Court Reports

Where is Mr John Purssey?

So asked the South London Chronicle in April 1870.

John was a son of John [and Elizabeth Birdeye], the youngest son of Stogumber farmer George Purssey and his wife Elizabeth Pinn.

John senior was a successful meat salesman at London’s Smithfield market. Building on his father’s business, he became a pillar of the community. But in 1870, something happened to cause the press to become interested, reflecting public speculation that he had fled to Spain.

Before his disappearance, he withdrew 200 sovereigns from the bank – seemingly, his last savings. The Chronicle reported that the “Local Commissioners met to consider the case” hearing that “beginning with the British Bank failure, Mr Purssey has sustained losses … amounting to about £7,000”.

What caused the intense public interest was that John Purssey was also a tax collector and so the Chronicle noted, “a very awkward question will arise … for according to the Inland Revenue, the default of a collector is held to his liabilty of the taxpayers”.

In June following, John’s case was heard by the Chief Judge. John chose not to appear but the court heard that he owed £3,000, of which £2,000 was due in taxes. The Judge ruled that he could be prosecuted by his creditors.

So what did happen to him? There’s little trace of him after this report. Son John Charles, an unmarried corn merchant is found living with his mother and John’s wife Mary [Pay] (annuitant) in Queen’s Road, Marylebone, in 1881.


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