In Court

We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t. Here are a few Purseys who got caught!

Perhaps the one who received the stiffest sentence was one Edward Pursey. In March 1828, at the age of 19, he found himself aboard the William Miles bound for Van Dieman’s Land (now Tasmania). He had been convicted the previous September of having stolen a watch from Thomas Larke. His sentence: transportation for 14 years! He was moved to the prison hulk Dolphin at Chatham in October 1827, prior to transportation.

The reason, I suspect, for the harsh sentence, was that it was not his first offence. Two years previously, he had found himself in court for having stolen a quality of rags, value 2/6.

It has taken me a long time to find out whose child Edward was. With the recent publication of various convicts records, I now believe him to be the son of Edward Pursey and Martha Francis Barling. His prison records show Edward junior to have been born in the Royal Naval dockyard town of Sheerness (on the northwest corner of the Isle of Sheppey in northern Kent). Sheerness was also the birthplace of mother Martha. (See Benjamin of Great Castle Street tree.)

In 1839, William Pursey found himself up before the mayor and magistrates at the Basingstoke petty sessions, charged with keeping his beer house open between 10 am and 1 pm on a Sunday. It turned out that whilst there were people in the house, it could not be proved that he had sold an liquor to to them. The case was thrown out. It is no surprise that the informant was the church-warden!

However, the following year, he was convicted for allowing drunkenness in his house on a Saturday night – the second time he had been caught within three months.

Spare a thought for one Francis Pursey who in in the summer of 1851 was caught stealing a spade from a Mr Robert Studley of Uffculme. At the Devon Sessions, he received two months’ hard labour for his pains. [Francis b 1829, was the son on James Pursey and Jane Canniford. His wife’s name was Rhoda.]

Maybe John Pursey of Clayhidon was hungry. In November 1859, he was charged with killing a duck at the Divisional Session’s in Tiverton’s Guildhall. He was examined by the magistrates who were ready to pass sentence but instead he opted for a trial at the Devon general sessions at Exeter Castle. It didn’t help as the following month he was sentenced to six weeks in prison.


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