A Courtroom Drama - The Cast List

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Baldwin Fulford JP

A Magistrate

Thomas Legge

A police constable - the victim

Elizabeth Stentiford

Keeper of The Happy Return

Francis Stentiford

Son of Elizabeth Stentiford

Mr. Jolley MRCS

A Doctor

John Parsons

A Police Sergeant

James Sullivan

The accused

William Burgess

The accused

John McClean 

A customer at The Happy Return

 

The action took place sometime near the end of 1849 in the Magistrate's Court at Tormoham, now known as Torquay. The incidents referred to occurred on the night of 3 December 1849 at the Beer House known as The Happy Return in Pimlico, Torquay.

We know of this incident through notebooks kept by Baldwin Fulford JP. Those covering his court cases in 1849, 1851. 1855 and 1859 still survive in private ownership. Magistrate's courts often took place in informal settings such as a room in an Inn or hotel but there is no record of where this case was heard. There was no legal representation of any kind  - witnesses simply stepped forward one by one and told their tale.  Accused persons had the right to cross-examine witnesses and after all the evidence had been heard, the Magistrate passed sentence. There was no Appeals System and it was not the usual practice to take notes but Baldwin Fulford was obviously a fair-minded and methodical man who noted down the salient points of each witness's testimony in order to help him reach a verdict.

The notebooks have been transcribed by Fay Sampson Priestley who holds the copyright of the transcriptions.

 

NOTES ON THE CAST MEMBERS

Baldwin Fulford JP

At the time of the trial, Mr. Fulford was 45, wealthy and single. He lived with a large household of relatives and servants on an estate called Great Fulford* near Dunsford, some 7 miles west of Exeter. Baldwin Fulford opened a copper mine on his estate in 1848.

Thomas Legge

Aged 37 when he was assaulted, the 1851 Census describes Thomas Legge as a leather worker by trade so perhaps he left the Force after his assault. The Torquay District Police was founded on 3 August 1835 when Mr Charles Kilby was created Principal Constable and two subordinate constables were also appointed. In 1841 five more constables were appointed with Mr Kilby being promoted to Captain of the Force.

Elizabeth Stentiford

Although in the 1851 Census Return, Robert Stentiford is described as Keeper of the Happy Return, he makes no appearance in this drama nor did he on the night in question. It was his wife Elizabeth who is described in court as the Beer House Keeper during the hearing.

Francis Stentiford

Keen readers of the 1955 Hayward-Osborne notes will be surprised to find Francis playing a leading part in this drama, as, according to that document, he died in 1826. Happily this was not so and in 1849 he was a Beer House Keeper himself, trading in the rather inaptly-named Temperance Street on the other side of Union Street.

Mr. Jolley  MRCS

It cannot be said for certain which Mr. Jolly attended the victim in his hour of need - a father and son, both practising surgeons, lived in nearby Abbey Place at this time. The father, William Jolley, is the favoured option as John Jolley is known to have practised in the St. Marychurch area but in an emergency, either may have attended.

John Parsons

In the 1851 Census, John Parsons is described as a policeman by occupation. He is stationed  in St. Marychurch rather than down in the main part of Torquay. His role in this event seems to have been that of the modern-day Custody Sergeant.

James Sullivan

His identity may never be resolved but a favoured option for this James Sullivan is a house carpenter born in nearby Dartmouth who later moved away from Devon. At the time of the incident, this man would have been 24 and could well have been temporarily resident in Torquay  because of the building boom. He would have been in prison at the time of the 1851 Census and is hidden from us by the use of initials instead of convict's names in the Census Return.

William Burgess

Similarly, this man's identity may never be known. He too may have been an itinerant worker or crew member of a fishing vessel. Neither Sullivan or Burgess shows on the 1851 Census of Devon.

John McClean 

The most likely candidate to be this person, who is only referred to during evidence as having been present, is a John McClean whose mother was an Innkeeper in Torquay. He was 25 at the time.

 

* An Extract from Murray's Handbook for Devon 1859:

"Fulford House dates from the reign of Elizabeth and is situated in a large well-timbered park. The estate has been the seat of the Fulfords since the time of Richard I."

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  Last modified:
30/09/2005