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John WINDEAT, Swindling, 1861

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The John who appears in the three newspaper reports below is from the Moretonhampstead farming families.  It appears that he came a cropper cattle trading and was accused of fraud.  However, given that all charges were dropped it looks as though the problem was the result of errors of accounting rather than intentional malpractice.

Or, from a careful reading of the Bristol Mercury report of September 21, it would appear that he was suffering from some sort of manic episode and the court andhis creditors were suitably sympathetic.  And in 1866 an inquisition stated that he was a patient at St. Thomas' hospital, Exeter and was judged to be of "unsound mind"

Mental illness appears more than once in this family.  In 1814, a James WINDEAT (who maybe John's father) cut his throat and the verdict was 'lunacy'.  And, again much later in 1883, a James WINDEAT, who was then residing in Wonford House Lunatic Asylum near Exeter was also subject of an inquisition to see if he was of unsound mind.  This James WINDEAT is possibly John's son.


On Friday afternoon Mr. Superintendent STEEL, of the Exeter police made a clever capture of a swindling cattle dealer, who had been successful in fleecing the Somerset yeomen to the tune of about 1,200, at the great market held at Taunton on the 321st ultimo.  The name of this man is John WINDEAT.  He is  well known as a frequenter of most of the principal cattle fairs in the western counties.  His age is fifty, and those who may not recollect the name, will probably recognise, in the pen and ink portrait of the police, a gentlemen frequently met at our fairs:- He is five feet seven or eight inches in height, dark complexion, grey hair, and small whiskers; dressed in black, low-crowned hat, broad=brimmed - in fact, we should think from the description, almost a facsimile of John BRIGHT;  at all events in the exterior appearances.  At Taunton when he has made purchase he has generally paid by a cheque on the Reading branch of the London and County Bank.  There had never been any difficulty with these cheques, and the farmers have therefore come to take them in payment without a moment's hesitation.  On the strength of this reputation, Mr. WINDEAT, on the 31st ult., as we have stated, attended the great market, held monthly at Taunton, bought bullocks and sheep to the amount of 1,200, at once forwarded them to London, and on the following Monday sold them at Islington market.  Among the gentlemen fleeced are the following:- Mr. BOND (Orchard Portman), Mr. EDWARDS (Holway),  Mr. STEPHENS (Musgrove Farm),  Mr. LOVIBAND, Mr. HALLETT, Mr DENNING,  Mr CHAPPLE,  Mr. HAWKINS,  Mr. TREMLETT,  Mr. GOULD,  Mr. TAZEWELL, and Mr.  MEAD.  It is stated that WINDEAT once possessed, if he does not still possess, property at North Bovey.  When at Exeter he stopped at the Railway Hotel, and was well known in the city among a particular class, with whom business brought him into contact  It is supposed that he was about to start for America with the money when unexpectedly shaken hands with by Mr. STEEL in the Exeter Bank.

- Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser 
Wednesday, September 11, 1861; Issue 4977.


A daring swindling case has just been brought to light in Taunton.  For some time past a sharper from London paid visits to Taunton monthly cattle market, in the character of a dealer, and made purchases to a somewhat considerable extent, paying for them by cheque on the Reading branch of the London and County Bank.  On presentation the cheques were duly honoured, and as he gave somewhat liberal prices, he was courted by the farmers in the neighbourhood.  Saturday last as the great market, and the appearance of the London dealer was hailed with considerable satisfaction by sellers.  The prices he offered for sheep exceeded their expectations, and in a short time the market was cleared of sheep by the enterprising London dealer, and shortly afterwards they were on their way to the metropolitan cattle market.  In the course of the afternoon the sellers received payment, as usual, by cheque on the Reading branch of the London and County Bank, and were thoroughly satisfied with their day's work.  A day or two since the cheques found their way to the Reading Bank, but to the consternation and alarm of the victims, replies were received that the dealer had "no effects." Inquiries were at once instituted, when it was discovered that the fellow had sold the whole of the sheep at Islington Market, at an alarming sacrifice, he being nowhere to be found.  The sums lost by farmers in the neighbourhood of Bristol alone amount to from 1,200 to 1,400.  Some have been "done" of 170, the lowest sums being 30.  The police have been made acquainted with the circumstances, and the perpetrator of the fraud, it is hoped, will speedily be captured. - page 3.

A man who practised gross frauds on Somersetshire farmers, as reported in another page of this day's paper, has been apprehended in Exeter.  Very little money was found upon him, but the whole of the proceeds of the sale of the sheep had found its way into a bank in Exeter.  The prisoner gave the name of John WINDEAT, cattle dealer, York Terrace, New Cattle Market, Holloway, London - page 8.

- The Newcastle Courant etc (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England),
Friday, September 13, 1861; Issue 9742.



John WINDEAT, cattle-dealer, of London, remanded on a charge of defrauding a number of cattle-dealers in the neighbourhood of Taunton of money to the extent of about 1400,  surrendered to his bail at the Taunton Police-court on Saturday. The particulars of this case have already appeared in the columns of the Mercury.  Mr. BISHOP, of Exeter, who appeared on behalf of the prisoner, said that since he had been liberated he had been at the sea-side, and instead of the excited state in which he was in on Wednesday, he was happy to say he was now comparatively tranquil.  He (Mr. BISHOP) understood the charges against him had been withdrawn, and there was no reason for his further detention.  Mr. TAUNTON, who appeared for those who preferred the charges of fraud, said that they were perfectly satisfied, the prisoner having done all that a man could do to repair the error into which he had fallen. 

Mr. WELMAN (magistrate):  Then there is no charge against him? 

Mr. TAUNTON:  No, sir; nor is there any chance of one being preferred.

  Mr. WELMAN:  Then let him be discharged. 

He was discharged accordingly.

- The Bristol Mercury (Bristol, England),
Saturday, September 21, 1861; Issue 3731



The case of JOHN WINDEATT, whose capture at the Exeter Bank by Mr. Superintendent STEEL we reported last week, has been investigated by the Taunton borough magistrates at considerable length this week.  At the first examination, after evidence of the sale of the sheep and the return of his dishonoured cheques received in payment had been taken, WINDEATT said these gentlemen need not fear anything, I am going to behave honourably and honestly; and at a subsequent sitting, when an application was made for the prisoner's release from Gaol under recognizances, his attorney (Mr. BISHOP, of Exeter), stated that the transactions under enquiry had been settled by the payment of all demands in full.  On Saturday, therefore, no further evidence being offered against the accused he was discharged from custody.  Our contemporary, the Somerset County Gazette, in reference to this affair says: "We are informed that the farmers who sold the sheep to WINDEATT, and will receive nearly the whole amount of their claims, have agreed to present to Superintendent Goldsmith and Sergeant JUDD of the Taunton police, and Superintendent STEEL of the Exeter police, the sum of 10, besides seven guineas expenses for their clever capture of the prisoner and the recovery of the money lodged in the Exeter bank"

- Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser,
Wednesday, September 18, 1861; Issue 4978

Last updated: March 2010