1817 Court: Gardener faces plank over haul of driftwood

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At the North Riding Police Court, Scarborough, Albert Smith, gardener, Wheatcroft, was summoned for having been in possession of wood washed from a ship lying off Scarborough.

Mr John Whitfield, solicitor, who appeared for the prosecution, said Sergeant Peacock and Acting Sergeant Daykin, visited defendant’s premises at Wheatcroft on August 10th, and there they found a quantity of timber.

The latter consisted of fifteen pieces of wood, a quantity of other boards of various lengths and thickness, and a quantity of other wood. The value put upon that wood by Captain Mosey, Lloyd’s Agent, was £6 16s.

The defendant asked about the wood, and he admitted he had carried it from the bench to his premises, and had not reported it.

The proceedings were taken under Section 65 of the Larceny Act of 1861. It was the duty, said Mr Whitfield, of persons who found things on the shore to deliver it to the Receiver of Wrecks for the district. Dealing with the wood which had come ashore from the ship had taken place in a wholesale manner, and it was of the utmost importance that people finding timber should know it was not a matter of right on their part to take it home; they were bound to deliver it so that it might be dealt with for the benefit of the owners - in this case the government.

Sergeant Peacock, in evidence, said defendant told him he had more wood to carry. He had not reported it to the Receiver of Wrecks, but he would do so as soon as he finished.

By the clerk: Defendant answered the questions freely; there was no concealment.

Captain Mosey said he was Lloyd’s agent, and he was also acting for the London Salvage Association. Messrs Wade’s manager had valued the wood and the sum named was the lowest value he could put on it. Notices had been sent to the police to post about the villages. The government would not allow, he said later in answer to defendant, the sale of wood - it had to be stored. The value of wood had gone up, he explained, very considerably.

Mr Whitfield said that Captain Mosey, although he had done that, was not obliged to do so. People were supposed to know the law.

The clerk: It is rather difficult at the present time (laughter).

Mr Whitfield: Yes it is a legal presumption.

Defendant said that he had been in the habit, like others, of taking things like wood found, and reporting them to the authorities, securing salvage, and having the option of purchase.

At Wheatcroft they had not been notified by the police, or by the posting of notices. The wood was at Carnelian Bay on the rocks, and could not be got by cobles. Therefore, he disputed that the wood was worth anything like the sum placed upon it. He (defendant) had intended to get a good store of the wood - he had brought it up openly - and then reporting it to the Receiver of Wrecks, receiving the salvage, and if possible, purchasing it. He had been in the habit of doing so, the last time being on November 22nd, 1915. He reported the matter then to the customs’ officer, and for seven pit props gave 2s 11d with the salvage money off.

The clerk asked Captain Mosey, what the labour of bringing the wood from the rocks to the village was worth, but he replied that he could not state that. It would, he thought, be half or three-quarters of a mile to the beach.

The chairman, after the magistrates had retired, said the bench thought the case was proved, but the magistrates had decided to deal very leniently with defendant, because they did not think he took the wood intending to steal it.

He would be fixed with a 2s 6d fine, but if the same thing went on the magistrates would be compelled to impose heavier fines.

Smith asked if he would have to deliver the wood, he was told to consult Captain Mosey.

Smith: If I have to remove it I shall take it back to the rocks.