Monday, 19 March 2012

19th March 1812: The opening of Derby Lent Assizes

Unlike the local newspaper, the Derby Mercury, the Nottingham Review gave extensive coverage of the Derby Lent Assizes in the 27th March 1812 edition. The presiding Judge was Sir John Bayley, who had just conducted the Nottingham Lent Assizes. Indeed, Bayley had head the last case in Nottingham at 6.00 a.m. and proceeded to Derby the same day. The Nottingham Review set the scene with this introduction:
At this place, as well as at Nottingham, the Assizes were never attended by greater crowds of persons of every rank, nor were ever listened to with greater interest; we, therefore, attended every trial of import at both places, that we might put them circumstantially on record, as documents proper to be referred to on another day. And we here congratulate the county of Derby on the breaking up of one of the most formidable and dangerous gang of nightly depredators that has infested England for many years; a gang [illegible] and directed in their operations by a character worthy to be ranked with Jonathan Wilde, of the name of John England, who resided at a little stone house, the first on the right hand on entrance into Derby from the Nottingham road. The breaking up of this gang is chiefly to be attributed to Woodward and Newton, two active officers of Draycot, who have traced its baneful ramifications into the counties of Gloucester and Worcester. It is worthy of remark, that this gang was wholly made up of deserters, with the exception of England, who, as a brewer, labourer, and petty hukster, used every possible act to keep up the shadow of reputation, for the purpose of finding a cover for the rest. He never went out himself with his comrades to plunder, but always pointed out the object for their depredations; and his concubine (the wife of a person of the name of Matthew Bush, of Wessington, in Derbyshire, who was principal witness against one of the depredators in these important trials, and who was attempted to be seized as a deserter as he entered the hall.) provided them with caps, masks, and other things necessary to form a proper disguise. For these aids he used to have a share of the plunder; but at length he was too witty for himself.

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