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32 Local History

The traitor was hanged, taken down before death, dragged face down through the streets by a horse’s tail.... and then the body was hacked into four pieces. The body parts were duly displayed in a public place as a deterrent to anyone else considering high treason.

My first story takes place just prior to the season of good will in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the year 1584, I have discovered that a Findon husbandman, John Tychborne, had the misfortune to lose six of his best pigs. Stolen! He was justifiably furious at the loss.

This crime of pig rustling 427 years ago in Findon was committed on Christmas Eve of all times. The culprit was not another born and bred villager, but a labourer, Richard Chapman, from some distance away in East Grinstead. I have no idea why he was in Findon — perhaps he was merely employed locally but we will never know for certain. It may have been the severe weather that got the better of him or just that he fancied some pork or bacon for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Whatever his reasons, he decided to plunder the enclosure of John Tychborne that festive season over four centuries ago. It was, no doubt, with much scurrying and grunting that he disturbed the animals probably followed by squealing as he


grappled with their bristly bodies he made off with the six bonny porkers. The haul was estimated at the time to be valued at a grand total of thirty shillings. Crime did not pay in Findon, not even in Elizabethan days, and he was brought to justice at the East Grinstead Assizes in the Spring of the following year.

The date of the court case was set to be 1st March 1585 and the charge was that of grand larceny (the charge for goods taken worth over at least twelve pence). Judge Thomas Gawdy and Serjeant Francis Gawdy sat in judgement upon Richard Chapman, their lips in all probability set in thin disapproving lines. After the hearing he was decreed guilty of the crime of pig rustling in Findon and received his sentence but on this occasion he was allowed the "

bnft o l r y eei f ceg". In

those days this meant that if he could prove his literacy he would receive a lesser punishment.

I have been unable to discover anything further of the pig farmer John Tychborne and can only guess that he continued with his Elizabethan style of farming in the village and kept an eye on his porkers as each Christmas approached.

My second story concerns sheep rustling in the festive season. The weather was taking its toll on the weak and ailing and mortality rates were high. Richard Gyle was a labourer of Findon, and conditions were maybe becoming desperate. On 20th December 1590 he travelled to nearby Pulborough and with hardly a thought for the consequences, he entered the area where sheep were grazing. He managed to round up six of them (said later to be worth three shillings). They belonged to a man named Gregory who was none too pleased when the theft was discovered. Richard Gyle’s acquisition was, no doubt, to see him and his family through Christmas and the ensuing winter months. He was duly caught and taken to East Grinstead Assizes where on 20th July 1591, he shuffled before Judge Robert Clark and Serjeant John Puckering with a charge of grand larceny. Final judgment was passed and he stood dull-eyed no doubt as he was found guilty of the crime he had committed.

This all goes to prove that crime just does not pay especially at Christmastime!

Further stories of past crimes in our area as well as local Christmas stories can be discovered on Valerie Martin’s website

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