‘Incendiarism’ at Rookery Farm Redlingfield in 1844

This was a time of hardship and discontent among farm workers throughout the country. Incendiarism, when labourers set light to farmer’s property, was common and so this incident received attention from several newspapers in Suffolk and beyond, although there was no major damage.
David Jackson 14, was charged at Suffolk Assizes with maliciously setting fire to a barn at Rookery Farm which was in the occupation of Charles Cracknell.
David worked on the farm as did his father who had been employed there for about fourteen years. Young David lived in at Rookery farmhouse. His family were in Southolt.
On 3rd June 1844 David and a maidservant were the only people on the premises. The boy had been fetching wood for the copper fire.
He told a policeman later that he took a hot coal which he placed against a post in the barn along with some bean straw. He went back an hour later and said he was glad to find that there had been no fire.
David said that on the previous Sunday he had a conversation about the fires all over the country with a man that he had met and then it came into his head to “fire” his master’s barn. On 5th June John Cracknell, brother of Charles had pointed out blackened timbers and David was questioned by the police.
The Jury found David Jackson guilty but added a recommendation for mercy due to his age. The Judge stated that the boy had previously been of good character and that his master had spoken in his favour (although he had brought the prosecution). The sentence of the court was transportation for fifteen years but with a recommendation for the mercy of the Crown giving David the possibility of being sent to prison instead. Sadly, mercy was not applied to this case.
On-line research brought up a departure document for the vessel Marion bound for Tasmania in September 1847. On board was a David Jackson convicted at Suffolk Assizes on 23rd July 1844.
This means that he would almost certainly have spent three years on a prison hulk in terrible conditions before his journey began.
The Marion arrived at Williamstown East on mainland Australia sometime in 1848. His occupation is given as shepherd/general servant.
These are the only references found for David, I am not sure if he was taken on to Tasmania. His family had moved to Redlingfield by 1851, his parents and one daughter were still in the village in 1881.
Another aspect of this case was the attitude of the Judge to John Cracknell who was deaf and dumb. He had been brought to court but the Judge would not let him be sworn as he said: “It appeared that he was ignorant of the existence of a God”.
Learning that John was married he remarked: “How anybody should have married such a person so ignorant of his God, I certainly am at a loss to conjecture!”
At this time John Cracknell lived in part of the property we know as Mill Cottage with his wife Lucy, the daughter of Oliver Howes, village blacksmith.
They are listed here on the census for 1841 and 1851. In 1861 and 1871 they are recorded as farming at Mount Pleasant and in 1881 occupying part of Hill Cottage. John died in 1883 and Lucy in 1899.

Linda Hudson (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Summer 2021 issue No 53).