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The Stote Manby Case

by Ruth Gatenby

Newspaper report

Newspaper report

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I became aware of the "Stote Manby Case" when I was researching the family of Betsy Panton, the little girl in Louth Workhouse whose mother was Elizabeth Manby. In the 1850s details of the Stote Manby legal case were reported at length in the national newspapers.

The Stote Manby story begins in the 17th Century. Ann Stote, daughter of Rev Cuthbert Stote, Rector of Tollerton in Nottinghamshire, was at a boarding school. She formed an "unsuitable" relationship with William Manby, a miller and baker; in 1682 they eloped and were married. Ann and William lived in Louth and then in Keddington, and were estranged from Ann's family roots.

Stote Manby, grandson of Ann and William Manby, was born in 1717. According to newspaper reports, at the age of 24 he was kicked by a horse and this affected his brain to such an extent as to reduce him to a state of mental imbecility, so that his family descended into abject poverty. Stote Manby's son William was described as "gardener of Kiln Yard Louth, a man in a most humble walk in life".

Meanwhile Mrs Dorothy Windsor, who was the last surviving daughter of Ann Stote's uncle, Sir Richard Stote of Jesmond, had substantial property in Northumberland. Dorothy died intestate in 1756 and, as she had no children, her estates should have been inherited by her cousin Ann Stote or her descendants. However, Stote Manby in Louth (who had been kicked by the horse) was unaware of this.

After Dorothy Windsor died her tenants Sir Robert Berwicke and John Craster retained possession of her property, well knowing they had no right or title. Upon their deaths, they were succeeded by Calverley Berwicke and Daniel Craster. In 1780 this unlawful possession being of public notoriety in Northumberland, Thomas Harvey an attorney in Newcastle sought out the Stote Manby family in Louth and informed them of their rights. Two writs were brought by Harvey on behalf of Stote Manby against Berwicke and Craster. The first of these was tried at the Newcastle assizes and a verdict was obtained in favour of Stote Manby. However, before the second action on the next day, Harvey was bribed by Berwicke and Craster and the court ordered Stote Manby and his sons to convey the property to the tenants, and in return £300 per year should be paid to Stote Manby and his heirs for ever. Stote Manby's son William who was representing the family in Newcastle did not agree to this, but an indenture of bargain was later alleged to have been made assuring the property to Berwicke and Craster. Thomas Harvey the attorney allegedly received £1,500, but the Stote Manby family got nothing.

Seventy-five years later William Stote Manby (born 1805 and grandfather of Betsy Panton) became aware that his family had been fraudulently kept out of property in Northumberland. So he brought a legal action of ejectment against Berwicke and Craster, which was tried at Newcastle in 1855. This case eventually failed as it was ruled that the defendants had acquired rights by more than 40 years of possession. And so the Stote Manby family remained in disadvantaged circumstances.