This Cambridgeshire set of ancestors seem to start with the marriage of John Westnutt in 1706, although as yet his birth has not been found anywhere! All Cambridgeshire Westnutts/Westneats/Westnotts are his descendants. Sheila, who submitted this item, was related by her grandfather who was born in Caldecot, was a dragoon in the BoerWar and then went to Canada in 1911 [where Sheila's mother, his 3rd child, was the first born here].

William WESTNUTT was a colourful ancestor who was hanged for poaching. William was Sheila's grandfather's great uncle. William's brother Matthew was also arrested for poaching and in 1858, was convicted for receiving stolen goods. He was buried at Caldecot Apr4 1858, it is suspected that he may also have been hanged - but so far no luck in finding out -anybody else have anything? Below is the Cambridge Chronicle accounts of William's fate.

Cambridge Chronicle: 15 March 1833


William Westnott (24), Charles Carter (22), and Charles Algood (42) were indicted for unlawfully and maliciously shooting at William Kidd, of Wimpole, in Kingston Wood, on Saturday the 5th of January last.-William Kidd examined: I am assistant keeper to the Earl of Hardwicke ; at four o'clock on Saturday morning the 5th of January I was in Kingston Wood, protecting the game; John Carter and others were in the wood; I heard a gun fired; there are pheasants in that wood; I saw a person who did not belong to my party ; the man

made a stop, I walked a few paces towards him ; he was coming down a ride and I was going up it; I got close upon him, within three yards, and then I saw two men, they both lifted up their guns; nothing was said, but they presented them, one at my head, the other at my body, they fired both of them off; one struck me in the face and the other in the arm ; there is one shot in my cheek now, and one or two in my forehead; some powder also went into my face, and blood immediately followed ; the shot cut through my coat, waistcoat, and ,hirt, and some went into my arm ; directly afer they shot at me I saw a third man, immediately after which they turned round and ran into the wood; I was unsensed ; I halloed out, and John Cater came up ; the same day I went to Mr. Pine's the surgeon of Royston ; he dressed my wounds. I met the man I supposed was one (Westnott) on the following Monday morning ; I believe him to be the man that fired at my head.

John Cater said he was with others in Kingston Wood on the above morning; about four o'clock we heard a gun fired ; afterwards saw the flashes of two guns ; I was then about three chains from Kidd; l made my way to him; he was on the ground in a bleeding state; I picked him up, and then trod on part of the barrel of a gun, which was delivered to the head-keeper, Mr. Hill.

Dennis Male is wheelwright and constable at Toft; knows Westnott ; on Monday afternoon the 7th of Jan. met him; only two or three minutes before I met him had heard that Kidd had been shot; I had some conversation

with him about it; I said I heard that Kidd was shot and he (Westnott) was blamed for it; Westnott at first said he did not know any thing of it ; I said I heard there were three of them; he answered there were six ; I said how should you know there were six, if you was not one or them; he said "I don't mind telling you I was, I shot him in the cheek and somebody else in the elbow"; Creeke, a shoemaker, was present at this conversation; after that I saw Westnott again, between four and five in the afternoon, at Caldecott at a public-house, he was with Creeke; we all came out together about half-past six, as we were going towards home we went by the side of some bushes, and Westnott went into a gap and pulled out a gun, he gave it to Creeke and said, "this is the gun you bought of me; we then crossed over four or five lands, and he pulled out another gun; he said "this is the other gun that shot the man, this is the short one, when this gun was fired off the top part flew off," I put my finger into the barrel and found a screw, as if there was another piece that fits in; .1 don't know what be did with it.

Henry Creeke said: I am a shoemaker; Westnott owed me five shillings; he offered to give me a gun for the debt, which I agreed to take; Male was with me on Monday the 7th of January, when we met Westnott; I saw him again in the evening; as we were going home be took the gun out of a spinney and gave it me, I was to make it up if the gun was worth more than five shillings ; he said that was the gun which shot the man; when I and Male first met him, Male said to Westnott that he heard that he was blamed for shooting the man at Wimpole; I had heard that Kidd had been shot at Kingston Wood; Westnott said "I shot the man."

Mr.Hill, the head-keeper, and Chapman, an assistant, proved the finding and receiving a part of a gun-barrel, which was delivered to Stevens, the Bow-street officer, who produced it.

Francis Pym Jun. Esq. said, I am a magistrate. Carter was examined before me; his examination was taken down in writing ; he was before me first on the 12th of January; I cautioned him that anything taken down would be produced against him; Hill told me be wished to say something; at a second examination, at the gaol, I read over to him what he had first said, and asked if he had anything he wished to add to it. Mr. Hill re-called and said, that as they were going to Mr. Pym's house, Carter asked me if he could he examined first; I told him I would ask Mr. Pym, but if he said anything to mind and speak the truth; I certainly made him no promise to do so.

The examination of Carter read : In it he said, "I should not have went if a person had not come and called me out of my bed ; I shot first, I did not take any particular aim." About a week after, at another examination, he said; " I should not have said this if Mr.Hill and the other gentlemen had not told me if I said I was there I ,should go home." At the examination of Westnott he said, "I was there with two other persons was not the man who shot at Kidd ; I had no gun with me." At the examination of Algood he said, "I was with two persons in Kingston Wood, when they shot Kidd, I do not think one of them would have shot him if it had not been for the other man. Kidd was running up towards them, and they did not like to be taken, so they shot him. I think one of them would rather have been taken,but the other man said shoot him.

"The learned Judge having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of guilty,recommending the prisoners to mercy.


Charles Allgood, was next placed at the bar alone. His Lordship said the jury had wished him to make some discriminalion in his cace[sic]. He had since taken it into consideration and had found a circumstance which induced him to think that he should not relinquish the performance of his duty if he saved his life. It appeared that he was the person who did not draw a trigger, and although he was in the wood for an improper purpose, there was a moral difference in the part he took in the transaction.-Death recorded.

William Westnett and Charles Carter were then called up, and His Lordship having placed the black cap upon his head said, "Prisoners at the bar, upon an occasion like the present it is seldom that I address criminals at any length; my feelings are too much overipowered to enable me to do so. But in the present instance I cannot avoid deviating a littie from my usual course, in order to state why I have made a difference between your cases and that of Allgood. I have often tried men for offences against the Game Laws, but I have usually found that they have used braver and wiser means to elude punishment than you adopted; when they have come to a determination not quietly to give themselves up, they have laid down their arms and endeavoured by physical force to escape;

you, however, even without speaking, deliberately stopped within three or four yards of the prosecutor, pointed your guns and shot at him. I cannot therefore deal with your case in any other way than that of passing upon you the extreme sentence of he law. Let me therefore earnestly implore you, now that your days are numbered, to ask for mercy from that Saviour whom you have offended, and rely upon it that if you approach his throne with penitential prayer you will be rewarded. It now only remains for me to pass the sentence of the law upon you, which is, that you be taken hence to the place from whence you came, and thence to the place of execution, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you are dead, and may the Lord have mercy upon your souls."

The prisoners after being tarken from the bar, appeared much affected.


Cambridge Chronicle Friday April 5 1833


For Shooting At A Gamekeeper

Great exertions were ineffectually made since the condemnation to obtain a respite, particularly for Carter, on account if his previous good character; the Earl of Hardwicke, also, with his characteristic kindness, interposing in his behalf. Their conduct during the last fortnight became men in their aweful situation, and they seemed to pay great attention to the exhortations of the chaplain; confessing to him that they had been greatly addicted to poaching, but denying to the last any intention of killing their prosecutor,admitting at the same time, they had agreed before they went out to shoot on each side of any keeper they might meet, so as to stun him and make their escape. At the time appointed for their execution they were led from the condemned cell, and on passing the gallery to the governor's house, Westnott seemed to display great indifference as to his situation, which was also manifest on walking up the prison yard, but on one of the turnkey's bidding him good bye he apparently felt more emotion than at any other time. Carter walked to the scaffold with a firm step, seemingly in deep thought, but was obliged to be supported up the steps of the drop and until he knelt. While the service was reading, Carter seemed to join in it with great fervency, more especially in all the ejaculations for mercy; while Westnott occasionally betrayed great indifference, looking first at the crowd, then at the chaplain, and I then at Carter. When the service was concluded, Carter exclaimed "God bless you," and kissed the chaplain's hand, as did also Westnott. When the drop fell the horror of the moment was increased by the skrieks[sic] of the sister of Carter, who had very imprudently placed herself close to the prison. Carter died almost instantaneously, but Westnott, a man of great muscular power, struggled violently for several minutes.

Carter had been married only a short time,but has left no children. He has been described as ' half witted,' but those who have had the best opportunity of judging of him from his conduct and conversation while in prison, think it incorrect, though he was undoubtedly a simple-minded man and easily led astray.Westnott was also a married man and has left two children;he had been previously convicted of felony, was a well known poacher, and bore a general bad character, and we are informed by a gentleman by whom he had been employed, that he always considered him a man capable of any crime ; he was also one of the six who attempted to break prison some time since by means of wooden keys.

The injurious tendency of beer shops seemed to be deeply impressed upon the minds of the culprits,and in speaking of them, Carter from observation and Westnott from experience, they stated that many young men spent nearly all their wages at them, and when intoxicated planned robberies and depredations that would not otherwise be thought of. Carter stated also that he had many times eaten venison, but had never assisted in taking it, though he was well acquainted with the method ; Westnott had never tasted it. After finding that they had shot the prosecutor, they said they came to a determination that if they escaped detection they would not again go out after pheasants, or with guns; but it appears that poaching was too familiar to thems to be given up, as Carter, when taken, had been out for the purpose of setting hare snares. They both stated that the game they took they sold in Cambridge, not to the licensed dealers, but to some man who is well known to poachers.

The concourse of persons was very great, the greater portion of which were females. A pickpocket was detected soon after the excecution, and the horrid spectacle seemed to have little effect on a portion of the spectators, who almost immediately crowded round some boys who were fighting in the castle grounds.

A report has been currently circulated that suspicion attached to the culprits of having murdered a young man who went to London with them, and of whom nothing had been since heard. Inquiry has been made and it has been satisfactorily proved that he died in one of the hospitals, and the register of his burial has been obtained.


If you think you are related then the person to contact is Sheila (email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)