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John Meads 2016
The Case of the One-eyed Ferret

Kettering Petty Sessions – reported in the Northampton Mercury Saturday May 28 1859

Thomas Arthur, of Burton Lattimer, was charged with stealing, taking, and carrying away a ferret, value three shillings, from the from premises of Mr Frederick Draper, of Barton Seagrave Lodge, on the seventh Inst.  Mr Garrard was for the prosecution and Mr Rawlins for the defence. 
George Reid is a labourer, residing at Warkton, but at work for Mr Draper, of Barton Seagrave.  On the 7th Mr Draper had some ferrets, which he kept in a barrel in his stable.  Saw them safe on Saturday evening the 7th.  On the following Sunday morning he went to look at them, and found that one was missing, nor had he seen it since until this morning.  They were kept covered over with a sieve, fastened with string, and could not possibly get out of it themselves.  The ferret produced was the missing one, and he could identify it from its lack of an eye, and other circumstances. It was one that his master had borrowed, and had all the time being kept with two other ferrets in the barrel.  It was his business to feed them every morning. 
— Mr Rawlins: Pray, was there a bung hole in the barrel?  No; and if there ever had been it had been filled up.  Was the stable door locked?  No, it is not kept locked up. 
— George Waddups is a police-constable stationed at Burton Lattimer.  On the 16th he received intelligence from Mr Draper that he had lost a ferret, and he went to search prisoner’s house.  Found him at home and asked him for a sight of the ferret, when a woman named Dunkley, living in the same house, asked What ferret;  They had no such thing about the house.  Arthur then made his appearance, and said it was he who had found the ferret.  Asked him to let him see it, but he did not, and he said to Dunkley, Come along, Harry, don’t be bothered with him any longer.  Told him if he did not choose to show him the ferret he would most decidedly searched the house for it.  Arthur then jumped out of the back window, and Dunkley, taking up a gun, swore he would knock out his brains if he did not leave the house.
He then fetched James Downing, the real owner of the ferret, who identified it, and Dunkley gave it up.  Arthur at first told him he had bought it of a man living at Irthlingborough for 3s. 6d, but afterward said he and Thomas Burnaby had found it.  The ferret now produced is the one given up to him, and he had had it in his possession ever since.  Arthur told him he gave Burnaby 3d. as his share.
— Mr Frederick Draper is a farmer residing at Barton Seagrave.  When he missed the ferret he made enquiries about it.  He met Burnaby on the road, who asked him if he had lost the ferret, and he said Yes.  He was in the habit of keeping ferrets for the destruction of rats, and had never missed one out of the barrel on any prior occasion. 
— Mr Rawlins said there was not a tittle of evidence that the ferret was stolen.  Suppose the ferret had been stolen by a person, and that individual had made a Arthur a present of it, surely it could not be said he had committed felony.  He could bring witnesses forward who would swear that Arthur was never near Mr Draper’s premises; but, on the contrary, was accompanying his sweetheart along the Kettering road, and found the ferret in conjunction with Burnaby.  He had no doubt it was a stray animal, not knowing to whom it belonged. 
— Thomas Burnaby lives at Burton Lattimer.  Remembers seeing a ferret on the 8th coming along the hedge-side near to Barton Seagrave allotments. He had been trying to catch it, but it bothered him.  Whilst engaged in his efforts to catch it saw Thomas Arthur coming along the road leading from Burton to Kettering.  Asked Arthur to assist him in securing the ferret. When they had succeeded in catching the animal Arthur placed it in a handkerchief and took it to Burton, and on giving him 3d.  he said, "Now, Burnaby, I will give you the half of what the ferret makes when sold."  He saw no young woman with Arthur on that occasion. He told Mr Draper the circumstances. 
Henry Dunkley is a shoemaker living at Burton Lattimer.  Thomas Arthur and he lodge at the same house. Recollect Arthur bringing home a ferret on the Sunday evening, the 7th. When he came in the said, “Look here, I’ve had a finding, for I have found a ferret.”  Asked him where he had picked it up, when he replied on the Kettering road; Thomas Burnaby caught it, and I put it into my handkerchief, and brought it home. Put the ferret in a box, and on Monday morning Arthur said what is it worth?  Told him if he did not find the customer for it, he would give him 3s. 6d. for it.  The same morning showed it to John Downing who said, “Well this looks like our Jem’s ferret.”  It got out of the box and entered Mr John Eady’s garden, but found it on the following morning.  Was a good deal of bother about it, some saying it belonged to one person, and some to another. Arthur and he came to Kettering, and showed the ferret to several persons at Shortland’s of the Half Moon. Brought it in a basket on which occasion one would say it belonged to Draper, and another would pronounce it as belonging to Issitt, gamekeeper to Viscountess Hood. Left Shortland’s a little before 12 the same night, and returned to Burton with the ferret, and did not make it known to Mr Draper or Mr Issitt that it had been found. Did not know it belonged to Mr Draper until the policeman came on the 16th and said so.
— Cross examined: Did not say he had no ferret, or threatened to smash the policeman’s head with the barrel of a gun, but merely said if he did not leave the house he would push him out.
— George Keach, is a labourer, living next door to Dunkley and Arthur, whom he knew perfectly well. Was in their house on Monday morning, the 8th on which occasion they showed him a ferret, and that was all he knew about it.
— John Downing, is also a labourer, of Burton Lattimer. His uncle, James Downing, keeps ferrets, and the ferret in question belongs to him. Dunkley told him about it, and asked him how to feed it. On a view of the animal said  ” I do believe it belongs to my uncle",   and the first time he saw him told him so, for he had seen it at Baye’s  house where Arthur and Dunkley lodge, and he knew it from its want of an eye, and other peculiarities.
— Sophia Clarke, resides at Kettering. Remembers being on the road between Burton and Kettering between eight and nine on the evening of the seventh. Saw Burnaby and Arthur together. Arthur had something in a handkerchief but she knew not what it was.
— Burnaby on being re-called said, that when he saw the ferret running along the side of the hedge he was a quarter of a mile from Mr Draper’s lodge.
— The case appeared to excite interest, and was adjourned for a fortnight.

Kettering Petty Sessions – reported in the Northampton Mercury June 11 1859

The charge of ferret-stealing, adjourned at the last petty sessions for the consideration of the Magistrates, was dismissed; Thomas Arthur, of Burton Lattimer, the defendant, being told that though a case of strong suspicion, there was a point of law in his favour, and the Bench would give him the benefit of it.

  • Draper’s Lodge, Barton Seagrave, was the farm at the junction of Barton Road and Cranford Road, known by many in later years as Stopps’ Lodge.
  • It is thought that 'Bayes house' where Thomas Arthur lodged was in a yard off the High Street.
  • Latimer was often spelled LATTIMER until an order stopping its use it was made by the Home Office in the 1890s.


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