Gloucestershire’s County Petty Sessions records have numerous examples of people brought before magistrates for poaching offences, but this return from December 1833 is unusually detailed and colourful.
Edwin E. Page, an attorney-at-law from Wick and Abson, was charged with trespassing in search of game in Bean Wood, Wapley and Codrington, on land occupied by Sir C.B. and Captain Codrington. The case was heard at the Petty Sessions court on 27 December 1833, which was held at the Cross Hands Inn, in Old Sodbury. The defendant did not attend, although constable John Fussell assured the Bench that a summons had been handed to Page.
John Evans, a labourer of Wapley and Codrington, deposed that he was in the woods on 7 October, when he saw Mr Edwin Page with a gun and three dogs, and two other men beating for game. The two men ran when they saw Evans, and the accused came out of the wood. Evans put his hand on Page’s chest and told him he was trespassing. Page responded, “Don’t thee do that no more or I’ll shoot thee.” Evans cried, “For God’s sake, don’t shoot me!” He and Page then went to Francis Evans (John Evans’ father), described here as a labourer, but in other cases he is said to be a deputy gamekeeper.
Francis Evans stated that the accused gave his name and address as Charles Slade of Westgate Buildings, Bath, but, Evans said, “he was certain that he had made no mistake in the name as he made a note inside his hat, which he later copied into his memorandum book.” It is unclear from this whether Evans wrote the name down as Slade, or whether he recognised Page and wrote down his correct name.
Page was fined £1, to be paid to the overseer of the poor at Wapley and Codrington, and £1 6s costs to be paid to the informer (James Harrison, gamekeeper to Sir C. B. Codrington). Page was given until 13 January 1834 to pay, or in default he was to serve one calendar month in Horsley House of Correction.
It may be that Page was a frequent offender, or at least that indulging in a spot of poaching ran in the family. Another case had been heard at the Old Cross Hands Inn at Old Sodbury on 6 December, when Edwin Page, gentleman, of Pucklechurch, was accused of trespassing on land at Shortwood, occupied by John Haskins. As in the other case, the accused did not appear. A witness who kept pheasants there said that on 4 October 1833, he saw two men with three dogs on the land. The witness knew one man, and the other identified himself as Edwin Page. When Page was asked if his intention was to kill the witness’s pheasants, he replied that he would if he saw them.
Page was fined 10 shillings, to be paid to the overseer of the poor, and £1 9s. 9d, costs, to be paid to John Haskins, or in default one month in Horsley House of Correction.
I have been unable to find out whether Edwin E. Page and Edwin Page were the same person, or whether they were related. Either way, it seems that this was a case of men of a certain social class who would sometimes trespass on other people’s land in pursuit of game, and were not too concerned if they were caught, as they had no trouble paying the fines given to them.
Sources: The original records are at Gloucestershire Archives, Quarter Sessions Records, Petty Sessions (Q/PC2). On this occasion, I made use of Irene Wyatt’s book, Calendar of Summary Convictions at Petty Sessions, 1781-1837, Gloucestershire Record Series Volume 22, published by The Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 2008.