For the whole week before the gamekeeping weekend the forecast was pretty dire, rain Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I wonder if the weatherman was right? Well luckily for us he wasn’t right for Saturday and just as well because Sunday was dreadful.
Instead of writing loads and loads of information about the folly I thought it might be better to photograph the information boards. Just click on the image and you will be able to read all about it.
As an extra event although a bit noisy the stone masons turned up on the Saturday to finish off the threshold to the doorway, a bit of marking out, some chipping and then angle grinding the surface smooth.
Part of the display at the weekend was about how gamekeepers kept the vermin down in the Victorian period. We had some gin traps (gin derived from the word ‘engine’ which was a generic term for a mechanical item and they hold the animals leg). They were made for many years by the village blacksmiths before mass production in the forges of the Midlands took over. They were banned for use in 1958 in England and Wales, later in Scotland. They were made in many sizes depending upon the type of animal you were trying to catch from mice to lions. Some had small brass parts, but most were predominantly of steel construction. To dispel a common myth that seems to crop up from time to time ~ old Gin Traps are perfectly legal to own, collect, buy and sell as items of historical importance, antiques or curiosities. It is purely the use of gin traps and similar devices that was made illegal in 1958 by the Pests Act (1954) in England and Wales.
We had some pole traps too which were used to catch birds of prey and the larger ones use for animals of all sizes. All illegal but a bygone curiosity. Then there was the magpie egg trap, you put an egg on the trigger and the magpie or crow can’t resist the egg, these traps catch them alive. There were all sorts of mouse traps and mole traps. One interesting trap was the deadfall trap and it wasn’t until I went to Romania this month that I found out how to use it. The biggest trap was possible a man-trap, these would have been put out in places where poachers were active. Pretty nasty traps these as they have iron teeth that grip the leg, ouch.
We also had a ferreting display using purse nets and long nets, a favourite of the poacher and Wimpole had quite a few poachers in the Victorian period. We did catch a few rabbits from under the folly and some of these were given away to anyone that wanted to take one home to cook. We even skinned and butchered the rabbits for them as almost everyone that took a rabbit had no idea how to prepare them for cooking.
There was also the air rifle range were people could have a go at shooting a rat target; hit the yellow patch and the rat would fall over. The children enjoyed this as we have a special small low powered air for them. Some of the adults were allowed to use my .410 shotgun as many had never fired one. These are also a favourite of poachers as they can be made to fold up and be easily hidden in their coats. We even had a catapult range, another favourite poachers tool, silent and deadly in the right hands. Poachers mostly use them on a full moon lite night when after pheasants.
Spent the night up at the folly looking after the site as you never know who’ll be around especially as we had all the equipment and demonstrations left out. Actually quite a few people came by visiting the folly as the sun went down but there was one gentleman called Tom Ridgeman from Arrington (rings church bells you know).
He had a go on the air rifle range and then sat by the washing machine fire telling us all about Mrs Bambridge and Wimpole plus Arrington were he actually lives. In fact I had never known that a lot of the houses in the north part of Arrington parish were actually poorly built squatters houses. Apparently all but one have been either demolished and replaced or vastly improved; only one original squatters house now exists. Amazing the people you met when you least expect it.
Now for a brief history of the folly.
1749-1752, Sanderson Miller (1717-80) designs the Gothic Folly for 1st Earl, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke but it was not implemented.
1769-1772, Work on the Folly carried out for 2nd Earl, supervised by James Essex (1722-84), with Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s involvement. It was not built to house anybody just some stairs and floors to view the estate.
1772 Earliest graffiti on the Tower (eg ‘WH 1772’)
1801, Humphrey Repton draws up proposals to adapt the tower as accommodation for a gamekeeper; ‘Red Book’ for Wimpole.
c. 1805, Tower is adapted for gamekeeper, probably superintended by Thomas West. Two small towers altered for service uses.
1822-1834, The accounts of Servants wages & Foremen’s salaries’ appear for the last time in the accounts for 1834 with Robert Hill as gamekeeper, William Kidd as rabbit catcher, J Dunstan, as woodward, J Dall as gardener, Thomas Chapman as under-steward and J Hitch as keeper at Morden.
1833, The trail of William Westnott & others
Cambridge Chronicle: 15 March 1833
William Westnott (24), Charles Carter (22), and Charles Algood (42) were indicted for unlawfully and maliciously shooting at William Kidd, of Wimpole, in Kingston Wood, on Saturday the 5th of January last.-William Kidd examined: I am assistant keeper to the Earl of Hardwicke ; at four o’clock on Saturday morning the 5th of January I was in Kingston Wood, protecting the game; John Carter and others were in the wood; I heard a gun fired; there are pheasants in that wood; I saw a person who did not belong to my party ; the man
made a stop, I walked a few paces towards him ; he was coming down a ride and I was going up it; I got close upon him, within three yards, and then I saw two men, they both lifted up their guns; nothing was said, but they presented them, one at my head, the other at my body, they fired both of them off; one struck me in the face and the other in the arm ; there is one shot in my cheek now, and one or two in my forehead; some powder also went into my face, and blood immediately followed ; the shot cut through my coat, waistcoat, and ,hirt, and some went into my arm ; directly afer they shot at me I saw a third man, immediately after which they turned round and ran into the wood; I was unsensed ; I halloed out, and John Cater came up ; the same day I went to Mr. Pine’s the surgeon of Royston ; he dressed my wounds. I met the man I supposed was one (Westnott) on the following Monday morning ; I believe him to be the man that fired at my head.
John Cater said he was with others in Kingston Wood on the above morning; about four o’clock we heard a gun fired ; afterwards saw the flashes of two guns ; I was then about three chains from Kidd; l made my way to him; he was on the ground in a bleeding state; I picked him up, and then trod on part of the barrel of a gun, which was delivered to the head-keeper, Mr. Hill.
Dennis Male is wheelwright and constable at Toft; knows Westnott ; on Monday afternoon the 7th of Jan. met him; only two or three minutes before I met him had heard that Kidd had been shot; I had some conversation
with him about it; I said I heard that Kidd was shot and he (Westnott) was blamed for it; Westnott at first said he did not know any thing of it ; I said I heard there were three of them; he answered there were six ; I said how should you know there were six, if you was not one or them; he said “I don’t mind telling you I was, I shot him in the cheek and somebody else in the elbow”; Creeke, a shoemaker, was present at this conversation; after that I saw Westnott again, between four and five in the afternoon, at Caldecott at a public-house, he was with Creeke; we all came out together about half-past six, as we were going towards home we went by the side of some bushes, and Westnott went into a gap and pulled out a gun, he gave it to Creeke and said, “this is the gun you bought of me; we then crossed over four or five lands, and he pulled out another gun; he said “this is the other gun that shot the man, this is the short one, when this gun was fired off the top part flew off,” I put my finger into the barrel and found a screw, as if there was another piece that fits in; .1 don’t know what be did with it.
Henry Creeke said: I am a shoemaker; Westnott owed me five shillings; he offered to give me a gun for the debt, which I agreed to take; Male was with me on Monday the 7th of January, when we met Westnott; I saw him again in the evening; as we were going home be took the gun out of a spinney and gave it me, I was to make it up if the gun was worth more than five shillings ; he said that was the gun which shot the man; when I and Male first met him, Male said to Westnott that he heard that he was blamed for shooting the man at Wimpole; I had heard that Kidd had been shot at Kingston Wood; Westnott said “I shot the man.”
Mr.Hill, the head-keeper, and Chapman, an assistant, proved the finding and receiving a part of a gun-barrel, which was delivered to Stevens, the Bow-street officer, who produced it.
Francis Pym Jun. Esq. said, I am a magistrate. Carter was examined before me; his examination was taken down in writing ; he was before me first on the 12th of January; I cautioned him that anything taken down would be produced against him; Hill told me be wished to say something; at a second examination, at the gaol, I read over to him what he had first said, and asked if he had anything he wished to add to it. Mr. Hill re-called and said, that as they were going to Mr. Pym’s house, Carter asked me if he could he examined first; I told him I would ask Mr. Pym, but if he said anything to mind and speak the truth; I certainly made him no promise to do so.
The examination of Carter read : In it he said, “I should not have went if a person had not come and called me out of my bed ; I shot first, I did not take any particular aim.” About a week after, at another examination, he said; ” I should not have said this if Mr.Hill and the other gentlemen had not told me if I said I was there I ,should go home.” At the examination of Westnott he said, “I was there with two other persons was not the man who shot at Kidd ; I had no gun with me.” At the examination of Algood he said, “I was with two persons in Kingston Wood, when they shot Kidd, I do not think one of them would have shot him if it had not been for the other man. Kidd was running up towards them, and they did not like to be taken, so they shot him. I think one of them would rather have been taken,but the other man said shoot him.
“The learned Judge having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of guilty,recommending the prisoners to mercy.
Charles Allgood, was next placed at the bar alone. His Lordship said the jury had wished him to make some discriminalion in his cace[sic]. He had since taken it into consideration and had found a circumstance which induced him to think that he should not relinquish the performance of his duty if he saved his life. It appeared that he was the person who did not draw a trigger, and although he was in the wood for an improper purpose, there was a moral difference in the part he took in the transaction.-Death recorded.
William Westnett and Charles Carter were then called up, and His Lordship having placed the black cap upon his head said, “Prisoners at the bar, upon an occasion like the present it is seldom that I address criminals at any length; my feelings are too much overipowered to enable me to do so. But in the present instance I cannot avoid deviating a littie from my usual course, in order to state why I have made a difference between your cases and that of Allgood. I have often tried men for offences against the Game Laws, but I have usually found that they have used braver and wiser means to elude punishment than you adopted; when they have come to a determination not quietly to give themselves up, they have laid down their arms and endeavoured by physical force to escape;
you, however, even without speaking, deliberately stopped within three or four yards of the prosecutor, pointed your guns and shot at him. I cannot therefore deal with your case in any other way than that of passing upon you the extreme sentence of he law. Let me therefore earnestly implore you, now that your days are numbered, to ask for mercy from that Saviour whom you have offended, and rely upon it that if you approach his throne with penitential prayer you will be rewarded. It now only remains for me to pass the sentence of the law upon you, which is, that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may the Lord have mercy upon your souls.”
The prisoners after being tarken from the bar, appeared much affected.
Cambridge Chronicle Friday April 5 1833
EXECUTION OF WESTNOTT AND CARTER
For Shooting At A Gamekeeper
Great exertions were ineffectually made since the condemnation to obtain a respite, particularly for Carter, on account if his previous good character; the Earl of Hardwicke, also, with his characteristic kindness, interposing in his behalf. Their conduct during the last fortnight became men in their aweful situation, and they seemed to pay great attention to the exhortations of the chaplain; confessing to him that they had been greatly addicted to poaching, but denying to the last any intention of killing their prosecutor,admitting at the same time, they had agreed before they went out to shoot on each side of any keeper they might meet, so as to stun him and make their escape. At the time appointed for their execution they were led from the condemned cell, and on passing the gallery to the governor’s house, Westnott seemed to display great indifference as to his situation, which was also manifest on walking up the prison yard, but on one of the turnkey’s bidding him good-bye he apparently felt more emotion than at any other time. Carter walked to the scaffold with a firm step, seemingly in deep thought, but was obliged to be supported up the steps of the drop and until he knelt. While the service was reading, Carter seemed to join in it with great fervency, more especially in all the ejaculations for mercy; while Westnott occasionally betrayed great indifference, looking first at the crowd, then at the chaplain, and I then at Carter. When the service was concluded, Carter exclaimed “God bless you,” and kissed the chaplain’s hand, as did also Westnott. When the drop fell the horror of the moment was increased by the skrieks[sic] of the sister of Carter, who had very imprudently placed herself close to the prison. Carter died almost instantaneously, but Westnott, a man of great muscular power, struggled violently for several minutes.
Carter had been married only a short time,but has left no children. He has been described as ‘ half witted,’ but those who have had the best opportunity of judging of him from his conduct and conversation while in prison, think it incorrect, though he was undoubtedly a simple-minded man and easily led astray.Westnott was also a married man and has left two children;he had been previously convicted of felony, was a well-known poacher, and bore a general bad character, and we are informed by a gentleman by whom he had been employed, that he always considered him a man capable of any crime ; he was also one of the six who attempted to break prison some time since by means of wooden keys.
The injurious tendency of beer shops seemed to be deeply impressed upon the minds of the culprits,and in speaking of them, Carter from observation and Westnott from experience, they stated that many young men spent nearly all their wages at them, and when intoxicated planned robberies and depredations that would not otherwise be thought of. Carter stated also that he had many times eaten venison, but had never assisted in taking it, though he was well acquainted with the method ; Westnott had never tasted it. After finding that they had shot the prosecutor, they said they came to a determination that if they escaped detection they would not again go out after pheasants, or with guns; but it appears that poaching was too familiar to thems to be given up, as Carter, when taken, had been out for the purpose of setting hare snares. They both stated that the game they took they sold in Cambridge, not to the licensed dealers, but to some man who is well-known to poachers.
The concourse of persons was very great, the greater portion of which were females. A pickpocket was detected soon after the excecution, and the horrid spectacle seemed to have little effect on a portion of the spectators, who almost immediately crowded round some boys who were fighting in the castle grounds.
A report has been currently circulated that suspicion attached to the culprits of having murdered a young man who went to London with them, and of whom nothing had been since heard. Inquiry has been made and it has been satisfactorily proved that he died in one of the hospitals, and the register of his burial has been obtained.
1871, The Goodman family living at the Folly
1891, Frederick Keen, Alfred Keen, Emma Watts living at the Folly. Mr Keen was the game keeper for a syndicate which paid about £600 to Lord Clifton for the right to shoot over the 7500 acres of land he had at Wimpole. Interestingly they killed c. 3500 rabbits in one year!
1901, Edwin, Mary Ann, and Emily Evans, and Walter Betteridge, living at Folly
1916, In ‘the Great Blizzard’, ‘The parapet of “The Tower” near the keepers house was blown down, some tons of masonry falling.’
1935, George Woodrow, his wife Beatrice Elizabeth and their son Reginald Woodrow, they would seem to be the last people to live in the folly.
Now in a poor state internally you can still see how the gamekeepers lived and even now without electricity and mod cons this would be a most excellent place to live with far superior views than the house!
All the windows now have glass in them but the top floor has gone, it would appear that when the folly was first built it had fours floors and an open staircase. However when it was converted to the gamekeepers house it seems to of had a further floor added as one floor cuts a main window in half.
Sunday was wet, very wet and we didn’t think anybody would visit us up at the folly. How wrong was that, at 6.30am two of the local walkers paid us a visit so we let them have an early morning shoot on the air rifle range. However after that quite a bit of the day was somewhat boring, needless to say we got pretty good at knocking over tins with the catapults. A poachers tool if there was ever one and talking about poachers Wimpole has had it’s fair share of them, even recently. Start from the incident with William Kidd there were a few other poachers in the local rag in the 19th century. Both James Pratt and George Mulberry were convicted of poaching and using a dog to catch hares. George seemed to be quite an active poachers as his name comes up quite a few times. Then there was a reward of £5 for the information of ‘Night Netters’ or what we now call long netting for rabbits