Matthew Goodden of Abergavenny: toll gate entrepreneur, forger of railway tickets

We have published a few previous posts about Roger’s work as a cataloguing volunteer.  In the following post, Roger tells us about another recent discovery in the records of the Thornsett Turnpike Trust:

A document in this collection which made me curious was an invoice from Matthew Goodden of Abergavenny for water and gas supplied to a Thornsett toll house: why might someone living in Abergavenny have a commercial interest in a toll gate situated in New Mills? In turnpike days entrepreneurs made a business out of toll collection. Local turnpike trusts would let out toll collection to the highest bidder: the lessee, having paid a fee, expected that the money they collected in tolls would amount to substantially more than the fee. Matthew Goodden was one such lessee.

From census records and a baptism register it is clear that Matthew Goodden was born in Yeovil, son of a toll collector. As a youth he collected tolls at Smallway gate, Castle Cary, close to the Galhampton gate operated by his father. The subsequent development of Matthew Goodden’s enterprise, not only with toll roads but also with toll bridges, can be traced through historic newspapers.  His name, sometimes under alternative spellings of Godden or Gooden, appears in local newspapers particularly through his appearances before local magistrates: characteristically as accused or accuser in disputes with travellers. One interpretation might be that he was a man who gave offence and took offence easily. An alternative is that disagreements about the toll payable were inevitable given the ambiguities in toll schemes. Disputes might easily arise given different tolls, for example, for a chaise in private use and a cart carrying goods. How should a journey be charged if a cart passed through a gate only to return loaded with goods a few minutes later? No toll was to be charged for someone riding to church: but did that concession apply to someone claiming to be travelling to a distant church when their local parish church was accessible without passing through the toll gate?

As a young man Matthew Goodden appears to have had interests in the south west of England. The parish register entry for his marriage in 1846, the subsequent baptisms of three children and the census of 1851 show that within a few years he lived in toll houses at Heavitree, near Exeter; West Lydford, Somerset; Nubbis Ash near Cam, Gloucestershire and Downside, Shepton Mallett. An announcement of Matthew Goodden’s temporary insolvency in the London Gazette in 1856 lists further toll houses in Gloucestershire where he had worked: Hawbridge at Deerhurst; Mythe and Ashchurch near Tewkesbury. By 1861 he was at Dowdeswell near Cheltenham: his first wife Hannah Mundy was buried there in 1862. Later Ann Williams, a young woman from Dowdeswell, became Matthew Godden’s “wife”.

With his brother Robert, Matthew Goodden acquired interests beyond the south western counties. In 1853 they faced magistrates in Dorset about a dispute at a toll gate at the Passage Bridge, Portland and magistrates in Wiltshire about a dispute payment at the Devizes Green turnpike. In the 1860s Matthew Goodden’s name appears in connection with toll roads in Hornsey and South Newington in London and Shavers End on the road from Dudley to Wolverhampton. Perhaps the brothers over-reached themselves: in 1866 they were formally ejected from a contract in relation to a turnpike road near Huddersfield. It is around this time that Matthew Goodden is described as living at the Old Brewery toll gate in Dudley; here at some point a new partner, Harriet Hill, joined Matthew Goodden‘s household. She had been the wife of a fellow toll collector the Dudley area. By 1874 Matthew Goodden had become lessee of tolls for a road in Abergavenny and the census taken in 1881 shows him and Ann living at the toll house on Brecon Road Abergavenny: later they lived at nearby Gilwern. Toward the end of the nineteenth century the practice of providing for road construction and maintenance through tolls was discontinued. But some bridges remained subject to tolls and Matthew Gooden was able to continue as a toll collector at the Glangwryney (or Llangrwyney) bridge over the River Usk in the parish of Llangenny between Crickhowell and Abergavenny. The Llangenny parish registers are available on line and record that Matthew Goodden died at Glangwryney in 1903. He was succeeded as toll collector by his brother Robert, who not only moved into the toll cottage but also married Harriet Hill just ten weeks after Matthew Goodden’s death.

Clearly Matthew Goodden’s interests in turnpikes at various locations across England and Wales involved him in substantial travel. It is ironic that a man who made his living from road users made much use of the railways. While travelling on their trains he was not above taking the railway companies for a ride. At Gloucester Assizes in 1859 he appeared with his brothers having boasted about travelling by train without a ticket. In 1868 he was convicted of a similar offence by magistrates at Dudley. Then on a Friday evening in December 1870 at Derby Midland station Matthew Godden’s ticket for a journey from Rotherham to Smethwick was inspected by a railway employee Levi Till. He was immediately suspicious: Smethwick was not a Midland Railway Company station and that company did not issue such a ticket. The subsequent events were widely reported in local newspapers across the country. Matthew Goodden was taken into police custody: a number of tickets were found in his pockets as well as letters, numbers, a printing frame and ink. He was also holding about £190 in cash, said to be toll receipts. In his bedroom at the Old Brewery toll house were found about one thousand forged railway tickets, with names of a variety of stations, together with rolls of paper, printing materials and ink. Some genuine tickets were also found, bearing alterations to dates and destinations. At Derby Assizes the prosecution failed to persuade the court that a charge of forgery was appropriate: Matthew Goodden pleaded guilty to misusing tickets and was imprisoned for two years. The sentence was served in Nottingham prison. He was caught again in July 1890, travelling by train from Abergavenny to Hereford. At Hereford Assizes he was this time convicted of forgery and sentenced to twelve months in prison. He served the sentence in Hereford prison.

John Kenyon Winterbottom: turnpike trust clerk, not wholly trustworthy

We have published a few previous posts about Roger’s work as a cataloguing volunteer.  In the following post, Roger tells us about some recent discoveries:

In the mid-nineteenth century the Thornsett Turnpike Trust managed a number of roads in and around New Mills. Some Trust records have survived in Derbyshire Record Office collection D535, and in the course of listing these records I have come across two small documents that made me curious. The first is a letter written in 1844 by Edward Reddish, clerk to the trust, to Ebenezer Adamson, treasurer. Reddish mentions a “hiatus” in the books between 1840 and 1843 “following the absconding” of John Kenyon Winterbottom. Winterbottom was a Stockport solicitor who amongst many public offices undertook the duties of clerk to a number of turnpike trusts. He was for a time town clerk of Stockport and a local magistrate. He was a founding partner in a local bank and his was one of the names printed on that bank’s banknotes. His story is remarkable, not only for what happened but also for the amount of information available to anyone wanting to discover his story.

Through digital collections of historic British newspapers it is possible to follow the story of his downfall.  By 1840 he was facing financial difficulty. Under threat of bankruptcy he absconded. There were rumours that he had been seen on the quayside at Liverpool close to a ship bound for America. An alternative speculation was that he had gone to France. He was found to have forged signatures in order to receive payment of £5,000 from the life insurance policy of one of his former clients. After four years’ absence Winterbottom returned to Liverpool where he was recognised and arrested. He was convicted of the forgery and sentenced to transportation for life.

It was the practice that any pleas for mitigation of sentence were made not at the trial but subsequently to the Home Secretary. One consequence is that amongst the Home Office records held at Kew (National Archives series HO 18 and HO 19) are the many petitions and letters submitted on Winterbottom’s behalf.  (Some Home Office records are included in a data set called “England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935” on www.findmypast.co.uk, which can be used free of charge in Derbyshire Record Office or your local Derbyshire library.) The sentence provoked such disquiet that within weeks petitions signed by some 20,000 residents of Stockport, Liverpool and Manchester were submitted: signatories included almost every magistrate, clergyman and businessman of Stockport and district. Poignantly there were letters not only from Winterbottom’s wife but also from his victim, the widow who had trusted Winterbottom to deal with her late husband’s estate.

The sentence was not changed and aged in his mid-fifties Winterbottom was taken first to Millbank prison in London and then to the penal colony of Norfolk Island and ultimately in 1847 to Tasmania.  Convict records survive in Kew (National Archives series HO 10 and HO 13) and several records are available on Find My Past or Ancestry (also available for free to visitors here).  During this time there were further fruitless appeals by Winterbottom himself and by associates in England: a final petition was submitted in 1852, accompanied by testimonials to Winterbottom’s exemplary conduct written by senior members of staff and visiting magistrates at Norfolk Island and Tasmania. Winterbottom followed an established sequence: work at the penal colony followed by confinement at a probation station and assignment to local civilian employers. In 1855 he was granted the relative freedom of a ticket of leave.

By 1857 Winterbottom had sufficiently re-established himself in Hobart that in competition with fourteen others he was appointed town clerk of Hobart. A further digital collection, of Australian newspapers, is valuable: trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper.  It is clear from reports of a meeting of Hobart town council that by 1867, when Winterbottom reached the age of 78, there were misgivings about his work as town clerk. But how might the aldermen challenge their venerable old servant? They broached the subject by suggesting that he should take some leave; then made a formal request for his resignation, with a pay-off of a year’s salary. But it seems that once the aldermen had openly voiced their misgivings others were freed to speak. Within a week the aldermen learned that two years earlier Winterbottom had sold council debentures and kept the £400 payment for himself. He was allowed a few days’ grace but did not repay the money. In court he pleaded not guilty but offered his advocates nothing substantial as a defence. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years imprisonment which he served in Hobart prison. He was released in September 1869, a few months after his eightieth birthday and appears to have lived in Hobart until his death in 1872.

 

Arch I’ve Conserved

Join us here at the Record Office on Thursday 23 November from 10.30 to 12.00 to celebrate Explore Your Archives week with a talk and demonstration on how we repair paper and parchment documents.  It’s a free event, but with limited places, so booking is essential. The easiest way to book a place is via our Eventbrite page, or call us on 01629 538347.

Please be aware that although the talk will be delivered in a room accessible via a lift,  the conservation studio – where the practical demonstration will be held – is on the second floor and can only be reached via stairs.

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Christmas shopping made easy

Have you started shopping for presents yet?  It’s that time of year again when we’re all racking our brains, trying to come up with something original for loved ones who already seem to have everything.  To help you be super-organised, we’re offering 50% off our Adopt A Piece of History scheme throughout November. That means that during November:

  • You can adopt any one of our 50 Treasures for only £10.00. They include our oldest record from 1115, a railway plan, a gardening book, a parish register, a beautifully hand-drawn map, ramblers guides, a Rolls Royce photograph, an artist’s tools and many more (see the full list on our 50 Treasures page).  Simply fill in the form, tell us whose name to put on the certificate and we’ll email it to you.

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  • You can adopt anything at all from our collections for only £17.50. The parish register that mentions great-great-grandparents, an old map of a well-loved area, your favourite of our Woodward cartoons, an old school log book – feel free to browse our catalogue for inspiration.  Again, simply fill in the form giving us the reference number and a brief description of the item, as well as the name to put on the certificate, and we’ll email it to you.

 

  • You can let someone become a part of Derbyshire’s history for only £50.00.  Choose any item from our collections and tell us the reason for the adoption.  We will add your reason to the certificate and the adoption itself will be recorded in our official Register of Adopters, thereby immortalising the recipient, you and the reason for the adoption.

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Full details of the scheme are on our Adopt A Piece of History page.