Dudley v Monk, 1870

Bucks Herald, 19 March

Samuel Burnham Dudley of The Limes, Horn Street was a land agent and one of Winslow's two auctioneers. Henry Monk of Tuckey Farm was the biggest farmer in Winslow. Dudley brought this claim for damages at the Nisi Prius court at the Bucks Assizes, following an incident at The Bell. The damages awarded by the jury show how far they thought Monk was really being libellous. The quit-rents referred to were the payments due to the lord of the manor for copyhold property; as they were fixed in the 17th century they had become insignificant.

Dudley v. Monk.

  This was an action to recover damages for libel, brought by Mr. Dudley, auctioneer, &c., of Winslow, against the defendant who is a farmer of the same place.  The libel was stated to have been committed at the Bell inn, Winslow, and other places, in Dec.,1869, and consisted chiefly of his saying that Mr. Dudley had robbed everybody whom he had to do with.

  Mr. D. D. Keane, Q.C., with Mr. Metcalfe, instructed by Messrs. Batty and Whitehouse, were for the plaintiff, and Mr. O’Malley, Q.C., with Mr. Merewether, instructed by Mr. Small, solicitor, of Buckingham, were for the defendant.

  Mr. Keane, in opening the case, said there were four different libels, and the defendant, as to the first and third, pleaded that they were true, and that the second and fourth he did not utter.  The first of these was, that the plaintiff owed some money to Mr. Lowndes, and he would advise every one to be careful of that man.  The second was that he (Mr. Dudley) had robbed everybody whom he had to do with; but the defendant said he did not say this.  The third he admits; which was, that Mr. Dudley was a defaulter to Mr. Lowndes for a large amount.  The fourth was, “What is the use of having to do with a man who has robbed everybody.”  He then called

  John Ingram, who said he was a builder and farmer, living at Winslow.  On the 15th of December, 1869, he was at the Bell Hotel, Winslow, in the market room.  It was market day, about twelve o’clock, and there were a good many persons in the room.  Mr. Monk came in and sat down near to him.  Mr. Monk was a farmer living at Winslow, farming under Mr. Lowndes, and part his own.  The defendant, when he came in, called “Order, gentlemen, order.  I am requested by Mr. Selby Lowndes to read this paper in every market room in the parish.”  Defendant then pulled a paper out of his pocket and commenced reading, and said that Dudley was a defaulter to Mr. Lowndes for some hundreds.  He had known Mr. Dudley all his life as an estate agent.  After reading the paper, defendant said he should advise everyone in the room to take care of that man, as he had robbed everybody whom he had to do with, and he also said he should go to Aylesbury on the next Saturday, and read it out in every public room there.  Witness asked to look at the paper, but he said he was told by Mr. Lowndes not to let it go out of his hands.  After it had been read a second time, Mr. Corkett said if Mr. Dudley could not answer that he ought to be turned out of the parish. Corkett also made the remark that if that was not a felony, he did not know what was (Laughter.)  Witness told him he did not think it was a felony, but a breach of trust.  Mr. Marks came in, and told defendant that Mr. Wigley was in the bar, upon which he left the room, and witness heard a strange noise, as if there was a struggle going on.  Mr. Monk was not drunk.  He had heard defendant say those things about Mr. Dudley several times, at that and other public places.  He had heard him say that he had robbed everybody whom he had to do with.  Witness had known Mr. Dudley all his life, but he had never had a shilling of him.

  Cross-examined by Mr. O’Malley - He went to work for Mr. Monk at one time but had not done so for some years.  He did not know that it was in consequence of an account of his that he ceased to work for him; he also used to work for Mr. Lowndes.  It was about nine o’clock at night when the row took place at the Bell Inn, but he did not know how many there were there.  They had something to drink, as they could not go into the house without that.  He was a very abstemious man and he thought he only had two glasses all the day.  He would not swear to any quantity, but he was perfectly sober.  There was a row in the bar but he did not go out to see what it was.  He was there next day when they made it up over a pint of sherry.  Monk had been pulling Wigley’s nose.  He was at the Bell Hotel after that, and met Mr. Dudley and Mr. Wigley there and they had some champagne together.  He had only two glasses.  It was there that he first told Mr. Dudley what he heard.  He had ordered a glass of ale in the bar when Mr. Dudley sent for him, but he did not drink it.

  Mr. O’Malley- You thought there was something better going.

  Witness continues - He thought it was before they had the champagne that he told Mr. Dudley those words.  He did not see anyone writing it down; nor would he swear how many times he saw Mr. Dudley afterwards.  He went to luncheon at Mr. Monk’s, but he did not invite himself.  He could not swear to any other place than the Bell Hotel where he heard defendant make use of those words, except in the public street.  He did not know if Mr. W. Tomes was present at the Bell when the defendant made use of the words.  It was not because he had taken too much that he could not remember.  He did not know if Mr. William Trew was there.  He would swear that he used those words after he had read the paper, and witness made the remark that it was a breach of trust.  The paper was not read loud enough for him to know the whole of its contents, but there was something about quit rents.

  Mr. R. G. Fairbrother said he knew both plaintiff and defendant in this case.  He was at the Bell Hotel on the evening in question.  It was about nine o’clock when he went in.  Mr. W. Tomes and Mr. J. Tomes were present. When he went in he said to Monk, “What have you got here?” and he replied, “You d--- fool, sit down there,” and he did so.  Defendant then said, “You will have a printed copy sent to you by post.” Mr. W. Tomes asked him to let him have the paper to read, but he said he was authorised by Mr. Lowndes not to let anyone have it in their hands.  He said he was authorised to read it in every public room in the parish.  The defendant then read something about quit rents, and £400 or £100 owing to Mr. Selby Lowndes, and he also said that he was coming to Aylesbury, and he should go to the George Hotel and read it, to show how Mr. Dudley had robbed the squire (Mr. Selby Lowndes was called the Squire.)  Mr. Monk said, “Dudley is a defaulter to Mr. Lowndes for some hundreds.”  About four or five days after he saw defendant at the Bell again, and he said to witness “You don’t want to do me any harm do you?”  He replied that he did not, and that he would not “purge” himself for any man.  (Laughter.)

  Mr. O’Malley- I am sure he must have been very drunk to have called you a “d--- fool” - wasn’t he?
  Witness - No, he was not drunk, but very excited.

  Mr. G. D. E. Wigley said he was an assistant to Mr. Dudley, and had been for fourteen years in his business as auctioneer.  On the 15th December, 1869, he went to the Bell Hotel about nine o’clock in the evening, and a few minutes after he had been in he saw Monk.  Defendant came in from the market-room and sat down beside him and said, “Here you are, you poor wretch, you will never be a man until you leave the d- old Dudley.”  Defendant then paused a moment, and said “He has robbed everybody whom he has to do with.”  Mr. White was present, and witness said to him “you hear that,” and he replied, “I hear nothing.”  Monk then said, “There is no one here who would appear against me; go and tell Mr. Dudley what I say.”  Witness replied that he did not want to make mischief.  The defendant then said, “You nasty sneak, you went and told him what I said before.”  He then pulled out a paper, and read it, and witness heard something about a balance of upwards of £400, but as he read it very disjointedly, he could not hear distinctly what it was.  Mr. Fairbrother was present, and asked to look at the paper, but defendant replied, “Go along, you d- old fool.”  Defendant then asked witness if he would like to look, and he replied no, and the defendant rejoined, “You would if you could get it.”  Defendant held the paper in his hand, and said, “What’s the use of having to do with a man who has robbed everybody.”  He pressed him to leave Mr. Dudley, and he would do what he could for him.  Defendant asked him to leave Mr. Dudley as he would rob and ruin him as he did the Squire.  On the 17th of April he said to witness, when opposite the Bell, “Dudley has ruined everybody, and he will ruin you.”  Witness saw him again the next morning.

  Cross-examined by Mr. O’Malley - He was not drunk.  He was sober enough to double his fists in my face.
  Mr. O’Malley - Yes, I believe he put up his fists and pulled your nose.
  Witness - Yes, he did.
  Mr. O’Malley Then I am sure he must have been drunk.

  Cross-examination continues - The landlord of the Bell [William Neal] told defendant that he ought to apologise, and when next he saw him he said if he had insulted witness he was very sorry for it.  They then had a bottle of sherry together.  They had no champagne.

  Mr. Dudley, plaintiff in this action, said he was for twenty-two years the land-agent of Mr. Selby Lowndes of Whaddon. It was not true that he owed Mr. Lowndes money.  He never owed Mr. Lowndes a shilling in his life, nor had he ever robbed anybody.  He was not a defaulter to Mr. Lowndes for a single shilling.  It was thoroughly untrue that he had robbed any man.  There was an action between him and Mr. Lowndes, which had been referred to Mr. Justice Willes.  Mr. Lowndes had always been very kind to him.  Witness received rents for Mr. Lowndes, and used also to pay tradesmen, &c., for him, and they used to settle up accounts monthly.  Mr. Lowndes always looked at the accounts which were quarterly ones, made up monthly.  He had never had balance of account due to him. He had not agreed to collect the quit rents.  It was not part of his duty; but he had collected them for a number of years - in fact, as long as he could get them.  In 1864, Mr. Apleyard [sic; he was the steward of the manor] paid him a balance.  There were two accounts - one was a brickyard account, and the other was a general account.  The first-named amounted to £224 5s. 8d., and the other was £114 11s. 41/2d.  Mr. Apleyard did not speak to him about the quit rents on that occasion, he would swear.  He had never heard anything about them, nor did he say “I will collect them as soon as I can,” At that time he had received £496 15s. 10d. for quit rents, which he had not put into the account; and at that time he said nothing to Mr. Apleyard about them, that he could recollect.  In 1861 Mr. Apleyard was told that the quit rents had not been collected for ten years, and some of them not for twenty years, and he said “You may see, and collect them if you like.”  He collected some after a very great deal of trouble; but he had not been round for them since about 1862.  When people came and paid, he took the money, and Mr. Apleyard knew very well when he settled the account that there were some quit rents which he had collected.  There were about ten years uncollected at that time.  He did not know why it was that he did not make an account of the quit rents that he had received, except that it was a very great deal of trouble, as they were collected in such very small sums, and extended over so long a period of time, and there was always a large balance due to him from the Squire.  Mr Apleyard knew that he collected the quit rents, for he had seen him doing so.  The settlement in 1864 did not mean the whole of the settlement of accounts between him and Mr. Lowndes, as at that time there was a year’s salary of £150, due to him, and some money on the brickyard as well.  There were two brickyard accounts.  He first told him that he wanted an account made out of the quit rents about twelve months ago.  He might have applied for an account of the quit rents more than once.  Mr. Apleyard did not threaten him with prosecution unless he rendered an account of the quit rents, (the account was then put in.)  This account showed that the balance was struck at 1868.  He had charged Mr. Lowndes £847 10s. for interest on money paid out of his pocket for Mr. Lowndes from 1843 to 1863.

  By Mr. O’Malley - Did you ever charge interest until you wanted to cover the account of £400.
  Witness - I never did want to cover the account, Mr. O’Malley.

  Cross-examined - He used to receive his rents yearly, and he used to pay Mr. Lowndes on the rent day, but they were not all collected up by that day.  From 1848 to 1865 there was only one occasion on which the balance was against him.  At one time there was as much as £2,000 owing to him, and the only time there was a balance against him, it was for about £300.  He had showed the account to one or two persons, but he did not remember who they were.

  This concluded the evidence, and

  Mr. O’Malley then addressed the jury, and said that the plaintiff had chosen to bring Mr. Monk into court to answer for the charge which Mr. Lowndes had made, because he was a man who enjoyed a market dinner rather more than what was good for him, and as Mr. Wigley and others had shown at nine o’clock at night he was drunk and excited, for they must know there were many different opinions about when a man is drunk.  If a policeman had to take the evidence of a man, he would be sure to say he was sober, but if he had to take him up before the magistrates, he was always drunk.  (Laughter).  Monk had used very coarse words, and what appeared at first very bad words, but why did Mr. Dudley bring an action against Monk when he might have brought Mr. Lowndes into court - because he said you are a defrauder, and your books will put you out of court, but Monk has used strong words against you, and a jury may give you small damages, and the action was brought against Mr. Monk.

  Mr. D. D. Keene followed with a speech for the plaintiff, but he appeared to be suffering from indisposition, and we were unable to hear his remarks.  He called the attention of the jury to the fact that Mr. Dudley had been doing business for Mr. Lowndes to the extent of £200,000 in twenty years, and no fault had been found with him, and if Mr. Lowndes had thought he intended to defraud him of the £400 for quit rents, would he not have mentioned it when they balanced accounts from time to time?  It was well known by both Mr. Lowndes and Mr. Apleyard that Mr. Dudley had a sum of money in his possession for quit rents; but as there was a balance always due to Mr. Dudley, nothing was said about it.

  His Lordship, in summing up, said there was a great deal said against the plaintiff, which was calculated to injure his position; but if the jury were of opinion that any part of those statements were true, they would not give heavy damages.

  The jury retired for twenty-five minutes, at the end of which time they returned into Court and gave a verdict for the plaintiff - damages, one farthing.

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Copyright 9 July, 2020