HAWKINS, Hertford Jail, 1871

October, 2013





Mike Baldwin (mikebaldwin @t talktalk.net) of  Rothley, Leicestershire writes: I have located my great grand father, Charles Hawkins, was in the county jail at Hertford in1871 from the 1871 census. Where  can I find any additional information of the why he was in jail. Also are their any pictures of the jail.

When you looked at the census returns did you notice that Charles Hawkins' brother John was also in Hertford Prison? There was also a William Hankin (as indexed - but should this be Hawkins?) in the prison who is almost certainly his brother William.  I am afraid my Great Grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, may have been "responsible" for the three of them being there. In February 1871 they had been caught poaching on Hammonds Farm, Sandridge, and while I don't have a copy of the press report my summary notes, collected when researching my family connections with the area some years ago, read:

William, John and Charles Hawkins found guilty of poaching on Mr Reynolds' Farm [Hammonds Farm, Sandridge] - Witness  William Minall a labourer in the employ of Mr Reynolds. The poachers also entered Mr [Jonathan] Coxís and Mr Thraleís fields.

Herts Advertiser 12th March, 1871

I checked the British Newspaper Archive (which does not yet include any St Albans papers for this period)  and found a report in the Luton Times and Advertiser of 12th March, 1871. The case came up at the Liberty Petty Sessions (Magistrates Court), St Albans on 7th March, before F. A. McGeachy, Esq., in the chair; H. H. Toulmin, Esq., H. J. Toulmin, Esq., G. R. Martin Esq. and T. Kinder, Esq. and details were published under the headline "The Poacher's Manor"

William Hawkins (26), John Hawkins (22) and Charles Hawkins (17), three brothers, were all charged with trespassing in search of game on the 22nd ult.

The defendants did not attend.

Police-constable Day proved the service of the summons.

William Minall, a labourer, in the employment of Mr Reynolds, proved the offence.


There was then a technical discussion really irrelevant to the offence except that PC Day said:

The prosecutor sometimes lays the information. In this case he [presumably Jacob Reynolds] sent for me and told me to lay on information. I told him I would do so. ....

The Chairman: Did the defendants say anything when they were served with the summons?

Witness [PC Day]: They stated that they thought they were entitled to go poaching, and made a joke about it. They admitted that they had some rabbits and they had been on the land in question. I told them that they has a good cheek to go over five different persons' ground, and they replied that they reckoned it was their manor.

Charles and William were fined 40s and 8s 4d costs, with the alternative of two months imprisonment, and John 20s and 1s 4d costs, or in default one month's imprisonment, with hard labour.

Points to note:

My personal newspaper files only contain references I thought were relevant at the time - but as this photocopy shows I found one later offence, by John Hawkins and a John Warby. The cutting comes from the Herts Advertiser of 13th December, 1873, and again involved Hammonds Farm, which was now occupied by Mr. Joseph Clark, Jacob Reynolds having moved to Heath Farm, Sandridge.


As you will notice, three previous convictions are recorded against John Hawkins and he got the heavier fine, John Warby being a first time offender.


The Hawkins family was large, and an elder brother was James Hawkins. The Herts Mercury of 28th April 1866 reported cases before the Hertford Magistrates. On the 11th April Alfred Bunnage, James Hawkins and William Hawkins were caught trespassing in search of rabbits on William Horn's [Handside] Farm, Hatfield (William Horn was another relative of mine). The following day William Hawkins was caught again on another Hatfield farm, while on the 13th James Hawkins and Alfred Bunnage were caught in search of game at Essendon.


There may well be other court cases relating to members of the the family (and their companions in crime) in the Hertfordshire papers in the British Newspaper Archive, which can also be accessed via FindMyPast. HALS will probably have official court records, and may have prison records as well. They also have bound copies or mircofilms of old newspapers which have not yet been scanned onto the British Newspaper Archive, but the microfilms of the Herts Advertiser are in the St Albans Central Library.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

October 2013   Page created