Murder, Debt, Riot: Richard Holloway, Redruth Solicitor

Reading time: 50 minutes

The old timber railway viaduct, Redruth, pre-1887. Holloway lived at Viaduct Cottage in the 1870s. From the Cornwall Railway Society, Paddy Bradley Collection

Mr Holloway, the solicitor, in the prosecution of the prisoners Bawden, had to make his escape from the mob at the conclusion of the case, and had to run over a garden and climb a wall. ~ The Cornish Telegraph, October 15, 1873, p2

He must have been terrified. He’d been a lawyer in Cornwall since 1864 and had never seen anything like this. He’d known a lot of unsavoury incidents on the circuit of the Cornwall County Assizes and Petty Sessions. Murder, stabbings, indecent exposures, assaults, even the brutal torture of a horse. He’d been privy to human nature at its most corrupt and bestial.

And now this. Five thousand Camborne miners, baying for blood because two of their own had been sent down. He’d been the lawyer prosecuting. He wasn’t about to negotiate safe conduct for himself from the town, or engage his sharp legal mind with the representatives of the mob, and give them his reasons why James and Joseph Bawden deserved six months on the treadwheel. Now was not the time for discourse. Now was the time to cut and run.

But Holloway wasn’t to know all this on the afternoon of October 7, 1873. All he knew was that he didn’t want to hang around Camborne any longer than was necessary.

But he’d be back. Holloway had known adversity before. This is the story of his professional life in Cornwall, as comprehensive as I can make it. It provides a fascinating window into the murkier elements of Cornish history, the complex relationships of nineteenth-century Cornwall’s lawyers, the business practices of adventurers in the county’s primary industry, mining, and the challenges faced by professional solicitors in forging a career.

It’s also a tale of family tragedy.

Legal man

Holloway was certainly kept busy. If mention in the Cornish newspapers is any true reflection of the amount of cases he was actually involved in, then he must have had a formidable workload. For example, he appeared either for the defendant or the plaintiff in fifty-eight reported cases in 1869. In 1870, he’s reported as one of the acting solicitors in forty-eight cases, and a further thirty-seven more in 1871. Occasionally, Holloway even appears in separate cases at the same session. For example, The Cornubian and Redruth Times of December 6, 1867 (p2) details the Redruth County Court session which had taken place on Wednesday the 4th. Holloway is representing the plaintiff in a case of debt concerning the sale of a horse. Next, he’s acting on behalf of a “poor old woman” who’s owed 30s in rent. After that, he’s involved in a miners’ dispute over their wages. We begin to get the impression of an industrious, London-educated professional, apparently much in demand with Cornwall’s litigants.

Holloway’s cases: “…of a character unfit for publication…”

The Old Courthouse, Penryn Street, Redruth. Holloway spent a lot of his career here.
Another view of the Courthouse, with the modern viaduct in view

It’s beyond the scope of this post to itemise every case with which Holloway was involved during his career in Cornwall. I’m going to provide the reader with a summary of his more interesting ones, in order to convey some sense of Victorian Cornwall’s society and its underworld. Holloway dealt with agricultural cases, maritime cases, industrial/mining cases, bankruptcy cases, juvenile delinquents and those whose relations to society were rather more marginal. They’re all here.

The Cornish Telegraph of October 31, 1866 (p3), recounts a “Strange Case of Alleged Confinement”. Holloway was defending a married Scorrier shopkeeper accused by his maidservant of getting her “in the family way”. When she attempted to challenge the shopkeeper on this delicate matter, he was alleged to have kept her “locked up for three weeks, giving her some empty flour bags to lie on”. The maid escaped, only to be held captive again for a further nine weeks, and on release was in a “most filthy state”. (She gave birth to a baby girl shortly after her confinement.) Holloway was unable to convince the court that the child was not the shopkeeper’s, and he was ordered to pay 2s 6d per week to the maid for the baby’s upkeep. As to the alleged confinement, it appears to have been dismissed as “trumped up”, although the shopkeeper was sternly cautioned by the Bench.

The Royal Cornwall Gazette of April 18, 1867 (p5) tells of an “Important Salvage Case” in Falmouth. Holloway was defending the owners of the Cardiff brig Isabella, who were sued for £200 under the Merchant Shipping Act. The Isabella was alleged to have been in distress off St Mawes Point in a gale and had been towed into Falmouth by the Lionness. The owners of this tug were seeking recompense for their services – the brig would have sunk without their assistance. Holloway must have displayed considerable verbal dexterity in his arguments for the defence, proving that the Lionness’ assistance was “not a question of salvage at all, but one of towage”. The £200 sought by the owners of the Lionness was knocked down to £7 10s.

The Railway Tavern, Illogan Highway. From the pub’s Facebook page.

On March 20, 1868 (p3), the Cornubian and Redruth Times reported on a “Beerhouse Offence” at the Railway Tavern, Redruth. Holloway was defending the landlord, accused of having his house open at an illegal hour. A policeman had witnessed a local prostitute enter the pub with an empty jug. On leaving the pub, not only was her jug full, but she was in the company of a man. When the constable asked the man who the girl was, he replied “Supposing she is a servant”. (This prompted some laughter from the court.) Although the local girl claimed there was only milk in the jug, it was discovered by the officer to contain beer. The landlord’s wife was asked in court as to what she had served the girl; her response to this question was apparently so obscene the ‘paper left it blank: “______”. Holloway got the case dismissed.

At the Camborne Petty Sessions detailed in the Cornubian and Redruth Times of February 2, 1869 (p3), Holloway successfully defended a 12 year-old boy accused of stealing cabbages from a farmer in Gwinear. The farmer had chased the boy to his house and accused him of the theft, which the lad “strongly denied”. Holloway proved the alleged thief’s alibi to be sound.

The Royal Cornwall Gazette of March 11, 1869 (p7), described an “Extreme Case of Cruelty”. Two farmers, from Paul, when informed of an exhausted horse found lying on their land, decided to chain the animal to the axle of a cart. It was then “dragged 250 yards in that horrid manner, tearing the flesh and skin from its body as it went”. The horse was then thrown into a pit, where it died, “lying in that deplorable state for two nights and a day”. Holloway successfully found the farmers guilty, and donated a portion of their fine to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The Gazette of June 3, 1869 (p5) told of how a man had tried to break up a streetfight between two miners, at East End, Redruth. The peacemaker got stabbed in the neck for his troubles, “under the angle of the jaw on the left side”. Though Holloway appeared for the man who had allegedly carried out the knifing, bail was refused and he was committed for trial at the next assizes.

The New Inn, Park Bottom, Redruth. Scene of a murder in 1870. From the St Austell Brewery website

“Murder at Redruth”, reported the West Briton of May 5, 1870 (p7). It occurred on Saturday night, April 30. John Martin, a miner from St Blazey, who had recently returned from America (the ‘paper noted he wore “a moustache and beard trimmed in the American fashion”), was accused of stabbing John Uren, “a quiet, orderly man”, who was a cripple and nearly blind. Martin had been making unsavoury remarks to two women running a fish stall outside The New Inn, Park Bottom. One of the women was Uren’s wife, who ran to get him him in order to see off Martin. There was then a scuffle outside the pub between Martin, Uren, and another man, Prisk, who’d come to assist Uren. Martin stabbed Uren in the “lower part of the bowels” with a knife with a 7″ blade, practically severing his main artery. It took Uren the best part of an hour to bleed to death, leaving his wife and five children unprovided for. Martin, charged with murder and facing the noose, pleaded not guilty and hired Holloway.

The outcome of the trial at the Cornwall Summer Assizes was then reported in the Cornubian and Redruth Times on August 6, 1870 (p5). The jury decided that Martin had indeed stabbed Uren, in an act of self-defence (how the jury concluded Martin needed to defend himself from a partially-sighted cripple, only they will know), but only with intent to injure, not kill. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to penal servitude for life.

In August 1871 a 15 year-old boy ran naked for 200 yards in front of Four Lanes church, just as the congregation were leaving after evening service. He’d been put up to it by some older lads and the whole thing sounds like a dare that went too far. Holloway, defending the boy charged with indecent exposure, certainly felt that way and convinced the Bench at Helston Petty Sessions to give him 48 hours in gaol and then send him home, where, one imagines, he had a lot of explaining to do. (From the Cornubian and Redruth Times, August 25, 1871, p2.)

And so Holloway’s career continued. He was unsuccessful in defending four men caught trespassing and ferreting for rabbits at Gwithian in 1872 (Cornubian and Redruth Times, September 13 1872, p5). In October of that year he appeared for the defendant in a case of assault which had happened at Lelant. The case was dismissed, but the plaintiff, obviously disgruntled at the outcome, handed Holloway a note stating that, if his client was not bound over to keep the peace, plaintiff would “keep a six-shooter about him”. This wreckless bravado resulted in the plaintiff himself being bound over, and having to pay costs. (Cornubian and Redruth Times, October 25, p5.)

Camborne Town Hall, where the Petty Sessions were held. Built in the 1860s. From the Camborne Town website

The Camborne Petty Sessions of January 1873 can be summarised thus: two cases of drunk and riotous, a case of animal cruelty, two cases of assault, one case of vandalism, and someone let his bullocks stray onto the highway. Holloway was on duty for the assaults. (West Britain, January 30, 1873, p5.)

In 1878 Thomas Dabb of Mount Hawke let one of his bulls into a field which belonged to his brother. Mary Dabb, his sister-in-law, pointed out to Thomas that the field was not his. Thomas Dabb then subjected Mary to a brutal assault with a whip. Holloway, defending, stated that as “a question of right being involved in the case”, it couldn’t be tried at the West Powder Petty Sessions. Case was postponed. (The Cornishman, December 5, 1876, p6.)

In 1879 five youths were charged with “criminally assaulting” an orphaned girl of “weak intellect” from Camborne. The evidence given “was of a character unfit for publication”. Holloway appeared for the defendants, who were dismissed with a mere reprimand – the evidence, whatever it was, had failed to establish the charge. (Cornish Telegraph, September 9, 1879, p5.)

It’s clear, then, that Holloway was a prolific, and formidable, lawyer. Here and there we also get some intimation of what kind of person he was.

Holloway’s personality

The Royal Cornwall Gazette of October 14, 1864 reports on the recent meeting of the Redruth Institute (p5). The evening was given over to its members giving readings and monologues for the entertainment of those present. Amongst those presenting a recital was Mr R. Holloway, solicitor, who

read with considerable effect, some humourous sketches from the “Pickwick Papers”, which was a very pleasing change indeed.

What does this tell us about Holloway? That he was obviously at ease addressing the public – in his line of work that was fundamental for success. He must also have been very self-assured: this is one of the earliest mentions of him appearing in public, in a new town, a new county, whose populace he’s going to serve in a professional manner. He also seems well-read, and cultured: apparently the choice of reading Dickens was a somewhat unorthodox one, but was well-received. That he was also present at the Institute’s meeting, and was its vice-president for many years (from 1865, as mentioned in the Gazette of September 29 of that year (p8)), shows his interest in public affairs and the affairs of the town he now calls home. Holloway was setting himself up as a figure in the public eye.

By 1874, Holloway’s reputation as a solicitor of note was well-established. A local publican, seeking the return of his license to sell intoxicating liquids, sought to employ him in this respect. He knew Holloway as a “painstaking” gentleman. Judging by the amount of times he appeared for the defence over the years (see above), and the amount of times his clients had their sentences/fines reduced or the case was dismissed on a technicality, one must conclude that he was, indeed, a most painstaking and tenacious individual on a case. (From the West Briton, October 22, 1874, p10.) But there was absolutely one crime that Holloway never defended. And that was cruelty to animals.

I’ve already outlined the shocking case of cruelty towards a horse in March 1869. What I haven’t mentioned is that, as well as arranging for a portion of the fines to be donated to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Holloway actually appeared on that organisation’s behalf. And this was no one-off. In 1875, Holloway represented the Society again, this time in a case of alleged cruelty towards sheep. A herd of the animals had been so crammed into a railway truck that seven suffocated and died on the short journey from Camborne to Redruth. (From the Cornish Telegraph, May 12, 1875, p2.) He also appeared on behalf of the Royal Humane Society, as noted in the Telegraph of June 2, 1875 (p2). Founded in 1824, the SPCA was in its relative infancy when Holloway was practicing; his compassion shown toward members of the animal kingdom makes him seem somewhat modern.

It’s with heavy irony, then, that the suspected cause of Holloway’s death in 1881 was from a kick to the arm from a horse, possibly on his own farm; this was recorded in the Cornubian and Redruth Times of May 6, 1881, p5. He was “in the prime of life”, and “always affable and obliging”. Before the opening of Redruth County Court on May 17, 1881, the Judge, Montagu Bere, QC, was moved to speak of his former colleague as having

…the advantage of a native intelligence which always prevented him from going wrong, and he had a knowledge of the people among whom he lived, of their manners, their customs, and their habits which rendered him of most valuable assistance to the court. (Cornish Telegraph, May 19, 1881, p8.)

None of these eulogies mention the financial troubles that dogged Holloway’s early career.

Money Matters

Holloway attended The Exeter Court of Bankruptcy of 5 December, 1867, on a side of the dock he was perhaps not accustomed to. He owed £1,454 to creditors, £30 on bills, and £935 on his partnership account with Paull and Linton. He had assets of £12. Most of these debts Holloway had accumulated in the past three years, during his time in Cornwall and in partnership with Paull and Linton. He also owed money from as far back as 1857. The Judge commented that

what a pretty state of things this is, you know; only £12 assets and over £2,000 liabilities. I cannot pass a gentleman in this way, with an immense debt…

Holloway’s case was adjourned for further investigation. Before stepping down, he sought to mitigate himself somewhat. When entering into partnership with Paull and Linton in July 1864 it was agreed that he would run the Redruth branch of the firm. He was to have a third of the profits from the branch and £150/year besides. Holloway stated that he “never had a farthing…nor any profits.” Any money he received was sent to Paull and Linton in Plymouth, as they were “continually writing for money to support that establishment.” Linton had already been declared bankrupt, and the firm had been liquidated – Holloway made a final payment of £300 as a goodwill gesture. All his creditors “had sympathized with him, and it was well known in the county why he was in court.” Holloway had to wait until the 20th of that month to see if his career, and his status as a gentleman, was over. If he knew his Dickens – and he did – his fears of destitution must have been profoundly felt. (From the Royal Cornwall Gazette, December 12, 1867, p3.)

It seems that, indeed, Holloway’s creditors sympathised with his plight. Although the case had been adjourned in order to give the creditors an opportunity to oppose the bankruptcy, none stepped forward. On December 20th, Holloway was “granted an order of discharge”: he was free from his debts. (As reported in the Cornubian and Redruth Times, December 27, 1867, p3.)

To help us understand more about the social context of Victorian bankruptcy as it pertains to Holloway’s situation, I’m going to summarise the arguments put forth in the following article: “Bankrupt Accountants and Lawyers: Transition in the Rise of Professionalism in Victorian Scotland”, by Thomas Lee, from Accounting, Auditing, and Accountability Journal, 24:7, 2011, 879-903. It may not consider England, or indeed Cornwall, but Lee’s more general conclusions are helpful and applicable.

Victorian society viewed bankruptcy as the penalty for inefficient business practice; to be poor was to be unclean, both physically and spiritually. And bankruptcy happened to lawyers with surprisingly regularity, especially to those in more provincial areas.

Holloway, however, appears to have recovered relatively rapidly from his regrettable appearance at Exeter Court in 1867. As noted earlier, the 1871 census finds him living the life of a respectable professional, with a servant and governess in his employ. Maybe running his own practice suited him; maybe he just worked tirelessly to keep the income at a steady stream. Significantly, Holloway’s “peak years” of being mentioned in cases by the newspapers occur around this time: 52 cases in 1869, 48 in 1870, 37 in 1871. After that, his name occurs less frequently in relation to court hearings: 20 in 1876, 13 in 1877, 12 in 1878. Perhaps, with a new practice, a young family and a damaged reputation in the late 1860s, the increased workload was the only way to keep the wolves from the door. By the late 1870s, he could cut back on his cases and still afford to purchase a farm.

(Ironically, he represented in numerous bankruptcy cases over the years. For example, there’s one reported in the Cornubian and Redruth Times of February 2, 1868, p3.)

Rather more petty financial squabbles occupied Holloway over the years. In 1871 he was in court again, sued for £10 by a mine broker from St Day. Holloway had allegedly agreed with this man to buy shares in Wheal Uny Mine, then reneged on the deal. The broker was suing for loss of earnings. When the broker had asked why Holloway wouldn’t pay, he replied that “he had been to collect a lot of money in the neighbourhood of Helston, and had not gathered a shilling.” After a lengthy cross-examination of the broker, it became apparent that this man had offered to buy ten shares from another agent, for £9 5s a share, with the sole intention of selling them on to Holloway at £10 5s a share. This other agent hadn’t sold the shares to the St Day man, and the St Day man was suing Holloway £10 because he “would have gained [£10] by selling them.” The case was thrown out and the St Day man ordered to pay costs. (From the Royal Cornwall Gazette, October 14, 1871, p7.)

This is as indicative of the customs and practices of mine brokers and agents in the era as it is of Holloway’s difficulties in collecting fees – and the fact that he was prepared to gamble on mining stocks. We can imagine him, or one of his clerks, tethering his horse in a remote mining district and visiting several homesteads in the hope of a redress for his services, only to be told by a weary tributer that this month’s sett was very poor and he stood to make a loss himself, or to be fobbed off with a few pence and assurances that the whole amount would be there next month. The frequency with which this must have happened was as frustrating for Holloway as it is unknowable for us.

Holloway was also summoned to court in 1880, as reported in the Cornishman of February 2 of that year (p5). He was called on to pay a debt of £2 to Thomas Penaluna, of Wendron. Holloway chose to defend himself, and his irritation at having been summonsed is apparent; he “considered it a most iniquitous thing”. It certainly was. Back in 1873 Holloway had paid two men £1 each to stand as bond for the administration of Penaluna’s deceased cousin’s estate. Why Holloway was being called on to pay the £2 now, when he had paid it back in 1873, was utterly beyond him. The Bench, obviously, found in Holloway’s favour.

This, of course, was one of Holloway’s final appearances at court, a man now so self-assured he could opt to speak for himself in the dock, and with the clout to voice his displeasure at having to be there at all. One of his sons, John Edward Holloway (b.1855), followed his father into the family practice.

Tragically, his career lacked the success of the elder Holloway.

John Edward Holloway and John Rule Daniell

Mr J. R. Daniell, solicitor, of Camborne, has purchased, and will continue Mr. Holloway’s practice at Redruth…as well as the fact that Mr. John E. Holloway, the deceased gentleman’s son, will remain with Mr. Daniell as articled managing clerk. (Cornish Telegraph, May 12, 1881, p5.)

Polstrong 3
Polstrong House, Roseworthy, Camborne From the House and Heritage website

That Holloway and Daniell were acquainted, however, doesn’t necessarily make them friends. It may have been Holloway’s dying wish that Daniell purchase his practice and give guidance to his son, John, as Daniell himself claimed later. Or, alternatively, Daniell may have seen an opportunity to expand his own business, and kept John Holloway on out of respect for his dead colleague and legal opponent. Not having children of his own might possibly have been a factor in Daniell making this decision (as mentioned in Daniell’s obituary, the Cornishman, September 9, 1911, p5).

Whatever the reasons, and whatever tuition and experience Daniell provided for John Holloway, he perhaps lacked the intellect, tenacity and survival instincts of his father. The frequency with which he appears in cases reported by the Cornish newspapers fails to challenge that of Richard Holloway. From 1881 to 1897 he is mentioned on only 47 occasions. In November 1897 his request for a retrial in a case was refused, his reasoning for the request being verbally mocked by the judge, and provoking laughter from those present (from the Cornishman, November 25, p2). By 1898, as reported in the Cornubian and Redruth Times of October 7 (p5), he had sold his practice to a Mr Harris.

Lemon Street, Truro, 2021

In October 1899 John Holloway was living in Lemon Street, Truro. For some weeks past he had been complaining of head pains, but on the morning of Friday 6th he awoke and bathed as normal, then returned to his room.

He then put a revolver to his head, and shot himself. His suicide note, along with the Coroner’s inquest, was recorded in the Royal Cornwall Gazette, October 12, 1899, p3:

I attribute my unsuccessful professional career in the beginning and end to John Rule Daniell, solicitor, Camborne, who, when I was his articled clerk and he an experienced man, had all my ready cash, £3,000, and crippled me for years. He knows the transaction and promise made me. Now he refuses to answer a letter just to relieve me in a pinch. May God Almighty forgive me and bless my wife and family. We have been a happy one. – J E. HOLLOWAY.

I can’t stand this no longer. I feel my head daily getting worse. – J.E.H.

The jury at the inquest returned a verdict of “Suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity.”

But before doing so, the Coroner spoke to John Rule Daniell.

Daniell stated that Richard Holloway had asked him “when very ill to do what he could for his son in case anything happened.” Daniell then went on to convincingly refute the claim made by John Holloway in his note that he had held Holloway’s “ready cash” as a young man. Daniell was at pains to point out that Holloway had lost £600 on a land transaction around fifteen years previously and that he still felt Daniell in some way responsible – he wasn’t, as Daniell was at pains to point out. As to the letter Daniell never replied to, Daniell presented it the Coroner and explained that he had never replied to it because, shortly after it was delivered, Holloway visited him, asking for money. Holloway was “in a pinch” as he had wound up his practice in Redruth, had plans to start a new one in Truro, and had lost money in shares at Carn Brea Mine. Daniell claimed he told Holloway that he wouldn’t mind the loan normally, but “he had plenty of demands, and it was not practicable for him to make the advance.”

Daniell was exonerated. The Coroner “would not believe the loss of £600 so many years ago would cause him to take his life”, and wondered why Holloway hadn’t approached his family for assistance rather than Daniell.

The story has one more tragic turn, another “Sad Event”.

Interesting to note, another son of Holloway was one of the very first players for Redruth RFC. Thanks to Nick Serpell for informing me of this.

With special thanks to Richard Holloway’s great-great-great grandson, Tim Kent.

Do you have a Cornish ancestor you’d like to find out more about? Please get in touch!

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