Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Crime of the Whaley Bridge Postmaster

Robert Jackson was postmaster at Whaley Bridge, a position he had held for 16 years. He also held the post of assistant overseer where his responsibilities would include collection of rates and administering the poor law.  He also acted as collector of tithes for the parish of Taxal and as treasurer of the church restoration fund.

Jackson had received £55 from the ladies who managed the Provident Club to be invested in a Post Office savings account. They had little knowledge of the methods of the Savings Bank and did not ask for a receipt, relying instead upon the honestly of the postmaster. Jackson  received £20 from the Senior Overseer, also for investment.  The anticipated interest on these investments was paid regularly.

In July 1889, Jackson suddenly disappeared. On the investigations of the Charity Commissioners and the Paot Office Authorities, it was found that not only these sums were missing but a total of £275 including moneys from the poor rates. A warrant was issued for arrest and he was discovered in Manchester where he was furnishing a house. The prisoner was conveyed to Whaley Bridge where he was handed over to Constable Hunt. He was then remanded at Stockport and in December 1889 was tried for embezzlement. In his defence, it was stated that Jackson and his wife also ran a stationery business, the stock of which amounted in value to more than the missing funds. Had repayment been demanded, Jackson would have had little difficulty in raising the money. The auditor had found that much of the money could be recovered and the Post Office had refunded £20 leaving a deficiency of only £45. Jackson had a wife and young family and in his support the Rev. Sam Evans, vicar of Taxal and Mrs Johnson and Mrs Shalcross, managers of the Provident Club spoke of his excellent character despite his having made off with the money which they had entrusted to him.

The defendent pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months hard labour.

Jackson was clearly popular in Whaley Bridge for he had only been in jail for a month when the Home Secretary received a petition signed by a large number of Whaley Bridge citizens praying for Jackson's early release. The signatories included local magistrates, clergy and ministers and nearly all the ladies of the Provident Society from whom he had embezzled the funds!

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