John Varndell

Part of the Crime & Punishment in Cocking in the Nineteenth Century” series

Between 1805 and 1816, there were four separate incidents of men by the name of John Varndell appearing in court. It is not known if there was any connection between any of the men, or whether any were one and the same person.


Hampshire Chronicle. 11 March 1805. Chichester news

On Saturday the 2nd inst., some person broke open the barn of Mr Lunn at Cocking at Midhurst and stole three sacks of oats.

The same night, the barn of Mr Newman of the same place was robbed of four sacks of seed. The sacks were found concealed in a barn belonging to Mr Challen of the same place, lodged there by the person who committed the theft, with the intention of afterwards conveying them to the London market, as suspicion has fallen on some person who frequently trades with the capital.

The night after the property was found, a guard was placed to watch the premises, and a man was observed to walk into the barn, but he immediately went out at the other door and did not return. The person was not immediately pursued, and made his escape. It is supposed that he either saw the man in waiting, or that the sacks were not in the place in which they had been left.

Hampshire Chronicle. 18 March 1805. Chichester news

Last week, John Varndell, common carrier from Midhurst to London, was apprehended and conveyed to Guildford gaol, on a charge of stealing hay and beans at Ripley; the articles were found in his possession.

He is also, from circumstances, strongly suspected of having been concerned in stealing a quantity of oats at Cocking, as mentioned in our last journal.

At the Surrey Lent assizes in 1805, John Varndell was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

On 28 April 1810, John Varndell (described as a 48-year old labourer, born at Westbourne, now living at Cocking) was conveyed from Midhurst to Petworth. Three days later, on 1 May, he appeared at the Quarter Sessions when he was charged with stealing a steel and iron trap, the property of Lord Robert Spencer of Woolbeding House. At the trial, no evidence was submitted and the case was discharged.

In the court papers, he is described as “5ft 6ins high [with] brown hair, grey eyes, round face, fair complexion”.

On 28 November 1812, John Varndell (described as a labourer, aged 28) appeared at Petworth charged with an unspecified “misdemeanour”. He was found guilty and sentenced to be held in the House of Correction for three months and to be whipped in Petworth market place once each month. At the end of the three months imprisonment, he was eligible for release but needed to find suitable sureties for his good behaviour for a further two years.

In the event, he was unable to find sureties and remained in prison until at least October 1812. (Unfortunately, the Petworth House of Correction records between October 1812 and April 1815 are not available for examination.)

On 4 April 1815, John Varndell, a 40-year old labourer from Bepton (described as “5ft 6ins high, stout build, fair complexion, brown hair, grey eyes, round face. Born at Westbourne gained settlement at Cocking”) was charged with assault on his wife, variously named as Heneretah [Henrietta] and Lucrezia.

Varndell refused to provide sureties to keep the peace, and was committed to prison at Petworth House of Correction until suitable sureties were provided.

He remained confined in prison until 12 May 1816, when he was ordered to be “delivered” to the overseers of Cocking. [No further record can be found]


Other Sources

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

West Sussex Record Office:

QR/W670 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. May 1810

QR/W678 et seq. Chichester Quarter Sessions Roll. January 1812

QR/W679 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. April 1812

QR/W680 et seq. Horsham Quarter Sessions Roll. July 1812

QR/W683 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. October 1812

QR/W695 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. April 1815

QR/W696 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. July 1815

QR/W697 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. October 1815

QR/W698 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. January 1816

QR/W699 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. April 1816

QR/W700 et seq. Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll. July 1816