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The Poachers

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Charles Waterton and The Poachers

From Charles Waterton: His Home, Habits and Handiwork, Richard Hobson (see Links).

Click to enlargeCharles Waterton was constantly on the look out for poachers. Here, one such miscreant has been captured by the Squire and imprisoned in a lock-up in the Water Gate. Click image to enlarge.

***

From Letters of Charles Waterton

On encountering a gang of poachers at night, he confronted them and they were hauled of to the house of correction. However, the jury at York Assizes regarded Waterton as a selfish landowner and acquitted the poachers. Saddened by this, the Squire closed Walton Hall and Park to the general public after many years of public access.

On my arrival here I found that the poachers had played the ruin amongst my pheasants and hares. Warwick (1) has got his discharge most deservedly and nobody pities him. Mr Smith of Heath (2), not knowing that I had arrived here the day before, sent a constable to Warwick with information that the poachers would be in the park that night. I took measures accordingly and we would have taken the whole gang, had it not been for the arrant cowardice of Warwick and Sir William's (3) gamekeeper. I shot at one fellow but the ball merely grazed him. Luckily the constable recognised some old and desperate offenders.

Nine are now in Wakefield jail. Next Monday I am to appear against them and, as there is no doubt but that many of them will be sent to York castle for felony, I have been desired by the magistrates to hold myself in readiness for the Lent assizes.

Charles Waterton, Walton Hall 13/01/1846, letter to the Misses Edmonstone at Funchal, Maderia.
(Notes. 1. Warwick was the gamekeeper; 2. Heath is a village towards Wakefield about 4km from Walton Hall as the crow flies. Incidentally, close by to where the Barnsley Canal meets the River Calder; 3. Sir William Pilkington of Chevet Park to the south west of Walton. Sir William joined the Squire in his action to rid Walton of the infamous Soap House.)
Extract from R.A. Irwin's Letters of Charles Waterton, see Links.

***

I would fain hope that you, as one of the Proprietars of Punch, have had no hand in bringing me foward so unhandsomely in last week's publication.

I have made it a point thro' life never to prosecute anybody. The late prosecution of the poachers was not my doing. I declared that I would not prosecute; and that the prosecution was carried on, I believe, by the Crown, I being bound down in the penalty of forty pounds to appear as a witness. This annoyed me exceedingly, for I had only got home from Maderia the night before; and I was to have gone back thither in a week or two, to join my invalid sister(1) who was very kind to you in Rome. Of course my project was at an end. The poachers were known, notorious thieves and had been the terror of this neighbourhood for a long while.

Hitherto the Public have shared the park at Walton Hall with me for half the year. From the first of April to the first of October, for these last twenty years, everybody, rich or poor, has had full permission to fish in the lake; whilst both the lake and the pleasure grounds and their appurtenances have been equally given up to wedding parties, music parties and pleasure parties, without any restriction; and fuel and milk and the use of crockery ware and excellent stabling have been at their disposal gratis.

The very poachers themselves came into the park last summer, under pretence of fishing but, in fact, to discover how they could rob and plunder me in winter and they have robbed my pigeon-cot twice; stolen my tenant's ducks; and would have murdered me, had circumstances permitted. I had been exceedingly kind to the father of one of them, supporting him in his hour of need and providing for him till he robbed my cellar.

Charles Waterton, Walton Hall 28/03/1846, letter to William Makepeace Thackeray.

(Notes. 1. Invalid sister - Miss Eliza Edmonstone - the Squire's sister-in-law, who, in danger from tuberculosis, had gone to Maderia. 2. William Makepeace Thackeray, 1811-1863, novelist. Contributed to Punch, wrote Vanity Fair and Pendennis, amongst other notable works.)

Extract from R.A. Irwin's Letters of Charles Waterton, see also the Wakefield Museum exhibition Guide- see Links.

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