Friday, 13 September 2013

13th September 1813: The trial of William Beston, at Chester Lammas Assizes, for burglary

William Beston was the brother of Simeon Beston, who had been convicted 3 days before of Burglary at Chester Lammas Assizes. It was he who the Chester Chronicle had erroneously accused of being a Luddite, on account of an involvement in rioting at Stockport in April 1812. In fact, it was his co-accused, James Renshaw, who had been convicted thus.

I have included this trial on account of this slip, and also because William Beston shared the same fate as his brother and Renshaw.
[William Beston] alias Basnett, aged 42, a weaver from North Etchells, was indicted for a burglary and felony, in the dwelling house of Samuel Harding, of Swettenham, on the 6th of June last, and stealing cash, notes, &c. to the amount of 100l. and upwards.

The circumstances of this case bore all the alarming features which characterized the trial of Simeon Beston and James Renshaw, on Friday.

Lucy Harding, wife [of] the prosecutor, stated her husband to be a cripple. I went to bed (said she) between 10 and 11 o'clock, together with my daughter and son-in-law. Between 1 and 2, I was alarmed by a noise in the shop, and the light of a candle. A man entered the room, (another standing at the door) and said he wanted some bread and cheese. I said there was but little in the house. One of the men had a black face, and he said to the other, "You may go down."—He went down stairs. They afterwards rifled the boxes; and the man at the head of the steps said, if I did not get into bed, he’d blow my brains out!—They had both of them pistols. When they were going into the adjoining room, the man with a black face, presented a pistol to my husband's head, and demanded his money. He said there was no more; there might be some in the adjoining room, but it did not belong to him. He then came to me, demanding the key, saying if I did not surrender he would blow my brains out! The man without his face backed, came to me, with a candle and pistol, and insisted on me getting out of bed, and delivering the money. I did so; and the man with a black face said, "Is there no gold?" I told him the other man had got it out of the desk. I then went into bed again, and they followed me, saying, if I did not lie still they would blow my brains out, as they were guarding the house. At this time I heard somebody below in the shop. On examining the house after they were gone, I found they had gone out, through the door, but had entered at the window. They had broken the stanchion and cut out the glass.—They were in the house about 20 minutes, and the man without the blackface is the prisoner at the bar. He held a candle in his hand; I knew him when he was a boy, for he had not changed his face although he had changed his clothes. A man had come to the shops for half an ounce of tobacco, and I judge the man with a black face to be the person. They took 14 guineas, a half guinea, Bank of England Bills, Local Notes, some silver coin, nineteen shillings in copper out of the shop, tied in a handkerchief, and twenty shillings or more in copper out of the drawer—altogether about one hundred pounds.

On cross-examination by Mr. D.F. Jones, she said she had no doubt of the prisoner’s identity.

The daughter of the last witness corroborated the testimony of her mother. She had fastened all the doors and windows. The prisoner at the bar was the man who rifled her trunk—he took some silver in a purse.

The husband of the preceding witness gave a similar testimony.—When the men were in the room, he said to the man with a black face, "You've taken all the money;" the robber replied, "If you don't hold your noise, I'll blow out your brains."—Saw the prisoner at the Bar distinctly. Knew him again at the justice’s; had seen the man before at Wilmslow.

Another witness deposed she had seen the prisoner and two other men in the road, at Carrington Heath.

James Gardner said he had seen the prisoner and two others at Bowden, at 5 o'clock on the morning after the robbery; the prisoner was drinking, but the others were at the the door tossing for two shillings, half-a-crown, and five shillings at a time.—Beston had some copper in a handkerchief behind him, and he paid the shot out of it.

Thomas Hall deposed, that on Whitsun Monday he saw the prisoner at the Round-about at Altrincham; he was lying on a sofa, apparently asleep. A pistol was hanging out of his pocket. A man present took the pistol gave it to witness, who drew the ramrod, in order to discover whether it was loaded; but there not being a screw to it, he got a skewer, and knocked the charge out on the table. It was heavily loaded, and had five large slugs at the top!—The prisoner pulled out a purse there, in which was about 12 or 14 shillings or guineas; he could not tell which.—[A purse was handed to witness, which he said was similar as to color and make, to the one produced by the prisoner]

Robert Oldham, a publican of Chester, said the prisoner was at his house on Sunday the 13th of June.—On Monday he asked for change for a guinea. Witness thought he was joking, from the great scarcity of that coin; but the prisoner produced a guinea, and witness changed it. On Wednesday or Thursday following, he changed another.

Anne Foulkes, of the Livre, Chester, remembers the prisoner being at her house the 14th June last, when he changed a 5l. Macclesfield note.

Mr. Lloyd, Solicitor, of Stockport, was examined as to the distance from Swettenham to Bowden, which he stated to be about 12 or 13 miles the nearest way, but by way of Knutsford it was probably more than 13 miles.

The examination of the Prisoner was here produced. In it the prisoner denied being from home the particular nights in question, &c.

One of the Jury stated the distance between Swettenham and Bowden to be about twelve miles.

The Prisoner being asked for his defence, replied "I have nothing to say."

His Lordship then recapitulated the whole of the evidence, and the Jury immediately found the prisoner—Guilty.
William Beston was later sentenced to death. A later edition of the Chester Chronicle commented on William Beston's reaction to the sentencing:
Immediately after sentence was passed upon them, William Beston, holding up his fist in a threatening position, said, "[Damn] thee, [Lloyd] I may thank thee for this?" pointing to a respectable attorney in court, who had been the principal means of apprehending the desperadoes!

The trial is from the Chester Chronicle of 24th September 1813. The account of William Beston's reaction to his sentencing is from the same publication of 8th October 1813.

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