Thursday, 4 October 2012

James Cornwell (1791-1870), convict

James Cornwell was a younger brother of my great, great, great grandfather Job Cornwell (1780-1869).

James was born in 1791 and baptised on 13 March 1791 at St Mary, Kelvedon in Essex. His parents were Job (1756-1806) and Hannah Cornwell. He was the sixth of their seven children.

The book “Church Street Chronicles” written by Graham Weldon and published in 1999 by the Feering and Kelvedon Local History Museum recounts the following story. In 1809 (or thereabouts) Isaac Warwicker, a Kelvedon man got drunk, swore at James Tumner, a local constable and tried to punch him. Tumner overpowered Warwicker and marched him off to the village cage, a small building used to temporarily imprison those who disturbed the peace. Later a group of Warwicker’s friends led by Bob Foster lifted the cage off its brick plinth and overturned it, causing irreparable damage and allowing Warwicker to escape. Foster foolishly boasted to Tumner that the cage was destroyed and was subsequently tried before a local magistrate. He refused to give the names of his accomplices and was sentenced to 14 days in goal. The story was investigated by the Reverend Francis Hay MA, vicar of Kelvedon from 1891 to 1922. Hay understood that one of the gang was James Cornwell, who was 18 in 1809.

In 1823 James married Mary Martin in Kelvedon. He was 32 and she 23. They had six children namely Charlotte (b1824), Maria (b1825), Job (b1827, died as an infant) David Herbert (b1829), Jonah (b1830) and Charles (b1833) Cornwell.

Weldon writes that James Cornwell had served 6 weeks imprisonment for fraud and 6 months in Springfield Goal for theft by his early forties. The Essex Criminal Registers show that a James Cornwell was convicted of fraud in 1832 and sentenced to 6 weeks in prison.

The 1841 census of Kelvedon records James Cornwell (aged 50, an agricultural labourer) in the same household as Mary (45), James (29), David (11), Jonah (9) and Charles Cornwell (7).

The 1851 census shows James (aged 60), his wife Mary (50) and their son David (21) living in Kelvedon. The address is not given but was probably Church Hill (from nearby addresses).

James’s wife died sometime between 1851 and 1861 as he is listed as a widower in the 1861 census. He is shown as an agricultural labourer aged 70 at Church Hill, Kelvedon with Frances Rutkin aged 58 as his housekeeper.

James Cornwell died in 1870 aged 79. 

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