The report of a court case appearing in the Norfolk News of the 19th November, 1910, provides not only details of the case brought by a husband against his wife, but also information about the individuals involved.
The newspaper gave a lengthy account of the case heard at the East Harling Petty Sessions under the several headings ‘Matrimonial Finances‘, ‘Husband’s Charges Against his Wife‘ and ‘Curious Case at Great Ellingham‘.
The case was brought to court by John E Neale, the licensee of the Prince of Wales Public House in Great Ellingham, against his wife, Lettie Neale and local man Frank Harvey.
Frank Harvey, a dealer, was charged with stealing a pony, cart and harness valued at £30, the property of John Neale on the 31st October. Lettie Neale was charged with aiding and abetting Harvey.
Suffolk born John Neale was born around 1881 in Lakenheath. He had been at the Prince of Wales for only five weeks. Previously he had been living in London, and employed as a tram driver by the London County Council.
John Neale told the court that he had known his Sussex born wife Letty for four years. He had lodged with Letty and her sister in London before they married in June 1909. (I found a marriage between Alice Letty Latham and John Ernest Neale in the Islington District in the June Quarter (April to June) of 1909).
It was reported that Letty had formerly kept a hotel in Canterbury which she had given up in 1906. She told the court that she then had £760 when she went to live with her sister in London. In those times, this was a considerable sum of money.
There were discrepancies in the accounts given to the court concerning the couple’s finances. John Neale told the court that he had regularly given his wife between 25s and 30s per week. Out of this, Letty would take sufficient for ‘their keep’ (which John Neale suggested was 14s), and Letty would put the remainder in a bank account which was in her name. The savings were towards the funding of taking a business in the country, which is what they had planned to do.
This was refuted by Letty Neale who told the court that her husband did not give her money to pay into the bank, and that she had to draw money out of her bank account to ‘keep the house going’. Letty Neale produced her bank pass book to the court which confirmed that she had not paid in any money into her account since 1906.
There were also conflicting accounts in relation to a sum of £50 which Letty Neale said she had given her husband on May 10th, 1910 ‘to go into business’ with him in the country (i.e. the running of the Prince of Wales Public House in Great Ellingham).
In September, 1910, John Neale hired the Prince of Wales in Great Ellingham. He told the court that he had bought a pony in the Caledonian Market (Islington) for which he paid nine guineas. He also bought a set of harness.
Neale sent the pony and harness to Attleborough (railway) Station for collection by the outgoing tenant of the Prince of Wales named as ‘Joiner’. John and Letty Neale arrived in Great Ellingham to take possession of the Prince of Wales on the 4th October. Neale apparently paid a valuation of £14 6s 10d to the outgoing tenant, Joiner.
Circumstances Leading to the Alleged Offences
Frank Harvey was a regular customer at the Prince of Wales. The 1911 census (undertaken around five months after the court case), reveals Attleborough born 29 year old general dealer Frank Harvey with his wife Harriett and three young sons Reginald 6, Arthur 4 and George 2 living in Wood Lane, Little Ellingham.
A few days after the Neales arrived at the Prince of Wales, Harvey offered to sell John Neale a cart for £6. They settled on £5 10d. However, conflicting views were given to the court as to who actually bought the cart – John Neale or his wife Letty? Letty Neale said she had bought the cart from Harvey for £3 10s. In any event, the name of John Neale was painted on the side of the cart.
Similar conflicting views were also presented to the magistrates as to whether it was John Neale or Letty Neale who actually paid for the pony and harness. Letty Neale also told the court that she had paid for repairs to the cart.
John and Letty Neale had been quarrelling for about a week before the alleged offences took place. Letty Neale told the court that her husband was ‘in a very bad temper’ on the day of the alleged offences i.e. 31st October.
John Neale’s sister and her two children had been staying with the couple at the Prince of Wales and were due to return to London on the 31st. They needed a lift to the railway station in Attleborough. Again the court was given conflicting evidence around the circumstances of the conveyance of Neale’s sister and children to the station. In the event, it was Harvey who drove the pony and cart.
The court was told that at that time, Letty Neale had decided to go away to frighten her husband. However, she told that court that she had no intention of remaining away. Letty’s sister in law had helped her pack some of her clothes in a trunk which was placed in the cart. Letty was already walking towards Attleborough when the cart driven by Harvey (with John Neale’s sister and children on board) made its way along the road. Letty got onto the cart and, after her sister in law and the children were dropped off at the station, Letty Neale asked Harvey to take her to Norwich.
Letty Neale did agree that she had arranged for her husband’s name to be removed from the cart and replaced with ‘L. Hurst’ – the first name, she said, which came into her head. However, on reflection, Letty thought this was a foolish thing to have done and had it erased.
Letty also told the court that everything she took away with her was her own property, including the sum of £8 10s, and a ring which she had purchased in 1904.
As Letty Neale had not returned home on the night of the 31st October, John Neale had informed the Police. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Letty Neale and Frank Harvey for the theft of the pony, cart and harness.
Letty apparently arranged for a man named Dixon to return the pony and harness to her husband a few days later, with a message to say that she would return the cart ‘when she is done with it’.
Harvey was said to have called on John Neale at the Prince of Wales to ask him to withdraw the warrant, which Neale said he could not do. This was refuted by Harvey.
Harvey was arrested on the 7th November and taken to Harling (East Harling). Under caution, Harvey had said “The cart is hers. I sold it to her and she paid me for it. She told me that the pony and harness were paid for by her“. Letty Neale was taken into custody on the 9th November.
The cases against both Frank Harvey and Letty Neale were dismissed. The Chairman said that after consultation, the Bench “did not think there was sufficient evidence upon which a jury would convict“. However, applications for costs made on behalf of both Harvey and Letty Neale were refused “on the consideration of the way in which Harvey and Mrs Neale had acted“.
After the Court Case
Letty Neale told the court that she had intended to go to Newcastle after leaving her husband. However, it appears that John Neale and his wife Letty were reconciled. The 1911 census (undertaken some five months after the court case), captures both John and Letty Neale at the Prince of Wales Inn in Great Ellingham.
John Neale’s tenure at the Prince of Wales was relatively short. By 1912, the couple had moved on. Kelly’s Directory for 1912 lists Edward Goldsmith as licensee of the Prince of Wales.
https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=i0jv5yvRk7TpRhwUlGbX6w&scan=1 Accessed 23.11.2020
https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=kmBXJ4bEk7Pc2pyZrKLmkA&scan=1 Accessed 23.11.2020
The Norfolk News 19th November, 1910. Viewed via The British Newspaper Archive www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
1912 Kelly’s Directory. Norfolk Family History Society, Kirby Hall, 70 St Giles Street, Norwich NR2 1LS
1911 census RG14/11473/50, RG14/11484/28