The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

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This Day in ... 1885

January 21, 2019

SERGEANT MATTY LIGHTFOOT GAVE EVIDENCE IN 'DUSTY HARMONIUM PANTOMIME' CASE

 

Police Sergeant Matthew 'Matty' Lightfoot was one of Waterfurlong's gardeners during the late Victorian and Edwardian years. A month after gaining his Sergeant's rank he was called to give evidence at Stamford County Court in the colourful case of Cade -v- Ward.

 

Charles Cade was an established Stamford confectioner with a large shop in St John's Street and strong anti-vaccination views. Cade had been fined ten shillings for failing to have his nineteen month-old daughter Amy vaccinated against smallpox and had refused to pay on the basis that fines as low as sixpence had been meted out to others for similar offences. Police Superintendent Richard Ward decided to deal with the non-compliance by sending Matty Lightfoot and another officer to the Cade home to seize the family's harmonium! This resulted in Mr Cade suing Superintendent Ward personally for 'the loss of use of a harmonium and the illegal sale thereof.'

 

Matty Lightfoot was called to the witness box and gave evidence to Judge Hooper: 'In carrying out the execution I entered the living room and with the plaintiff's consent seized the harmonium. Mrs Cade said, "If I knew you were coming for it I would have had it dusted." Every care was taken of the harmonium while it was in our custody.'

 

After impounding the harmonium at the police station for a fortnight, Superintendent Ward instructed the Town Crier to announce the instrument's auction. On 14 November more than 500 people gathered by the market to watch - their sympathies lay with Charles Cade and no-one would bid. 

 

The auctioneer, Mr Atton, gave his evidence:'Mr Cade favoured us with a lecture condemning the Vaccination laws. He harangued the people, and intimidated me...Mr Cade instead of helping me was reading the law behind my back. (Laughter!). They said I dare not sell the harmonium but I would not be a coward. The persons were hustling and yelling for Mr Cade. It was quite a pantomime.'  

 

The crowd's mood did not improve when the downtrodden Mr Atton finally sold off the instrument for the knockdown price of 5s to another member of Ward's force at the Stamford constabulary. 

 

After much deliberation as to whether the police had acted

properly, Judge Hooper found in the Superintendent's

favour but decided costs should not be awarded against Charles Cade.

 

Mr Cade protested this outcome:'They might as well have come into my larder and helped themselves to my food'. The Judge's retort 'Well, if a man went to you to ask for food you might say, "If I had known you were coming I would have had the plate dusted."' only added to the absurd tone of the case.

 

Matty Lightfoot retired early from the police force to take up the position of Stamford Town Hall Keeper and Mace-bearer, one of his responsibilities being 'to wield the birch on recalcitrant boys'. Read more about him and his family on our website. 

 

 

SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

(1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2019

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