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Cruelty to a Horse 

In the spring of 1897, a local farmer’s less than exemplary care of one of his farm horses was to lead to a prosecution by the animal welfare authorities.

John Gardner Barker was born in 1829 in Goadby Marwood and was christened on 5th April at St. Denys’ Church in the village. His parents, John Barker and Mary Barker nee Gardner, were tenant farmers at Bellemere Farm. When John was just three years old, his father died, and a few years later his mother married Simpson Ellaby, a farmer from Somerby who took on the tenancy of Bellemere. John, his older brother, Daniel, and two sisters, all spent their childhood at the farm.

In 1854, John married Charlotte Marlow, the niece of his sister’s husband, and the couple settled at a large farm in Holwell, adjacent to a property farmed by John’s older brother. John and Charlotte had six children, John, Charles, Horace, Frederick, Annie and Arthur, but sadly, Charles, Frederick and Arthur all died in infancy. John’s step-father, Simpson Ellaby, died in 1873, and shortly afterwards John moved back to Bellemere Farm with his wife and children. Charlotte died in 1883, and three years later John married spinster, Maria Poole, from Lincoln.

Bellemere encompassed approximately 160 acres, and John employed a number of agricultural labourers, several of whom lived on site. Both of John’s surviving sons, John and Horace, also worked on the farm although both had left home by the time the prosecution took place. In April 1897, farm labourer, Richard Edwards, was spotted by the local constable working an injured horse, and the R.S.P.C.A. was called in to assess the animal. The subsequent court case was reported in the Leicester Chronicle on May 8th.

Cruelty to a horse

Richard Edwards, labourer, Goadby Marwood was charged by Inspector Craven R.S.P.C.A. with cruelly treating a horse at Goadby Marwood by working the same while in an unfit state on the 16th of April, and John Gardner Barker, farmer, was charged with causing the same to be worked.

Edwards pleaded guilty and Barker not guilty.

P.C. Stapleton said he found Edwards working a horse on the farm which seemed to be in pain. On examining it he found a wound on the shoulder about one inch and a quarter long and there was blood on the collar. He stopped the horse and told the youth it was cruel to work a horse in that state.

He replied “I know but what can I do. My master knows about it but made me work it yesterday. I am glad to know you are going to put a stop to it”

Inspector Craigen gave corroborative evidence and added that in addition to the wound there was a large swelling.

Barker denied it was cruelty to work the horse and said it was a malicious prosecution.

Edwards was fined 5s including costs and Barker £2 and 13s costs.


It seems clear from the level of the fine imposed that the magistrates held John Gardner Barker, rather than his employee, responsible for the welfare of the horse. John continued to farm at Bellemere until his death in February 1907 at the age of 78, after which the tenancy was taken over by his eldest son.

Bellemere Farm 2019.JPG

Bellemere Farm 2019

John Barker son of John Gardner Barker.j

John Barker, eldest son of John Gardner Barker.

Born in Holwell in 1856, John lived at Bellemere Farm until he married at the age of 30, after which he and his wife moved

to Ragdale.

Following the death of his father, John took on the tenancy at Bellemere whilst also continuing to farm his property at Ragdale.

Horace Barker son of John Gardner Barker

Horace Barker, youngest surviving son of John Gardner Barker. Born in Holwell in 1862, Horace married Emma Skinner from nearby Scalford, the couple emigrated to Queensland, Australia, in 1889, where they raised their family.

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