Exhibit of the Week: Old postcard, Woodhams Stone Collection, Malton

Black and white postcard of gamekeeper Thomas Atkinson, who was fatally shot during the poaching affray on the Ganton Estate.
Black and white postcard of gamekeeper Thomas Atkinson, who was fatally shot during the poaching affray on the Ganton Estate.
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One of the objects from the Woodhams Stone Collection currently on display in Pickering Library is a small black and white postcard. The postcard shows a man with two dogs and is entitled ‘Sherburn Poaching Affray’. The story behind it, however, is much more interesting:

“On 25 November 1904, Thomas Atkinson a gamekeeper, was fatally shot on Ganton Estate. He was employed by Mr Pickering of Scarborough who leases part of the shooting on the Estate belonging to Sir Algernon Willoughby Legard. On the evening in question Atkinson had arranged to go duck shooting with other keepers, William Welburn, Thomas Gamble and Thomas Morrison, keeper from the adjoining estate of Lord Downe. At about 8.45pm shots were heard near the pheasant coverts and on investigation three poachers emerged and fled. Aided by two other employees of Lord Downe the keepers took pursuit. As they reached Lawson’s Horse Pasture one of the poachers turned and fired a shot which hit Gamble in the legs. The chase continued and more shots were fired hitting Atkinson in the face, Gamble was shot again in the abdomen. Return shots were fired by the keepers and a desperate struggle ensued in which the butt end of guns were used, Morrison received a severe gash on the head and he and Gamble collapsed through their injuries.

How the incident was reported in the Scarborough Evening News on Saturday 26 November, 1904.

How the incident was reported in the Scarborough Evening News on Saturday 26 November, 1904.

Thomas Atkinson, a married man of 49, was taken home in a cart to his wife Betsy where he soon died. The later post-mortem examination found ninety-one gunshot wounds in his face, neck and chest, some of which had penetrated his lungs, death was caused by internal bleeding. Thomas Gamble of Ganton, a married man of 34, and Thomas Morrison who was single were carried on a gate to the Pigeon Pie Hotel at Sherburn, both suffering severe injuries.

The poachers had also been injured in the affray but nonetheless escaped to Scarborough where they all reside. Scarborough Borough and North Riding Police were alerted and the three men, William Hovington, his son Charles and Thomas Dobson were arrested the following morning. They were taken to Scarborough Police Station and examined by Doctor Hatton. The elder Hovington was found to have fifteen shots in the leg and three in the chest, his son had twenty-eight shots in the leg and two scalp wounds, Dobson also had severe scalp wounds. The following morning they were all taken to Norton Police Court and brought before the magistrates.

They were tried at York Assize Court on Tuesday 14 March 1905 before Judge Ridley, charged with murdering Atkinson and wounding Gamble and Morrison. They were all found guilty of manslaughter, William Hovington aged 56 and Thomas Dobson aged 62 were given ten years penal servitude each, while the younger Charles Hovington aged 28 was given seven years as he was looked upon more leniently having served in the Yeomanry in South Africa.”

In 2013 Thomas Gamble’s 18-bore DB percussion sporting gun used in the affray was sold at Bonhams for £1,250 and with it a type written note stating the owner’s name and a brief outline of the case, a copy of a newspaper article dated 14 January 1905 giving further details of the ‘Poaching Tragedy’ and copied images of the three prisoners.

l The Woodhams-Stone collection consists of thousands of social history artefacts from the Malton and Norton area. They were collected by local men Sid Woodhams and John Stone over the past half century.

Some items in the Woodhams Stone Collection are available to view by appointment only. Please telephone 01653 228070 or call into Community House, Malton.