The Great Central Railway was built through Lutterworth in the late 1890s and the influx of navvies into the quiet market town had inevitable consequences. The forces of law and order, in particular, went through an exceptionally busy time.
‘Sleeping out with no visible means of subsistence’ was an offence that brought a succession of navvies before the Lutterworth magistrates, and one that usually earned them 7 days’ hard labour in Leicester jail. This was the punishment meted out, for example, by local magistrate Charles Marriott when a police raid on Chandler’s brickworks at Ashby Magna in November 1895 succeeded in apprehending five men sleeping in the warmth of the drying sheds. Severe though the penalty seems, it was evidently not enough to deter offenders and the nuisance to local law-abiding inhabitants continued to grow.
When Charles Marriott suspected that navvies were sleeping rough in his own outbuildings at Cotesbach Hall in May 1897, his letter direct to the Chief Constable brought about a raid at 3 a.m. and the arrest of two offenders who were sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment with hard labour.