Monday, August 11, 2014

John Orton (1813-1880) - a reckless driver

In October 1861 John Orton of Husbands Bosworth was charged with 'over-driving a horse'. A witness claimed that his pony cart had been going "at a furious pace" near Lubenham (about 4 miles from Husbands Bosworth), maybe as much as 10 miles per hour, with John thrashing the poor pony relentlessly.

The witness, a gentleman by the name of Captain George Ashby Ashby Esq (sic), having failed to stop the driver or obtain his name, went to the police in Husbands Bosworth, where the pony cart was headed. The policeman, hearing the story, said 'he thought he knew who it was'. They both proceeded to follow John Orton, still thrashing his horse, to his house where Captain Ashby identified him. 

The Cherry Tree, Little Bowden (near Market Harborough)
image by Mat Fascione
In court, PC Farmer claimed that John was drunk, "his hat being to one side and nearly off". John called to his defence the proprietor of the Cherry Tree Inn in Market Harborough, who said that John had been perfectly sober when he left there at half past six. John Shirves, who had seen John Orton at the Crown Inn in Theddingworth, said he had been perfectly sober when he left there at 8 o'clock. And Esther Fox, who was charing at the Crown Inn, agreed that John Orton had left there 'perfectly sober'.

The judge decided he could give no opinion on the charge of drunkeness "since if the defendent was drunk it was at Bosworth and if riotous it was at Lubbenham." He ordered John be fined 10 shillings and 14 shillings costs on the first charge of over-driving his horse.

John Orton, born in 1813, was a colourful character. We've seen already that in 1841 he and Mary Ann Brown were married in Birmingham, although John was from Husbands Bosworth and Mary Ann from the nearby North Kilworth. Whether this was because he was working in Birmingham, or because they experienced some opposition to the marriage we'll never know. Thomas Brown Orton, their first child, was born early in 1842.

19th century tool bench
John followed his father (also called John) into carpentry. He seems to have have been successful enough at his trade to employ others, but not always without friction. In December 1842, a young apprentice named William Rose complained to the Court of Petty Sessions that John Orton had beaten him, refused to pay him for five weeks' work and kept his clothing when he dismissed him. John's defence was that he had only given a 'gentle clout or two' to the lad's head when he misbehaved. The court determined that Rose should pay for his board, and that John Orton should return the clothing he'd seized and pay the expenses. A week later a warrant was issued against John Orton for not complying with the Magistrate's decision, but the outcome isn't recorded.

In March 1843 a John Orton, aged 29, of Husbands Bosworth, was charged with another man named George Glover of the more serious offence of assaulting a police officer. They had apparently been drunk at the time that the policeman, Thomas Bailey, called at the house in Husbands Bosworth to investigate the noise they were making. If the newspaper is to be believed, the policeman was close to death for a few days from the injuries he received. Both men were sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. 

At this point Mary Ann would probably have been pregnant with William John (born about 1844). Their first three children (Thomas, William and Lucy Ann) were all baptised on the same day in 1845, presumably after John returned home.

A one-line item in the Leicester Chronicle records that John was back in court in 1846 charged with non-payment of wages. He was ordered to pay. Perhaps he became quieter for a while - the only record of him between then and his reckless driving charge in 1861 was when he served on a jury in Husbands Bosworth in 1849.

The Leicester Chronicle mentions John once more in 1869 when he was in dispute with a William Gimson, a timber dealer of Leicester, over a load of hay which John had sold to him to offset the cost of some timber. The hay, it seems, was of poor quality and not worth anything like the 5 pounds per ton that John had claimed. 

John appears listed as a carpenter and wheelwright in various directories of Leicestershire and Rutland in the 1860s and 1870's. In the newspaper article in 1869 and in the 1871 census he is described as a builder. He died in 1880, at the age of 67. No probate is recorded.

It is worth noting that John had several namesakes in Leicestershire. One of these was born in 1791 and lived in Husbands Bosworth in 1841. He was married to Sophia and is described on the census as an "F. W Knitter W". He and Sophia had moved to Blaby by 1851. 

Another John Orton, born about 1817 in South Kilworth, was a carpenter and his first wife was called Mary, which is obviously a possible source of confusion. However he remained in South Kilworth all his life. He is mentioned in a couple of newspaper articles as John Orton of South Kilworth. All the articles I have used above specifically refer to John Orton of Husbands Bosworth.

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