Charles Caldecott – A Case of Monday Morning Leg?

In 1906 Charles Caldecott appeared in court under a cruelty to animals charge for driving a lame horse. He claimed that it was a case of “Monday morning leg”, a catchall term which could account for a number of different conditions where a horse becomes temporarily lame after being in the stable for a couple of days. Was it indeed Monday Morning Leg or had Charles been involved in pushing this horse too hard amounting to animal cruelty?

Charles Caldecott was born on 2nd March 1878 in Chester, Cheshire to John, a gardener and Elizabeth. He was baptised on 28th April 1878 at St Mary’s Church, Chester.

St Mary's on the Hill, Chester
St Mary’s on the Hill, Chester

By the age of 23 Charles was working as a shunter for the railways in Accrington, Lancashire.

In 1902 he married Annie Elizabeth Phillips and the couple were blessed with a daughter, Ivy born later that year. They had a second daughter in 1905, Lily, but Charles and Annie then faced a series of tragedy after their sons, William (1906-1907), Charles (1910-1910), Harry (1913-1913), and James (1916-1918) all sadly died young. Mercifully, they had two surviving sons, John (b1911) and Tom (b1915) and two more daughters, Joan (b1921) and Margaret (b1924).

On 19th March 1906, Charles was summoned to Preston County Police Court for the cruelty to animals charges along with his employer, John Wilson. He was working as a furniture remover at this point in Accrington. PC Smith gave evidence at the trial saying that he witnessed Charles Caldecott driving two horses pulling an empty furniture van on the night of February 28th and that one of the horses was lame and clearly in pain.

Charles defended himself saying that “It’s what they call Monday morning leg!” which created laughter in the court room. The policeman retorted that if this was the case then it must be very painful as the horse was clearly suffering greatly.

An expert witness, Inspector Gent was then called from the RSPCA, to testify about the animal. He said that he examined the horse at The Plough Inn, Ashton and the horse was so lame that he could not move it and that it would have been an act of cruelty to have done so. The leg was significantly swollen and he diagnosed septic lymphangitis which he said the horse must have been suffering from for several weeks.

It was clear that Charles and his employer should not have been using the horse for labour with such a painful condition and both were fined – Caldecott – 10s. and costs and Wilson 25s. and costs.

By 1911 Charles had changed trade again, maybe the his employment in the furniture removal business disintegrated following his court appearance. In the 1911 census he recorded his occupation as a builder’s labourer. However, by the 1939 Register he had changed occupation again as it appears as calico printer’s labourer.

Charles Caldecott died in Chorley, Lancaster in 1957. He was survived by his wife, Annie Elizabeth who died in 1961 at the Post Office, Midge Hall, near Preston. She left £691 15s. 5d. to their eldest surviving son, John who was the sub-postmaster at the Post Office where she died.

It is likely that Charles was following his employer’s orders in his mistreatment of the horse and faced the possibility of losing his job if he disobeyed. Going by the number of jobs he was employed in during his working life he may have faced unemployment frequently and would, therefore, have been reluctant to bring this situation upon him and his family if he could avoid it.

Sadly, it is typical of the time that horses were treated as objects of labour and often would not have received the care and compassion we extend towards them nowadays. The RSPCA had been founded in 1824 by Richard MartinReverend Arthur Broome, active campaigners against the cruelty of animals andB William Wilberforce whose concern for abusive enforcement of labour extended not only towards mistreated animals, but towards those exploited in the slave trade and he was famous also for being one of the most instrumental campaigners resulting in its abolition.

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