Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Harriet Miall & Henry Barnard : Partners in Crime

I love reading all about the colourful characters in Beccles past. They seem so much less seedy and roguish with the passing of time, and become part of the lovable tapestry of our history.

Beccles has had many colourful characters in its Victorian and Edwardian past, including lovable partners in crime, Harriet Miall (alias, Swop or Swap) and her "paramour", Henry Barnard.

In April 1858, Harriet and Henry were charged with stealing from a William Clarke of Willingham. The way they went about the crime was rather cunning but, in those times, all too common. William Clarke met with Harriet at the Falcon Inn in New Market, Beccles on 10 April 1858. They began talking and Clarke offered to buy her a beer. When he brought her the beer, Harriet pocketed the 9d change. Shortly afterwards, Clarke left the Falcon to collect a parcel that was being held for him by a local ostler at the Cross Keys in Hungate, and then started off home.

Suddenly William Clarke was flanked on both sides by Harriet Miall and her partner Henry Barnard, walking alongside Clarke and talking to him animatedly about the 'stolen' change. Laughing and talking, Harriet proceeded to touch Clarke, putting her arms around him and jostling him merrily as she laughed and joked. After they left Clarke, he finally noticed that certain items on his person were missing. His silver watch, a silk pocket-handkerchief and the parcel (which contained a pair of trousers)!

William Clarke would have walked along
this alley from The Falcon In to get
to the Cross Keys in 1858

On the following morning William Clarke did not go to the police, as would have been wise, but confronted the pair and accused them outright of stealing from him. Harriet became verbally abusive and allegedly threw the silk handkerchief at Clarke, stating "that was all she had got." Sergeant Taylor was then informed by Clarke of the crime against him and he (Taylor) searched Harriet's house and apprehended both her and Henry Barnard.

Henry Barnard was discharged but Harriet Miall, admitting to having stolen the goods from William Clarke, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The handkerchief was produced in court but the watch and trousers had not been found. Harriet Miall denied stealing but then withdrew that plea and pleaded not guilty. She was accordingly committed for trial.

On 14 January 1861, Harriet Miall and Henry Barnard were married at St Michael's Church in Beccles. Henry was born in Beccles and was the son of Thomas Barnard and Sarah, nee Brooks of Beccles. In 1841 the Barnard family resided in Puddingmoor. In 1851, Henry's widowed mother Sarah was described as a "Pauper" living in Smallgate Street. Harriet Myall (note surname variant) was born on 16 July 1828 in Mettingham and was the daughter of James Myall and Judith, nee Homes. In 1841 the Myall family lived in Mettingham. In 1851, Harriet's widowed mother Judith was described as a "Pauper" living in High Road, Shipmeadow with her son, Philip Myall.

Harriet and Henry lived in Newgate Street in 1861. Henry was described as an Agricultural Labourer and Harriet as a Silk Weaver. In March 1867 Henry Barnard and another man were found walking from Haddingham's Mill, one of them carrying a sack. When Police-Constable Adams followed them on foot, Barnard broke into a run and dropped the sack which was filled with potatoes (valued at 4 shillings). Henry was sentenced to three weeks imprisonment with hard labour.

By 1871 Henry and Harriet were living in Marske, county Yorkshire where Henry worked as a Ironstone Miner. Henry died in Marske in 1878, aged 43. In 1881, Harriet is a widower, living in Jackson Street, Brotton (Yorkshire), with James Smith, who was also a Ironstone Miner. Harriet was living in Skelton by 1891 and is described as widowed, aged 63, born in Suffolk. Harriet died in 1893, aged 66. It would appear that Harriet and Henry never had any children.

Ironstone Mine at Upleatham, New Marske
possibly the workplace of Henry Barnard

Image 1: The Story of a Beccles Inn by Dorothy Smith, 1999 (Beccles Museum Books).
Image 2:
Newspapers: Ipswich Journal/Norfolk Chronicle.
Harriet Miall - surname also spelt Myall; Nyall.
Henry Barnard - surname also spelt Bernard.