The Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch
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Sam and Sarah Brown

At 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.

In 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.

Three 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.

Sam Brown was last paid by the canal company in 1817, so it is possible that this ordeal resulted in him and Sarah leaving Pewsham.


Click here for a personal account of Sarah Brown written by Ray Alder

Click here for documents relating to the break in
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