Mystery from a Court Case

In the article below I have highlighted something that is a bit of a mystery to myself and others. Does anyone know what thousand heads are?


Nottinghamshire Guardian.  Thursday, April 12, 1860

      Wm. Powell, an old man, of Mansfield, was brought up by police-sergeant James Gibson, and charged with having, between one and two o’clock in the morning of the 7th instant, stolen two pecks of thousand-heads from a field on Mansfield Forest, in the occupation of W. Wilson, Esq., of Sherwood Hall.  Prisoner was met about 150 yards from the field in question by police-sergeant Gibson and police constables Richard Hind and John Stevenson, and on being asked by Gibson what he had got, prisoner replied “Some turnip tops.”  On examining the stuff he had in his basket they proved to be thousand-heads

Later in the morning the above members of the police force went and compared what had been taken from prisoner with those growing in the field, and both corresponded exactly, some of them being broken off in a peculiar manner.  Sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour in the House of Correction, Southwell.


Comments about this page

  • The House of Correction at Southwell, referred to in the Nottingham Guardian report, was situated behind the former police station on Burgage Green – not to be confused with the National Trust Workhouse also in Southwell. It closed in 1880. The site was later the location of a lace factory which employed 230 people and closed in 1956. It then became the location of Rainbows Transport. The site is currently (2017) being developed for housing with some old buildings retained.

    By Robert Throw (10/10/2017)
  • Thanks for your help and comments re Kale, this is now backed up from another person with a farming background that ’Thousand Heads’ are Kale grown for cattle, part of the brassica family of cabbages and turnips.  Its not a kale that humans would eat.

    By Pauline Marples (26/08/2016)
  • Hello Pauline, 
    Kale ‘Thousand Head’ is a plain-leaved variety which is extremely reliable and prolific. It is particularly winter hardy and consequently a popular product with growers in northern England and Scotland. 

    By Clifford Burton (01/08/2016)
  • Hello Pauline.. Not really a mystery.. For when the Farmer set vegetables  in his fields, vegetables such as Cabbages, Turnips , Lettuces and the likes, as soon as the seeds broke through the earth, they were known as the heads of the plants..  At this stage of the growing, they were easy to pull out and be replanted. Left in the ground , undisturbed, they would grow to maturity.. Replanted and watered, they could easily be planted again in a small garden or allotment.. When growing in a field ,they would be counted as heads. He would have left quite a large space in the field..

    By alan curtis (01/08/2016)
  • Hi Pauline, I think Thousand heads is a type of kale. This would tie in with the story of them being taken from a field.

    By Pete Higgins (01/08/2016)

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