Friday, July 21, 2017

Henry Bonnett: guess what he stole?

All my mother had heard about her maternal grandfather, Henry Bonnet (1855-1905) was that he was a "bad guy who came to a well-deserved end"... or something like that. At the time I started this research, all we had to go on about the Bonnetts was that they might have been French, Irish, or even gypsies.. Soon put that myth to rest, after finding the Henry Bonnett family had lived in Portsea, Hampshire, but that a couple of generations earlier, all the family lived in Leicestershire. Just a slight side trip to Grantham, Aston, and the south coast.

The only "bad end" I'd been able to find until recently was on Henry Bonnett's death certificate. He died, aged only 49, from "epidemic diarrhea and cardiac failure". That sounds like a bad end, to me.

But... now that we can search online repositories of newspapers, for example here at FindMyPast, I have found some, but not a lot, of evidence of Henry being a Bad Lad.

The Leicester Journal, November 9th, 1877 tells the story. Henry Bonnett, shoe finisher of Leicester, was charged with stealing a standard rose tree, the property of Elizabeth Carr of Belgrave, on the 3rd of November 1877.  Henry was also charged with stealing flower pots and flower trees from a Superintendent Moore, also of Belgrave, on the 30th of October, 1877. The Superintendent said that the flowers and pots had been taken out of his window.

Henry pleaded guilty, and was ordered to pay one pound, twelve shillings and six pence in costs, plus one shilling, the value of the rose tree... or do fourteen days of hard labour. He did the hard labour.

The police officer, P.S. Hawkesworth gave evidence: he said that he went to Henry's home and found the flower trees. When he charged Henry with stealing the flowers and pots, Henry replied, "Yes, I did steal them; I stole them about eleven o'clock at night. I was drunk at the time."

Only stealing flowers? Maybe he was taking them home to his wife, Elizabeth Alice nee Gask, because he felt guilty about going home drunk? I can believe a man will do that when he has been drinking. I think I've received some flowers myself, in similar circumstances. Daffodils from the town park comes to mind.

And that's it. No other dirt--other than in the flowerpots.

(There is one other story about our Henry Bonnett in the newspapers, about the death of one of Henry and Elizabeth's infants, Mabel Gertrude, in Portsea, Hampshire in 1890. It's just a sad obituary.)

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