This Day In ... 1861
THOMAS LAXTON DEFENDS ENTREPRENEURIAL WATERFURLONG
Before setting up his famous Bedford nursery business, Waterfurlong gardener Thomas Laxton spent many years as a Stamford solicitor and barrister, working from his chambers in St Mary's Hill. In March 1861 we find him defending an (un-named) elderly and impoverished resident whose valiant attempts to keep himself out of the Workhouse had been shamefully exploited by Stamford officials.
'A suit was tried in the Stamford County Court on Monday last, the costs of defending which, it is thought, will not obtain the approval of the rate-payers of the parish of All Saints. The evidence of the aged plaintiff excited the sympathy of the hearers.
Being out of employment he applied to the assistant overseer of the parish for work, stating that if he could not obtain any he should be compelled to go to the Board of Guardians. He was told that one man was already employed on the roads in the parish, and that there were not available funds to employ more labour.
The applicant then said the accumulations of rubbish brought out of the town and adjacent fields from time to time and placed on the side of the Waterfurlong road needed removing, and if he might be allowed to apply his pickaxe to it and assort it for his own benefit he would not require any payment for his labour. This offer being considered advantageous to the parish it was at once accepted by the assistant overseer, the removal of the rubbish being desirable to prevent the passage of water in wet seasons down the centre of the road. Amongst the accumulations upwards of 20 loads of small stones were found, which the assistant overseer agreed to purchase for the use of the parish at the rate of 1s per load.
The overseers of the highways went out of office, and their successors (Messrs Loweth and Louth) did not appoint an assistant, saving the expense by doing the job themselves. They used the stones they found upon the road and refused to remunerate the old man for them! Mr Laxton, who appeared for the old man, said he himself was an occupier of a garden in Water-furlong, and could speak of the great improvement that had been effected by the removal of the rubbish and by the repair of the road with the stones found by the plaintiff amongst it. It is believed the parishoners will not allow this case to be brought in the court again, and that the value of the stones will be handed to the poor fellow.' Stamford Mercury (1)
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(1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.