The Murder of John Tugby by John Tugby

The Leicester Journal of 27th August 1767 reports the tragic killing of a son by his father during a domestic dispute. Clearly the father was a man of violent temper from the description of events as follows:

On Tuesday last was committed to the county gaol, by William Tilley, gent. Coroner: John Tugby, the elder, of the liberty of Worthington near Coleorton, charged on the Coroner’s Inquest with the Wilful Murder of his son John Tugby the younger, a young man about 25 years of age. — This melancholy affair is said to have happened as follows: On Monday morning last John Tugby the elder, was differing with and beating his wife, who cried out Murder, which the deceased (who lived near his father) hearing, desired his wife to go to his Mother’s assistance; upon her going in the Father beat and abused her; the deceased then went in to his wife’s assistance, and a scuffle ensued betwixt him and his Father, who struck him several times; at that the deceased and his wife got out of the house as fast as they could, the Father followed them, saying he would be Revenged, and after some words had passed betwixt him and the deceased, the Father took up a large hedge-stake out of the son’s garden, and with it gave a violent blow on the son’s head, of which wound he died in about three hours.

John Tugby* the elder, was arraigned before the Leicester Assizes on Monday 31st April 1768. There is no record of his defence, but he escaped the charge of murder and was convicted of manslaughter. Tugby was sentenced to a further one month in prison and to be branded. Convicts found guilty of manslaughter instead of murder were branded on the thumb with the letter ‘M’, this ensured they could not use the same defence again if bought before the courts for a similar crime. Other branding marks used at this time were ‘T’ for thief and ‘F’ for felon. Branding would have been carried out in the courtroom using a hot branding iron in front of witnesses with the convicts forearm restrained by iron hoops. I believe the brand was most likely applied to the inside of the hand at the base of the thumb, since it was sometimes referred to as ‘branding in the hand’. Previous to 1707 the brand would have been applied to the cheek, but this was discontinued as it was considered to make the convict unemployable.

Considering that this was an age when a man or woman could be hanged for stealing a sheep and transported to his Majesties Colonies for quite minor theft, John Tugby seems to have got off lightly.

* The trial report in the Leicester Journal of 22nd of August 1767 records the spelling as Tugbey.

Biographical notes

John Tugby the younger was baptised at Coleorton on 14th November 1740 and buried at Breedon-on-the-Hill on 17th August 1767, his mother, Ann Knight, married his father (a shoemaker) at Breedon on the 19th January 1738.

Compiled by: Terry Ward, member of the Coleorton Heritage Group