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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Three sets of neighbours living in adjacent houses were involved in this action. (Details from the 1891 and 1901 census returns). Ages  in brackets valid for 1896.

1. Mary Pearce (53)

(Her husband Michael Pearce (63) was not involved in the court action). 

2. John Slee (49) and Grace Slee (43) moved away to Tawstock soon after this action.

3. Robert Sloman (71) and his wife Maria Sloman (61)


At Barnstable County Police Court on Wednesday Mary Jane Pearce, John Slee and Grace Slee were summoned for assaults upon Robert Sloman and Maria Sloman. There were cross summonses against the Slomans, for whom Mr Seldon appeared. Mr James Bosson  defended the others. The parties all hailed from Atherington.

The evidence was very conflicting, but it seemed that on 29 May, Mrs Sloman, according to custom went to a well  near Slee's garden for some  water, and found the door of the well chained and nailed.. After she forced it open, John Slee, it was alleged, pulled her away, and besides, striking her about the body, kicked her. Mr Sloman, who was  of advanced age, then hobbled upon the scene and Slee directed his temper upon him. Mrs Pearce, meanwhile continuing the assault upon Mrs Sloman until Mrs Slee arrived, when there was a general melee.

The Slees, as also did Mrs Pearce, emphatically denied committing any assault, but were merely setting up their claim to the well which was running dry. According to their story, Mr Slee merely held Mrs Sloman from the well, until Mr Sloman came out with a brush in one hand and a kidney-bean stick in the other, and compelled them to act on the defensive. The case created no little amusement, although Mr Slee probably left the court a sadder if not a wiser man. He was fined five shillings* for assaulting Mr Sloman and five shillings for assaulting Mrs Sloman. The other summonses were dismissed.

*In 1896, an agricultural labourer (which John Slee was) would have earned 13s 9d per week (old money)



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