Incendiarism at Sawbridgeworth

From the Times, 2nd March 1860 (page 11, column e)




Criminal Trials-SPRINGHAM, Daniel, and others, for Incendiarism


CROWN SIDE. - (Before Mr. Justice WIGHTMAN.)

Daniel SPRINGHAM 15, Joseph BRACE, 15,  John MARSH, 16, and Charles BRETT, 16,  four labouring youths were charged with maliciously and feloniously setting fire to a stack of straw, the property of James HOUGHTON.

Mr. Murphy prosecuted; the prisoners were defended by Mr. Codd.

The prosecutor is a farmer at Sawbridgeworth, and on the 27th of December, about half-past 7 o'clock in the evening, a stack of straw upon the farm was discovered to be on fire and it was totally consumed. It appeared that there had been another fire on the farm about two months before, and on both occasions all the prisoners made themselves very active in endeavouring to render assistance. In consequence of something that afterwards transpired, they were taken into custody, when Springham said, "I was no worse than the other three; I went with them and we did it." 'The prisoner Marsh made a similar statement, and also said, "We all four got over into the field where the stacks stood. Springham and Brace pulled a hole in the stack; Springham and Brace set light the straw, and we all four ran off to Highwick-green." The prisoner Brace afterwards said that it was of no use telling a lie about it; he did go with the other three and set fire to the stack. He said that he was standing at the blacksmith's shop, when Springham came to him and said "What do you say to going and setting fire to old Jemmy Houghton's straw stacks? He has not paid us yet for working at the last fire."

MR. Codd, in his address to the jury, urged that there was no proof of malice and that the proceeding was merely the act of foolish, mischievous boys.

HIS  LORDSHIP, in summing up, said that it was not necessary in such a case to prove malice in the ordinary seem of the  word, and if the jury believed that the act was purposely done from wrong and  mischievous motive, that was all the law required to support the charge.

The jury found the prisoners Guilty but recommended them strongly to mercy on account of their youth.

HIS LORDSHIP sentenced Springham and Brace to be kept in a reformatory for five years, and the others to be kept to forced labour for two years.

This item was kindly provided by John Paul Bradford (johnpaul.bradford @t

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