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Condemned to Death for Sheep Stealing, 1828

On 9th August 1828 the Leicester Chronicle reported that William Rudkin aged 47, his son Samuel aged 27 and George Glover from Quorndon were indicted for stealing sheep from Mr Pepperís farm at Beaumanor. The report, although lengthy, is somewhat unclear in its analysis, the timescale and order of the events. These events seemingly took place in the April of 1828.

Mr Pepper counted 22 sheep that night but when he went to find them in the morning they had all gone. He found some of his sheep in nearby Muckley [Mucklin] Wood with many blood stains on ground and over a trunk of a tree. How many sheep were missing is not clear from the article but trails of blood led three quarters of a mile to Quorn and Pepper found hobnail marks from a boot clearly on the ground in Quorn.

Pepper and the constable went to one of the Rudkinsí houses (probably Williamís) and found that the nails corresponded exactly to his boots. They also found a bag with coal slack in it that was stained with blood. It is not clear why no arrests were made that day but seemingly 8 days later Pepperís son John found another sheep missing with marks in the hedge where it had been dragged through and again found the same hobnail marks.

The constable of Woodthorpe went to search Williamís house and found them supping out of a sheepís head. They told the Rudkins that they were in search of mutton and Mrs Rudkin it is believed secreted mutton from the pantry in her apron. Either later that day or on subsequent days, William Rudkinís house was searched again and more bloody sacks and sheep body parts were found. They also found a lambís skin.

Thomas Preston spotted three men on the night the sheep disappeared near to Pepperís farm and recognised George and George Glover but not the other man. Eventually Samuel, William, Mrs Rudkin and George Glover were placed in separate cells in the Loughborough lockup.

At their trial in Leicester Samuel and William were sentenced to death but Glover was found innocent. It seems that Mrs Rudkin faced no charges. Perhaps luckily for the Rudkins the Judgement of Death Act of 1823 gave judges the discretion to commute the death penalty to transportation immediately at the trial where treason or murder hadnít been committed. Their death penalty must have been commuted immediately.

Therefore William and Samuel were sent to the prison Hulk Ganymede in the Medway estuary awaiting transportation. The two were finally separated with William being transported on the Surrey on 13th July 1829 arriving in Van Diemenís land [Tasmania] on 14th December 1829. The Surrey was to carry the Tolpuddle martyrs to Australia a few years later.

Samuel went to New South Wales on the John setting sail on 22nd May 1829 arriving in Australia on 13th September 1829.

We know nothing about the Rudkins after 1829 except that Samuel died on 20th April 1842 less than 13 years later. It is possible that Samuel had earned his freedom by then and had stayed on, but he may still have been under servitude in 1842. No records of William can be found, but at the age of 47 when he was transported he may not have lived long after arriving, especially due the hard prison regime.

John Adsley

 Submitted on: 2023-09-29
 Submitted by: John Adsley
 Artefact ID: 2552
 Artefact URL: www.quornmuseum.com/display.php?id=2552

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