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Dicks (Dix), Korah (abt 1813 – 1873) WIFEBEATER? 

Dicks (Dix), Korah (abt 1813 – 1873)


Korah is not a common boys’ name in nineteenth century England. This may be, in part, because people better understood the context of biblical names. Like our Korah, the ancestry of the biblical Korah is confused. He was either the son of Esau and, or the son of Izhar. Both are remembered for rebellion against Israel and for being punished. It is Korah, son of Izhar who rebelled against Moses, disbelieving that the Ten Commandments actually came from God. The earth opened up and swallowed him.

In the Jewish version of the story, Korah told a parable of a poor widow to his followers which was a tale of the greed of the church and the establishment:

At the time of the harvest the widow had to leave unreaped the parts of the field prescribed by law while the harvested grain she had to give the priest the share due to him. The woman sold the field and with the proceeds bought two sheep. But the first born of these she was obliged to give to Aaron the priest and at the time of shearing he requested the first of the fleece also. The widow said, ‘I can not hear this man’s demands any longer. It will be better to slaughter the sheep and eat them. But Aaron came for the shoulder, the two cheeks and the maw. The widow then vehemently cried out, ‘If thou persisteth in thy demand I declare them devoted to the Lord.’ Aaron replied, ‘In that case the whole belongs to me,’ whereupon he took away the meat, leaving the widow and her two daughters wholly unprovided for.

Is it too fanciful to believe that Korah Dicks was deliberately named because of the name’s association? At a time when Little Addington and many other local parishes had been enclosed and the church still took its tithes did his parents knowingly christen him with a rebel’s name? It is possible that his father, William, later became the Ringstead Parish Clerk. I say, ‘possibly’, because, like the biblical Korah, the ancestry of Korah Dicks is difficult to entangle. This is not necessarily due to any problems within the family. It may just be the product of large families, same name couples and multiple marriages.

William Dicks was the son of Joseph and Mary and was baptised on 21st March 1762 at Little Addington. He married Ann Smith at Cranford St. John on 26th September 1785. The young couple had one child, William, baptised in Little Addington on the 20th August 1786. Sadly, Ann died a few months after the baptism. William then married Martha March, also from Cranford St John, on 27th November 1787 in Little Addington Church. They lived in Ringstead and had three children, John (baptised 14 June 1789), Daniel (baptised 7 April 1793 and Thomas who was born 25 March 1802 and baptised in September of the same year. Was the gap of some nine years in the children anything to do with military service in the Napoleonic Wars or did the couple move away for a time. At present we have no way of telling.

What we do know is that Martha died on 15th December 1808 aged just 41 and was buried in Ringstead. So far the family line is reasonably clear but from now it becomes difficult to untangle. If only William and Ann had not named their son after his father. Perhaps, more importantly, if only father and son had not both been carpenters,and married women of child bearing age with the same Christian name and in the same year. Had they no thought for their genealogist descendants?

William senior was first and just six months after the death of Martha he married Sarah Eakins (or Ekins) on 30th May 1809 at Ringstead Church. William was still a comparatively young man of some 47 years and his new bride was some sixteen years his junior. His son, William, then married Sarah Wyman at Irthlingborough on 4th December 1809.

Suddenly, the Ringstead Parish Register is littered with the children of William and Sarah. Altogether there are fourteen christened in the twenty years from 1810. In the early years particularly, the children came thick and fast. In 1810 itself, two were born some eight months apart (the birth dates are given in the parish register). It seems clear that father and son were both producing children, at least through the earlier part of this period. Some births have the father as William, ‘Parish Clerk’ and some have William, ‘Carpenter’ but the first “Parish Clerk” reference is not until 1825 so it does not seem a clear way for separating the two Williams.

When we come to Korah, whose story we are really telling, the birth is shrouded in further mystery because we know, from later censuses, that he was born in about 1812 in Leicester. Of all the children of the two Williams he seems to be the only one who was baptised away from Ringstead. He was christened on 16th October 1812 in Leicester St Margarets, the parish where the union workhouse was later built. Is this significant? The Register shows him as the son of William and Sarah Dicks and appears to have his name as 'Korias' but it seems certain that he is our man

Korah's marriage to Sarah Ann Atley (Attley) was on 8th November 1835 so by 1841 he is head of his own household. If his marriage had been two years later we might have a certificate to prove his parentage. As it is, it is only on balance that we can say that he is the son of one of the Williams. Time may change that opinion.

Sarah Ann Attley also came from a difficult family, one which might have attracted the attention of Social Services today. We must beware of jumping to hasty value judgements and, certainly, few families went through the nineteenth century without having a least one child ‘born out of wedlock’. And yet….. Her sister Elizabeth had six illegitimate children before marrying Joseph Groom and having one more (and her daughters, Hannah and Mary Ann had seven illegitimate children between them). Another sister, Lydia, had one illegitimate child and was bearing another when she disappeared suddenly, leading to the trial for murder of William Weekley Ball. At this trial Joseph Groom was accused by the defence of having an ‘improper intimacy’ with Lydia

None of this is conclusive evidence of a ‘problem family’ but it is an indicator that Sarah may have not had the best of upbringings. We know no more about Sarah and she may have been a good and hardworking wife and mother. What we do know is that Korah Dicks turned out to be a bad husband who bullied and victimised his wife.

Their first son, William (what else!) was born in about 1836 followed by John and then David, who is the first one to be baptised in the parish. In the 1841 Census Korah is shown, as an ‘Agricultural Labourer’, with his young family. There is no hint of the troubles that were assailing Korah and spilling into the lives of his wife and children.

It is in 1841 that Korah first appears in the Northampton Mercury. It reports that he was sent to the ‘House of Correction’ for one month for assaulting Henry Hitchcock, a young blacksmith living with his wife and child in Ringstead. Unfortunately, we do not know the cause of the assault. Was it a crime of passion or of drink?

It is another five years before Korah, once more makes the official records for the wrong reason. The Criminal Register for Northamptonshire records that he was tried on 1st July 1846 at the Northampton Quarter Sessions and sentenced to six weeks imprisonment for larceny. His ‘degree of instruction’, which seems to mean mainly his ability to read and write,  is described as “Imperfect”. The Northampton Mercury had, some five years earlier given a brief report of a talk on Education and Crime, given at the Greenwich Society for the Acquisition and Diffusion of Useful Knowledge by Dr. Murdoch in which he stated:

It is calculated that the chances of a person without education becoming a criminal were 2,200 to 1; those of an individual with an average education 10,000 to 1; and those of men having received a superior education 50,000 to one.

Dr. Murdoch would have found evidence to back the influence of education for, on the same page as Korah in the Criminal Register, seven have had no education, eleven imperfect education and one was well educated. Among other reasons, this was part of the driving force towards establishing a compulsory primary education system.

The Northampton Mercury also reports briefly on the case. The ‘larceny’ was at Tansor, a few miles north-east of Oundle and involved the ‘stealing of a pig’s cheek, the property of John Siddons’. The Mercury has his sentence as six months hard labour but one would expect the Criminal Register to be correct.

John Siddons was a young farmer and perhaps Korah was in the district looking for work, or perhaps he was roaming the countryside trying to make some money any way he could. Certainly he seems to be wandering far from home when he is once again guilty of larceny at the Hertfordshire County Court Session of 14th February 1848 and imprisoned for two months. These wanderings or ‘tramps’ and their consequences may explain a stretch of years without children for which Sarah may have been grateful. It was not unusual for small groups of young men to go on the ‘tramp’ looking for work and to see a little of the world. It was the labourers’ Grand Tour.

At first, Ringstead Parish Register, apart from David, shows no sign of children but then, suddenly, on the 29th July 1849 all five of Korah and Sarah’s children are baptised in a job lot. We can only estimate their birth years from the 1851 Census. The children were William (1835), John (1837), David (1839), Noah (1841) and Lod (1843). In fact David appears to have already been baptised already on 19th March 1840 but better safe than sorry!

Was this a sign of a return home and a reconciliation? We cannot be sure, but certainly Hod (or sometimes Odd or Had) appears as eight months old in the 1851 Census and was baptised on 4th January 1852. All are together in the 1851 Census with all the children as ‘ploughboys’.

It was a large family, all boys, but on July 11th 1852, David, just thirteen years old, was buried in the local churchyard. At about the same time, however, Sarah must have been pleased to finally give birth to a girl who they named Sarah Jane. She must have also looked forward to some help with the domestic chores when her daughter grew older.

It must not be forgotten that in 1850 Sarah had had the sadness and turmoil of the disappearance of her sister Lydia and the strong possibility, which was certainly believed by many villagers, that she had been murdered by her lover, the local butcher. People searched the parish for her body and there were even predictable rumours that she had ended up in the meat pies.

Korah seems to have returned but it was, at best a mixed blessing. It may be that Sarah had had to endure many years of unrecorded abuse by her husband before she finally snapped. The first sign is in the Northampton Herald for 30th December 1854:

These sessions commencing Wednesday next [i.e. 3rd January 1855] Ringstead. Korah Dicks 43 for want of sureties in a breach of the peace towards Sarah Dicks.

The January 6th issue of the Herald  records that he was "discharged there being no prosecution". The Herald also recorded the Crime Statistics for Northamptonshire and on 13 January 1855 it tells us that in 1854 there was a total of three crimes which took place in Ringstead which were brought before the Quarter Sessions. This does not take into account the Petty Sessions but it shows that either Ringstead was a far from lawless place or matters were sorted out outside the legal system. Perhaps both statements are true.

Korah had been taken to gaol in Northampton on December 5th 1854 and this led to one other, almost comical incident. He was taken there by Samuel Figgis, the Ringstead Parish Constable. The rural police force was still in its infancy and the constables were not yet a professional force. In the 1861 Census Samuel is shown as ‘New Inn and Carpenter”. William, Korah’s father was a carpenter and one imagines that Korah knew the inside of the New Inn. It seems likely that Samuel knew Korah well and perhaps that led him to give a character like Korah too much rope.

The Northampton Herald later reported on a case of the 26th January 1855 when Constable Figgis found himself up before the Wellingborough Petty Sessions. The magistrates gave a caution to: 

Samuel Figgis, Parish Constable of Ringstead for neglect of duty on 5th December, by allowing Korah Dix, a prisoner, to remain at a public house at Northampton two hours before taking him to gaol, in a state of drunkenness. Mr Bayly, the Chief Constable said he would not press charges for a heavier fine; the evidence was laid as a caution to other parish constables who are not aware that they ought to take the prisoners to gaol immediately on arriving in Northampton. Mr Grant, governor, provided that the prisoner was drunk when delivered into custody

Poor Figgis was convicted in the mitigating penalty of 10s and costs. One wonders where Korah got his money from to get himself drunk. Did it come from the long suffering Sarah’s meagre income or did Samuel treat him. Was Samuel Figgis with Korah in the public house helping the condemned man enjoy his last hours of freedom for a time?

The Calendar of Prisoners for Northamptonshire and the Northampton Herald for 1855 reveal that Korah was a regular guest at the County Gaol. He appears at the Quarter Sessions in January, April, July and October of that year. Each time the charge is 'No surety to keep the peace' and he is discharged. It appears that he is mistreating his wife, Sarah, who complains of her treatment and he is taken to gaol. When the case comes around, however, she relents and does not bring any evidence and so the case is dropped and he is freed.

It may be that his heavy drinking had got out of hand and he was taking his drunken rages out on Sarah. Whatever the truth of this, Korah is finally convicted at Wellingborough Petty Sessions and it may be that she had a friend in high places that brought the matter to a head. The Northampton Mercury of 2nd December 1855 reported that:

Korah Dicks, labourer of Ringstead, was charged with beating his wife Sarah Dix in a violent manner and turning out of doors on the 14th November. The defendant, who behaved rudely in court, was committed to prison for six months hard labour.

Things had obviously turned sour in their marriage. The trial was at the Wellingborough Petty Sessions on 19th November 1855 and the chairman of the magistrates was T. Wilkins Esq.. This is relevant because at the later trial of William Weekley Ball in 1864, Sarah states that in 1850, at the time of Lydia’s disappearance, she was staying with Mr Wilkins.

The 1851 Ringstead Census lists Thomas Wilkins, aged 64 as a “Landed proprietor and one of HMJP”. With him lives his son, a ‘Clerk, Clergyman and curate of Slipton’ and his unmarried daughters together with a footman and three house servants. Was Sarah Dicks there as a servant or was she given sanctuary from her husband. Where were her children? Was it this relationship, however innocent, that was the cause Korah’s rudeness to Thomas Wilkins in court?

After 1855 Korah does not appear again in the criminal records. Had he learnt his lesson or was he just lucky? Did Sarah forgive him and they became a happy middle-aged couple or was she forced to grudgingly accept him back into the family home. Without his income it must have been a difficult time for her and her children.

In 1861 Korah and Sarah are together in Ringstead with their children. William, the eldest at 26 is a shoemaker but Noah (18) and Lod (12) are agricultural labourers and Hod is a ploughboy. Sarah Jane, the only girl is eight years old and still a ‘scholar’.

Sarah was to receive another blow when Sarah Jane, still only eight years old, died a few months later on July 26th 1861

By 1871 Korah and Sarah are living in Carlow Street and he is unable or unwilling to work and, at sixty years old, is a ‘Pauper’. Sarah is trying to earn a living as a needlewoman and Hod, the only child at home is now 20 years old and a labourer. The Criminal Register tells us that on 8th March 1869 Hod had been imprisoned for two months hard labour for house breaking.

It may be that Korah was genuinely unable to work for in the spring of 1873 he died, although there is no sign of his burial in Ringstead (CHECK THRAPSTON WORKHOUSE) His drinking partner and guard, Samuel Figgis, died soon after, on 1st May 1873 aged just 52

In 1881 Sarah, now a sixty-seven year old widow, is living with her two unmarried sons, John (44), an ironstone labourer and Lodd (36) a drover. Two doors away is her son Noah (38) a farm labourer with his wife Emma and their five children.

Old Dicks [most likely Hod or Had for his wife, Sarah (widow) and her children are  staying with his older brother, John] died on February 24th 1886 aged thirty-five years and a few months later his mother, Sarah died aged seventy-five years. It must have been 'a good age' considering the life that she had been led.

After the death of Korah, his son, Noah, named his own son James Korah Dicks in honour of his father. So, even though he was petty thief, drunkard and wife-beater, strangely Noah wished him to be remembered. It may be that, when sober, he had other good qualities. We have no way of knowing. Sadly, James Korah Dicks, just six months old, died on 1st July 1879.



Korah (

Ringstead BMD (Northampton Record Office)

Little Addington BMD (NRO)

Leicester St Margaret's Parish Register (24D65/A6). (My thanks for the help of Leicestershire Record Office)

Ringstead Censuses, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 ( )

England and Wales FreeBMD Death Index 1837 – 1915 (

England & Wales Criminal Registers 1791 – 1892 (

Calendar of Prisoners 1826 – 1881 (NRO V.2237).

Calendar of Prisoners (1855) Rushden Research Group ( ).

Northampton Mercury 1841, 1846 (NRO).

Northampton Herald 1854 -1855. (Northampton Library) (Northampton Mercury Index).

My thanks to Brenda Hazel for her help with the geneology of the Dicks family

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