Robert Workman: An Appleby Criminal

Posted 26th April 2016 by David Lowis

Robert WorkmanRobert Workman was baptized 25 June 1837, Dacre, the son of Thomas and Mary Workman. In the 1841 census Thomas Workman, miller, and his family were living at High Mill, Lorton Cockermouth. The family included Robert aged four. In 1851 the family had moved to Crackenthorpe mill, Appleby by which time the family comprised four sons and a daughter. The family later lived at Cliburn mill, before returning to Appleby parish where Thomas Workman was farming at Colby Laithes, and his son Robert, now 34, was living with his wife, Mary, in Back Wiend, Appleby in the 1871 census. On 30 November 1869, Workman had married widower Mary Nicholson (nee Cockfield), St Lawrence, Appleby. Workman appears to have been mainly employed in farming but by 1867 he had embarked on a life of habitual crime, being sentenced to a total of 9 years 11 months in gaol over the coming years. A Lancaster prison record dated 2 July 1875 describes Robert Workman as aged 38, 5’ 4” in height, with having a cut on his right wrist and intending to reside in Appleby after release. In the 1881 census Workman was an inmate of Lancaster prison and in the 1891 census he was an agricultural labourer at Kirkoswald. Later the same year, on 13 November 1891, Workman was again convicted at Cumberland Winter Assizes to a further nine months. Workman appeared before Penrith Petty Sessions on 12 September 1893 and received three calendar months for failing to report. On 12 February 1894 at Carlisle Assizes he was convicted of stealing a purse and two pounds, the property of Mary Cannon of the parish of Kirkland, for which he received a further 21 calendar months.

Thomas Workman aged 69, Colby Laithes, his father, was buried 30 October 1876, St Lawrence, Appleby. Mary Workman, his wife, died 2 June 1895, Garlands Asylum, Carlisle. Her mental stability was no doubt exacerbated by her husband’s activities. Thomas’s siblings appear to have led honest and respectable lives. The details of his crimes were frequently reported in local newspapers, of which two, relating to offences in Appleby, follow -

Obtaining goods under false pretences
Robert Workman, a young man of respectable appearance (29), described in the calendar as a draper, was charged with obtaining goods of the value of £2 18s 7d, by false pretences, of Wm Salkeld, of Appleby, with intent to cheat and defraud him of the same, on the 15th July instant. Mr Bell, prosecuted, and remarked that as the prisoner was not represented by counsel he would at once call witnesses to prove the case. William Salkeld, the prosecutor, said, - I am a tailor and draper, residing at Appleby. On the 15th July the prisoner came to my shop and said his father had sent him to get a suit of clothes. I asked him who his father was, and he said Mr Workman, of Colby Laithes, near Appleby. I knew his father but, but did not know that he was residing with him. By the Judge – He was reading a letter, and he wanted a suit of clothes. The Judge – Did he say his father would pay for them? Witness- He did. I asked him I if that was a letter from his father to me, and he said his father had sent him and would pay for them. Mr Bell – Would you have given him credit? Witness – I can’t say. I pulled down one piece of cloth after another, and he was rather particular in his choice. He selected a coat and vest off one piece and, and a pair of trousers off another. I was in the act of pulling down a measure, and he said “Oh but I have to take them home to get them made, as we have the tailors in the house to work”. I asked him who the tailor was, and he said Mr Bewley of Cliburn. He turned his back around to show how he wanted them made, and he was not to pinch him as he liked something to mend with. He got the lining for them and a silk handkerchief and hat. My whole bill came to £2 18s 7d. He took the goods away and I booked them to his father. Next day, after dinner, in consequence of something I heard, I went in pursuit of the prisoner, and found him in a little shop in Scattergate, kept by Mrs Eggleston, sitting along with another man. I called him to the door and said “It is you I want”, and asked him what he had made of the suit he got yesterday in his father’s name, and that he had better go with me to the policeman. He said “Where is your warrant” Mrs Eggleston said she had got the goods, and she went upstairs and brought them down, and said she let him have 8s upon them until tomorrow afternoon, and she asked me how she was to get her 8s back again. I said she would get it before the magistrates on Saturday. I took the goods away, and he said if I would go with him to his father I would soon get pay for them. I agreed to do so but as soon as he got to the door he bolted and ran away. I followed and caught him by the neck, and he went down on his knees and begged I would go no further with it. I sent for my son and four of us, including Mrs Eggleston, went with him down to his father’s. As we were going along the road Workman said “You will give me credit till Martinmas” and when we got near the house he bolted into a pig stye, saying “I will see if these pigs have got any bedding” He shut himself in and fell asleep. I called his father’s attention to the circumstances, and he said he never authorised his son to get a suit of clothes in his name. I told him (prisoner) in the presence of his father what he told me. I got all the goods except the hat. Prisoner to witness I got them in my father’s name, but did not with the intention of him paying for them. The Judge – You have heard the statement the prosecutor has made: do you wish to ask any questions to clear it up. Prisoner to witness (Mr Salkeld). – When I called at your shop I said they were not to be booked in my father’s name. The Judge to prosecutor – Are you sure he got them in his father’s name. Witness - I am. Ann Eggleston said she kept a little shop in Scattergate. Workman called about four o’clock. She was just sitting down to tea. He had a parcel of cloth with him, and asked her to buy a suit of clothes for her husband. She said she had no money; and he said he did not want much for them – this he repeated over several times. He opened the goods out, and she asked him what he wanted for them. He said a sovereign, and she said they were of no use to her –she had not got a sovereign. He said perhaps she had got what would do for him; and she said she had only 8s to pay her l…nse on Saturday. She took them, and said her gave a halfpenny back for luck and a penny for the children. The Judge – And you understood you bought them out and … for 8s. Witness I did He said he wanted the money - he was going off. On the following day he came to my house, and had not been in more than two or three minutes when Mr Salkeld came in, and I delivered up the goods. Mr Salkeld said I would get my money back. I did not want to have any trouble over them. Prisoner to witness – I received 8s in part payment for them. The price was 16s. The Judge – Is that so? Witness No I understood I bought the out and out. Prisoner I was in distress at the time and I took the 8s in part payment, and was to receive the other part in a fortnight. The Judge Dis you agree to give him the other 8s? Witness -No Sir. Thomas Workman, father of prisoner, said he did not authorise his son to get the clothes in his name. The Judge - Have you any questions to put to your father? Prisoner I merely wish to ask him if he did not say he would get me a suit of clothes as soon as I got a situation. Witness admitted that he promised him a suit of clothes as soon as he got a situation, but he would have bought and paid for them himself. He had no authority to use his name. Prisoner’s statement before the magistrates was put in evidence, in which he stated that he was in correspondence with …Mr Haydock, near Tebay, for the management of a small farm, and that he was in the meantime engaged to Mr Jackson of Asby, during the hay harvest, for 1/- per week for four or five weeks, and that he intended to have paid for the clothes out of his earnings. The Jury, after a few minutes deliberation, found the prisoner guilty, and his Lordship in passing a sentence of two calendar months with hard labour, said it was a very sad position to see a young man of respectable appearance in. According to appearance he was a person of some education and might have obtained a decent and respectable position of his own. The disgrace would fall upon him alone and not upon his family. He hoped he intended to pay for the clothes, and as it was his first offence he was disposed to take a lenient view of the offence and pass upon him a very light sentence. The Westmorland Gazette 3 August 1867 6a

Theft of a Ham and Bread at Appleby

Robert Workman, aged 37, farm labourer, (reads and writes well), was indicted for having on the 7th of May last, stolen one ham and a loaf and half of bread, of the value of 10s 3d, the property of Thomas Workman at Appleby. The prisoner pleaded guilty. The Hon A.D. Elliott prosecuted; the prisoner was undefended. Mr Elliott, in opening the case, said it was one of a peculiarly painful character, the prisoner being the son of the prosecutor, who was a farmer at Colby Laithes. The prisoner worked upon his father’s farm, and had also a house of his own at Appleby, sometimes sleeping at one place, sometimes at the other. The learned counsel, having briefly stated the outlines of the case, Thomas Workman, an old man who walked upon crutches, deposed that he was the father of the prisoner. On the evening of the 6th of May he (witness) saw the ham (produced) hanging up in his kitchen. He missed it next morning about 6 o’clock. The prisoner, being asked if he had any question to put, stated that on the afternoon of the 5th of May, his father sent his daughter to say that prisoner’s wife (who was very poorly) might have anything she wished. The prosecutor said that prisoner’s wife would not his (prosecutor’s) daughter in. Thomas M’Gaffney said that he lived at Colby Laithes. About five o’clock in the morning of the 7th of May he was in his garden when prisoner passed, and asked him to buy a ham. Witness said 3s 6d was all the money he had got. The prisoner said that he would take that, and prisoner left the ham. The prisoner said his father had sent the ham for his wife that morning; The prisoner also said he was also going to put the money under his door, because his wife was in a weak state of mind. He added he had been at the house before, but he could not get in. Superintendent Parks deposed that he received information from the prosecutor about the theft about half-past eight in the morning of the 7th of May, and shortly afterwards he apprehended prisoner in a public house. He charged him with stealing a ham and some eggs from the prosecutor during the previous night. Prisoner said M’Gaffney had got them, and perhaps if witness went there and got them his father would not prosecute him. Witness went to M’Gaffney’s home, and found the ham, the eggs, and the bread. M’Gaffney, having being recalled, said the prisoner brought the bread and eggs to his house, and said he would leave them and call for them again. The Chairman said witness should have said so before. He was sworn to tell the whole truth. The prisoner now stated that about half-past eleven o’clock on the night of the 6th of May a man named William Wharton (who had been convicted today) was about prosecutor’s premises, and whilst he (prisoner) was temporarily absent from the house, Wharton took the ham and eggs. He followed Wharton to his house, and took the ham and eggs away. The Chairman: Have you any witnesses to call? The prisoner: There is no use calling Wharton. He is forswore. He would swear black was white. (Laughter.) The Chairman briefly summed up, and the jury without hesitation, found the prisoner guilty. The prisoner also pleaded guilty to several previous convictions. Mr Elliott said the prosecutor did not wish a severe punishment inflicted upon the prisoner. He only wished some check to be put upon his misconduct. The Chairman sentenced the prisoner to twelve months’ hard labour, and cautioned him as to his future conduct. M’Gaffney was then called before the Court, and was severely reprimanded by the Chairman, who said he had prevaricated in giving his evidence, and in consequence his expenses would not be allowed. He must also have known very well that the ham was worth a good deal more than the price he gave for it. The Westmorland Gazette 4 July 1874 8c