Monday, 8 July 2013

William Sibley : In the wrong place at the wrong time?

My 3xgreat-grandfather William Sibley (1826-1889) was charged, and later acquitted, in 1860 for conspiring to steal from the publican Thomas Rule of the Coopers' Arms public-house in Putney. When I discovered his name in the Police Intelligence section of The Morning Post (at British Newspaper Archive), I was initially shocked. As I read on, however, I found out that William Sibley was innocent. What follows is an extract from the aforementioned newspaper, dated 30 January 1861:

William Carlton, who described himself as a photographer, and William Sibley, a wheelwright, were placed in the dock before Mr Ingham, charged with being concerned with stealing £5 from the Coopers' Arms public-house in Putney, the property of the landlord Mr Thomas Rule.
The robbery was committed on the 11th of December 1860 and the money, consisting of gold, silver, and halfpence was taken from the bureau in Rule's bedroom. The bureau was locked but not the bedroom. William Sibley was in the house during the said afternoon and was in and out several times and in different parts of the premises. He had a cart at the back door and he went out two or three times to examine it. William Carlton was at the bar with another man, and they had some gin-and-water at the bar. They appeared very fidgety, for they kept going out and returning alternately, and they both left without drinking their gin-and-water. It further appeared that Sibley lived in Putney [in 1861 census he lived at Stratford Grove] and Carlton formerly carried on his photography business opposite to the Coopers' Arms.
My 3xgreat-grandfather denied all knowledge of the robbery, and explained the reason for the cart being at the back of the public-house. He had it to repair and was waiting for assistance to drag it home. Thomas Rule claimed that Sibley had been in his bedroom before, to do repairs to a set of drawers but that he and his daughter [Caroline Rule] were unable to say whether Sibley and Carlton had actually communicated with one another on the day in question.
Mr Ingham refused to allow bail for Sibley, despite Sergeant Blanchard knowing nothing against Sibley before. The evidence of the witness [who was not named during the trial] was that he had evidence that Sibley had known about the robbery one week before it occured.
According to the Criminal Registers on Ancestry, William Sibley and William Carlton were acquitted at Newington on 18 February 1861.

Coopers' Arms public-house, Putney circa 1905

The Coopers' Arms public-house gave its name to Coopers' Arms Lane, which was later renamed Lacy Road. Coopers' Arms Lane was formerly known as Warpell-Way, warp meaning "distinct pieces of ploughed land seperated by the furrows". A thoroughfare in Putney partly preserves the ancient nomenaclature in Warpole Road. The Putney High Street was largely unchanged until Edwardian times when the pub and cottages alongside were demolished and replaced by Edwardian shops. These were removed in the 1980s to make way for the Putney Exchange shopping centre.

Sources used for this blog post: British Newspaper Archive & Ancestry
Putney & Roehampton by Patrick Loobey



  1. Hi, loved your posts on Samuel Wilton Rix as I have been researching this family as well. The photos and info on early members of the family are fascinating. I have a South African connection and am researching a Dion Shelly Rix born 1923 in RSA and wondered if Dion is connected to this family. Have not been able to find any Rixs' from this family who went to RSA.(yet) but the 'Shelly Rix' combination is compelling and very consistent in this family. If you have any ideas would love to know. I also love old photos and history, poetry and cats, what else do you need in regards Sammi

  2. Hello Debra,
    Looks like the Sibleys made a point of making life difficult for us genealogists. I am looking for family of Alfred Sibley and his wife Maria who was a Whitlock from Hales, Norfolk. I cannot find the parents or 2 daughters in 1891 although they appear to have stayed around the Putney, Surrey area. Son Harry was a builder living at Lime Villas Putney and the mother Maria died at Putney in 1893 so they should be there somewhere. There should be a Harriet Ada or Ada born c 1867 and Emma Elizabeth born c 1874. I found a marriage for Harriet to Percy Payne at Putney in 1898 and Emma married an Archibald Bayly in Dec 1897 but can't find any reference to them in 1891 other than a possible Emily inmate at Greenwich infirmary. Do you have any knowledge of this family. Kind regards, Carmel