Cerne Abbas

Cerne Abbas Union Workhouse - 1846

Case of assault brought against the Master of the Union Workhouse

Transcribed by Michael Russell Jan 2008


Poor Law Commission Office Somerset House - 26th May 1846

To: J.T. GRAVES Esq. Assistant Poor Law Commissioner


I am directed by the Poor Law Commissioners to request, that so soon as your other official engagements will permit of, you will proceed to the Cerne Union and inquire into the case of assault committed by the master of the union workhouse upon the porter, and report upon it to the Commissioners.

I am, &c (signed) George COODE Assistant Secretary



Poor Law Commission Office Somerset House - 26th May 1846

To: John FRAMPTON Esq. Clerk to the Guardians of the Cerne Union - Cerne Abbas


I am directed by the Poor Law Commissioners to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th inst. forwarding copy resolution of the Board of Guardians of the Cerne Union, relative to an assault committed by the master of the union workhouse upon Moses BEDLOE, the porter together, together with a copy of the minutes referred to in such resolution.

I am to acquaint the Board of Guardians in reference thereto, that the Commissioners have instructed their Assistant Commissioner Mr GRAVES to inquire into the case and to report to them upon it.

I am &c (signed) George COODE Assistant Secretary


To: Edwin CHADWICK Esq. Secretary of the Poor Law Commissioners

The Master & Porter Cerne Abbas 3 June 1846


I am directed by the guardians to inform you they have this day granted the master of the workhouse one weeks leave of absence from Sunday next: and I have to request that the Assistant Commissioner will not attend here until after the 14th instant to make the inquiry with reference to my letter of the 14th ultimo.

I am &c (signed) Jno: [John] FRAMPTON Clerk


Poor Law Commission Office Somerset House - 5th June 1846

To: John FRAMPTON Esq. Clerk to the Guardians of the Cerne Union - Cerne Abbas


I am directed by the Poor Law Commissioners to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 3rd instant, stating that the Guardians   of Cerne Union have granted the master of the workhouse one weeks leave of absence from Sunday next, and requesting the Assistant Commissioner to delay his visit to the union until after the 14th instant. The Commissioners presume that the guardians have made arrangements for the discharge of the masters duties during his absence.

I am, &c. (signed) E CHADWICK Secretary


Brunswick Hotel, Jermyn street 19th June 1846

To: The Poor Law Commissioners Somerset House



I have the honour to report to you that, in pursuance of the instructions contained in your letter to me of the 26th ultimo (No 5831/46A), I attended at the workhouse of the Cerne Union on the 17th instant, for the purposes of instituting an inquiry into the case of assault alleged to be committed by the master of the union workhouse upon the porter.

I now beg leave to submit for your consideration, the evidence of the witnesses at the inquiry, duly signed by them.

The preliminary papers relating to the case are also forwarded herewith.


I have &c. (signed) John T GRAVES Assistant Poor Law Commissioner


Cerne Abbas 17th June 1846

Moses BEDLOE, sworn, deposes as follows:- I am the porter of the union workhouse. I remember Friday May 8th. About 10 o’clock in the morning the mistress sent me out for a pint of beer. I went down as far as Mr. BRAGGE’s in Acreman Street, in Cerne Abbas; I did not bring the beer back; I gave it to the turnpike man, whose name was VALLIS; he told me I was to give it to him; he told me master was at the door. I did not bring it into the house, because master was at the door. I came up to the door; master asked me where I had been; I told him I had been out: did not say where. He asked me where I had been; I told him I had been for a walk. I went in, into my room. He begun searching my pockets; I told him I had nothing there; he then begun beating me; he give me a black eye with a besom, and I think he had a white-washing brush afterwards. he tripped me up with his foot, and throwed me down; he struck me three or four times with the besom; he struck me on the elbow, and broke the tail off of my coat, and broke my hat. I do not know as I said anything to him, except saying that I had nothing in my pockets; I keep a porters book (book produced). I could not put on my coat, not well, for two or three days afterwards, from the beating I had got.

(signed) Moses BEDLOE

Cross-examined Moses Bedloe

I will swear the master was at the door when I came in on that day. He came in from outside the door, and went into my room, the little room. I came up over the steps and he was to the door.

I was called up to the Board on Wednesday, May 13. I took off my coat and showed my arm; it was very much marked, and the skin was rubbed outside both elbows, and I had a very black eye, and my forehead was bloody.

(signed) Moses BEDLOE


I think I struck the master in the scuffle in the forehead, just to defend myself.

(signed) Moses BEDLOE


Cerne Abbas 17th June 1846

Robert WILSON,states, - When BEDLOE came in I thought he had something in his pockets, and I did search him; because I had known him to bring in things that he did not ought to. I did not see him give the beer to VALLIS. I was in my office writing when I saw him coming in at the front gate. I went down the Board room stairs and met him at the front door; asked him where he had been; he said he had been for a walk. I then searched him, and he abused me very much; called me a rogue and a rascal; said it was a pity that such a man should ever come into a house like this. I took up a broom and told him to go and sweep the yard, after he called me those names. He would not take the broom, and then I gave him a pair of scissors to cut some grass, to trim the walk. He told me he would not do it. I then took the scissors out of his hand, and in doing so the point came into contact with his coat and tore it a little. There was some scuffling before this. it was when I searched him; he was rather rusty, and struggled. it was then I tripped him up. I do not deny giving him a black eye with the broom. I struck him with nothing else; I struck him two or three times

(signed) Robert WILSON

Masters book produced from week ending May 13, No entry of the occurrence referred to.


To The Honourable, the Poor Law Commissioners for England and Wales

The humble Petition of Robert WILSON, Master of the erne Union Workhouse

Humbly Showeth,

That a complaint has been preferred against your petitioner for assaulting the porter, Moses BEDLOE, and which charges has been inquired into by your Assistant Commissioner.

Your petitioner begs most humbly to represent that he filled the said office of master for nearly seven years, during which time not a single complaint has been made against your petitioner.

That your petitioner has each successive year, received the thanks of the Board for the manner in which he has discharged the duties of his office.

That your petitioner has improved the discipline of the said workhouse, and economized the expenditure therein.

That the Guardians and persons who have visited the said house have expressed their approval of the cleanliness and good management thereof, in which your Assistant Commissioner who have visited the house during the time he has held the office have joined, as well as Mr Commissioner GRAVES, on his inspection on the 17th June 1846, and of the manner in which your petitioners books are kept.

That your petitioner begs leave to refer to the Visitors Book for the truth of my assertion.

That your petitioner has a wife and two children depending upon him for support.

That your petitioners wife holds the office of matron of the said workhouse and has done so during the same period that he has been master.

That her treatment of the paupers and the management of the house generally has received the universal approbation of several Boards of Guardians during the period she has held office.

That during that time no complaint has ever been made by a pauper against either of them for ill treatment.

That your petitioner regrets having struck the said porter in a moment of irritation provoked by his conduct, and by the opprobrious epithets applied by him to your petitioner.

Your petitioner is fully convinced he has acted indiscreetly in so having struck the said porter, and i s sorry for having so done.

Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that you will be pleased to retain him in his said office; and that your petitioner will henceforward be more circumspect in his conduct, and avoid offence to every person in the discharge of his duties of his office. And your petitioner will ever pray &c

Cerne Abbas 18th June 1846 (signed) Robert WILSON


To Edwin CHADWICK Esq. Secretary to the Poor Law Commissions

Cerne Abbas 6th July 1846


The Poor Law Commissioners Assistant, Mr GRAVES, having heard the charge of assault against the master, the guardians are most anxious for a decision thereon.

I am directed by the chairman, and Messrs DUNNING & GUY, two of the guardians to report that the master absconded from the workhouse on Saturday night last, about 12 o’clock, and has not since been heard of. He is charged with an improper intimacy with the nurse, Mary Ann HIX, a pauper, and with assaulting another pauper, and the matron his wife. The chairman and the said guardians attended the workhouse this morning, and made inquiries into the circumstances. Copies of the minutes taken by them I enclose.

I am requested to beg that you will, under the circumstances, favour me with a reply by return of post, for the guidance at the next Board.

I am &c (Signed) Jno: [John] FRAMPTON


Cerne Union, 6th June 1846

Eliza BRIDLE - On Saturday last I was very poorly, and I asked Mrs WILSON to give me a little medicine, which she did; I was sitting on my bedside about half-past nine o’clock; I looked out of the window; I saw the sick-ward door was open; I then saw M.A. HIX leave the sick-ward and go into the garden; i spoke to Jane CHRISTOPHER, and she asked her to go out into the passage with me; she did so; I told her what I had seen, and we both went down stairs into our day-room, to watch her return; my child cried, and I went up stairs to her before M.A. HIX returned, desiring CHRISTOPHER to watch the garden door.

Jane CHRISTOPHER - On Saturday night last, about half past nine o’clock, Eliza BRIDLE requested me to go into the passage with her; I went out with her; she said she had seen something, and desired me to go down stairs into our day-room; we went down stairs together, when she told me that M.A. HIX was gone into the garden.

Bridle’s child cried, and she left me to watch the door; I promised to do so if I stayed till 12 o’clock, because I was determined to see the upshot of it. In about a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes I observed the door open gently a little way, and it remained so for a minute or two before she (M.A.H.) came in; before M.A.HIX came in, I saw her and Mr WILSON together, she in front and he behind her; when she came into the court, I struck the window with my hand and said “I’ve seen the upshot of that”. I was afterwards present at masters kitchen door, when he threw down his wife first, and afterwards Jane FRAMPTON.

Jane FRAMPTON - In consequence of something which took place in our bedroom, I was induced to look out of the window; after watching a little while I saw Mary A HIX come into the court, and run into the sick-ward; I saw Mr WILSON open the door and let her in; I called the mistress, who with the schoolmistress shortly afterwards came into the woman’s ward; I then told mistress what I had seen. About 11 o’clock the house bell rang, when mistress desired the porter to get up and answer the bell; before the porter could do so the master came into the house through the boy’s yard; I heard mistress accuse him with being in the garden with M.A. HIX, when master replied it was a d---d lie; he became very violent, and ordered all to leave the kitchen: I told him it was true, upon which he upset his wife first and afterwards pushed, struck, and upset me.


To: John FRAMPTON Esq. Clerk to Guardians Cerne Union,

Cerne Abbas - 7th July 1846


I am directed by the Poor Law Commissions to state, with reference to their letter of the 26th May last, that they have since received a report from their Assistant Commissioner, Mr GRAVES, upon the investigation which they instructed him to make into the conduct of ROBERT WILSON, the master of the Cerne Union workhouse, in having assaulted Moses BEDLOE, the late porter thereof, along with Mr GRAVES report; the Commissioners have also received the depositions of the witnesses whom he examined. The Commissioners consider the evidence establishes the charge against the master, and indeed, in a memorial which he has addressed to them, he admits the misconduct imputed to him. As the assault was one of aggravated nature, the Commissioners consider that the master in having acted as he did has shown himself unfit for his office, and they have therefore determined  upon issuing an order for his dismissal, which order will issue as soon as it can be prepared.

The Commissioners are in receipt of your letter of the 6th instant, from which it appears that other charges have been preferred against the master and investigated by the chairman of the Board and two other guardians; and the result of that investigation, coupled with the fact that the master has since absconded and left the workhouse, leaves no doubt (independently of the charge of assault above mentioned) of the unfitness of the master, and of the propriety of the course which the Commissioners have decided upon, as stated above.

I am &c (signed) WG LUMLEY Assistant secretary

Return to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons dated 22nd July 1846:- for

Copies “ of the Minutes of the Board of Guardians of the Cerne Union, in the County of Dorset; and all Correspondence of the Poor law Commissioners relative to the dismissal of the Late master of the Union Workhouse at Cerne”


Poor Law Commission Office Somerset House 30th July 1846

W.G.LUMLEY Assistant Secretary

Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 31st July 1846 - Minutes and correspondence Cerne Union

To: Edwin CHADWICK Secretary of the Poor Law Commission



By direction of the guardians I beg to enclose you a copy of the resolution of the Board of yesterday, together with a copy of the minutes therein referred to

I am &c (Signed)

Jno. [John] FRAMPTON


Moses BEDLOE - On Friday last between 10 and 11 o’clock am Mr WILSON, the master of the house, assaulted me without provocation; he struck me with a besom stick, and with the handle of a brush; he struck me several times; he broke my head, and gave me a black eye he also struck me on the arm and knee; the mark on the elbow now shown is one of the blows. My mistress (the matron) sent me out for a pint of beer; I went into Acreman street for the beer; I gave the beer to Mr VALLIS to hide it; I did not carry it into the house. I have made no memorandum of my quitting the house; I never abused my master till after he beat me. 

LONG, William - I sleep in the same room with the porter; on Saturday morning last I observed blows on his elbow and knee, and about his head and face; I asked him how it happened but he made no reply.

Mr WILSON - the master admits the assault, and regrets that he committed it; he states that the porter called him rascal and refused to obey his orders before he struck him; he did not like to press the charge against the porter, and therefore made no entry against him; he called BATH, ALLEN, Bethia SPICER, and Jane FRAMPTON, to prove the commencement of the affray, but neither of them were present.


To the Guardians of the Poor of the Cerne Union in the County of Dorset;-

To Robert WILSON, the Master of the Workhouse of the said Union;-

To the Clerk or Clerks of the Justices of the Petty sessions held for the Division or Divisions in which the said Union is situate:-

And to all others whom it may concern

We, the Poor Law Commissions, hereby declare that we deem Robert WILSON unfit for the office of master of the workhouse of the Cerne Union, in the County of Dorset; and by virtue of the statute made and passed in the fifth year of the reign of his late Majesty King William the Fourth entitled, “An Act Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor of England and Wales, “we do hereby remove him from the said office, and order and direct the said Robert WILSON to cease to exercise and perform the powers and duties of the said office.

And we do hereby require the guardians of the poor of the said Union as soon as conveniently may be, to appoint a fit and proper person to be master of the workhouse of the said union, in the room of the said Robert WILSON, and to report the said appointment, when made, together with the amount of salary intended to be given to the person so to be appointed master as aforesaid, to the Poor Law Commissioners.

Given under our heads and seal of office, this 9th day of July 1846


Geo: [George] NICHOLLS


Edmund W. HEAD


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