Childhood Misdemeanours

A short interlude in the mining tragedy series.

Thomas Dennis (1832-1845)

This was a nephew of 3rd great grandfather William Dennis and son of Joseph (1793-1867).

Thomas was born in 1832 the fifth son of Joseph Dennis, coal miner, and his wife Sarah Wileman, and baptised at Measham on 7 October. First we learn of childhood misdemeanours, then of a tragic, violent end.

moira 1882 bath pit warren house
Thomas was employed at the Bath Pit, circled (closed by this time), and took part in at least two adventures at Warren House (bottom right).  Ordnance Survey 1882, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Gooseberry

Thomas, brother John, and two accomplices, were had up for damaging gooseberry bushes.

From: Leicester Journal and Midland Counties General Advertiser 19 June 1840:
“ASHBY-DE-LA-ZOUCH PETTY SESSIONS
Saturday, June 13.

Charles Evans, John Dennies, Thomas Dennies and Aaron Hart, all of Moira, were charged by Mrs. Whitby, of Warren House, with damaging gooseberry trees in her garden, on the 4th inst. The defendants pleaded guilty, and were fined 6d. each damage, 3d. each and costs.”

So, on 4 June 1840, these four entered Mrs. Whitby’s garden. It was too early in the year for scrumping. Who were they?

Well, there were various people with those names, but the 1841 census helps. The most likely seem to be brothers John and Thomas Dennies, aged 12 and 10, Aaron Hart, 10, and Charles Evans, 15. All are described as coal miners or colliers! Just boys, all the same.

The census names Warren House and tells that it was occupied by Anna Whitby, 65, widow, of independent means, and daughters Catherine (30), Frances (25) and Deceina [?] (20) and two servants. About ripe for a Jane Austen novel?! Anna (82), landed proprietor, born Philadelphia, Catherine (44) and Frances (42) were still there in 1861. So they were posh; among the ‘haves’.

The house is still there on Measham Road to the south of Moira. It is a typical Georgian double-fronted, three-storey house, in red brick. Remarkably, it is not listed. From the OS 1884 mapping the house stood in two and a half acres of grounds.

Scrumping

From: Leicester Mercury Saturday 14 September 1844
ASHBY-DE-LA-ZOUCH. – Petty Sesions, Sept. 7.

Joseph Chadburn, Thomas Dennies, and John Goacher, three colliers employed at the Moira Colliery, were charged with stealing a quantity of apples from a garden, the property of Mrs. Whitby. The evidence not being sufficient against the latter defendants, they were discharged. – Chadburn was convicted and fined £3, including costs, or one month’s imprisonment.

The old nemesis, Mrs Whitby didn’t get twelve-year old Thomas this time, but, whether guilty or not, he probably got a beating from his father! The only John Goacher in Moira in the 1841 census was 21 at the time, so 24 at the time of the offence, but he wasn’t there … The only Chadburn family in the 1841 census did not include a Joseph; same for 1851.

£3 was a lot of money for Chadburn to find; considerably more than a week’s pay. From the Children’s Employment Commission (Mines), published in 1842, Flockton, Yorkshire, average weekly pay for a coal miner 14s 8d (78% of £1) for a 12 hour day, 6 days per week.

In less than a year Thomas would be dead.

Next:  Shocking Colliery Accident

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