Attleborough County Court – August 1861
The Norfolk News of the 10th August, 1861, published a report of a recent case at the Attleborough County Court.
The case centred around an action brought by Mark Hart, a higgler, of Great Ellingham against John Wade, an innkeeper, of Little Ellingham.
Hart was seeking to recover £8 allegedly owed to him by Wade.
Earlier Court Hearing of the Same Matter
At a hearing of the case in the previous April, the Judge found in favour of Hart.
However, Wade successfully obtained a new trial on the basis that he had additional evidence.
This time, the case was heard before a jury. Barristers represented each of Hart and Wade.
John Wade entered a plea of ‘not indebted’. He also claimed ‘set-off payments’, which showed that Mark Hart was actually indebted to him for 4 shillings.
Loan of £100 taken out in 1849
The court was told that on the 11th October, 1849 (some 12 years earlier), Wade and Hart had borrowed the sum of £100 from a loan society in Norwich. The money was borrowed for a ‘speculation in turkeys’.
Of the £100, Wade and Hart received £94, of which they each had £47. Today, the £100 would likely have a purchasing power of around £10,000.
Wade and Hart were to make four quarterly instalments of £25, in order to repay the loan in full. Hart was the ‘active man’ in making the repayments. The arrangement worked well for the first three instalments, with Wade paying his half-share of each instalment to Hart.
However, a dispute arose between the two men over the final instalment. This was due to be paid on the 11th October, 1860.
Hart told the court that on the 12th October, he saw Wade at his home. He asked him for the £12 10s, being his half share of the final instalment. It was alleged that Wade told Hart he did not have the money, but he would try and borrow it. Hart agreed to call on Wade the following morning on his way to Norwich to make the final payment.
When Hart called on Wade the next morning, Wade gave him £4 10s which (he said) was all the money he could get. However, he promised to pay the remaining £8 when he could.
Despite not receiving Wade’s full share of the repayment amount, Hart went to Norwich and settled the last instalment of £25.
The court heard evidence from both Hart and Wade, with supporting evidence from their respective wives, Julia Matilda Hart and Mary Ann Wade.
Mary Wade confirmed that she recalled Hart calling at their home just before Christmas. Her husband and Hart had agreed the accounts between them, and Hart had accepted that 4s (four shillings) was owing by him to Wade.
Wade told the court that for years he had been in the habit of lending Hart various sums of money. These sums varied from 10s to £10, and he (Wade) referred to sums which he had lent to Hart during 1860. Wade wanted outstanding amounts to off-set the demand for £8, which would leave 4s owing by Hart to him. Hart disputed the loans by Wade.
Wade also told the court that it was Hart who actually borrowed the £100 from the loan society. Wade was his surety.
Hart said that he and Wade had been friends for several years. Working in partnership, they had undertaken several transactions together. However, the partnership “was broken up last Christmas twelvemonth.”
Memorandum Book of Accounts
Hart also told the court that he could not write, saying his wife kept details of the accounts between him (Hart) and Wade in a memorandum book.
He also said that he had purchased the book around two years previously from Hannah Edwards’ shop in Great Ellingham. He had been served by Hannah Edwards’ mother. Hart had purchased another similar book on the 8th April.
Hannah Edwards, the wife of Thomas Edwards, a shopkeeper in Great Ellingham for some 11 years, also gave evidence.
She confirmed that Hart had purchased a penny memorandum book from her shop sometime after August 1860, but she was unable to say whether it was in April (four months before this court case). However, she said that Hart could not have purchased the book (which contained the entries between Hart and Wade) two years ago, because she had none to sell at that time. She also disputed Hart saying that he had bought them ‘of her mother’, as her mother never served in the shop.
The case appears to have been ‘a messy affair’. Wade and Hart had once been the best of friends and business partners. However, the relationship soured; the ‘turkey venture’ failed, and they fell out over money which resulted in the actions in the Attleborough County Court.
Conclusion of the Case
At the conclusion of the evidence, the jury retired to consider the verdict.
After just 15 minutes, the foreman of the jury announced “that they had considerable difficulty in arriving at a decision“.
However, the Judge ruled that as it was the Defendant Wade who had brought the action back to court on the grounds of ‘pleading payments’, it was for Wade to establish his case.
In the event, the jury found that Wade had not done so ‘beyond reasonable doubt‘ and, accordingly, they found a verdict in favour of the plaintiff Hart.
The 1861 census captures 37 year old publican and farmer of 24 acres, John Wade at Crown Road, Little Ellingham. With John is his 38 year wife Mary Ann and children Sarah 7, Mary 6, Lewes 4, Frances 3 and four month old Elizabeth.
John Wade was born in Great Ellingham. Baptised in the Church of St James on the 15th June, 1823, John was the son of shoemaker William Wade and his wife Sarah.
The former Crown Public House Little Ellingham. In the photograph is Bert Pestell a son of a former landlord, Henry D Pestell. Courtesy of Pauline Laing
Norfolk pubs website confirms that John Wade was licensee of the Crown Public House in Little Ellingham from at least 1858 to 1877.
At the same time, 44 year old Little Ellingham born Mark Hart is living in Wood Lane, Little Ellingham. With Mark Hart is his 46 year old wife Julia and six year old son John. Hart is farming 6 acres.
Just one year after the court case, Mark Hart is bankrupt.
1861 census RG9/1237/105 & RG9/1237/109
Norfolk News 10th August 1861 viewed via https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/ 19th April 2021
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office PD 609. Also available at www.familysearch.org