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From the Sussex Advertiser, 5th May 1846



Considerable excitement was occasioned on Saturday last by the apprehension of George Hylands, a small butcher living at Ringmer, on a charge of sheep-stealing. It appears that, on the morning of Wednesday last, the shepherd of Mr Thomas Ellman, of Court House Farm, Beddingham, missed four sheep out of a given number, which he had left safe on the previous evening. He directly informed Mr George Ellman, who lives at Beddingham, and manages the farm for his brother, of the loss; and that gentleman lost no time in putting himself in communication with the East Sussex Constabulary. In consequence of certain information the police became possessed of in the course of the inquiries which they immediately set on foot, suspicion was directed towards the prisoner Hylands; and on proceeding to his house on Friday, the skins of four sheep and part of their carcases were found in his shop and premises. On the skins being shown to Mr George Ellman and his shepherd, Thomas Payne, both parties at once identified them as the skins of the missing sheep; the marks on the ears, and other circumstances, leaving no room whatever for doubt. In the course of their inquiries the police ascertained that some of the mutton had been sold to a butcher, living in Malling Street, named Gibbs, and that Mr Cozens, butcher, on School Hill, had also purchased a portion of it. In consequence of this Hylands was taken into custody, and brought up for examination before H Blackman, Esq, when the following evidence was given.

The skins and meat were brought for identification. In order to the better understanding of the case it may be well here to mention that the prisoner is the son of a man named Hylands, now and for many years past in the employ of Mr William Ridge, and that the prisoner had formerly been shepherd to Mr Withers of Ringmer.

The first evidence gone into was that of Thomas Payne who, being sworn, deposed that he was shepherd to Mr Thomas Ellman, of Court House Farm, Beddingham. Mr Ellman has a flock of 440 ewes, 99 tegs, and several rams. On Wednesday last, there were in a brook near Beddingham bridge eleven fatting ewes, four tegs, and one ewe with a lamb. Some of the fatting ewes were marked on the right ear by a cut, forming an upper square, and on the left ear by a piece cut out forming an under square. One of the ewes was remarkably handsome, and was about six years of age, and had been kept over her usual age because of her beauty. Others of the fatting ewes had been purchased last year of Mr Tanner, of Patcham, and those sheep were marked in the right ear by a piece cut out forming an upper square. One of the tegs was a wether and marked in the ear, over square right and under square left; one was marked with a notch cut out of the under part of the right ear; this was also a wether teg. Another of the tegs was a wether, and was marked under square right; and the other teg was a ewe marked in the ear over square right and under square left. On the evening of Wednesday, the 29th April, the lambs and the sixteen sheep were safe in the meadow. On the morning of Thursday, the 30th, at about four o'clcok, witness mssed four of the sheep; one was the six years old ewe, one as an ewe purchased of Mr Tanner, and the others were two tegs, one marked on the under part of the right ear, and the other was marked over square right and under square left. A search was immediately made round the farm, with the view to ascertain whether the sheep lost had strayed with any of the other sheep, but they were not found. The ditches were also examined, but without success. After some further search, the marks of three or four sheep, which appeared to have been recently made, were discovered near the gate of the brook which opens into the turnpike; these marks were traced across the turnpike road up to a gate opposite; from thence they were traced down the road as far as a gat leading into Ranscombe-drove; here the traces were lost. The marks were traced for about 200 yards, and appeared recently made. The foot-prints of a person were also observed, and were seen to come from Ranscombe-drove to the Beddingham bridge, and the same impression had gone from the bridge back to the drove; there were several foot marks in the road. Information of the loss was then conveyed to Mr George Ellman, of Court House , but the sheep were seen no more until about half past four in the afternoon of Friday; when the skins of four sheep were shown to the witness by Sergeant Bennett at the station-house, Lewes. The skins were sworn to by the witness as being the skins of the four sheep which belonged to Mr Thomas Ellman, and which had been stolen during the night of the previous Wednesday. After the skins had been identified, the witness accompanied Mr George Ellman and the police officers to the shop of a butcher named Gibbs, who lived in Malling Street, Lewes, and there was seen the carcass of the 6-years-old ewe, which was cut asunder. After this discovery, they proceeded to the shop of the prisoner George Hylands, who is a butcher and who lives at Ringmer; here was found the carcase of the sheep purchased of Mr Tanner; also the two fore-quarters of one of the tegs; and two necks and two shoulders of another teg, which appeared to have been fresh killed. This meat was taken away by the police officers, and was believed to be part of the stolen sheep. On Saturday, two hind quarters of wether teg mutton were seen at the station house, and the meat corresponded with the fore-quarters found in the prisoner's house. The four skins were identified as being those stolen on Wednesday night.

The skins of the sheep were then brought in, and were identified by the old shepherd in the most conclusive manner. On examining the skin of the 6-years-old ewe, the 'upper square right' was clearly perceptible on one ear, and the 'under square left' on the other, being the old Glynde ear-mark - while witness also pointed out a dot of paint on one shoulder. He also identified one of the ewes which he had described as Mr Tanner's, the ear-marks of which were found to be as he had stated. He gave it as his opinion the mutton which had been found was of the age and character of the lost sheep, and he had no doubt, from its general appearance, that it had been killed on the Thursday morning. Mr George Ellman also spoke most decidedly as to the skin of the 6-year-old ewe.

Payne then identified one of the skins of the other sheep - an ewe which he particularly knew from the fact of its having been left out of a number sent to Lindfield Fair last August, in consequence of its being lame. He pointed out the 'under-farthing' mark he had spoken of. He also identified another of the skins, bearing the 'under square right' and 'under square left' marks. The evidence of this witness was most conclusive.

Mr George Ellman was then examined. He deposed to managing the Court House Farm, Beddingham, for Mr Thomas Ellman. On Thursday morning, the last witness, Payne, the shepherd, informed him that four sheep were lost from Place Brook, and that they had been traced to Ranscombe Drove. He then came to Lewes, and having given information to the police, and sent a communication to the Ringmer constables, he returned home about nine o'clock the same morning. Soon afterwards he was visited by Munford, the policeman at Ringmer, with whom he went to Ranscombe Drove. Near the gateway of the Drove, the footprints of a sheep were distinctly discerned. From thence they proceeded to the Glynde road, and when about 70 yards from the Drove, by the side of a bar way leading to Mount Caburn, several fresh footprints of sheep were traced, which could at intervals be seen in the upper Drove-way, towards Mount Caburn, for nearly eight rods. Being unable to carry their tracing any farther up the road, they wended their way to Ringmer mill; Here they were joined by Captain Bolton, the superintendent of police, and they proceeded to search every shaw, chalk-pit and rabbit hole, wherein anything was likely to be concealed; but nothing was found to confirm a suspicion that the sheep had been killed. On Friday afternoon, information was received from the police, to the effect that four skins had been found; these skins were afterwards seen in the station-house at Lewes, and identified as having belonged to three of the sheep which had been stolen from Mr Thomas Ellman's farm on Wednesday. Mr George Ellman, the police officers, and the shepherd, then went to the shop of a butcher, named Gibbs, in Malling Street, where was found the carcase of a sheep. It had been cut in two parts, but there remained little or no doubt that it was the carcase of the sis years old ewe. They then proceeded to the prisoner Hylands' shop, where was also found the carcass of an old ewe, and the fore-quarters of two young sheep. This meat was removed by the police. On Saturday, two hind-quarters of mutton were seen at the station-house, and these parts corresponded with the fore-quarters found in the prisoner's house at Ringmer. The direction of Hylands' house is almost in a straight line from the brook, and is about four miles distant.

James Bennett deposed to being a sergeant of the Lewes police. In consequence of instruction he had received on Friday, he went to Ringmer, to the prisoner Hylands' house. There he saw the prisoner, and told him that as some sheep had been stolen he wished to search the premises; permission was granted, and in the slaughter house were found the skins of four sheep, which appeared to have been freshed flayed. The prisoner was then asked where he got the sheep from; he replied "I brought them on Wednesday fortnight, at Hailsham market, of a salesman named Bankes [sic]". He was also asked when the sheep were killed, and he said, "On Wednesday evening". The witness then told the prisoner that the marks on the skins answered to the description given of those which were lost; that the skins must be taken to Lewes, and that the prisoner must also go. The whole carcass of a sheep, a half carcass, and other parts of another sheep were soon afterwards seen in the prisoner's shop; these were afterwards admitted by the prisoner to be the meat taken out of the skins previously found in the slaughter house. The prisoner was taken into custody, and on his way with the policeman to Lewes, he was asked if he had sold any carcass to any person. He said, "I sold one to Gibbs, in the Cliffe, and I think it was the best". On Friday afternoon the witness accompanied Mr George Ellman and Payne, the shepherd, to Gibbs's shop in Malling Street, where there was seen the carcase of a sheep in two parts, which was identified by Mr George Ellman and his shepherd. These three persons then went on to Ringmer, when the latter two saw and identified the carcase, etc, which were then taken possession of by policeman Munford. This done, the witness returned to Lewes, and took possession of the meat in Gibbs's shop, which, together with carcase, etc, found at Ringmer, have been taken care of by him.

Henry Munford, having been sworn, stated that he was one of the East Sussex police; and that on Thursday morning, in consequence of certain information having reached him, he went to Mr George Ellman, at Beddingham. Having joined company, they proceeded from Ranscombe Drove to Ringmer mill, where search was made for the foot-prints of the sheep. Several marks were discovered near Ranscombe Lower Drove and Ranscombe Upper Drove. O Friday morning, Sergeant Bennet joined witness's company; and four sheep-skins were afterwards found in the prisoner Hylands' slaughter-house; and in the afternoon, Mr G Ellman and his shepherd identified a carcase, two fore-quarters, two necks, and two shoulders of mutton, which were taken possession of by Munford.

The next witness called was Stephen Gibbs. He deposed that he was a butcher, living in the Cliffe, Malling Street, and that he had been in business as a master butcher for about eight years. He had bought a sheep of the prisoner, Hylands, who brought it to him on Thursday morning. The price agreed on was 5s a stone, and it weighed 7½ stone. He paid Hylands 17s 6d cash down, and was to pay the remaining sovereign on the Monday following. The sheep was brought in on Thursday morning; this was according to agreement. He had bought it the previous Saturday - that is to say he had on that day agreed with Hylands for a sheep, to be delivered on the Thursday morning. This bargain was made in his (Gibbs) shop, but when Hylands came to make the offer he did not say where the sheep was; neither did he say where he got it, when he brought it on Thursday morning between 9 and 10 o'clock. He brought it in his cart. Hylands had no one with him in his cart, which stood in the street - he, Hylands, took it out of the cart and gave it to witness. Witness did not see any more mutton in the cart. He and Hylands had had dealings together for two or three years - ever since the latter had been in business. They had bought bullocks together. He owed Hylands a little balance but could not tell the amount without looking at his books - it might be ten or twelve shillings, or perhaps a pound; he could not say what exactly, from memory, but could tell to a half-penny if he was at home. The balance was on account of a bullock, which they had bought of Mr Paine, of Ringmer. They had bought two bullocks of Mr Paine, for one they gave 3s 6d a stone; the other they bought out and out. The sheep was brought by Hylands on Thursday morning between nine and ten o'clock; it could not have been killed many hours, for it had not got quite cold - not quite set. He did not ask the prisoner any questions as to where he got the sheep; nor did he see any more mutton in his cart. He had not bought any more sheep of him lately, not since the first day of the year. Hylands had lent him a side of mutton, but that was all. Witness then identified the meat as being that which was brought to him by the prisoner on Thursday. Gibbs here repeated his assurance that he had not bought any mutton previously this year of the prisoner, but in order to make the matter more certain, went home for his books, which would show the exact extent of his transactions with Hylands.

Mr Cozens, butcher, Lewes, was then sworn. He deposed that he had had repeated dealing with Hylands, he had recently dealt with him; he, Hylands, then came in his horse and cart; the cart was empty. Hylands paid him £3 2s 6d and left 20s unpaid; this was for some fat sides of pork. He bought beef that day and paid 3s 9d a stone for it, it was a fore quarter. He had frequently bought mutton of the prisoner before, and had had 'dozens' of legs of mutton from him - sometimes two at a time, sometimes more. The last he had of him previous to the Thursday was on Saturday, there were three hind quarters and one leg. He believed the three hind quarters were wether, and the leg that of a maiden ewe. Of his previous transactions with the prisoner the witness could not speak accurately from recollection, but his book would at once show their extent. Mr Cozens then went for his books.

James Akehurst, policeman, stated that on Friday evening he went to Mr Cozens's shop, in High Street, Lewes, and that he received two hind quarters of mutton. The prisoner was brought to the station between one and two o'clock on Friday; had entered into conversation with him. Prisoner enquired how long it would be before he was taken before the magistrates; and had said "I am innocent, I bought these four sheep of a man of the name of Banks, a salesman". On witness asking him where Banks lived, he replied "I don't know, but I think somewhere near Pevensey". Witness remarked "Well, you know whether you are innocent or not". Prisoner said, "Mine were four ewes; I had five, and I sold one to a man with a dark jacket, whom I don't know". Prisoner had said two or three times that his were four ewes, and had repeated the same thing that morning. He understood there were two tegs found, but his were four ewes.

Mr Cozens here returned with his books. On referring, however, he found that there were but few transactions with Hylands during the present year. He might have had a few ready money bargains with him on a small scale, but such dealings being paid for at the moment would not be likely to be entered in his books. Mr Cozens, who gave his evidence in the most open and straightforward manner, then identified the mutton produced as that which he had bought of the prisoner. On comparing the forequarters with the hind found in Hylands' shop, they tallied exactly, a small notch or inequality in the division of the bone of the one fitting precisely into the other. Witness judged the mutton to be that of a wether teg. In his judgement he should say it was killed the day before it was brought to him.

Mr Gibbs then produced his account. They however showed but few transactions with Hylands during the present year. On the 22nd of January this year, he had received 19½ lbs of mutton from Hylands. He had lent him some beef in February, but he had had no mutton from him in that month. He had neither borrowed or lent nor bought any of him.

On Mr Blackman asking the prisoner if he wished to ask this witness any questions, he replied "No sit, it's all right what he says". When the same question had been put with respect to the other witnesses, prisoner had merely said "No".

At this stage of the examination the room was cleared of strangers and, after a short consultation, it was determined to remand the case for an hour or two, in order to procure the evidence of the little boy, Alfred Hylands, who had been named as bringing the mutton to Mr Cozens on Friday.

At six o'clock the examination was resumed. The boy Alfred Hylands, a little fellow of about ten years of age, was first brought in. On being questioned by the magistrates as to whether he knew the Lord's Prayer or the nature of an oath, he replied in the negative. Many questions were then put to him, with a view to ascertain whether he was in possession of any facts which could prove as to when the four sheep were killed by Hylands, or when they were first seen in his possession; but the little fellow, who certainly appeared to have been tutored, invariably returned in answer to any 'leading' question the safe reply of "I don't know". The worthy Magistrate finding the child apparently ignorant of the nature of an oath, did not swear him.

A man named Clarke, who it seems lives under the same roof with Hylands, at the opposite end of the house, here applied for the horse and cart, belonging to the prisoner, on the part of Hylands' father. On being asked what right the father had to them Clarke stated that "It was his father's business, as far as that go". Hylands' father had set him up in business; he was not sure, however, that it was his father's business, but he had heard him say the horse and cart was his. He (Clarke) hired part of Hylands' house; it was too large for him, and as he had married Hylands' wife's sister, he hired half of it. He stated that on Wednesday night he slept at home, as usual; he went to bed about eight and got up at five. On the Thursday morning he saw Hylands up - he was walking about. Clarke did not go into the slaughter-house, nor did he see any sheep. On the Friday evening he came home about seven, but went out again for a short time. When he returned Hylands' father was there; he was talking to the parson, Mr Symons. In reply to a question from the Magistrate, Clarke stated that he heard no disturbance on Wednesday night; he did not hear any one come home. He observed that he had seen Gibbs helping to kill bullocks, but never saw his father helping him to kill.

[It must be remembered that Clarke's observations were not taken as evidence; his remarks were merely made in a conversation arising out of his application for the horse and cart, on behalf of Hylands' father.]

At this stage of the proceedings it was suggested to the Magistrate that the boy, Alfred Hylands, had only been deceiving him, in stating that he did not know the Lord's Prayer, for that he had just repeated it without difficulty to a gentleman, while waiting outside. He was therefore called in, and on the worthy Magistrate repeating his former questions, admitted that he knew the Lord's Prayer, and the nature of an oath, etc. He was therefore sworn. He deposed that he was ten years old. That on Friday he came with some mutton to Mr Cozens. He gave him the basket down, but he did not see him take it out. His uncle George (the prisoner) had put it into the basket; there was half a sheep and two hind legs. He called nowhere but at Mr Cozens'; the order given by his uncle was to carry the meat to Mr Cozens. - Witness was then examined as to whether he saw any body with his uncle on that morning early; he speedily resorted to his old mode of reply "I don't know", and nothing of any consequence was elicited from him. This closed the evidence. Mr Blackman then called upon the prisoner for his defence, after having duly cautioned him that anything he might say would be taken down as evidence against him. The prisoner then, without any hesitation, but apparently in tears, observed precisely as follows - "I did it; I did not know what I was about, I am sure, I am sorry for it. It is such a thing as I never did before and never thought of it - I don't know that I can say anything else. I was quite out of my mind and did not know what I was about I am sure. I don't recollect anything about taking them, but I recollect having them - I can't say anything else - I have nothing more to say". - The prosecutor and witnesses were then bound over in the usual form, and the prisoner was committed to trial at the next adjourned Sessions.

The case excited considerable interest out of doors.

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