William Goodwin was the recipient of an 1887 Metropolitan Police Jubilee Medal. Sadly he didn’t live very long after to enjoy the wearing of it.
Goodwin, as did so many men of the time, came from humble beginnings. Born in about 1847 in Houghton, Huntingdonshire he was the son of an Agricultural Labourer, who bore the same name, and his wife Ann.
Some 14 years later, the 1861 England census shows the family still resident in the Houghton area, unlike today, families tended to stay “close to home”; 14 year old William had, as was the custom, followed in his father’s footsteps and was employed, along with his three brothers, one as young as ten, as an Agricultural Labourer.
Life must have been hard for the family and eking out an existence as a tenant on someone else’s farm couldn’t have been much fun, especially as the Industrial Revolution with its mechanisation and machinery would have been in full swing and posing a serious threat to the livelihood of many rural folk.
Small wonder then that William, now a healthy 24 years of age, turned his sights toward London and the prospect of a better life. On 8 February 1869 he joined the Metropolitan Police at S Division (Hampstead) as a Police Constable with Warrant Number 51502.
Just over two years later, the 1871 census records that he was a Police Constable in the Parish of Marylebone, London. Unmarried he must have been on duty when the census form taker came round as his address is given as “Police Station”. With his new position came improved prospects, so much so that he saw fit to take a wife and Mary Ann Goodwin entered the frame.
A diligent worker, Goodwin was promoted to the rank of Police Sergeant which is how we find him in March of 1881 during the census.
Now 34 years of age he had not wasted any time in the intervening years since his marriage and was the proud father of Ellen (5), William W. (4), Rose (2) and baby Ada Louisa who was a mere 5 months old. Home was 101 Welbourne Road in Tottenham, Middlesex in the registration district of Edmonton. An extract from the Parish Register of St. Mark in Hamilton Terrace, Middlesex shows us that Ellen was baptised on 6 June 1875 and that the Goodwin family was resident at 17 St. John’s Wood Terrace at the time.
On 28 July 1886 he was a Police Sergeant in Y Division (Highgate) with the Divisional Number 29Y where after he was transferred, in the same rank, to N Division (Islington) with the Divisional Number 11N.
There exists a strong likelihood that he is the William Goodwin who was a witness in the Old Bailey trial of one Jeremiah Allen. Here is the record of proceedings:
‘430. JEREMIAH ALLEN (56) , Stealing a half-pound, of tea, a bundle of wood, and eight potatoes, the goods of Albert Parker.
MR. LANGFORD conducted the Prosecution; and MR. F. H. LEWIS the Defence.
WILLIAM GOODWIN (Policeman 201). I am stationed at Walthamstow—on the evening of 6th June, about 9 o'clock, I saw an altercation between the prisoner and Parker, who said "This man has taken some things out of my shop"—the prisoner said "Let me go, I will pay you for them—Parker said "I shan't let you go till I get the things"—I took a bundle of wood from under his coat, and took him to the station, searched him, and found a packet of tea in the inside pocket of his coat, a 2d. bundle of firewood, and some potatoes (produced)—I read the charge to him, and he said "Mr. Parker, I will pay you for the things."
Prisoner. I said no such thing; I said "I have nothing here but what I have asked for, and what I mean to pay for."
Cross-examined. Parker said "I believe he has got some eggs, too"—I know him, and do not know anything against him.
ELIZA PARKER . I am the wife of Albert Parker, of Walthamstow, a general shop keeper—on 6th June, about 8. 45, my husband called me; I went into the shop in about a minute, and saw him outside the shop, struggling with the prisoner—my husband said he had stolen some potatoes and wood—I said to the prisoner "Give the things up"—he said "I have got nothing"—I asked him again, and he said "I have got nothing, mistress"—a constable came up.
Cross-examined. He did not say "I have got nothing of yours"—he came to visit us occasionally—he was smoking a pipe at our house the night before—he has dealt at our place since he has been at that house, which is, perhaps, two months—his wife comes there, and he frequently takes home the things to her—his wife paid me once for things which he took away without my seeing him do so—I did not see his dog on this occasion.
Re-examined. The article he bought and afterwards paid for, was a halfpound of bacon—I do not know of any contract between my husband and his wife for the supply of potatoes and wood.
ALBERT PARKER . On this night, about 8.45, I saw the prisoner coming towards the shop, followed by a little girl, who asked for a bundle of wood; I served her, and going round the counter to get a candle, I saw the prisoner take a bundle of wood, and put it in his pocket and walk out—he said to the girl "That is nice bacon you have there, I will have a rasher right along, but I have not got the money to pay for it, I will pay when my wifes comes home"—as I was cutting the bacon, I saw him go towards the window, put his hand there, and put something in his pocket—he said "Make it just half-a-pound," and I saw him put his hand into a basket and take some potatoes; he whistled to his dog and went away—the potatoes were about 2 yards from the egg-basket—I do not know why he did not wait for the bacon—I went after him, after calling my wife—I said, "I saw you put some things in your pocket; you have got some potatoes and wood, and I think some eggs"—he strongly denied it a great many times, and I struggled with him—I know of no contract between his wife and me for the supply of wood and potatoes—I do not know of his taking wood away before—at the station I saw the wood and tea taken from him; it was tea which he took from the window, which I thought was eggs; the packets lay close to the eggs—I gave him no authority to take away the tea—he said at the station "I will pay for them."
JURY. Q. Did you ever trust him before? A. No, but I believe my wife has let his wife have things on credit.
Cross-examined. I was going to trust him with the bacon—I did not speak to him, because I was watching him, and was going to tax him with it—I was going to charge him as a thief, but I should not have given him in charge for stealing a bundle of wood—I did not believe him to be a thief, because we were on the most friendly terms, but when he went away and left the bacon, I thought he was a thief—he went out and whistled after his dog, and when I saw him run out I thought he was going to steal my wood and potatoes—I knew who he was, but he had said nothing about the things—he has smoked once at my place, but not with me, I do not smoke—I have known him a month or six weeks, and his wife a little longer—she has a little property—she has been an occasional customer—the prisoner seems rather a strange man.
Re-examined. He took his key and struggled to get into his house, but I would not let him; I got him back about 40 yards before he was given in custody—I did not know of his having the tea till he was searched—I have never trusted him—I never knew him go to the window and take a packet of tea.
JURY. Q. Did he go out after his dog? A. Yes, but that was his mode to take these things home—I never knew him take a bundle of wood—he has not bought wood of me.
ELIZA PARKER (re-examined). I have given him credit once or twice, but I always have to see what people take in order to book it—the wood stands in front of the counter—if he had said "Mrs. Parker, I will take a couple of bundles of wood," I should book them to him—he would not have to reach very far to help himself to the tea, and the potatoes are sold by weight—tea is sold by the packet—it would be impossible to lift the wood without being seen.
The Prisoner's Statement before the Magistrate: "The contract for the articles was made by my wife. It is a foul charge against me. When I go in I always take two bundles of wood, as I did then. I reserve my defence, and never robbed anybody in my life."
Verdict: NOT GUILTY .'
Life for the Goodwin family was reasonably comfortable – William had stable employment and future promotion couldn’t be ruled out. Sadly this situation was not to last. Either as a result of his rough upbringing or, through exposure to others around him with the same condition, William Goodwin contracted Phthisis, otherwise known as Consumption for what it did to one’s body. A form of Tuberculosis, there was virtually no cure in Victorian times for this affliction and William, at the young age of 40, passed away on 8 January 1888 leaving behind a young family.
What became of this brood? A glimpse at the 1891 census reveals all – the family had, of necessity moved to 7 Gainsboro Road in Hornsey. Mary Ann was now a 37 year Cook and had with her Rose who was now 12. The whereabouts of the others is unknown.
William Goodwin was never destined to reach a ripe old age or to fulfil the promise he was showing.