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Shellfish thieves fined for stealing fishery’s oysters

THEFT: The case related to the theft of oysters

THIS story of the theft of oysters from Herne Bay was published on Saturday March 9 1867 in the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald. The Information comes from The British Newspaper Archives.

At St Augustine’s Petty Sessions, last Saturday, before Geo. Neame, Esq. (in the chair), W Pluminer, P Marten, RE Thomson, and TG Peckham, Esqrs.; and Captain Hilton, Captain Slarke, and Major-General McQueen, William Jefferson pleaded guilty to stealing ten bushels of oysters, the property of the Herne Bay, Hampton, and Reculver Fishery Company. The prisoner having stated that immediately he found he was doing wrong he left off fishing, was fined 1s., and costs 12s. 6d.

John Walker, Rose Field, James Field, Mary Andrews, William Field, Ann Walker, and Thomas Walker, were charged, on remand, with stealing, on the 21st of February within the limits of the Herne Bay, Hampton, and Reculver Oyster Fishery Company’s grounds, a number of oysters, the property of the said Company, not being officers, agents, or servants, of the Company, or authorised by writing under the hand of their Secretary to do so. Mr Jordan appeared for the prosecution, and Mr Fielding for the defence. Only the first case, that of John Walker, was entered into. Mr Jordan read the Act of Parliament, in which it was enacted that the Company should circulate bills, posters, and placards in the adjoining parishes, stating the boundary lines of the Company; and which he was prepared to prove they had done. He then called Frances Penn elI, Secretary to the Company, who said that the bills, &c, had been posted in the various parishes, that the boundary stones and buoys, required by the Act, had been laid down, and that the notice had also been advertised in the Kentish Observer and Faversham Mercury in compliance with the Act. John Woodward, bill poster, of Canterbury, deposed to posting and delivering bifls in the following places, viz,:- Herne Bay, Whitstable, Swalecliffe, Edthngton, Chislett, Wade, &c.

Jonathan Bussell deposed – On the 21st of Feb. last, at about half- past six in the morning, I was on the Herne Bay Fishery grounds. I saw John Walker there, picking up oysters, and putt ng them into a basket that he had with him, which I took away from him. There were nineteen oysters in the basket. He was near to the low-water-mark opposite Hampton. There were a number of persons on the grounds on the day previous, but I did not see Walker amongst them. When I took his basket away from him there were some oysters, wilks, and mussels in it, apparently as if they had only just been taken from the water. Richard Collar, one of the Company’s servants, deposed — I was on the Company’s grounds on the 21st February, and saw Walker there, picking up something; but was not near enough to distinguish what he was picking up. When I got near enough to see what was in his basket, I found some oysters, nineteen in number, as if they had recently been picked up. I told him he would have to give his basket up. I do not know where he resides.

Thos. Ashbee, fisherman in the Company’s employ, deposed – I saw Walker, on the 21st of February, off Hampton, on the Company’s grounds, picking up oysters. I also saw him on the previous morning, coming from Herne Bay. Do not know that I have seen him before. When I saw him on the 21st he had nineteen oysters in his basket. Oysters occasionally wash on to the Swalecliffe Rocks, but defendant was within five or six feet of the Company’s native bed. Mr Fielding said he was instructed that the oysters had been picked up from the rocks, and not from the Company’s grounds at all. Russell was the only witness who had positively stated that he had seen defendant picking the oysters up. Under the 48th section, it must be proved that the oysters were really taken within the limits of the Company’s grounds. Now, it is practically possible that Russell might have been mistaken when he saw the defendant picking up what he says were oysters. They might have been something else he was picking up; and the oysters might have been picked up on the rocks, where the public have the right of fishing, and no person can wrest that right from them.

GUILTY: Thefts took place at the fishery site between Reculver and Hampton… several people were subsequently fined

The next witness called was Rose Field, who deposed — On the 21st of February last, I was walking on the sea-shore, and saw the defendant Walker some distance behind me, picking up wilks between Hampton and Swalecliffe. I was by myself. Mary Ann Andrews, Herne Bay, said that she was with the defendant on the morning in question, and walked by his side all the time, between Hampton and Swalecliffe, on the sands; and as they were going by Swalecliffe they got some oysters from off the rocks, and some wilks. They were on the Whitstable side of the Company’s boundaries. They started from Herne Bay at half-past six, and arrived at Swaledflffe at about a quarter past seven, where they stayed about an hour. Witness did not see Walker pick up any oysters excepting those he got from the rocks. They came along the sands near to the water’s edge. (Witness here fainted, and was removed from the Court.) Mr Jordan having stated that he was instructed by the Company not to press the charge, the Bench considered the case proved, and fmed the defendant 1s. and the costs, 14s. 6d. The remaining six prisoners, vix. Rose Field, Jas. Field, Mary Andrews, Wm. Field, Ann Walker, and Thos. Walker, pleaded guilty, through the agency of Mr Fielding, and were fmed is each and 9s. 6d. costs.

Stephen Baker was charged with taking a large number of whilks from the grounds of the Herne Bay, Hampton, and Reculver Fishery Company, on the 22nd of February. Prisoner pleaded not guilty, and said he got the whilks from the Swalecliffe rocks. William Collard said he was near Hampton on the 22nd of Feb., and saw defendant within the boundary of the Company’s ground, with a basket, which had some whilks in it. Prisoner now pleaded guilty, and was fmed 9s. and costs; or, in default, to be imprisoned one day in St Augustine’s Gaol.

Herne Bay Times, January 21st 2015