The Dark Deeds of the Man from Cue
In our documentary researches, we sometimes come across violent dramas that the long-gone occupants were involved in. These events are usually pretty sparse when looking at the history of a farmhouse. We were intrigued to find a rape case in the quiet and rural village of Bishopstone, near Swindon. Cue’s Farmhouse is a pretty thatched 17th century building constructed of the local chalkstone. It was named after the Cue family who first to Bishopstone around 1780. The name of John Cue first appeared in a Bishopstone court book in 1775, when he was listed as a ‘leaze looker’. In 1780, the first available Land Tax return shows him occupying three pieces of land in the parish. In April 1797, John Cue died. With his wife Ann, according to the Parish Registers, he had four children, although it is possible earlier children might have been born elsewhere.
Why Richard, as the elder son, did not inherit the lease on his father’s farm is not known; the parish register does not record his death. Perhaps he had already taken over the lease of another farm elsewhere. Instead, on the death of his father, the land tax shows that the farm was taken over by the younger son, Walter, who had been baptised three years after Richard, on August 30th 1761. It seems likely that Walter Cue may have moved his family into the house which became known as Cue’s Farm at about 1797.
In 1808 an incident occurred which must have excited the village gossips, when Walter Cue was prosecuted at the Lent Assizes, accused by William Stotter, one of his labourers, of the rape of his wife, Jane Stotter. The case stated that Cue was ‘a man very much respected by everybody that knows him, and who has a wife and seven small children. The Prosecutor and wife live in the same place in a House of the Prisoner’s and worked for him until Michaelmas last, and married the said Jane his wife about two years past. She has for many years past been considered a woman of very bad character and a notorious liar. The House she lives in adjoins one of the Prisoner’s farmyards.’
Hearing the couple spreading rumours of his connection with Jane, Cue had given them notice to quit their home; they therefore decided to threaten prosecution to obtain money from him. Various witnesses provided Walter Cue with an alibi that he had been cutting wood at the time of the alleged rape, and Bishopstone farmers testified to Cue’s good character and Jane’s tendency to fabricate such evidence. It was her word against his, and he was able to call upon various ‘respectable farmers’ in the shape of Mr. Moses and Mr. Robert Church of Bishopstone, James Puzey of Idstone and Mr. Benjamin Kent of Idstone to support him. A farm labourer’s wife had no such influential friends and the verdict, unsurprisingly, was ‘Not Guilty’. Evidently this escapade had done his reputation in Bishopstone no lasting damage, for the Manor Court Book shows Walter to have been sworn in as court bailiff in 1827. Had this case been tried in court today I wonder what the outcome would have been?
Wiltshire Buildings Record