The Eyam and Stoney Middleton Association for the Prosecution of Felons is a noble body of local dignitaries, mainly farmers and landowners but also just plain, honest working men who are the descendants of the founders of the society. Membership is usually passed on from father to son or nearest male relative. The Society was formed in 1812 to uphold law and order in the area; they were the forerunners of today’s police force before there was any organized law enforcement.
They would elect a local constable and offer rewards to anyone who came forward with information which may lead to the conviction of any offenders. In August 1842 a reward of £5 was offered to anyone giving information with regard to “some evil disposed person who, in a field on Foolow Moor did slaughter one ewe sheep and carry away a carcass of the same…” Eight cheeses, stolen from the warehouse of William Mosley in Stoney Middleton, weighing from three to four hundredweight, carried a reward of Two Guineas.
Another extract from the Association’s records is as follows;
“Charles Dodgson was on the 30th day of July 1880, convicted before two of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the County of Derby of stealing on the 6th of January, 1880, a coat and waistcoat the property of Arthur Gregory at Stoke and was sentenced to six weeks hard labour.
Received from Mr. John Froggatt, the sum of £4-4-0 reward for the conviction of Charles Dodson, charged with the felony at Knouchley on 6th January, 1880”.
Now the Association continues out of a strong sense of tradition, although many of the member’s wives say that it is out of a strong excuse for a boozy night out! The Annual Dinner is always held on the first Monday in February and it is one of the high spots of the local social calendar. To be invited to be a guest on ‘Felon’s Night’ is deemed a great honour. They also hold other meetings throughout the year which includes a Ladies night, for the Annual Dinner is strictly male only, as is membership of course. I hasten to add that the dinners are all very orderly, they have to be as the Chief Constable is usually a guest, as are the local clergy.
One year the Association held a Pie-and-Pea supper at a local hostelry and unfortunately everyone got food poisoning. It was not too serious – they all had a bad attack of the runs the next morning. One such person suffering was Robert Crossland. He was up on Longshaw Pasture, the morning after the night before, seeing to his sheep. He was suffering badly with the ‘squitters’ and was suddenly taken short out in the middle of the pasture, where there is no cover at all. It was raining heavily and Robert made a dash through the downpour for the barn at the edge of the wood. He only just made it in time and burst through the door with his trousers already halfway down his legs. Imagine his horror when he looked up from his squatting position to see a group of a dozen or so hikers sheltering from the rain in the barn, all tucking into their sandwiches. Quick as a flash Robert covered his embarrassment and cried, “’Ere, get out of my barn you lot – you are all trespassing!”.