John was born about 1860 and is probably the John baptised at Keevil, Wiltshire on 8th May 1762, son of Richard . The parents and the baptism given are at present the most likely, however Y-DNA research indicates a distant connection with the Bodmans of Calne.
John Bodman next appears as he is mentioned in a Bastardy Order dated 3rd May 1810 against him for a female? child by Harriet Crook born 28th Mar 1810. The child is probably Daniel Crook, born 28 March 1810 and baptised Farleigh Hungerford, the illegitimate son of John Bodman. John Bodman was ordered to pay £2/18/- for the Lying-in and then support of two shillings weekly to the Church Wardens and Overseers of the Poor. Harriet Crook was assessed to pay one shilling and sixpence a week. Harriet born in 1787 in nearby Norton St. Philip was the daughter of Daniel Crook, older brother of Mary Crook, John’s wife. Harriet was to have a further two illegitimate children in 1813 and 1819. She never married.
Harriet Crook and her child must have been the village problem family as in the year from Easter 1809 a third of all payments of parish relief were to Crooks.
The Overseas Accounts for Farleigh Hungerford with spelling mistakes show:- 1810-1811 8 wickes pay for Hareat Crook at 2/- 18/- Nov. 2 Paid Mary Bodman for tending Hareat Crook in her Laingin 12/- Expencis at Bath with H Crooke 5/- Mar 16 Paid Harriet Crook 2/-
1811-1812 5 wicks pay for Harriet Crooks Child at 2/-
1812-1813 55 wicks pay Harret Crooks child at 2/- Expenses at Bradford & Freshford with Harriet Crook 2/4 Paid for wrrat (warrant? Another illegitimate child?) 3/6 Jurney self 5/-
1813-1814 17.9.1813 Paid Harriet Crook for the laying in month 1/-/- Nov. 19th Harriet Crook put to bed. Looked after by Mrs Tazwell. (Paid for new bed, bolster & 2 blankets) Paid 20 wks lodging to Mary Bodman for Harriet Crook at 6d/wk To a coffin for H.C’s child Bell & grave for H.C’s child Pd for 2 bottles of wine for Job Bodman (medicine?) 10/- H.C. with Mary Bodman 50 wks 1/5/-
1815 H.C. with Mary Bodman 50 wks 1/5/-
These were difficult times. In the early 1800s there was a spate of volcanoes erupted all over the world. the decade from 1810 to 1819 was the coldest in England since the 1690s. This was mainly because of this volcanic activity which shot out large amounts of dust into the stratosphere and blanketing the sun. The worst year was 1815/1816, with the mega-explosion of the volcano Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, which pumped out enormous amounts of ash and gave birth to the "year without a summer". Northern Europe had frost and snow throughout June and July with the inevitable crop failures. Times were very hard for Agricultural labourers and work was difficult to find. For many years, John Bodman’s later years and death was something of a mystery. Many hundreds of hours of research of parish records of Wiltshire and finally Somerset over a period of two/three years were carried by Paul Bodman and myself before we were able to find out what had happened to him.
Eventually John bodman was found to have died many miles away from Farleigh Hungerford at Ilchester in Dorset on the gallows at the Gaol. With increasing obligations and low income he had turned to crime and highway robbery. The circumstances that led to his death were as follows:-
DARING ATTEMPT AT ROBBERY AND MURDER THE TAUNTON COURIER 1816?
James Watt was a stout young man in the employ of Mr Issac Wilkins of Clapmanslade, Wiltshire. He left his master’s home at about ten o’clock on Friday night with a wagon and horses for the purpose of procuring a load of coals at Writhlington near Radstock in Somerset.
He proceeded as far as Norton St. Philip in safety and at about one o’clock he got into his wagon and rested his head against a truss of hay where he had not remained for many minutes before a horse pistol was presented to his breast over the rail of the wagon and the person holing it said “Deliver your money, and be quick, or I’ll blow your brains out”. Surprised and alarmed, Watts was in the act of snatching his whip from the bed of his wagon, when the trigger was pulled, the muzzle of the pistol being close to his beast, but providently it missed fire. On this Watts immediately jumped out of the wagon and closed upon his opponent, who was a tough able bodied man, and by whom in the struggle which ensued between the parties and which lasted a considerable time, he was almost overcome. Watts however rallied and at last succeeded in forcing the pistol from the hands of the assailant, with the butt end of which he struck him across the left temple, which bought him to the ground, and after giving him a few more blows, he left him bleeding and senseless.
With the pistol in his hand, Watts then went in quest of his wagon an in doing so met a carter whom he knew, and they both returned together to the spot, but the villain was gone, they however picked up his hat, a cap and a very remarkable stick which Watts kept and immediately made known in the next village, what had befallen him.
On the next day, Mr Greenhill of Farley, a village about 3 miles from the place where the circumstances happened, wondered why one of his men named Bodman did not come to work as usual and in the evening went to the house, at the door of which he found some children; and on questioning them he found that “father was bad” and one of them adding “I must not tell what’s the matter,” Mr Greenhill procured assistance and went into the house, where he found Bodman most dreadfully beat around the head and bloody. He immediately caused him to be apprehended on suspicion, and on seeing him, Watts instantly identified his person, which he was enabled to do from the great light that rained across his face at the time he attempted to fire his pistol.
Bodman underwent a long examination before Sir R Baker, Dr Godfrey, E Anderson and J Wiltshire esqrs when the stick and cap picked up by Watts were sworn to as the prisoners property. The pistol was also sworn to by Mr Noad of Farleigh who stated that a short time since Bodman’s son tried to purchase it off his servant, the pistol must have been stolen by Bodman. During the whole of the examination, the prisoner appeared in great pain but maintained the most hardened indifference. He was fully committed for trial. About 13 years ago, Bodman was one of the London Patrole and his beat was from Hyde Park Corner to Kensington during which time he stated at Farleigh not long ago that he and another faithful guardian of the night robbed a man of 1L (one pound?) and his watch.
Records shows John Bodman, aged 57 of Farley Casle was committed to Ilchester between 12th and 25th January 1817 for assault with the intention to rob. (Goal returns 1815-1820 ref. QAGi13/2)
He was sentenced to death on 3rd April 1817 at Taunton Assizes and again sent to Ilchester gaol. He would have spent the next few weeks on the regulation diet of bread and water in the condemned cell, in shackles and irons. The prison was notorious for the poor sanitation and frequent flooding. It would have been a very smelly place. Several prisoners died of Typhoid. John Bodman died on the 30th April and was hung with three others within the prison above the entrance gate at Ilchester. The others were Joseph Turner (breaking open a house and stealing watches), John Pitts (Sheep stealing) and Anthony Slade (Burglary). They were the only ones hung at Ilchester that year. Up until 1811 they would have been taken away by cart and hung in a field known as Gallows Five Acres outside the prison. These public hangings were very popular and attracted large crowds and were sometimes called Hangfairs. However there was much commotion and they transferred the place to within the prison.
According the Chaplain’s notebook; No. 87, John Bodman born near Devizes, Wiltshire was executed at Ilchester (Gaol) April 30th 1817 aged 57 for assaulting James Watts on the Kings Highway with a loaded pistol with intent to rob him and murder him. Conducted himself with great propriety and seeming penitency.
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