William Horton, James Horton and William Pollard

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

In April 1831, James and William Horton appeared at Petworth Lent Quarter Sessions on a charge of stealing three geese and a gander from Thomas Chalcroft at Cocking. They were both found guilty – James of stealing and William of receiving stolen property, and sentenced to two months hard labour. Their fellow thief, William Pollard turned “King’s evidence” and was acquitted, but was back in court six years’ later on another charge of stealing a goose.

Three geese and a gander

On Saturday 29 January 1831, William Pollard (aged 22) and James Horton, described as “the younger”, (aged 21) went to the farmyard of Thomas Chalcroft at Cocking, leaving 20-year old William Horton (a distant cousin of James) at the nearby blacksmith’s shop. The two men drove four geese and a gander from the farmyard into “Heyshott field” where they killed three of the geese and the gander. (It’s not clear what happened to the fourth goose.) Each man then picked up two of the dead birds and took them to the blacksmith’s shop, where James Horton handed his pair to William Horton, and then returned to his lodgings.

The two Wiiliams then took the geese to the lime kiln (the property of George Hopkins) where they plucked them and discarded the wings. They then hid two of the geese under some straw near Chalcroft’s barn, before William Horton took his share of the plunder to James’s lodgings. Later that day, all three men and James’s wife enjoyed a hearty meal of a pudding and a pie prepared from the two geese.

On the Sunday evening, William Pollard retuned with a sack and removed the geese from under the straw and hid them in a hedgerow at Blanchard’s farm.

A few days later, a group of men from the village were at the lime kilns when they came across the discarded wings. One of them, John Budd, realising that they probably came from Chalcroft’s missing geese, picked them up, intending to hand them over to Chalcroft, but before he could do so, John Johnson took one of the wings, ripped it to pieces and threw it away.

At about the same time, Thomas Phillips from Singleton found the sack containing the two geese in the hedgerow at William Blanchard’s farm. Knowing that Thomas Chalcroft had lost some geese a few days before, he took them up and returned them to Chalcroft.


On 25 February, the committal proceedings were held at Petworth, with Richard Bingham Newland presiding. By this time, William Pollard had turned “King’s Evidence” and made a full confession of his part in the crime. The case against the two men was outlined as above, with the addition of another witness: Sarah Dearling testified that her mother was the keeper of the house where William Horton lodged. On the morning after the theft, she “observed white down, such as comes from feathers, upon the head of William Horton”. Horton tried to make light of her comments, but proceeded to comb the feathers out of his hair.

The three man were committed for trial at the Easter Quarter sessions. These were held on Monday 4 April at Petworth with the Earl of Egremont presiding. The case against William Pollard was discharged, while James Horton was found guilty of “stealing at Cocking one gander worth 2s 6d and three geese worth 7s 6d, the property of Thomas Chalcroft, on 29 January 1831 and sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour. William Horton was acquitted of larceny, but found guilty of receiving stolen property, and also sentenced to two months hard labour.



Sussex Advertiser: 11 April 1831. Easter Quarter sessions

West Sussex Record Office:

QR/W759 et al: Petworth Quarter Sessions Roll April 1831

QR/W759/98: A True Bill. Accused: James Horton the younger from Cocking and William Horton from Cocking

QR/W759/127: William Pollard from Cocking – confessant.

Another goose

On the evening of Saturday 4 March 1837, Benjamin Challen checked his livestock and saw that his small flock of saddle back geese (two females and a gander) was secure in the meadow at the rear of his house. The following morning, he noticed that one of the geese was missing.

On the evening of Monday 6 March, 28-year old William Pollard, who had been acquitted at the 1831 trial, went to the Swan Inn at Midhurst carrying a basket containing a large goose matching the description of the missing bird. He tried to sell the bird to Elizabeth Lithgow, the daughter of the landlord. She agreed that he could leave the basket there and come back next evening to speak to her father.

The Swan Inn at Midhurst

The following evening, William Pollard returned to speak to John Lithgow, the landlord, who refused either to buy the goose, which weighed 16lb and was valued at 5 shillings, or to return it to Pollard, believing it to be stolen. He told Pollard that he would get himself into “blue skin” (trouble) over it. Pollard denied stealing the bird, claiming that he had found the goose dead at Cocking bridge.

[John Lithgow explained in court that he had served in the excise; and “blue skin” was a term used when an officer had a report made against him.]

On the following day, Wednesday, Benjamin Challen examined the bird and confirmed its identity, because of the speckled marks around its head.


At the Midhurst Petty Sessions hearing on 8 March in front of Richard Bingham Newland, Pollard again claimed that he had found the goose “dead by the bridge, rather nearer to Rapley’s than to Mr Challen’s, on the night of Saturday, or it might be one two o’clock Sunday morning last.” The magistrates were not convinced by this claim and committed him for trial.

At the Petworth quarter sessions on 6 April 1837, held in Petworth Town Hall with Mr. Sergeant D’Oyly in the chair, William Pollard repeated his claim that he had found the bird at the bridge.

The chairman, summing up, observed that “when property which had been recently stolen, was found in the possession of a person, it was, unless very satisfactorily accounted for, a strong presumption of guilt”.

The jury, without hesitation, found the prisoner guilty.

The chairman, in passing sentence, observed that the prisoner “had been in something like the same situation before, but had then saved himself by turning King’s evidence”. The sentence of the court was six months hard labour, with the last fourteen days in solitary confinement.



Brighton Gazette: 13 April 1837. Quarter Sessions

Brighton Patriot: 11 April 1837. Petworth Quarter Sessions

Hampshire Advertiser: 8 April 1837. Petworth Quarter Sessions

Sussex Advertiser: 11 April 1837. Petworth Western Sessions

West Sussex Record Office: QR/W784: Quarter Sessions: Petworth. April 1837


Picture credits

The Swan Inn: Historic England archive (via Twitter)

James Horton

James Horton was born in early 1810 at Heyshott, the eldest son of James Horton (1790–1872) and his wife Jane née Challen (1781–1855). James senior (an agricultural labourer) and Jane Challen were married at Woolavington (now East Lavington) on 6 April 1809. The couple had at least five children:

James, baptised at Heyshott on 11 January 1810

Mary, baptised at Heyshott on 5 May 1811

Thomas, baptised at Woolavington on 6 February 1814

George, baptised at Woolavington on 17 August 1817

John, baptised at Woolavington on 25 September 1821

On 7 September 1830, James junior (aged 20) married 16-year old Ann Garrison (originally from Winchester) at Pagham, near Bognor Regis. On the marriage register both are described as “of this parish”.

James and Ann had five children:

Henry, baptised at Cocking on 11 October 1831

James, baptised at Cocking on 1 December 1833

Martha, baptised at Cocking on 18 December 1835

George, born in Birmingham in about 1847

Emma, born in Birmingham in about 1850

At the 1851 census, the family were now living in the St George’s area of Birmingham, where James was working as a labourer. Henry, aged 19, was also a labourer, James junior, aged 17, was a brass worker and Martha, aged 15, was a French polisher.

In September 1835, James was back in front of the magistrates at Chichester, charged with stealing 5 bavins (large logs), valued at 1s 3d, from Richard Bingham Newland (the magistrate at the 1831 hearing). The case was discharged due to lack of evidence.

No further trace can be found of James. Ann is believed to have died in Birmingham in 1858.




1851 England Census

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

West Sussex, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812

West Sussex, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936


Heyshott parish register. 11 January 1810. Baptism of James Horton

Cocking parish register: 11 October 1831. Baptism of Henry Horton

Cocking parish register: 1 December 1833. Baptism of James Horton

Cocking parish register: 13 December 1835. Baptism of Martha Horton

William Horton

William Horton was born in North Mundham, between Chichester and Bognor, in about October 1810, the eldest of seven children born to John Horton (1783–1859) and his wife, Elizabeth née Edwards (1788–1860)., who had married at Pagham on 13 July 1809. Although baptised in Heyshott, on the 1851 census, John gives his place of birth as Cocking.

William was baptised at North Mundham on 15 October 1810.

It is not known when he arrived in Cocking, although his grandparents, William and Elizabeth Horton, were buried there on 23 October 1815 and 19 June 1827 respectively.

William and James Horton were second cousins: William’s 2nd– great-grandparents were William Horton (1686–1772) and Elizabeth Poat (1703–1767), who were the great-grandparents of James.

William (aged 25) married 19-year old Harriet Port at Pagham on 2 May 1836. On the 1841 census, William and Harriet were living in the Aldwick area of Pagham, with Caroline (aged 9), John (aged 4) and Harriet (aged 1), plus 20-year olds Charlotte and Harriet Horton (presumably William’s twin sisters).

Little more has been found about Caroline (presumably born to 16-year old Harriet in about 1832). The other children of the marriage were:

John, baptised at Pagham on 26 February 1837

Harriet, baptised at Pagham on 15 September 1839

William, baptised at Pagham on 1 May 1842

Anne, born at Pagham in about 1845 (baptism not found)

Charles, baptised at Pagham on 16 January 1848, buried 4 July 1849

Ann, baptised at Pagham on 28 July 1850

William and Harriet continued to live in the Pagham area, although the 1861 census records them at Sidlesham when 51-year old William was working as a carter. His 19-year old son William was now working as a shepherd.

Harriet died in January 1883, aged 66. William Horton spent the last years of his life in the workhouse at Chichester, where he died in January 1903, aged 92. He was buried at St Thomas a Becket Churchyard in Pagham.




1841 England Census

1851 England Census

1861 England Census

1871 England Census

1881 England Census

1891 England Census

1901 England Census

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

West Sussex, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1995

Find-a-Grave: William Horton (St Thomas a Becket Churchyard, Pagham)


North Mundham parish register. 15 October 1810. Baptism of William Horton

William Pollard

William Pollard was born in Heyshott in early 1809, the second of six children born to William Pollard (1779–1854) and his wife Jane née Wooldridge (1781–1844), who had married at Easebourne on 11 September 1804. William junior was baptised at Heyshott on 19 March 1809.

William died within a few months of his release from prison, and was buried at Cocking on 1 February 1838.




England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

West Sussex, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812


Heyshott parish register. 19 March 1809. Baptism of William Pollard

Cocking parish register. 1 February 1838. Burial of William Pollard


Richard Bingham Newland (1780–1863) was the father of Henry Garrett Newland, who was curate at Cocking church in 1833/34, before being appointed vicar at Westbourne.