Bucks Quarter Sessions, 1838

Northampton Mercury, 21 July 1838

Zilpah Walker, aged 27, stood charged with having stolen a fork, the property of John Cowley, of Winslow.

Wooden 3-pronged hayforkJohn Cowley, the prosecutor, stated that the prisoner was working for him as haymaker on this occasion, and had done so previously.

Thos. Yates works for Mr. Cowley, and knows the prisoner, who came to work for Mr. Cowley on Friday.   Did not bring a fork with her.   Saw her working with a fork all day.   Saw her take a fork away on Saturday.   She was at work on Monday with a fork, not Mr. Cowley’s.   A week last Thursday, witness saw prisoner striking a fork into the ground and saying, “I suppose you’ll say this fork is Mr. Cowley’s.”   Witness said he would say so.   Prisoner then said she had found the fork the morning before in Dover’s ditch.

Bradbury, one of Mr. Cowley’s men, remembered going to the prisoner’s house, where he found nothing.   (The witness here produced the fork, which the prisoner gave up in the hay-field).

The prisoner repeated her statement, that she had found the fork in a ditch.

The jury, without hesitation, returned a verdict of Not Guilty, to the evident satisfaction of the Court.


The fork in question was probably a 3-pronged wooden one (photo, right).

Zilpah Walker, nee Alderman (1805-1883) was married to Philip Walker, agricultural labourer, and lived in Horn Street in 1841. They had at least 7 children. There seems to have been some doubt about her exact age; it was given as 76 when she died.

John Cowley was a doctor who lived at Lawn House and also did some small-scale farming, previously of opium.

Mrs Walker was probably under suspicion because of the following earlier case concerning her husband, heard at the Crown Court:

Bucks Herald, 27 July 1833

Philip Walker was indicted for stealing two hens, value 4s., the property of Robert Edon [sic] Dodson; two hens of the value of 4s., the property of William Alderman; and one hen of the value of 1s, the property of John Keys.

Mrs. Alderman. – I live at Shipton, near Winslow, and on the 9th of May I had some fowls in my barn, some belonged to my neighbour Dodson and Key;  when I found the fowls were gone, I went to market and found that Mr. White, of Bierton, had bought them;  I went to his house and saw them in a basket.   After some time Mr. White gave them up.

The prisoner came to me and wanted to settle the affair, he said he would give any thing to make it up.

Several other witnesses were called who corroborated the statement made by the last witness.   Verdict, Guilty – Sentence six cal. months hard labour.

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Copyright 26 February, 2018