Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Another naughty boy (or boys): William Frost

I am not yet 100% certain that this is "my" William Frost, nor that all the naughtiness can even be attributed to any one William Frost. I'm still searching the newspaper archives and, when possible, court records for evidence.

I have two Williams who might be the guilty parties, or it might be one first, then the other. Or neither, as there are several other William Frosts in and around Leicestershire at the same time.

My fourth great-grandfather William Frost, grandfather of Sarah Frost, was born somewhere in Leicestershire, probably Knighton or Wigston, in 1778. His son William, my fourth great-uncle, was born on in June 1805 in Wigston and baptised at Wigston Magna church on 23rd June. Sometime between 1812 and 1815, the family had moved to Blaby, and before 1841, they had moved to Leicester, living on Wheat Street on the night of the 1841 census.

In 1808, one William Frost was tried in the Leicestershire Summer court session for Highway Robbery. He was acquitted.

While William the younger was alive at this time, he's hardly likely to have been mistaken for Dick Turpin at three years old, so if indeed either of my Willam Frosts were brought before the judge, we have to assume it was William the elder.

Then on July 29th, 1848, the Leicestershire Mercury reports, in their Leicester Police Courts column, that:

"William Frost, framework-knitter, of Leicester, was charged with taking fish from a brook in Bradgate park, the property of the Earl of Stamford, on Saturday morning. Defendant had set a number of night lines in the brook, and was seen by the keeper about two o'clock in the morning in the act of taking them up; he had ninety lines in his possession, and seventeen fish, principally trout. Fined 40s., including the value of the fish, and costs: in default, one month to hard labour."

William the elder, having died in February a year earlier, can't be blamed for this one. William the younger, who in the 1841 census gave his occupation as a framework knitter, and in the 1851 census said he was a stocking maker (which meant he was knitting stockings on a framework knitting machine), he would have been 46, a good age to be a poacher.

Who wouldn't want to go and catch trout in Bradgate Park? What a nice evening escape from the city.

Corner of Providence Place and Christow Street prior to demolition, 1955: Copyright Dennis Calow, shared under Creative Commons licensing
William the younger didn't marry: he was living with his 85-year-old shoemaker mother Mary nee Bryan, in 1861, at 26 Providence Place. Providence Place was in the area of Wharf Street, connected to Christow Street, not far from Wheat Street. Remember: the houses almost new, then, not ready to be torn down.

By 1871, William was an inmate of the Union Workhouse... where many years later, Sarah gave birth to her son, also called William. Which makes you wonder if William the baby were named after his grandad.

(If you have found evidence to tie either of these crimes definitively to either of my Williams, or to another, please leave a comment! There were other William Frosts in the county, and so far I have only circumstantial evidence.)

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