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Chimney sweep grimsby buys boy

The scandal of a Grimsby chimney sweep!


This is a snippet I found about a chimney sweep in Grimsby from the 1850's, called John Rack. A rum sort of chap I reckon!


A woman who, described as a travelling vagrant sold her son to John Rack for the sum of 1 Guinea, or £1.05 in todays money, in order that she could purchase a donkey.  John named the boy 'Guinea Pig' and climbed chimneys until he became an adult, or was too big to be of use. Anderson Bates 'A Gossip About Old Grimsby' states that the boy then went to Market Rasen where he “commenced business and prospered”.

The book also reports that another woman, named Polly Crayston had taken her boy to him in a basket, however the transaction wasn’t effected due to the boy being too young.

John lived in Moody lane, opposite the old Bull Ring. The name of the arch and pathway directly between Moody Lane and St James Church was once known as Racks Passage.

From a Court Case, "On Saturday the 29th October 1853:- At Louth Sessions, on Tuesday last, John Rack, of advanced age, was indited for detaining at Grimsby, a child aged 8 years, named George Walker, by force and fraud, with intent to deprive George Walker, the father of the provision of the said child."

Mr Flowers, in opening the case, said it was the first of the kind he had known. He called George Walker, a framework-knitter, of Leicester, who said, "on the 2nd of August 1852, a man named Thomas Wardle swept my chimney, and on that day I missed my boy. I searched Leicester all over, and afterwards traveled 400 miles in search. I advertised also in the Hue and Cry. Eleven months after the loss of the child I came to Grimsby in search, from information I received from another sweep. I applied to Hanson, the constable, who delivered the child to me, black all over like a sweep."

George Walker, the boy, said, "I am eight years and five months old. I remember Wardle sweeping father's chimney, and then enticing me away with nuts and oranges. We went to Nottingham, and I was to call myself James Hallan, and to say I had no father or mother, or he would beat me. We then walked to Gainsborough, thence to Hull, Barton, and Great Coates: this took us a fortnight. We walked forty miles a day, and swept chimneys till we got to Great Coates, when Wardle washed me in the sea. Next morning we went to Grimsby, to John Rack's, and I was to call myself Jim Hallan, and say that I had no parents, but a step-mother who ill-used me. In July last I saw my father in Grimsby. I was laid in a passage against Rack's house, and would have run to father, but I was afraid Rack would beat me. When I saw my father pass I cried, and then went in the house, but did not tell who I had seen, nor did I tell Rack about father and Hanson coming for me. I went to bed in the soot-house between five and six o'clock that night. Rack locked me in the soot-house."

Isaac Hanson, inspector of police, said, "from information I received from the Inspector of Leicester, I went to Rack's house, desiring to see the little boy. Rack said he was in bed. I said I wanted to know his name, and another person wished to see him as well, to take him away. He would not let me see him, and said neither I nor that old man who came for his should have him. He further said his son William had engaged him, and had a written paper to show the child had no parents. I waited till the son came, but he produced no paper, and he also said I should not have him. Rack was very violent. I took the fire poker, drew the staple, and let the boy out of the soot-house. Rack and his family made an attempt at rescue, and the boy cried and appeared very much afraid of them. He was taken to the police-station, where he underwent a washing, and was at once identified by the father as his long lost son."

 Mr Adams, in addressing the jury, contended that the prisoner had no guilty knowledge of the child having a parent and having been stolen. Several persons were called to the character of the prisoner, as being a harmless, quiet, and inoffensive man.

The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, on which the Chairman remarked that, though the verdict of the jury had shown their good sense of justice, yet he and the Magistrates on the Bench considered a great outrage had been committed upon the child, and Rack was instructed to give Wardle, the original kidnapper of the child, into custody wherever he could meet with him. Thomas Wardle had already fled to Australia and according the the Stamford Mercury this was not the first transaction of the like nature that Rack has been engaged in.

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