Thomas Plowman, Mercy Petition, 1833
In July 1833, Thomas Plowman of Wavendon was arrested for stealing goods from a Leighton tailor. He had stolen ten pair of breeches, six yards of cloth, three waistcoats, 23 yards of fustian [heavy cotton cloth for menswear], and other goods, the property of Mr. Thomas Dumpleton, tailor, of Leighton Buzzard, Beds. Within a month of the crime, he found himself being tried for Larceny at the Bedfordshire Summer Assizes, at Bedford, and his story covered in local newspapers.
Plowman had worked for Dumpleton for seven months. He then left his employ and said he was starting his own business at Fenny Stratford. On 29th June, Dumpleton left his shop safe, but on his return on 1st July, he found his goods missing.
Dumpleton searched Fenny Stratford for Plowman, then went to see Plowman’s wife at The George, Little Brickhill, then went on to Yardley, with no sign of him. The next week, Plowman appeared back at Dumpletons shop, and stated that, on the night of the robbery, he had been with his brother at Weston Underwood. He then left the shop, but Dumpleton gave chase, calling “Stop thief!” Plowman turned and pulled a knife, saying he would stab anyone who tried to hold him if they didn’t have a warrant. He escaped across a brook, but a constable caught up with him, and arrested him.
Dumpleton later found his goods for sale in a pawnbroker’s shop in Coventry.
Richard Clark, woodman, gave evidence to the Court that Plowman had been offering waistcoats and breeches for sale at the Black Horse Inn, Stratford. He had bought some, and afterwards they had journeyed together towards Daventry.
William Coningworth, pawnbroker, Coventry, gave evidence that Plowman had been to his shop and sold him the goods, in return for £3 5s, using the name “John Newman”.
Plowman declined to make any defence at the trial, but he had received a good character reference for honesty from several witnesses in Leighton Buzzard and Wavendon. He was sentenced to seven years’ transportation.
Thomas Ploughman’s letter, begging for mercy from the Court, is lodged at The National Archives [ref. HO 17/55/31] It notes his previous good character, his utmost contrition, and is strongly recommended by the prosecutor for mercy. It states he has a ‘suffering wife & three infant children’ and the Gaoler reported, 'Character good”. The letter is not signed by Plowman himself, but is signed by the prosecutor and 55 inhabitants of Leighton Buzzard and Wavendon. It is also annotated: “Removed to the Penitentiary.”
The following are the names of the Wavendon tradesmen who signed his mercy petition: