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1859: Deluded farmer becomes violent and 'owed a fortune'

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Sussex Advertiser - Tuesday 12 July 1859

CUCKFIELD. Magistrates' Clerk’s Office, Tuesday.


William Cook, farmer, of Cuckfield, in custody, was charged Supt. Akehurst with an assault on his carter.


John Hayton stated that he has been carter to Mr Cook since ladytide, and on Monday morning, while eating his breakfast Cook came down stairs, when he asked him why he had set It about at Cuckfield that he had beaten him with a stick. Cook said he had not, and passed into the parlour, from whence he shortly after returned, with an oak bludgeon in his hand and went into the washhouse. Complainant fearing he meant mischief followed him, and told him to lay the stick down, when Cook felled him by a blow that cut his head open, and afterwards repeated the blows.


The High Street with the Talbot Hotel on the right c1880; local court cases were heard on the first floor

Witness, in answer to Mr Loder said that Cook was in strange and excited state, and constantly wandering about the country, neglecting his business.


It also appeared from the statement of Supt. and Dr. Byass that he is labouring under delusions that show him to be insane. One of the delusions he labours under that he is not married, and another that various persons owe him immense sums as fines - Mr Sergison, £200,000, for neglect of duty; Mr. Waugh, £4,000; and Mr Akehurst, £1,500 for the same: Dr. Byass, £2,000 for forgery, &c. He also fancies at times that has given large donations to individuals, and talks most incoherently on all subjects.


Remanded till Friday for further evidence to his state of mind.


Cook was born in 1797 and on the 1851 census was farming 72 acres at Barnsnape. He was buried at Cuckfield on 26th June 1861, abode Haywards Heath which at a guess might mean he died in the Asylum which had opened in 1859.

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