Meltham Prosecution Society

The Meltham Prosecution Society — also named in a newspaper article as the "Meltham Association for the Prosecution of Fellons" — was ostensibly a group of local citizens who brought private prosecutions against individuals they believed had broken the law and who gave monetary rewards to police constables following a successful prosecution.

Prior to his untimely death, William Leigh Brook was named as the chairman.[1] Other named members include cotton manufacturer Charles Brook (of Jonas Brook & Brothers), solicitor Uriah Tinker of Bent House, and manufacturer Joshua Eastwood (of the firm John Eastwood & Sons).

In May 1853, the shop of draper and grocer George Watson was broken into and a number of items stolen. The society offered a £5 reward to catch the culprit.[2]

During August 1853, a "catalogue of crimes" took place in Meltham for which the society offered a "£4 10s. reward to any one who will give such information as will bring conviction home to the guilty parties". The petty crimes included: the milking of Bannister Bower's cows during the night, the theft of potatoes from the field of Isaac Woodhead, and the breaking of the wooden posts which supported the awning in front of Mr. Lee's shop in the Market Place.[3]

In January 1854, poor weather had led to a number of local labourers being unable to find work. The society's members raised £70 so that local labourers would not have to apply to the Board of Guardians for relief.[4]

A reward of £2 was offered in February 1855 after fences were damaged at Mill Moor, Meltham.[5]

In June 1855, the society supported the prosecution of Allen Hollingworth (known as Allen o' Jacks) who had assaulted his father-in-law John Kenworthy. The local magistrates ordered Hollingworth to be bound over to keep the peace for six months.[6]

At their annual meeting, held at the start of January 1856 at the Rose and Crown Inn, it was felt that the society's finances were healthy enough to warrant the suspension of subscriptions for the coming year.

A spate of highway robberies in early 1856 led to a total of £30 being offered for "the apprehension and conviction of the offenders".[7] Joshua Wormald was attacked whilst on his way home from Meltham to Crosland Edge and thrown into a mill dam, and a young boy collecting milk money was robbed.[8] The most high-profile attack took place on the evening of 11 January when manufacturer Joseph Hirst of Wilshaw was returning home from Royd Edge Mill with a cash box. Hirst was tripped up by a rope that had been stretched across the road near his house. A "thick set man" tried to land a blow to Hirst's head, but he was able to regain his feet and "set off at a running pace towards his home" with his cash box. Despite being in his fifties, Hirst outran his assailant.[9] Jonathan Hinchliffe of Meltham was arrested for the attack on Hirst, but the local magistrates dismissed the case due to lack of evidence.[10]

The assault on Hirst led to "a few able and benevolent inhabitants of the locality" setting aside money to pay for a permanent police constable to be based in Meltham and former Huddersfield police inspector Abraham Sedgwick was quickly appointed. Although newspaper articles do not name the benefactors, it may have been the Meltham Prosecution Society who paid Sedgwick's salary.[11]

The society was disbanded "by mutual consent of its members" in January 1857, by which time West Riding county constables had been deployed in the area to assist police constable Sedgwick in his duties.[12]

Notes and References

  1. "Meltham: Prosecution Society" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Jan/1856).
  2. "Meltham: Shop Robbery" in Huddersfield Chronicle (28/May/1853).
  3. "Meltham: Cow Milking, Potatoes Stealing, and Damage Doing" in Huddersfield Chronicle (20/Aug/1853).
  4. "Meltham: A Good Example" in Huddersfield Chronicle (21/Jan/1854).
  5. "Meltham: Mischief" in Huddersfield & Holmfirth Examiner (17/Feb/1855).
  6. "Magistrates in Petty Sessions: A Family Quarrel" in Huddersfield Chronicle (23/Jun/1855).
  7. "Meltham: The Late Attempted Robert with Violence" in Huddersfield Chronicle (19/Jan/1856).
  8. "Meltham: Nocturnal Depredators Again" in Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Jan/1856). Oddly, the Huddersfield & Holmfirth Examiner published a report stating that the Chronicle had invented both attacks.
  9. "Attempted Highway Robbery, With Violence, at Meltham, Last Night" in Huddersfield Chronicle (12/Jan/1856).
  10. "Magistrates in Petty Sessions" in Huddersfield Chronicle (26/Jan/1856).
  11. "Meltham: Paid Constable" in Huddersfield Chronicle (02/Feb/1856) and "Appointment of Inspector Sedgwick as Paid Constable for Meltham" in Huddersfield Chronicle (09/Feb/1856).
  12. "Meltham: Prosecution Association" in Huddersfield Chronicle (24/Jan/1857).

Meltham Prosecution Society


Prosecution societies | Societies and associations
This page was last modified on 22 January 2018 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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