Saturday 21 September 1861
WHICH HAS THE RIGHT TO THE WELL
[At the Wakefield Petty Sessions, Monday 16 September], John Beecher, of Brandy Carr, charged Aaron Farrar with doing damage to his property by breaking open a door that was used to cover a draw-well. Mr Barratt appeared for the complainant, and Mr Gill for the defendant. Water is not plentiful at Brandy Carr, and wells are valuable. The complainant has a well upon the premises he occupies at Brandy Carr, and to this well he claims exclusive right. For years he has received money payments of those of his neighbours who have used the water, while those who refused payment could only obtain the water at night when he was in bed. During the past year he had the well covered with door, and had kept it locked.
On the 31st of August, and again on the 6th September, the defendant came to the well when drunk and broke the door, and for the second of the two offences he was now charged.
Several witnesses were called in support of the complainant’s case, including Mr Booth, the owner of the property, who said that the well belonged to the complainant.
Mr Gill, in defence, said there were three houses, the occupants of which had all a right to use the water besides the complainant. The defendant was the owner the house he occupied, which was one of the houses to which the right appertained, and not only he, but his father before him had all along used the water, and they had a full right to it. He should call witnesses who would prove these things – would show that not only the defendant, but the other persons to whom he (Mr Gill) had alluded had used the water as a right. Perhaps the defendant had used more violence than was necessary. He, however, was provoked. The water he had a right to use, but the complainant locked it up and challenged the defendant, offering him 2s to break the lock. He accepted the challenge, broke the lock, though now he regretted he had gone so far. However, he thought that when they had heard the evidence they would discharge the summons on the merits, but if they did not do this they would, at all events, see that there was a question of disputed right they had no jurisdiction. Mr Gill then called Sarah Ann Totty, an old inhabitant of one of the three houses, – a very demonstrative loud voiced woman – who said that for ten years she had used the water, but admitted that she paid 2s for the repair of the bucket and rope, and had besides been on terms of intimate relationship to a cousin of the defendant; Isaac Farrar, another claimant of the water, who had always freely used it, and who added that before the defendant broke the door the complainant offered him 2s to do it; and Jane Farrar the wife of the defendant, who had fetched water from the well 24 years. This last witness had paid Beecher 1s, but it was to have the bucket mended.
Mr Barratt called a person named Newton in contradiction, who said that he had seen a lock on the well seven or eight years ago.
Mr Tew said that in the opinion of the Bench the damage had been done wilfully and maliciously. The complainant must, therefore, say what the door would cost, and Mr Banks would assess the damage and give reasonable damages. The damages and costs amounted to £1 10s. 6d. Matthew Rhodes, the son-in-law the above complainant charged the above defendant with assaulting him on the same occasion, and again the defendant was fined Is, with 14s expenses.
As this case took place less than six months after the 1861 census, we can find all the people named, living at Brandy Carr in the Alverthorpe with Thornes census returns as well as their occupations. It’s interesting that the Bench took the side of the landowner over agricultural labourers and factory workers.