Thursday, July 17, 2014

Robert Gregory - a lucky escape

While looking for information about Sarah Gregory's father, Robert Gregory (born c 1806), I came across these interesting snippets of news.

The first comes from "The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser", February 16, 1833, Issue 1169

"Robert Gregory, ostler, was charged by his master with embezzling 8s. The prisoner said he would repay the money if the complainant would take him on again. "I doubt you'd take him in again" said Mr Ald. Lovell. Remanded."
Eight shillings was quite a large sum in those days. Happily for Robert Gregory, his employer seems to have been more lenient than most. The same newspaper reported a week later, Saturday February 23, 1833:

"Robert Gregory (remanded last week) was discharged, his late employer, Mr Buckley Ward, declining to proceed further against him."

The Market Place, Leicester
photo from Djiin 76 on Flickr
Whether this was the same Robert Gregory who later became Sarah's father I have no way of knowing. However, this next piece of news contains a clue which suggests that this time it was quite likely to be Sarah's father Robert:

From the Leicester Chronicle, Saturday, September 29, 1838, Issue 1454

"Robert and William Gregory, of Waterloo St., brothers, were charged with having the following articles in their possession under suspicious circumstances:- A brass kettle holding about five pints; a hand saw; a damask table cloth, 3 3/4 yards long by 2 2/3 yards; one calico sheet, 2 yards long by 1 7/8 yards' one ditto, about two yards square; part of ditto, 2 yards long by 1 1/4 yards; one clean cotton pillow case, and one ditto dirty.
The plea that the prisoners made was their mother had sent the goods from Birmingham to William at Leicester and he had given them to Robert Gregory. Mr Harvey, Market Place, said the latter had lived with him two years and was punctual, sober and honest. - Remanded."

Entrance to Market Place, Leicester, c 1904
Photo from Djinn 76 on Flickr
Later on the same page is the note:

"Robert Gregory, who was brought before the bench on Friday, was discharged. - William Gregory, Rachel Freer and William Gannon were remanded for further examination."

It seems quite probable that this is 'our' Robert Gregory. He married Sarah Harvey in 1826, and so Mr Harvey of Market Place was almost certainly his brother in law, Joseph Harvey.

Apparently it wasn't long before Robert needed Mr Harvey's good services again:

From the Leicester Chronicle, Saturday October 20, 1838, Issue 1457

"Robert Gregory was charged with receiving a quantity of articles of dress belonging to Miss Alice Fox of Castle Donington, knowing them to be stolen. The prisoner, in his defence, maintained the account he gave to the magistrate - that his brother had brought the property for him to sell, telling him that it belonged to their mother who wished it to be sold. Mr Harvey, grocer, Market-place, gave him a good character. Mr Sheen said that during the time Gregory had been in the service of Mr John Ellis, at the Railway Station, both he and Mr Ellis found him to be a steady, honest industrious man. The Jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to two months hard labour - two weeks solitary confinement: the Chairman ... that the punishment was slight on account of his good character."

Two months of hard labour may not seem a 'slight' punishment. But given the crimes with which he was charged, Robert was very fortunate not to have been transported, as the following story illustrates. In 1843, the year that Robert died, two brothers named William and Thomas Gregory appeared in court in Worcester:

From The Leicester Chronicle, Saturday January 14, 1843, issue 1676

"Caution to shopmen: At the Worcester City Sessions on Monday week, two young men, named Thos. and William Gregory, drapers assistants, formerly residents of Leicester, were placed at the bar, the former charged upon three indictments of purloining silk goods to a considerable amount, the property of his employers, Messrs Hill and Turley, and the latter with feloniously receiving some pieces of silk from his brother. To each of the indictments the prisoners pleaded guilty. The Recorder, in passing sentence, observed, that the course they had adopted in pleading guilty was a very wise one, as this most serious charge, as far as he was able to judge from the depositions, was exceedingly clear against them: and it was the more serious with regard to Thomas Gregory inasmuch as he had violated the trust reposed in him as servant of the prosecutors. He then sentenced Thomas Gregory to a fortnight's solitary confinement for each of the first two indictments, and, in conjunction with William Gregory, to be afterwards transported for seven years."

Whether this is the same William Gregory as in the earlier stories is impossible to tell. Perhaps not, as his convict transportation records show that he and Thomas were in their early twenties at the time. They were sent to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) and from there to Geelong in Victoria. The last trace I've found of them is in 1846 when they absconded from their employer while still convicts.

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