #197, d. 1779, Nuthurst, bur. 22 Feb 1779, Nuthurst.
children:
i William Linfield #198 b. 1756, Nuthurst, bp 3 Nov 1756, Nuthurst. Possibly the Wm Linfield who married Ruth Roberson at St Bartholemew Hyde, Winchester on 12 August 1781. Wm L shown as of Sussex Militia. [Source: Sussex Strays (marriages) in Hants and Surrey, extracted by Alan McGowan SFH Sept 83]
ii Peter Linfield #199 b. 1758, Nuthurst, bp 12 Jul 1758, Nuthurst, d. 1773, Nuthurst, bur. 26 Nov 1773, Nuthurst.
iii James Linfield #200 b. 1760.
iv Sarah Linfield #208 b. 1762, Nuthurst, bp 30 May 1762, Nuthurst, m. 12 Feb 1789, in Nuthurst, Henry Ball #740.
v Henry Linfield #201 b. 1765.
vi Thomas Linfield #739 b. 1768, Nuthurst, d. 1768, Nuthurst.
vii Samuel Linfield #202 b. 1770, Nuthurst, bp 28 Jan 1770, Nuthurst, m. Aug 1795, in Nuthurst, Mary Purvey #207, b. Nuthurst?. Samuel died 1829, bur. 7 Jan 1829, Nuthurst.
2. viii Daniel Linfield #73.
ix Ruth Linfields #203 b. 1775, Nuthurst, bp 1 Oct 1775, Nuthurst.
Next Generation
2. Daniel Linfield #73 bp 28 Mar 1773, Nuthurst, occpn Labourer?, m. 15 Dec 1801, in Nuthurst, Sarah Randle #74, b. 1780, Lower Beeding. A Daniel Lindfield is shown in 1841 census, aged 68, with wife Sarah at Monkes Gate (sic). Possibly the Daniel who married Sarah Noldred at Slaugham 28 June 1808. He is shown as a labourer and she as Toll collector. Sarah: Possibly the Sarah L of Beeding who died, aged 27, buried Nov 15, 1807 at Nuthurst.
children:
i Henry Lindfield #75 b. 1802.
ii James Lindfield #76 b. abt 1804, bp 29 May 1804, Nuthurst, d. 1804, Nuthurst, bur. 31 May 1804, Nuthurst.
iii Elizabeth Linfield #77 b. abt 1805, bp 22 Dec 1805, Nuthurst, d. ?1806, Beeding?, bur. 11 Apr 1806, Nuthurst.
iv William Lindfield #78 b. abt 1807, bp 15 Jul 1807, Nuthurst, d. 1807, Nuthurst, bur. 20 Sep 1807, Nuthurst.

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