A 1733 Interview with Richard Nottingham, Part One

From the Leeds Mercury, 1733:

As the citizens of our good town will know, among the public offices in Leeds is one of Constable. Whilst many of those who abide within the letter of the law may be unaware that the role is anything more than ceremonial, those of a nefarious and dubious character know all too well that our Constable is someone to be feared, a man who uses his rank wisely to see that they’re punished for their misdeeds.

Earlier this year our present Constable, Mr. Richard Nottingham, was incapacitated by a grievous knife wound in the act of apprehending some dangerous criminals. For some time the outcome of his life lay in the balance. Praise be to God, however, that he returned from such a brink and currently finds himself recuperating at home.

Constable Nottingham was gracious enough to accede to request from your humble correspondent and answer questions for the Mercury. We deem this interview to be of great account to those in Leeds, that they may acquaint themselves with a man who’s proved himself to be such a valued servant to the city.

We wish you well of the day, sir, and hope your condition’s improving.

Slowly. Another month and I should be back to my work. To tell you the truth, I’ll be glad of it; I wasn’t made to be idle.

You have no thoughts of retirement?

Perhaps my wife would like that but she knows me too well to insist. I love my job. I’ve been doing it sixteen years now (Editor’s note: Mr. Nottingham was named as Constable in 1717) and I can’t imagine anything else. Certainly not doing nothing.

Who has been your greatest foe?

Greatest? I’m not sure that’s the word I’d use for him, but probably the most dangerous was Amos Worthy. He died a year ago, taken by cancer. He was a pimp, a money lender, he had a hand in much of the crime we had here.

And yet he was never in court? Never sentenced to hang or transported?

He was a wealthy man. Money can buy power and protection. Perhaps it’s best just to say that Mr. Worthy used his riches wisely. Those who might testify against him or threaten him would change their minds or decide to leave Leeds. A number of years ago, back before I became Constable, there was a man named Tom Finer. He vanished overnight. We’ve never discovered what happened to him.

Leeds is a place that is changing in every way. It’s growing bigger and richer each year. Has the nature of the crimes from which you defend us altered?

People drink, they argue and fight. Nothing’s changed there and it probably never will. Men grow weary of life and kill themselves. I’ve seen men and woman kill for passion. I’ve seen them steal and even murder to be able to feed their families. I’ve seen things most people could never believe. We have more people in Leeds than ever before. The rich are richer and the poor grow poorer and more desperate. There are plenty hereabouts with next to nothing. When folk are like that they end up feeling they have nothing to lose, and they’re right. Even the danger of having their necks stretched up on Chapeltown Moor doesn’t seem like much. Imagine having empty pockets and an empty belly then seeing a man wearing a coat and breeches that cost more than you’d be able to scrape together in three months. How would you feel?

Those are very radical opinions, sir. You make Leeds sound like a dangerous place.

It can be. It’s my job – and those who work with me – to keep people safe. All the people of Leeds, not only those who live in the grand houses.

The second part of our conversation with Mr. Nottingham will be published in our next edition, which will appear seven days from now. We trust you will find it as edifying as the first.

ImageAnd a reminder that the next novel featuring Richard Nottingham, At the Dying of the Year, is published in hardback in the UK on February 28th.

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