We at Hidden Oswestry are once again going back in time to look at a case one man’s duties as a godfather ended up costing him his life. Croxon & Lucas were a drapers firm who had operated from Number 15, The Cross, for a number of years, with the property being owned by the Croxon family since 1764. One night, in 1820, a robbery took place from within the premises.

The first sighting of any goings on was made by Mr. Morgan who lived above the shops opposite. Just as he was going to bed, he spotted some flickering lights coming from the shop. He initially passed it off as Mr. Croxon working late on a project with a close deadline.

The young female servant from the company woke him with a startling bang, the next day. She had been sent by her bosses to ask the neighbours of any goings on in the night, as the shop had been robbed. In a daze, Mr. Morgan got dressed and made his way across the road to explain his findings, but when he arrived, he found the shop to be neat and tidy, as if nothing happened; this is contrary to the ransacked and almost-destroyed state he was expecting it to be.

Both Messrs. Morgan and Croxon just stood there, puzzled.

Mr. Croxon said, scratching his head: “If I didn’t do my stock-keeping regularly I would never have known that a length of printed material is missing over here. Everything’s been neatly folded and stacked as if nothing was amiss and in a very professional way too. I think there is more to this than meets the eye. I suggest the police be informed, but that we keep this matter very quiet and see what transpires. It must surely have been someone we both know.”

Next week, a lady from the Bailey Head came into the shop with her daughter, enquiring: “Have you anything which might make an apron to match my daughter’s dress?”

Mr. Croxon was still recovering from the shock and, naturally, suspecting everyone. He saw the pattern she provided and his mouth fell open. It was made from the same print that had gone missing in the robbery! In anger, he fetched for the Police to arrest her.

Once the Police arrived, they investigated and took interviews from everyone. The lady was tearful to the point of hysteria when she told of how she’d been given the bolt of cloth for her daughter’s dress by the girl’s godfather, Mr. Lewis, who was one of Mr. Croxon’s own tenants from a house in Beatrice Street.

This directed the Police to suspect Mr. Lewis, so they made their way to his house in Beatrice Street to arrest him. He was taken to the Salop Assizes for a quick and decisive trial, and his guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt. In 1820, theft was punishable by hanging, so the sentence of death was provided as such.

Mr. Lewis was taken to the Dana to swing the next day. Mr. Croxon visited him and, disappointed and feeling betrayed, asked Mr. Lewis why he committed such a crime.

Mr. Lewis’ explanation was the same as when on trial: “I needed a present for my god daughter, but it was lucky the crime was not worse, your female servant nearly disturbed me, and if she had entered the room I would have shot her dead.”

We end this story with two sayings that seem to fit the part:-

1. “When things seem to be at an all time low, and still getting worse, an Oswestrian may be heard to say, ‘Worse and worse, like Povey’s foot.’”; and

2. “If a pair of scissors falls so the points stick into the floor, it is a sign of more work coming in.”

Incidentally, ‘Povey’ was the nickname for Mr. Peter Povall, who was a draper and Mayor of Oswestry for the 1724-1725 civic year. He died in office from a very pernicious form of gout which made his death slow and ever-increasingly painful.


‘Oswestory’ [Pages 35-37], by The Moving Finger collaborative (2002)

‘Oswestry, with an account of its old houses, shops, etc., and some of their occupants’ [Pages 221 & 222], by Isaac Watkin (1920)