THE VALUE OF NEWSPAPERS TO FAMILY HISTORY: SOME OF THE MORE EXTRAORDINARY STORIES INVOLVING MEMBERS OF THE LIN(D)FIELD FAMILIES

 

Newspapers provide some of the most detailed and fascinating glimpses of our ancestors and are a major source of information. Now that so many newspapers are being digitised and made available online, most notably by the British Newspaper Archive, and can be searched by name or any other category, this has become a major resource for all family historians. Thousands of new pages are added every day, so as time passes by, this amazing site will become even more valuable as a resource to all researchers.

Over the past few years, I have been building up a collection of material which I would very much like to share with our readers. I will continually add to this archive and hope to make comments on some of these entries where we have further information. I would also invite comments from anyone who can add their own contribution, as many of these entries relate to individuals about whom we know very little or, indeed, nothing at all. I have also decided to put each clip of news into a category, such as ‘heroic’, ‘criminal/misdemeanour’, ‘tragic’, ‘humorous’ and so on.

Some of these newspaper reports are absolutely fascinating and definitely require more research to find out more about the individuals concerned. Perhaps some of our members would like to see what they can add to the various stories which appear below?

HEROIC

Reading Observer – Saturday 27 August 1887

THE LANDSLIP AT DORKING:- In recognition of the action of Linfield the ganger who, passing through the Betchworth tunnel just before the falling in the roof and narrowly escaping being entombed, promptly ran forward and stopped the Portsmouth express, the directors of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway have voted the man an honorarium of £10. It is understood that some months will elapse before the Portsmouth direct line can again be opened for through traffic, as the obstruction is a very serious one and the landslip will probably involve the necessity of a thorough overhauling of the tunnel.

ACCIDENTAL

Morning Post – Saturday 04 January 1862

FATAL ACCIDENT IN ST. MARTINS HALL

An accident, which has already resulted in the loss of two lives, and has caused most serious injuries to four other persons, occurred yesterday afternoon in St. Martin’s Hall. It appears that the hall had been taken by Rumsey and Newcomb’s Ethiopian minstrels (known as the “Twelve Stars”), and for the purpose of their performance a gas chandelier had to be affixed to the ceiling. The work was entrusted to Mr. Defries, gas-fitter, of Houndsditch, and was carried on under the superintendence of Mr. Edward Stevens, his foreman.

With a view to the affixing of the chandelier a stage was erected, 40 feet from the ground, composed of planks placed across two poles, supported by four ropes from the roof. We are informed that every precaution Mas taken to insure the stability of ” the stage,”‘ and that the tieings were thoroughly tested before the men began their labours. Seven men, including the foreman, were engaged in their work, when suddenly one of the poles snapped asunder; the planking, of course, gave way, and six of the persons were precipitated to the ground.

Mr. Stevens had a most miraculous escape. By a sudden impulse he seized one of the ropes, and there hung suspended for full five minutes. His position was most perilous, for he could not hold out much longer, and there were apparently no means of extricating him from the fate which had befallen the others. Happily at this critical juncture a workman on the roof had the presence of mind to cut the rope which tied one of the ladders and to pass it down through an opening, when it was grasped by Mr. Stevens with one hand, and he kept swaying to and fro, seemingly in no better position than before. Others of the workmen, however, steadied the ladder, on which Mr. Stevens managed by the greatest exertion to obtain a footing, when, climbing up, he was dragged through the roof perfectly uninjured.

It was far different with those whose fall had not thus been providentially arrested. The six poor fellows who had been precipitated from this great height lay almost in a mass below, body over body, while beneath and around them were strewed the planks on which they had stood but a moment before in fancied security. Their injuries were of a dreadful nature, and their groans piteous to hear. As soon as Mr. Stevens had been rescued, the attention of the workmen was directed to the sufferers, some of whom had fractured their limbs and had received such shocking injuries that in two cases death has ensued, and in another life is despaired of.

A messenger was immediately forwarded to the Bow-street Police-station, and a body of the police was immediately despatched to render assistance. The injured persons were then carried away on stretchers — five to King’s College Hospital, and one to Charing-cross Hospital. The following is a list of the names of the sufferers with the nature of their injuries: —

KING’S COLLEGE HOSPITAL

Patrick Coglin, smith, London-passage, Whitecross-street fractured elbow-joint, severe injuries to the chest – dead.

Richard Wood, gasfitter- fractures of skull, thigh, fore- arm, and several ribs— died at nine o’clock.

Walter Labey, carpenter, 4, St. John’s-row, St. Luke’s—injuries to the elbow, dislocation of the blade-bone. Lies in a very precarious state.

John Gorwell, zinc-worker, 70, Shaftesbury-street, New North-road-severe injuries in the back.

John Linfield smith, King-street, St. Luke’s – also severely injured in the back.

These cases are under the care of Mr. Brown, the house surgeon, assisted by the other surgeons of the institution, where the sufferers are receiving every attention.

CHARING-CROSS HOSPITAL

George Standing, smith, 12, King-street, Old St. Luke’s- fractured thigh, severe injuries to the head and shoulder. This case, which is under the charge of Mr. Canton, the senior surgeon, and Mr. Henry Jessop, the house surgeon, is a very bad one.

During the evening the scene of this melancholy accident was surrounded by large crowds.

London Evening Standard – Saturday 04 January 1862 p7

The three other men are not much injured, and at present no dangerous symptoms have appeared. Their names are William Gorwell, of 79, Shaftesbury-road, New North-road ; John Linfield, 1, King-street, St. Luke’s (his mother residing Brighton); and Patrick Coghlan, of Loudon-passage, White-cross-street. The sufferer who was conveyed to Charing-cross Hospital is George Standing, of 12, King-street, Old street (formerly of Watlington, near Worthing, Sussex); his injuries are a fractured thigh, besides wounds about head and body; and he was reported to be in dangerous state. With regard to the construction of the scaffold, Mr. Flint, the manager of the hall, had expressed his apprehension that it would not prove secure, and when the crash was heard that, gentleman at once said that it was the scaffolding which had given way. He attributed the occurrence to the use of a defective scaffold-pole. The hall was to have been opened Wednesday next, with a musical performance, but for this addition to the series of calamities which have befallen it.

INVENTIVE

Hampshire Chronicle – Saturday 01 September 1883

A New Flying Machine. —Mr. H. C. Linfield, of Upper-grove, Margate, and late of Fulflood, the inventor of a flying machine, conducted an experiment with his invention Wednesday between Colnbrook and West Drayton.

The apparatus, which is described as a steam sailing machine, is of an altogether novel character. It is constructed of light wood and is shaped like the frame of a four-wheel carriage, with two large wheels in front and two smaller ones behind. Motive power is to be  obtained by steam, which will work a nine-bladed screw, and the inventor’s idea is to propel the machine by steam on land until it attains a speed of 30 or miles—a velocity which Mr. Linfield calculates will be sufficient to lift the machine into the air, when it will be navigated by means of the sails with which it is fitted.

He believes air to be the finest roadway under the sun if can only use it, and from the result of his experiment on Wednesday, he is confident that it is possible to fly in the air at the height of a mile from the ground. By permission of the Great Western Railway Company the experiment was made on the newly-finished portion of the railway Staines between Colnbrook and West Drayton, and the inventor was accompanied by Mr. Trevithick, the locomotive superintendent of the company at Paddington.

The machine was placed on a truck and connected with an engine, whence the steam was derived, and the gearing was manipulated from another truck. The operator succeeded in getting the machine lifted from the truck into the air, and expressed himself fully satisfied with the result the trial.

CRIMINAL/MISDEMEANOURS

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 11 October 1810

MURDER! — Friday a man named Linfield, who has for some time courted a young woman residing at Monk’s Gate, near Horsham, being exasperated with her on account of supposed infidelity with a neighbour named Naldrett, repaired to her house on Friday with a gun, and said he came to shoot her; when she immediately gave the alarm; and Naldrett seeing him the door with his gun, was proceeding to expostulate with him, when he presented it at him and shot him in the right breast; the young man died in a few minutes. Linfield is in custody.

Morning Advertiser – Wednesday 15 September 1824

GAOLS, TREAD MILL, &c. Pursuant to the provisions of the 4th of George IV. c. 61, commonly called the Gaols’ Regulations Act, the several gaols, houses of correction, &c. in England and Wales, had to make certain reports or returns to the Home Secretary of State, Mr. Peel: they are now printed, and the following are some extracts from them:

PETWORTH, SUSSEX. ANSWERS TO SOME OF THE QUESTIONS OFFICIALLY PUT.

Is there any insane prisoner in confinement? State his or her name, age, and for what offence committed? How long has he or she been in confinement? How long has he or she been insane? —

One; Samuel Linfield, aged fifty, 25th March, 1811. Acquitted of felony and murder, but ordered to be detained, the Jury having found that he was insane at the time. Has not shown any symptoms of insanity since he has been in confinement.

Morning Post – Monday 26 March 1827 p4

POLICE INTELLIGENCE

BOW-STREET. — Saturday.

John James Archer, a young man, about 22 years of age, was charged with committing a daring burglary, at No. 3, Dorset-place, Pall-Mall East, and stealing property of between one and two hundred pounds value, belonging to Mr. Charles Linfield. The Prosecutor was recently the proprietor of the Swan Tavern, Chandos-street, St. Martins-lane, and after giving up his business for the purpose of retiring to Lewes (where he now resides), for the benefit of his health, he took an apartment on the first floor of No. 3, Dorset- street, Pall Mall East, to deposit his property, and employed the prisoner to assist in removing it. When Mr. L. left town, he locked up the apartment, and gave the key to the landlord of the house.

On Wednesday night last a lodger in the house heard a noise at the door of Mr. L.’s apartment, and on going towards it, the prisoner presented himself; but the instant he observed the lodger he shut the door to and locked it. The lodger ran down stairs into the street, and saw the prisoner attempting to escape from the first floor window. The prisoner finding his retreat cut off in that direction, entered the room again, and having unlocked the door, ran down stairs, where  he was met by the landlord of the house, an infirm man, and the prisoner pushed him on one side and got out of the house and escaped.

It was discovered that he had packed up property, value between £100 and £200, ready to carry off, and had taken with him silver spoons, a gold snuff-hot, and other articles. Bond jun. and another officer, went in pursuit of the prisoner, and apprehended him at his lodgings in Maiden-lane, with some of the stolen property on his person, at the moment he was quitting his lodgings to go to France. Some of the stolen property was pledged at a pawnbroker’s in Fleet Market. The prisoner appeared to be exceedingly dejected. He was committed.

Windsor and Eton Express – Saturday 13 August 1842 p2

WORSHIP-STREET. An irascible old fellow, named Jeremiah Linfield, was charged before Mr. Bingham with having used threatening language to his wife, a little toothless old dame some “three score years and ten,” who had on previous occasions made similar charges against him. It appeared that the ancient couple had lived separately for some time owing to their frequent disagreements, but they continued to reside in the same street, and within few doors from each other.

A few nights ago the defendant entered as the old lady was preparing to retire to bed; she was alarmed by the defendant, who clamourously demanded admittance, and accused her of having two men harboured in the room. Several of the neighbours were called in for the defendant to witness his dishonour, but on entering his wife’s apartment at the head of a posse of them, he was unable to discover anything to justify his suspicions.

A solicitor, who attended for the defendant, gravely assured the magistrate that he was afraid the suspicions were well founded. On the night in question, the old gentleman was passing the house of his wife, when distinctly heard her say, “Oh, Bob, how can you so naughty?” I can’t let you sleep here, dear Bob—get away with you, do.” This tender remonstrance was followed by other language of the same kind, in which the name of Jerry occurred. The old lady here exclaimed, “Lord help the poor old fool! He’s actually been jealous of the cat and blackbird.”

She then explained that she was talking to the tom cat, who wanted to sleep in her bandbox. She might also have spoken to Jerry, her blackbird, as they were her only companions. This explanation was received with a roar of laughter, and carried conviction to the minds of every one present, including even her husband, who was, however, bound over to keep the peace towards his wife, to put a stop to his jealousy.

Hampshire Advertiser – Saturday 19 October 1844

SUSSEX COUNTY SESSIONS:

Ellen Linfield, for stealing, at Washington, 49s. the property of her master, six months’ hard labour.

Brighton Gazette – Thursday 03 April 1851

A distress warrant was granted against Henry Linfield, of Hurston Farm, for non-payment of £9 3s 10.5d for non-payment of poor’s-rate to the parish of Storrington.

Sussex Advertiser – Tuesday 30 December 1851

Assault and Robbery. Elizabeth Wickens, James Hollingdale, and ……. Linfield, were brought up, after a remand from Saturday last, on charge of assaulting and robbing Thomas Smith, of Clayton, journeyman miller, at the King’s Head Inn, St John’s Common. As is usual in these cases, a great deal of evidence pro and con was produced, and the Bench instituted lengthy inquiries of persons who were present, with a view to get at the truth. The plaintiff showed signs of having been beaten about the head.

The defendants are of notorious bad character, and he had foolishly joined their company at the inn, where the dance he was accepted by the fair defendant as partner, and after drinking with her and her more intimate associates, he found himself eased of his purse. He accused Miss Betsy, and this led to a regular row, in which it appeared the miller got the worst of it.

Mr Stanford, of Cuckfield, deposed to having heard some assertions made by the female defendant the day after the assault took place, to the effect that she had given the old miller some hard blows. The Chairman at last stated that after having given the case great consideration, the found themselves constrained to discharge the prisoners from the charge of robbery, from a defect in the evidence, although in the minds of the Bench there was no doubt but the parties robbed Smith of his money. That grievous assault had been committed on the plaintiff, and of this assault Elizabeth Wickens alone must now stand charged.

The Bench, after very lengthened investigation, fined Elizabeth Wickens £3 and costs for an assault, and ordered the male prisoner to be discharged. In default of payment, she was committed for three months.

Brighton Gazette – Thursday 29 June 1854

SARAH LINFIELD, aged I6, pleaded guilty to obtaining a pair of women’s boots, by false pretences, from James Samuel Spratley, at Brighton. Mr Creasy held a brief for the prisoner; who was sentenced to “Six weeks’ hard labour.”

Surrey Comet – Saturday 13 January 1883

STAINES

PETTY SESSIONS. — MONDAY

{Before Sir John Gibbons, Bart, (chairman), Lord Bingham, and W. A. Mitchison, H. D. Phillips, and E.M. Browell, Esqrs.

SERIOUS ANNOYANCE OF AN OLD LADY.- Edward Charles Linfield, Surbiton, was charged with being drunk and with ringing at the door bell of Miss Linfield, of Hampton Wick. Mr. W. M. Wilkinson, town clerk of Kingston, appeared to prosecute. —In stating the case, he said that unfortunately for her, his client was an aunt of the prisoner. The magistrates might probably remember – but be mentioned it now because it would have to weigh them in the way which they dealt with the case—that some two years ago the prisoner was before them charged with a similar offence this, and also with breaking Miss Linfield’s window. It seemed that he was in the habit of breaking out at Christmas time, and on this occasion became to his aunt’s house, rang the bell whilst drunk, and created a very great disturbance.

He had on several previous occasions pursued the same course of conduct, and Mr. Roots, the eminent surgeon of Kingston, who was in attendance upon Miss Linfield, would tell their worships that such was her apprehension of this man that unless he were put under some restraint her life was in peril She was in a highly nervous condition, and she went in great fear in consequence of prisoner coming to her house. He had been In the army, and it was with great remorse and shame that one saw that man who had been discharged with a good character should be so utterly wanting in all proper feeling towards his aged relative, and so cowardly as to annoy her when probably she had only a few months to spend in life.

Mr. Phillips: What is her age? The mother of the prisoner said it was 82, and she began volubly to speak of her son as a persecuted man, when she was requested to be quiet. She said that she had as much right to speak as Queen Victoria, but she was quickly brought to silence.- Mr. Wilkinson proceeding, said that when the prisoner was convicted last time the Bench Inflicted the maximum penalty they could inflict, and sent him to prison in default of payment. That conviction had proved no restraint at all, and he strongly hoped that in deciding with this matter the Bench would call upon the prisoner to find sureties for his good behaviour for an extended period.

P.C. Blackman said that about 9.30 on the night of the 3rd inst. he was passing Miss Linfield’s house, when he saw the prisoner in the front garden. Seeing that was very drunk he asked him bow be accounted for being there. The prisoner made no answer, but tried to get back into the road by climbing over the gate, which was locked. Witness detained him and rang the bell, and he saw the housekeeper and the other servant.

In the presence and hearing of the prisoner he asked the housekeeper if she had been aware that the prisoner in the garden, and she replied that she had not, but that she had known be was in front of the house. She said be bad been there since 8.30 ringing the bell, and had been asked to go away, which he refused do. He then took him into custody, prisoner saying at the time that he was on his own property. The Mother: Which is the truth. The constable continuing his evidence said that the prisoner lived about a mile away from Miss Linfield’s.

Next day be was taken before Mr. Phillips, and in default of bail he was remanded to the House of Detention. Mr. Richard Evelyn Estwick, son of Capt. Estwick, said he lived next door to Miss Linfield’s. He had constantly seen the prisoner standing outside the door. On the evening In question he heard Miss Linfield’s gate violently shaken for a considerable time, and as the noise disturbed aunt of witness, who was dangerously ill, he went out to try and put a stop to it. When he went out, he saw the policeman with the prisoner, whom observed to be very drunk indeed.

Ann Amy, housekeeper to Miss Linfield. said she heard the bell ring on the night of the 3rd, but she could not say whether it was rung by the prisoner. Miss Linfield was in a precarious state of health, and she feared the prisoners presence.

Jane Gibbs, another servant of the prosecutrix, said she heard the bell ring once, but not violently. She did not answer the bell because she knew that the prisoner was outside, and thought that If she had opened the door be might have forced bis way in and caused Miss Linfield annoyance. She had seen him about half-past 8 o’clock by Mr. Estwick’s gate.

Mr. William Sudlow Roots said he was in attendance upon Miss Linfield. She was in a very feeble state and very nervous. He saw her on the 4th, the day after this occurrence, and she was then very agitated. She was very apprehensive of this man, and if he spoke to her he believed she would not be able to answer him through fear. It was most important to her health that the prisoner should be restrained from continuing his annoyance.

Prisoner pleaded that although he had been drinking a little he was not drunk, and be alleged that Miss Linfield had robbed him of his birthright.

Sir John Gibbons: Even if you think you have been robbed of your birthright you say, you have no right to give annoyance to this old lady.

P.C. Blackman said he had received a good many complaints about the prisoner. Previously to this he had always gone away upon seeing him. but this time he was too drunk to do so. Prisoner said that when he was convicted two years ago it was upon the evidence of two drunken servants, who had since been turned out the house.

The Bench inflicted a fine of 40s. including costs, or a month’s hard labour; they did not consider that there was any evidence upon which they could call upon the prisoner to find sureties.

MILITARY

Norwich Mercury – Saturday 13 January 1855

Deaths at Scutari

Nominal return of deaths in the hospitals at Scutaru, as reported to the Commandant’s office by the medical authorities, from the 9th to the 27th December:-

Among the Privates:

W. Linfield, Ist Bat. Rifle Brigade, diarrhoea, Dec. 24

Brighton Gazette – Thursday 07 September 1826

An aged man named Linfield, native of Brighton, who has for several years been in the habit of walking with a crutch, was found drowned near Shoreham Bridge, on Monday last (See our Shoreham letter).

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