Richard BROWNING SMITH faced his manslaughter charge in March 1840, almost nine months after he had killed Michael COOK. On the advice of his counsel and friends, he withdrew his Not Guilty plea, pleaded Guilty instead and awaited his fate. His defence called a number of “witnesses of character” and the Learned Judge chose not to commit Richard to prison but to impose a fine of £20 instead. This was immediately paid and Richard walked free. The life of Michael Cook was clearly worth less than the proverbial sheep or lamb.


I looked for Richard on FamilySearch Tree. I knew from the Coroner’s Inquest report that he was a butcher in Coggeshall and thought he would be easy to find. I soon happened upon a Richard BROWNING and a Richard Browning SMITH, both born in the town about 1814, and both butchers. You can find them on FST. This Richard seems the one more likely to have ended the captain’s life. His wife Sophia died in 1864. At the 1871 census, Richard’s 79-year-old mother in law, a nephew and niece were living with him in East Street. Ten years later he had “Mary B” to look after him – a second wife almost 30 years his junior.

I’m not sure what to make of Lucy COOK marrying a butcher in Filey.

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