Pewsham, the lock cottage was used by the Canal Agent who was responsible
for collecting tolls for the canal company based on the tonnage of cargo
carried: in 1881 this was charged at the rate of 8d per ton of coal.
1816, Agent Samuel Brown and his wife Sarah were living in the cottage and
were subjected to a terrifying ordeal. One July night, the cottage was
broken into and three robbers stole clothing and other valuables,
threatening to murder the couple if they did not produce more. Sam was
punched and beaten, but Sarah managed to escape through a window, breaking
her leg in the process. She succeeded in crawling to a nearby hedge, where
she hid for the rest of the night.
days later, the three men – John Slie, William Herbert and John Collison
Pier – were apprehended in Bath and taken to Calne for questioning. Pier
then gave evidence against the other two and a Hestor Baker, who were all
taken for trial in August 1816 in Salisbury. Herbert and Sly are reported to
have been sentenced to death for the crime, but there is no record that has
yet been traced of this sentence being realized.
Brown was last paid by the canal company in 1817, so it is possible that
this ordeal resulted in him and Sarah leaving Pewsham.