The Carter & the Baronet

On 16 January 1832, a Mr. Kelland of Lapford (probably Phillip Kelland of Court Barton) was involved in a road incident shortly after setting out for home from Exeter. His cart-driver had began the descent down St David’s Hill towards the turnpike at Red Cow village, then a small community near today’s St David’s Station. Suddenly, the breeching strap snapped, and the two horses pulling the cart broke into a gallop, narrowly missing a horse-drawn carriage coming up the hill.

No harm was done, but Mr. Kelland and his young driver were unfortunate; the carriage was conveying a Baronet, Sir John Duckworth, who was irate and summoned the two men to court.

The Duckworth family were known for their temper. Sir John’s father, a high ranking Admiral, had famously hung a man on Christmas Day for mild derision. The Kellands were a highly respected family but out-ranked by Sir John, a Baronet since the age of eight. He was not long out of an Eton-Oxford education, youthfully impatient, and in a social position to throw his weight in any courtroom.

The Baronet suggested that the cart had not suffered from a mechanical failure but was being driven without reigns on purpose. He provided no evidence, but he convinced the court to side with his view. The young driver, by far the poorest man involved in the incident, took the full blame for the incident and was fined 22 shillings—about two weeks wages and enough to cause a labouring family hardship. In 1845, Sir John Duckworth became the M.P. for Exeter.

Infuriated by a Lapford cart: Sir John Duckworth, 2nd Baronet of Topsham, photographed nearly 30 years after the incident. He served as MP for Exeter 1845-57