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Muckleston Family History Group

researching all references to the surnames Muckleston, Mucklestone, Muckelston and Mackleston please get in touch via the contact us page with any additional information or to correct any errors.

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The Extraordinary Charge of Fraud Against A Clergyman.

(Not once but many times!)

Research into Edward MUCKLESTON’s life had shown us that he was born on 6th June 1819 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, the son of “Captain” Edward Muckleston and as such was a descendant of an ancient wealthy family. Records from Oxford University showed that he was well educated and attended Worcester College and in 1845 he achieved his BA followed in 1847 by his MA. The “Clergy Lists” then tell us of his working life. He initially took on a couple of temporary curacies, in 1850 at Mackworth in Derbyshire and in 1852 in Stanley, Derbyshire before being appointed, that same year, surrogate perpetual curate of Ford in Shropshire, a position he held until  1860. In 1865 he was appointed perpetual curate of Haseley in Warwickshire a position he held for the rest of his life. He married relatively late in life, in 1871 at the age of 52 at St George’s church, Hanover Square, London where he married Emily HOLMES age 26, the eldest daughter of a deceased MD. They had two children Mabel Emily born in 1872 and Charles Edward born in 1875. Charles was to follow his father in to the church. Despite the late marriage it lasted 42 years as Edward had a very long life dying in December 1913 at the age of 94.

A number of different sources had enabled us to build a picture of our illustrious family member. The picture we saw was of a respectable, wealthy, well educated, family man who dedicated his life to the church. That was until we found further information at which has scanned newspapers from over 300 years. More pages are added daily but at the time of my search the only Shropshire paper was the Salopian Journal. However, many newspapers cover events from other counties and therefore events impacting on the lives of Shropshire people are often reported elsewhere.

It was through the eyes of the newspaper reports that we learnt more about Edward the clergyman and what we found painted a picture of the type of person he was, which was vastly different than our previous perceptions.

On 5th May 1860 the headline in the Chester Chronicle was “Extraordinary Charge against a Clergyman”. The story went..


“At Cruckton near Shrewsbury, on Friday week, the Reverend Edward Muckleston, Incumbant of Ford Salop, was charged with having, on the 4th instant, maliciously cut and damaged three trees, at Ford the property of the Reverend Robert Lingen Burton minister of St Giles Shrewsbury.  At the same petty sessions a short time since, the Reverend defendant was convicted of damaging the same trees and was fined. From that and other circumstances there seems to have existed a bad feeling between the two parties. The properties of plaintiff and defendant adjoin; and the three trees in question grow near the hedge of the defendant. Early on the 4th inst it was noticed by one of Mr Burtons tenants that the trees were barked and cut down on one side three or four feet and certain peculiar footmarks were discerned near the trees. The parish clergyman was suspected of having done the deed. He had left home about six that morning and on the following night returned home. On his way home a police officer who had been on the look for him, accosted him, and they fell in to conversation. The officer mentioned the affair of the trees and asked him to show him his boots. He consented and it was found that the boots and the footprints corresponded in every particular. The defendant attempted to show that he was in his home after 10 on the night of the 3rd of April and did not leave it until 6 o’clock on the morning of the 4th and that he had no such things as a billhook, the instrument with which the damage complained of had evidently been committed – The magistrate considered the charge proved and fined the defendant 3 shillings damage and £5 including costs”.

A couple of years later Edward once again appeared in the newspapers, this time on the 10th May 1862 in the Reading Mercury where the headline read – MUCKLESTON V THE GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY COMPANY. The story went...


“The plaintiff in this case was the Reverend Edward Muckleston of Llanfechan near Oswestry who sought to recover £1 2s of the defendants, 12s 6d of which being the expenses at the Great Western Hotel and the remaining 9s 6d being the railway fare from Reading to Warwick alleged to have been incurred as a result of the jolting which he received as a result of travelling on the Great Western Railway.  Mr F M Slocombe appeared for the company.


The plaintiff stated that in December last he travelled from Warwick to Paddington for the purpose of visiting the Cattle Show and on the day the train returned one of the porters at Paddington put him into a second class carriage next to the engine and that there were seven in the carriage with him. The train had not proceeded more than a mile on the road before he felt a great jerking with the springs and so much so that he was quite tossed with it. The train did not stop until Reading although he put his head out of the window and told the engine driver who said he could not stop it and that he thought there was no danger and he need not be afraid. He was tossed so that he could not sit on the seat and when he arrived in Reading he got out and would not go further. He felt so sick from the jerking on the 40 mile journey that he stopped in Reading all night and went home on the following morning. He afterwards wrote to Mr Kelly the superintendant explaining the matter and asking to be allowed his expenses and he said he could not entertain it.


His Honour – did you request to be put in another carriage when the train reached Reading?

Plaintiff – I did not I felt so bad. I could not have gone on as my headache was so bad.


Mr Slocombe asked his honour if he thought there was any case. He had four or five witnesses who he thought would give a perfect answer to the case.


His Honour – it is a very odd action.

Plaintiff – It is.

His Honour – Everyone in the train appeared to have gone safe.

Plaintiff – Oh yes there was no accident.


His honour observed that he had travelled himself in an end carriage and it seemed as if it was coming off. If a person got in at either extremity of a train they would probably find jolting at the one or swinging at the other. 


Plaintiff – the springs jumped up.

Mr Slocombe – did the man examine the springs?

Plaintiff replied that he saw a man examine them who said the spring was not broken. That was all he recollected of what the man said. He remembered one of the guards offering to put him in another carriage. He declined to go as he did not feel well enough to continue the journey.


Mr Slocombe – was there not a great deal of what they call “chaffing” going on amongst the other passengers in the department?

Plaintiff – they were frightened very much (Laughter).

Mr Slocombe – Did they not chaff you about your fears?

Plaintiff – I was not more afraid than the rest of the passengers.


His Honour asked plaintiff if he could eat when he got to Reading.


Plaintiff replied that he had some tea.


His Honour observed that 12s 6d was charged as expenses at the hotel. He (the judge) stopped there last evening and had dinner but did not indulge in tea and his bill exclusive of servants was 9s. The plaintiffs bill was 12s 6d and his stomach therefore could not have been grievously delicate. (Laughter).

Plaintiff – he was not well for five or six hours. 


Mr Slocombe asked the plaintiff if he made application to the officials to back his ticket for the next day?


Plaintiff says he did not as he was told his excursion ticket was useless for any other train.


Mr Thomas Harper, Inspector for the Great Western Railway at Reading was then called for the defence and deposed that the excursion in question ran from Birmingham to London on the 9th December and returned on the 13th.reaching Reading on the latter day at 10.45 at the time it was due and left at 10.55 No application was made to him by the Plaintiff. The springs etc were duly examined while the train was at Reading in accordance with the usual custom. No complaint was made to him as to the state of the carriage. The carriage near the engine did not oscillate more than the others.


His honour – the tail carriage did as he knew it from experience. If he gave a verdict for the plaintiff in this case he did not know what would result with reference to excursion trains for it would enable passengers if they felt a little squeamish to get out and have a good dinner etc at the expense of the railway company. (Laughter) and by and by they would have an action bought against the Steam Navigation company for persons getting sea sick (renewed laughter). There must be judgement for the defendants for he did not see at all that there was any case against them.


Plaintiff – well your honour I have only stated what was the facts.


Mr Slocombe applied for costs which his honour allowed.”


Future events lead us to believe that Edward did not forgive easily. On the 28th September 1867 Edward was now firmly ensconced in his new parish of Haseley in Warwickshire and the headline in the Birmingham Gazette was “Extraordinary Charge of Fraud against a Clergyman”. This time the story went...


“A charge of most extraordinary character was preferred on Thursday, at Oswestry, against the Reverend Edward Muckleston, vicar of Haseley, near Hatton Junction, Warwickshire. The prosecutors were the Great Western Railway, and the charge was that the defendant did, on the 4th day of September, fraudently travel in a 2nd class carriage without having a proper ticket. Mr Chadler, solicitor, of Shrewsbury, appeared for the prosecution. The Rev. Mr Muckleston had secured the services of the late Mr John Smith, of this town, for his defence, but in consequence of his sudden death of that gentleman Mr Marshall was retained. The court was densely crowded during the hearing of the case. From the evidence addaced (sic) it appeared that on the 8th of August the defendant purchased a tourist ticket between Leamington and Rhyl, the number of which was taken at the time of sale by the clerk, and in accordance with directions received, forwarded to the superintendants office. On 10th August defendant was found travelling between the same towns, still using the ticket which he had bought in the previous month, and had already travelled with. In explanation of this it was stated that the ticket on the down journey would not get collected at Chester, whence the defendant was travelling, and that on the up journey the ticket would be taken at Hatton Junction, and it was alleged that the defendant , taking advantage of this knowledge, had repeatedly used the ticket to pass him to and fro on the company’s line between Birmingham and Chester, evading its collection on the up journey at Hatton Junction by purchasing a ticket at Birmingham between that station and the junction. It appeared that the officials of the company, having cause to suspect the defendant of fraud, had systematically  watched him since the date of the purchase of the ticket, and being able to bring home the offence to him in the clearest possible manner. The magistrates fined him £2 and costs.”

Knowing he was being watched it was rather surprising to find that shortly after he did the exact same thing. On the 1st November, that very same year a headline in the Birmingham Daily Post was “The Charge Against a Clergyman for Defrauding the Railway” it stated....


“The adjourned summons against the Rev. Mr. Mucklestone, Vicar of Haseley, charging him with defrauding the Great Western railway Company on two distinct occasions, was set down for hearing at the Henley-in-Arden Petty Sessions on Wednesday. Mr Sermon (from the office of Whateley and Whateley Birmingham, solicitors to the Great Western Railway) appeared for the prosecution, and Mr. Marshall represented the Rev. Defendant. On the case being called on, Mr. Sermon said the summons would be withdrawn, and the case thereupon terminated. We understand that the Rev. Defendant (who it will be remembered was convicted at Oswestry, a short time since, of a similar offence to that with which he was charged on the present occasion) compromised his offence by subscribing £25, to a benevolent fund connected to the employees of the railway.”


It would appear that he bought himself off the charge and although the Birmingham Post stated he paid £25 into the benevolent fund the Pall Mall Gazette recorded the payment as £50 from the £460 a year income from his benefice. It would probably have been cheaper to pay the fares!

On 29th November 1869 Edward was once again the subject of headlines, this time in the Sheffield Independent, where the headline read “Charge of Theft against a Clergyman”.....


At a special petty sessions at Mold Flintshire, on Friday, a person named Guest was charged with stealing some machinery at works at Pont Blyddynn, and the Rev. James Muckleston (it was in fact Edward who owned the mine and this is probably a reporting error), Rector of Haseley, Warwickshire was charged with aiding and abetting. The prosecutors were the Chester Benefit Building Society, who had advanced £900 upon the leasehold property and machinery of a works at Pont Blyddynn, of which the Rev. Gentleman was a proprietor. The trustees of the Wrexham charity had issued an execution for rent of the ground occupied by the works, and the Rev. Gentleman, it was stated, had authorised his agent Guest, to sell some of the plant to pay the rent. – The Magistrates’ clerk Mr Kelly, pointed out that as the prosecutors were not in possession of the property the charge of stealing and taking away could not be sustained, and the magistrate dismissed the charge.”

It would appear that Edwards business with the mine was not profitable and the following year around March various newspapers record Edward Mucklestons bankruptcy. On the 14th May 1870 an advertisement appeared in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph ......


“Sale by Mr Wm. Hall. In the Bankruptcy Re: The Reverend Edward Muckleston. Valuable Manorial Estates, Farms, and other Freehold and Copyhold properties, in and near to Shrewsbury, Ford, Bromlow, Pantervin, Meadow Town, Aston Rodgers, and Llanfechin, on the Borders of North Wales”. Also, all Royalties and Rights belonging to the Lord of the Manor of Bromlow, Aston Rogers, and Pentervin.”


Properties included Quarry Place Shrewsbury which was his father home which he inherited on his death and was in the occupation of Mrs STANSFIELD with a yearly rent of £56, at Ford near Shrewsbury a Freehold Country Mansion with gardens and ornamental grounds of over 2 acres in the occupation of Wm. LYON Esq (his brother in law) who was living rent free. There were also farms, lands and cottages at Bromlow, Pentervin, Meadow Town, Aston Rogers, Wood farm near Worthen, Mynd Cop farm, Meadow Town and Penbryn Farm Llanfechain, North Wales in total over 1200 acres with annual rents of over £1800 a year and the advertisement lists the names of the tenants.


It would appear that the sale of his lands and properties was not enough for the following year on 6th July 1871 the Birmingham Daily Post ran another advertisement.....

“Re The Rev. EDWARD MUCKLESTONE of Haselow Salop (sic). Unreserved sale of about 60 Dozens of Rare Old Ports, Choice Sherry etc. G E JEFFREY has been instructed by the assignee to sell by auction, at the Royal Hotel, Temple Row, Birmingham, Tomorrow (Friday), July 7, at three o’clock to the minute – about 60 dozens of remarkably FINE OLD PORTS, comprising six dozens of 1834, thirteen dozens of 1846, eleven dozens of 1847, twelve dozens of 1853, and nine dozens of 1854, choice SHERRY, one dozen very old CLARET etc. Catalogue can be seen at the Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury.” 

I wonder what upset him most the sale of the lands or the Port?


Shortly after the sale of his “cellar” he had the compensation of marriage, the reason for the marriage, what benefits it bought him (was she a heiress?), and how his bride felt about the wedding we can only guess at. The York Herald was one of many papers who recorded the wedding....




“MUCKLESTON – HOLMES. – On the 27th inst., at St George’s, Hanover-square. London, by the Rev. Canon Robinson, assisted by the Rev. H. Cautley Holmes, MA uncle of the bride, and the Rev. F P Morgan Payler, MA., the Rev. Edward Muckleston, MA rector of Haseley, Warwick, only son of the late Capt. Muckleston, J.P. for the county of Salop, to Emily, eldest daughter of the late Trafford Holmes, MD of Southedge House, Hipperholme, Yorkshire.”

So did marriage change Edward? It would appear the answer to the question was not for long!

On the 24th March 1875 the Birmingham Daily Post had the headline “Washing a Clergyman’s Surplice”......

“Yesterday at the Warwick County Court, before Mr R Harrington, judge, the Rev. Mr. Muckleston, rector of Haseley, near Warwick, appeared as defendant in an action bought to recover the sum of 3s., for washing his surplice twice. Mr. Sanderson(sic), solicitor, Warwick, defended. The case created some merriment. – Mrs. Gubbins, the plaintiff, who said she and her husband lived on their “own estate”, at Haseley, deposed that she was engaged by the plaintiff to wash his surplice. He said he would pay her, and she replied that if he did not do so she would take further proceedings. – The Judge: But you did not tell him that? – Witness I did, sir; because I knew from my neighbours that the washing had not been paid for the last time. (Laughter). In reply to further questions, witness said she sent in a bill for the washing in March last year, and it was returned. She considered it was an insult on the part of the rev. Defendant to have sent the bill back. – For the defence. Mr Saunderson (sic) addressed a few words to the judge on the subject of parochial feeling at Haseley. He regretted that affairs in the parish were not so rosy as they should be, and that the vicar and his parishioners were at loggerheads. The churchwarden too, unfortunately, was opposed to the vicar, and it was suggested that someone may have induced the plaintiff to bring this action out of ill feeling. He argued that this was a charge which ought have been made on the parish. The rev. defendant was then examined, and he deposed that when he ordered the surplice to be washed he told plaintiff that the churchwarden would pay. He never took the responsibility on himself, and disputed the payment on principle. – His honour said he thought the course the defendant had adopted was much to be regretted, considering the position he occupied in the parish. However unjust the charge may be, he thought the clergyman of the parish may have permitted himself to have been imposed upon by paying such a trifling amount rather than do anything to augment the ill will and bad feeling which unfortunately existed in the parish. Still he believed the defendant would not perjure himself over such a trifling sum; and, accepting what he had said as the true version, he came to the conclusion that the plaintiff had mistaken the terms upon which she was engaged to wash the surplice. His honour thereupon suited the plaintiff.”

So it would appear that Edward was not too popular with his parishioners, unfortunately for them, he had a perpetual curacy and another 38 years in front of him as their vicar! Had he gone from falling out with the Great Western to falling out with parishioners? Sadly not. On 12th June 1875 the Leeds Times had the headline “A Clergyman Convicted of Fraud”.......

“At Solihull (near Birmingham) Petty Sessions, on Saturday, the Rev. Edward Mucklestone, vicar of Haseley, near Hatton, was summoned for defrauding the Great Western Railway Company. The facts of the case were as follows: - Early on the morning of the 6th ult. The defendant walked from Hatton to Knowle station (which forms the junction for Stratford upon Avon) and took a ticket back to Hatton. He did not then use the ticket, but by some means unknown he got to Birmingham during the day. In the afternoon his movements at Birmingham were traced, and he was seen by a detective to return to Hatton in the evening without taking a ticket. At Hatton he gave up the ticket from Knowle which he had bought that morning, and said he had come from Birmingham during the afternoon on a “short” train and joined the evening train at Knowle. The detective followed and spoke to defendant, who then admitted having come all the way in that train, and made the excuse that he had not time to book at Birmingham. – The defendant was fined £2 and costs, making £3 14s 7½d. In 1867 he was fined a like amount for travelling from Oswestry without a ticket, and it was explained to the magistrate that he had been carefully watched.”

It looks as if he simply could not help himself, and it makes you wonder how many times he did not get caught! In 1891 he was again in court for refusing to pay a solicitors bill as he felt they had not provided the service to the required standard.

I am sure as more newspapers are added to the site there will be more information on Edward but thanks to the information from these newspapers I now have a completely different view of the Reverend Edward Muckleston. I feel quite sorry for his wife an parishioners - I bet they could not believe he lived so long!