Part of the “Crime & Punishment in Cocking in the Nineteenth Century” series
Of all the stories that I have come across in researching for this project, the punishment of Henry Bulbeck, a 29-year old married labourer with three children, seemed particularly harsh.
On the evening of Saturday 17 April 1841, Henry Bulbeck visited the shop premises of William Chalcroft Tupper at Cocking. While Mrs. Tupper was making up the order, her husband was in a side room when, through the doorway, he spotted Bulbeck take a pat of butter of the butter tub and put it in his pocket.
A few moments later, he returned to the shop and noticed a loaf of bread on the counter near where Bulbeck was standing. He continued to make up the order, but when he turned round again, Bulbeck and the loaf had gone.
Tupper and Mr. Challen, a farmer who was passing, followed Bulbeck and soon apprehended him. At first he denied any wrongdoing, but then brought the stolen items out from his pockets and said: “I am very sorry for what I have done. I hope you will forgive me.” When Tupper insisted that Bulbeck returned to the shop, he refused and ran off.
He was soon caught and taken back to the shop, where he offered to pay for the butter and loaf, but Tupper refused to accept it, even when Bulbeck offered him five shillings to let him go.
Instead, Bulbeck was handed into the custody of Edward Adams Wheatley, the tithingman (village constable), who took him to Midhurst, where he appeared in front of the magistrates two days later. The Justice of the Peace, Charles Shirley, committed Henry Bulbeck for trial at the next Quarter Sessions to be held at Horsham on 1 July.
At the Quarter Sessions, with Richard Prime as president, Henry pleaded guilty to a charge of larceny, “stealing at the parish of Cocking, one loaf of bread, value 2d and one ounce of butter, value 1d.” He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment with hard labour, with the last week of each month to be spent in solitary confinement.
Henry Bulbeck was born at East Dean, near Chichester, the son of Henry Bulbeck and his wife, Phoebe née Kennet, and was baptised at East Dean parish church on 29 September 1811.
On 22 February 1834, Henry appeared before Petworth Quarter Sessions, to answer a charge of bastardy with Eliza Lutman of Binsted, and was bound over on a recognizance of £10.
Unusually, Henry did “the decent thing” and married 20-year old Eliza at Binsted church on 24 March 1834. The couple’s first child, Mary Ann was baptised at East Dean on 10 December 1834. Two further children, Phoebe, baptised at Heyshott on 7 December 1839, and John, baptised at Walberton on 3 May 1840, had been born before Henry was imprisoned.
After his release from prison, two further children were born: Caroline, baptised at East Dean on 16 October 1842, and Harriet, baptised at St. Nicholas Church, Arundel on 1 February 1846.
At the 1851 census, the family were living at West Street, Havant: Henry, aged 39, gave his occupation as a pauper. Eliza died at Havant on 3 October 1852, aged 39, and was buried at St. Faith’s Church on 8 October 1852. The cause of death was chronic rheumatism and bronchitis.
Henry died at Havant on 23 September 1856, aged 45. The cause of death was “abstraction of the bowels”.
The punishment meted out to Henry Bulbeck appears to be particularly severe. For the theft of 3 pence worth of food, for which he offered to pay, and pleaded guilty, he was sentenced to four months (17 weeks) hard labour. By way of comparison, in January 1836, William Underwood was sentenced to 10 weeks hard labour for stealing a pig valued at 10 shillings (40 times the value that Henry Bulbeck stole).
One other puzzle arises in this case: during the four months that Henry was incarcerated, how did Eliza maintain herself and her three young children. Presumably she was either taken in by her parents or claimed parish relief. It seems that the wife was punished just as hard as the culprit who was merely struggling to feed his family.
1851 England Census
West Sussex, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1482-1812
West Sussex, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920
West Sussex, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1995
West Sussex, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936
Brighton Gazette: 15 July 1841. Horsham Quarter Sessions
Find-a-Grave. Eliza Bulbeck
East Dean Parish Register. 29 September 1811. Baptism of Henry Bulbeck
Binsted Parish Register. 28 November 1813. Baptism of Eliza Lutman
Binsted Parish Register. 24 March 1834. Marriage of Henry Bulbeck and Eliza Lutman
East Dean Parish Register. 10 December 1834. Baptism of Mary Ann Bulbeck
Heyshott Parish Register. 1 December 1839. Baptism of Phoebe Bulbeck
Heyshott Parish Register. 3 May 1840. Baptism of John Bulbeck
East Dean Parish Register. 16 October 1842. Baptism of Caroline Bulbeck
Arundel (St. Nicholas) Parish Register. 1 February 1846. Baptism of Harriett Bulbeck
West Sussex Record Office:
QR/W771/244: 22 February 1834. Rex v Bulbeck H.
QR 801 & seq. July 1841. Horsham Quarter Sessions Roll including:
QR/W801/126. 19 April 1841. Deposition of William Chalcroft Tupper