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.

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Rediscovered: plans of Osmaston Manor, 1850-1873

It happens this way in archives sometimes.  One minute, you are moving a roll of plans from one shelf to another, and carefully keeping a record of its new location; the next, you are rediscovering some long-lost treasure*.

It was in 1978 that we acquired collection D1849, the archives of the Osmaston Estate.  The collection includes rent books, tenancy papers, some plans and photographs, and family papers of the Walker family, which acquired Osmaston Manor after the death of Francis Wright (1806-1873).  A list for the collection was circulated soon afterwards.  However, entry D1849/14 on that list, (“Osmaston Manor plans”) had no descriptive details, and our internal record to say which shelf held the plans said only “number not used”.

As I intimated above, the plans were re-discovered when there was a need to rationalise some of our storage.  That is the good news.  The bad news is the state they were in:

D1849 14 Osmaston Manor plans.JPG

As carefully as I could, I took a few minutes to have a look at them, so as to add some details to the catalogue.  The relevant entry now reads:

D1849/14: Plans of Osmaston Manor, 1850-1873.

Approximately 20 architectural plans and sketches of building works. Most of the plans bear the name of Francis Wright Esq.  Including:
-Plan of Osmaston Manor showing pipeage
-Section drawing showing details of cresting on conservatory
Details of windows on proposed lodge at village entrance (rough, in pencil) at scale 1.5 inches to 1 foot
-Elevation of flag tower
-Plans of fountain
-Section drawing showing “bridge across the back road”. Signed by Henry Isaac Stevens, architect, dated 18 Feb 1850.
-Plan of stable court and surrounding buildings at scale 1 inch: 8 feet. Stamped “Butterley Ironworks” on the reverse
These items are in poor condition and cannot be produced until conservation work has been completed.

I cannot be any less vague about the details, and for once it’s not my fault – if I had spent any longer trying to inspect the goods, I would only have worsened their condition.  Lien, our Senior Conservator, has had a look at the plans and will be deciding how best to render them fit for use in future.  That may be a long-term project, but an early stage will be to get the plans stable enough to photograph or scan, so people can view them on the computers in our searchroom.

It makes sense that at least one of the plans is stamped “Butterley Ironworks” – in 1830, Wright had become senior partner in the Butterley Company, “which he dominated for the next forty-three years”, according to his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.  The same source takes the view that “the outward sign of Wright’s success was the building of a great country house, Osmaston Manor, outside Ashbourne, in 1846–9”.

And if you want to show off your success by erecting buildings, you hire the best architect you can find.  In Wright’s case, it was Henry Isaac Stevens of Derby (1806-1873 – yes, his years of birth/death really are the same as Francis Wright’s).  I only saw the signature of Stevens on one of the plans, which was dated 1850, but at least some of the others will be his work, and given the dates of construction mentioned in the DNB, I feel sure that the 1850 plan will not be the oldest in the bundle.

Osmaston Manor was demolished in the 1960s.  You can find out more about it on the Osmaston Park website, which describes what this location has to offer as a wedding venue.

*”treasure” is an over-worked term when it comes to news of archival discoveries, so I’m sorry for using.  But the truth is, it’s ALL treasure to somebody, or we wouldn’t be keeping it!

Bills, bills, bills…

Roger is one of a number of cataloguing volunteers who have been putting a great deal of work into collection D769, deriving from the practice of Taylor Simpson & Mosley, Solicitors, of Derby.  The collection includes a large number of maps which have been listed and available for many years, and an ever larger number of boxes which have never seen the light of day, because they have never been listed.  The volunteers have been going through some of these boxes in a bid to change all that.  Roger writes:

Amongst the documents in one box is a remarkable collection of invoices which record the debts owed by one Robert Curzon at the time of his accidental death in 1873. Robert Curzon and his wife Charlotte lived at Alvaston, although Robert Curzon’s duties as a captain in the Sussex Militia required him to spend time at the regimental barracks in Chichester.

Contemporary newspapers record that toward the end of September 1873, Robert and Charlotte Curzon went to a shooting party in Leicestershire. On their return journey the horse pulling their trap grew restive as they passed through the village of Diseworth. The trap overturned. Robert and Charlotte Curzon were thrown out, sustaining head injuries. Charlotte Curzon recovered but Robert Curzon died two days later, aged 32.

Some 250 invoices submitted after his death give a vivid indication of the breadth of Robert Curzon’s expenditure and the extent of credit he enjoyed during the months, and in many cases the years, before his death. Alongside the invoices are documents showing that Robert Curzon’s estate was not sufficient to meet the debts and his brothers took responsibility, in the process taking a bank loan of £3,000.

The retailers and suppliers represented include fishmongers, bakers, grocers, butchers, fruiterers, ale, wine and spirit merchants; florists and nurserymen; surgeons, dentists, chemists and hairdressers; drapers, glass, china and furniture merchants; tailors, dressmakers, hat makers, boot and shoe makers; jewellers, optical suppliers, watch and clockmakers; tobacconists; coach builders, cab hirers and livery stables; veterinary surgeons, blacksmiths, saddlers, harness makers, fishing tackle makers and gun and ammunition merchants; music suppliers, photographers and a portrait painter; taxidermists; hoteliers; newsagents, a theatre ticket agent, a library, booksellers and stationers; umbrella and cane makers; a timber merchant, plumbers, builders and ironmongers. There is even an invoice from Alvaston toll gate listing outstanding turnpike tolls. A handful of items give details of payments to servants and employees.

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Although many suppliers are from Derby there are many from London, and some from Chichester. Further afield are a jeweller and a taxidermist in Inverness; an antique dealer and livery stables in York; wine merchants in Leeds, Cologne and Bordeaux; and a portrait painter from Richmond, Surrey. A few items are in the form of note books, holding a chronological running record of goods supplied. The collection offers a colourful variety of printed billheads with decorative texts and illustrations. A few twenty-first century household names appear amongst the suppliers: W H Smith, newsagents, and Benson & Hedges, tobacconists, are immediately recognisable.

The invoices might provide a number of research opportunities. Many show abundant detail, such that it would be possible to construct a chronology of the daily life and travels of Robert Curzon over a period of at least twelve months. The detail might be of interest to students of domestic economy and those interested in the range amount and cost of foodstuffs available to a specific household in the 1870s. There are detailed invoices from chemists showing the supply of everyday household remedies; from nurserymen with specific information about plants and seeds supplied, and from tailors and dressmakers.

School admission records now online – including the mighty Steve Bloomer!

Have you ever wondered where your ancestors went to school?  If so, now might be a good time to emit a chirrup of joy, because Derbyshire’s contribution has been added to the ever-growing mass of information in the National School Admission Registers and Log-books dataset on http://www.findmypast.co.uk.  I had a tinker with it a few days ago and managed to find the admission record of Derby County legend Steve Bloomer.  Before he earned any of his 23 England caps, or scored any of his 297 league goals for the club, he was a pupil at Peartree Boys School in Derby.  His entry in the admission register is at the very bottom of this image: you can see he was born in Cradley Heath, and was the son of Caleb Bloomer, a smith.

SBloomer

School log books are also included in the project.  Now, anyone who has tried combing through a log book looking for references to their forebears as pupils will know that the odds are not so good.  But that is what makes the ease of searching by name so attractive – a quick check is all it takes, because the names that are mentioned in the log books have been indexed.  If one of your ancestors ever worked as a teacher, or a monitor, or as a pupil-teacher, the references can be quite illuminating – one headteacher writes: “Winifred Roberts and Edith Yates have been appointed monitors at £6 per annum from 1 Dec 1899.  If they can pass the Government Examination they will be paid as a 1st year Pupil Teacher from 1 Jan 1900”. (Don’t worry, they passed the exam – I checked.) And have a look at this list of Object Lessons from 1899.

Lessons

You see, quite apart from their genealogical value, log books are a window on another world.  (If you can think of a less clichéd way of putting that, do let me know.)  In particular, this is the world of the headteacher of that era: browse for a minute or two and you will vicariously experience the joy of winning praise from the school inspectors, the despair of having 150 pupils absent because of a measles outbreak, and the irritation of having junior teachers who don’t do anything quite as well as you did when you were a junior teacher.

If you would like to have a look at what is available, come over to your local library or right here to the record office, and log on to one of the computers.  This resource, which FindMyPast subscribers normally pay for, will be yours to play around with for free.  Here are a couple of sample pages.

Log2

Log