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Sarah Frewin, Witness to Horse Whipping Incident (1845). Barkham Manor is near Wokingham
In the mid-nineteenth century the two principal houses in Barkham (as now) were Barkham Manor (then usually called Barkham House) and Barkham Square. Barkham House was the residence of Mrs Charlotte Clive, widow of Henry Clive MP and a generous benefactress to the poorer inhabitants of the parish. (Mrs Clive was also the principal contributor when the parish church was re-built 1859-61). Barkham Square was owned by a non-resident landowner, William Cook, and let to a succession of gentlemen farmers. From 1844 to 1859 the tenant was Frederick Parsons, who also leased several other farms in the locality, farming over 600 acres in all. Parsons was an active member of the Wokingham Agricultural Association, and in October 1853 the annual ploughing match had taken place at Barkham Square.
In February 1854 Frederick Parsons was involved in an altercation on Barkham Hill with Zachariah Bourne, steward to Mrs Clive at Barkham Manor. Bourne also collected the parish poor rate on behalf of Mrs Clive (who was parish overseer), and a few days previously had tried to collect Parsons' rate when they met in Reading, but Parsons had only paid part, having insufficient cash.
When the two men met, at about 10.00 a.m. in the morning, Parsons was on horseback, riding a young and spirited horse, whilst Bourne was on foot. After exchanging the usual pleasantries, some conversation ensued as to the payment of the outstanding balance of the poor rates. The conversation then turned upon a boy named Wicks, whom Parsons accused Bourne of having poached from his employ. At this point the conversation became heated, leading to an exchange of blows. Parsons subsequently sued Bourne for assault, claiming ú30 damages. At the court hearing, which lasted five hours, Parsons and Bourne gave directly conflicting evidence.
Frederick Parsons said Bourne should have asked him first before engaging the boy Wicks, to which Bourne replied "You only gave him 5s. a week, and I can afford to give him 8s." To this Parsons observed "That is a rather strange thing for you, as a servant to say or do, without consulting your mistress". Bourne retorted "I shall have two or more of your men if I want them without such ____ nonsense." When Parsons threatened to tell Mrs Clive, Bourne said "I don't care a ____ for you or Mrs Clive. Why don't you pay your poor's rate and your blacksmith's bill ?" To this Parsons said he would certainly complain to Mrs Clive. Bourne then pulled off his hat and threw it at Parsons' horse's head, at which the horse started off down the road. When Parsons recovered control and returned to the same spot, Bourne, who had taken his coat off, came up to the horse, caught hold of its head by the reins and of Parsons' right leg and, with the horse plunging and kicking 50 or 60 yards along the road, pulled Parsons off. Parsons fell on his back, where he lay stunned momentarily. Bourne using abusive language struck Parsons several times, and then went his way. Parsons' counsel explained that Parsons had therefore found himself in a disgraceful position. He had been seen on the ground and under the subjection of a man inferior in his station of life.
Under cross-examination Parsons denied Bourne's allegation that he had said "You d___ rascal, I will horse-whip you" (although there had been several recent incidents where Parsons had horse-whipped labourers). Parsons said he had only a small stick with him, and swore he did not strike Bourne at all. Parsons maintained he said "Let me get up and fight fair, and I will have you".
Zachariah Bourne's evidence almost totally contradicted that of Parsons, save that both agreed the origin of the row was the boy Wicks. Bourne said he felt indignant at being taunted by Parsons as being only a servant, added to which he had received several blows from Parsons, who he asserted was evidently of a "horse-whipping disposition". Bourne queried why Parsons claimed he did not hit him at all if Bourne was trying to drag Parsons off his horse. Bourne said that Parsons had not kept previous appointments to pay his poor rates.
After the two met, Parsons had said "I think it very unmanly of you to get the boy away, as I have kept him all the winter". Bourne replied "If you feel aggrieved at it I will have another". Parsons retorted in a haughty manner: "You have another ! You are only a d____d paltry servant, and has what you work for". Bourne replied "If I am a servant, I can pay my debts, and you can't". Parsons responded "I can". To this Bourne said "It is a lie; pay me the poor's rates, and Collier the blacksmith". Parsons retorted "You d____d rascal, call me a liar ! I will horse-whip you".
According to Bourne, Parsons next stuck his spurs into his horse, backed it upon Bourne, and struck Bourne on the right side of his forehead. Parsons struck Bourne again on the shoulder. Parsons and his horse then came at Bourne again, who took off his coat and said "Get off your horse and fight like a man". When Parsons did not get off, Bourne said "If you don't get off I will have you off". Parsons was spurring and backing his horse upon Bourne at this time, and struck him again. Bourne would have pulled Parsons off his horse if he could, but with the horse kicking and plunging, Parsons' feet came out of the stirrups and he fell onto the ground.
At the hearing much of the questioning turned on whether
Parsons hit Bourne with a riding whip or merely a stick. None of the cottagers on Barkham Hill who gave evidence, Elizabeth Fry, Ann Grout and Sarah Frewin, saw the whole of the incident, and their evidence was inconclusive. Although Parsons' counsel did not deny that Parsons had relatively recently horse-whipped several labourers, the burden of the evidence suggested that Parsons only had a stick. The jury, after retiring for 15 minutes, found in favour of Parsons, and awarded ú20 damages against Bourne. An application by Bourne for a re-trial, on the basis of fresh evidence, was unsuccessful. Zachariah Bourne continued as Mrs Clive's steward at Barkham Manor until about 1871, whilst Frederick Parsons continued to farm at Barkham Square for another five years.
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What is this database for?
The database is very much a work in progress. Please treat the information provided accordingly.
For further information, contact: Lawrence Frewin