This is the story of what became known in the press of 1816 as "The Notorious Elsenham Gang". Pat Salmon and Gordon Barker have researched the story and give us a real insight into our area and how different things were almost 200 years ago.
The gang appears to have operated over an area that included Henham, Tilty, Elsenham, Broxted and Much Easton. They were led by Joseph Clark, aided and abetted by his wife Elizabeth who would blacken the gangs' faces for their daring night-time raids.
The gang came to grief when they became too bold and shot James Dennis of Tye Green, Elsenham, in the face as they burgled his house. A large reward of forty guineas was offered for the gang's arrest and when one of them (Thomas Monk) was arrested his evidence was enough to convict the others. As well as the Tye Green raid, they were tried for a similar raid on a house in Henham (where they stole a pair of shoes) and for sheep stealing.
At the trial several of the gang, including Joseph Clark, were sentenced to death but the judge was lenient with Joseph's sons.
As reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle:
"The merciful Judge who presided over their lives, has spared the sons in their youth, to give them an opportunity to repent and atone for their wickedness; they were all of an age capable of judging for themselves; and as to the wretched mother of the family her days may be but few, but these few must, if she has any feeling, be spent in wretched remorse and grief."
Joseph Clark was hanged at Chelmsford in March 1817.
The other members of the gang received sentences of either 14 years or life and despite a daring escape from the gaol they were all recaptured and were transported to Australia.
Clarke Family (Further Elsenham Gang family history)
Details of William Welch, associate of the Elsenham Gang from Greg McGrath.