Shearsby, Harvest-time, 1790: Mr. Throsby’s Excursion

It was a fine autumn day when John Throsby arrived in Shearsby. He had enjoyed a pleasant journey for 9 miles or so along the Turnpike Road south from Leicester towards Welford and had arrived at his first stop of his planned excursion. Though the 60 houses of the village appeared empty, Mr. Wyatt had, as agreed, remained behind to show him round. Everyone else was busily engaged in bringing in the harvest.

Throsby was the Parish Clerk at St. Martin’s Church in Leicester, but this role was not so onerous as to get in the way of his historical and antiquarian interests. He had published his research into the history of the County from pre-roman times onwards in 1777-78. In 1790 he was engaged in publishing his illustrations of the ‘Select views in Leicestershire from original drawings containing the seats of the nobility and gentry, town views and ruins‘. The supplementary volume to this was to be a record of a series of excursions into notable parts of the county, which is what had set him on his way to the village that morning.

Around Shearsby he found 1100 acres (445 hectares) of good land, mostly in the hands of George Turvile, though his guide Mr. Wyatt himself obtained about 80 pounds a year from his portion. The manor was thought to have belonged to the wealthy Bradgate’s of Peatling before the Turviles, or so Wyatt had heard. Throsby was taken round the church as the principal building of the village.

The church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, stands ‘on a mound, like the mound of a castle’ and its tower had been erected the previous year, by the local landowners. If there was any doubt about this, an inscription mounted on the outside of the tower reminds all who pass by that “this steeple was re-built at the expense of the landowners of this lordship A.D. 1789”. The tower has two stages and is mostly built from limestone ashlar.

The old steeple had held a statue of the saint, which now stood in the chancel. The four bells also remained in the chancel, giving Wyatt a chance to show them off to his visitor. Throsby was not normally interested in bells, but made an exception in Shearsby’s case, as this did not require him to clamour up steep ladders and to inspect dusty belfries. The mundane things you could learn from church bell inscriptions did not excite him, however, he did enjoy the tale of how one of the bells had got to be there.

One of the bells had been originally cast in 1620 for the now ruined church in the next parish a mile away in Knaptoft. It was the Duke of Rutland who appointed the clergy for the parish and one day the sons of one of his tenants had turned up to take the bell back to their belfry in Aylestone. Having loaded it on to their cart they stopped off in Shearsby as the nearest place of refreshment on their journey back. The young men may have enjoyed their drinks, but they left the village without the bell, where it has remained ever since.

During his visit to St. Mary Magdalen’s back in the 1770s, Archdeacon Bickham had recommended stopping up the belfry in the tower to protect the parishioners from draughts and distractions and allow the bell-ringers to get on with their jobs undisturbed. It had been decided to rebuild rather than repair the belfry though.

If Wyatt included the handsome memorial to members of his own ancestors in his tour, Throsby did not mention it. He did notice the memorials to Richard Turvile (d. 1719, aged 89), Robert Holmes M.A. (d. 1692), John Sprigg (d. 1728) and John Seal (d. 1735, aged 81). Tablets on the church wall informed visitors of the charitable bequests of Mr. Simon Ward to see the poor kept warm  and Mr. Seal to keep them fed (at least at Christmas).

Throsby’s attention was then drawn to the Parish Registers which began in 1658. He compared the most recent 5 years with the first 5 of the register, noting the increase in baptisms (by 15) and the decrease in burials (by 8) as a positive sign.

His excursion then continued onwards to Knaptoft, remembering the John Ball hill as one at which ‘many a galled [chaffed, sore] horse has winced’ in ascending in the days before the Turnpike Road was opened.


Select views in Leicestershire, from original … v.2. Throsby, John, 1740-1803. pp196-7

Historic England. Church of St Mary Magdalen.

Pemberton, W.A. 1984, “The Parochial Visitation of James Bickham D.D. Archdeacon of Leicester in the Years 1773 to 1779”, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, vol. 59, pp. 52.

Featured image: By Robert Thoroton, John Throsby (authors of volume); unknown illustrator of title page (Google books [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


12 January 1775: The Shearsby freeholders cast their vote

The election of January 1775 was remembered as ‘a fierce and expensive contest’ pitting the independent John Peach Hungerford of Dingley Hall, on the Northamptonshire side of Market Harborough against William Pochin, who was a supporter of the Rutland interest. The winning candidate, John Peach Hungerford (1719-1803) went on to serve as the County’s MP until 1790, being returned unopposed in 1780 and 1784.

This was the first election for Shearsby’s electorate after the passing of the 1773  Enclosure Act divided all the land in the parish.

Most of the Shearsby freeholders voted for Hungerford. Among them were Edward Goode, John Goodman, Robert Higgs (who owned land in Walton by Kimcote), Ralph Hoball (36), William Meadows had a freehold in Bruntingthorpe, but was to pass away before the year was out, Thomas Miles, Thomas Paybody (31) who owned a freehold in Ullesthorpe, John Tilley (34), Richard Turville, John Ward (33), William Ward (39) and John Wyat.

Thomas Chamberlain (freehold in Great Glen) and Thomas Wells (44) voted for William Pochin, as did Samuel Horton of Saddington who held land in the parish and may have been related to the Hobills.

Edward Goode was to marry Anne Sturgis in Shearsby a few year’s later on 20 December 1778. Their son, Thomas, was christened on 2 May 1779. Ralph Hoball was probably from neighbouring Bruntingthorpe, but in December 1770 had married Susannah Meadows of Shearsby. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in 1772. Susannah was 25 years old in 1775 and the daughter of William Meadows and his wife Ann.

John Tilley was also born in Shearsby and christened February 1741.

On 9 May the following year John, the son of William and Ann Ward, was christened in the village. William, his older brother, had been born in 1736 and lived to be 70 years old.

‘John Wyatt’ is a traditional name in Shearsby: boys christened with that name can be found in 1679, 1720 and 1752. Another John Wyatt was born in Arnesby in 1725 and died in Shearsby in April 1795. A newspaper report in May 1795 details the sale of his property.

The Higgs family seem to be associated with South Kilworth, but a Robert Higgs was buried in Shearsby in December 1784.


An exact copy of the poll, for the county of Leicester; … for electing a knight of the shire, to serve in Parliament, for the said county; began the 12th, and continued to the 26th of January, 1775. Candidates, William Pochin, Esq; and John Peach Hungerford, Esq.; …[online] https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1444801200&terms=knaptoft&date=1759-1780&undated=exclude accessed 23 May 2018 [username and password required]

PEACH HUNGERFORD, John (1719-1809), of Dingley Hall, Northants., nr. Market Harborough, Leics. History of Parliament. [online]
http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/peach-hungerford-john-1719-1809 accessed 11/05/2018

Geelong Hospital, 22 September 1879: Coroner’s inquest into the death of Sarah Blackburn

Reporter: Thomas Heron, P.M., coroner, held an inquest on Saturday night at the Hospital, on the remains of Sarah Blackburn, 50 years old, a resident of Deniliquin, New South Wales, who died in the hospital early in the morning. The following evidence was adduced:-

David B. Reid : I am a duly qualified medical practitioner, residing in Geelong. At half-past eight o’clock last evening I saw the deceased, Sarah Blackburn, at the Hospital; she was then cold and pulseless, but sensible. I found a deep cut at the root of the neck, another at the left wrist, and another at the elbow. She never rallied.

The cause of death was debility from excessive loss of blood. Any one of the wounds would have been sufficient to have caused death. Mrs. Blackburn spoke to me before her death, but from the conversation I had with her I am not able to afford any light as to her reason for committing suicide. I have no reason to suppose that the wounds were other than self-inflicted. The deceased was well nourished.

Had any surgeon been present when the wounds were first inflicted the life of Mrs. Blackburn might have been saved. She never bled after being admitted to the Hospital.

Hannah Thompson, nurse at the Hospital : I attended Mrs. Blackburn on her arrival at the Hospital, at about eight o’clock. I saw two wounds on her left arm and one on her throat. She told me she had come down from New South Wales to attend to her daughter, who was confined. She said she was very anxious about her daughter, and about her grand-daughter, who had heart-disease. She said she had been sitting up with them a couple of nights, and was very much worried about them.

She did not give any reason for committing suicide, nor did I ask her why she had done so. She did not speak after 11 o’clock. She spoke to me quite sensibly, and appeared to be in her right mind. She said she had been well treated, and was very comfortable, and that she thought she would be all right if she had a sleep.

Mary Doherty, (11 years of age) : My father’s name is Pat Doherty. About 10 o’clock yesterday morning I last saw Mrs Blackburn. She was then washing clothes at Mr McMaster’s place. I did not see her afterwards, until I saw her to-night, dead.

Alexander McMaster : Sarah Blackburn is, or was, my mother-in-law. She came three weeks ago from New South Wales to stay with me at Mount Moriac for a few weeks. She seemed to be in good health. She came to attend to her daughter, my wife, during her confinement. She appeared anxious about her. My wife passed through her confinement safely and well. She was, as far as I could tell, thoroughly sane.

Yesterday, at about twelve o’clock, Mary Doherty came to me, and asked me if I had seen Mrs Blackburn. I told her I had not, and went with her to the house to look for her. I last saw her at about half-past nine o’clock. I went to Mrs Cox’s house, next door, and not finding her I went to look at my dairy.

I there found her lying on the floor on her right side, with her back against the door. I saw blood running all over the bricks. I loosed the door a little, so as to ascertain that it was her properly. I did not then go in any further, nor could I see whether there were any wounds about her. I could not get inside, as she was lying close to the door.

I then went round to a window in the side of the dairy, which was covered with wire netting. I tore away the netting, and got in through the window, and saw that there was only the breath in the deceased. I shifted her body a little, and saw a cut in her neck. I then gave information to the nearest neighbor, Mr Fletcher.

To Inspector Burton: About five minutes elapsed after I first saw Mrs. Blackburn before I went through the window.

To the Coroner : Mr Fletcher was the first person I told about the affair. I told him Mrs. Blackburn had cut her throat. Mr Fletcher saw the woman about an hour afterwards.

To Inspector Burton: Before telling Mr Fletcher I met Mrs Cork, but I did not tell her exactly what was done. She came to the dairy with me. I rode away two miles to tell Mr Fletcher, leaving my mother-in-law with Mrs Cork.

To the Coroner: The blood was stopped when I went away. I did nothing to stop it. When I told Mr Fletcher, he advised me to send information to the police. He did not come back with me. When I came back Mrs. Blackburn was still lying on the floor of the dairy. There was then no person attending to my mother-in-law, though Mrs Cork was somewhere about the place.

From the time when I first saw Mrs. Blackburn lying on the floor until she was re-moved it must have been about two or three hours. Mr Read, senior, and Mr Read, junior, removed her from the dairy outside the door. I was there, but could not remove her. I did nothing more to her.

To Inspector Burton: It was between 4 and 5 o’clock, when Mrs. Blackburn was removed from the dairy.

To the Coroner: Mrs. Blackburn was temperate, and had never quarrelled with either myself or anyone that I know of. I can assign no reason for her committing such a rash act. Whilst in the trap she asked for a drink of water, but did not say why she had cut her throat. She was brought into Geelong in Mr Lee’s wagonette.

To the Foreman of the Jury: The reason I did nothing in the way of attending to Mrs. Blackburn was that she was in such a state, and my wife was in such a state, that I did not know what I was doing. My wife was in bed.

Matilda Cork : I am a married woman, and live with my husband, who is a farmer at Mount Moriac. At about twenty minutes to twelve yesterday, Mary Doherty asked me to help to look for Mrs Blackburn. Shortly afterwards Alexander McMaster came to me and said she was in the dairy. I went to the dairy to see if I could open the door, but could not. I got the axe, and Mr McMaster broke open the window. He went inside, moved the poor woman on one side and then I looked in.

I saw Mrs Blackburn lying down, covered with blood. Mr McMaster, when he went in, said : ” She’s gone,” meaning that she was dead. He asked me what he should do. I told him I did not know. I did not do anything to assist the woman. She said, when taken into the house, that she was cold, and wanted a rag over her.

My reason for doing nothing was that I did not know but that she was dead, and thought I ought not to touch her. It was about twelve o’clock when we found her, and she was left lying in the dairy until five o’clock. During that time no person went near her. I don’t think she said a word during that time. Mr McMaster said he went in two or three times to see whether she was dead or not.

I was all this time with Mrs McMaster, who had lately been confined, and who wished to get up. During a stay of three weeks’ Mrs. Blackburn was very un-well. She said the change did not agree with her, and complained to me several times of not feeling well. I never knew her to drink.

Emanuel Read : I am a farmer, and reside at Mount Moriac. At about four o’clock yesterday afternoon I was at Mr Fletcher’s woolshed, when Mr Fletcher told me that Mrs Blackburn had cut her throat, and asked me if I and my son would go up to Mr McMaster’s place. We went up, and saw Mr Fletcher, who had arrived before me, with Mr McMaster. The latter asked me to go down and see what I thought of it.

I pushed open the dairy door, and could see the deceased’s neck and head. As soon as I saw her I thought she was not dead. I did not then see the wound in her throat, but saw a great lot of blood on the floor. Her hands were also covered with blood. I put my hand on to deceased’s neck and bore on it heavily. When I lifted my hand I heard her groan. I ran back to McMaster and Fletcher and said, “The woman is not dead; we must get her out of this at once.”

I and my son then brought her out. I held her head up and found that her wind-pipe was not cut. My son brought me a basin of water, and I bathed her face and temples. After bathing her face she began to move, and reached down as though to feel for her pocket. The others then left me to get a doctor, and I had to ” cooey ” for more water. She asked me what I was cooeying for. I told her to lie still, and then my son and two or three more helped me to carry her into the bedroom. That was at about half-past five o’clock.

She then said she was cold, and I got a rug and put it on her. I put a piece of wet rag into the wound in her throat. That was before we took her into the bed room. After taking her into the room I asked her if she knew me, and she tried to say something, but I could not understand what she said.

After this we brought her in to the Hospital. Whilst on the way to the Hospital she was restless, and I asked her not to move. She asked me for a drink of water, which I gave her as soon as we came to a hotel. I have known Mrs. Blackburn about two years. When I discovered her, the knife (produced: a white-handled dinner knife) was lying within about two inches of her fingers, covered with fresh blood. Mrs. Blackburn was a temperate woman, and I never knew her to be under the influence of drink. I know of no reason for her committing suicide.

Reporter:  The Coroner then briefly summed up, and said that the only verdict that the jury could return, in his opinion, was that the deceased died from injuries inflicted by herself on her neck, wrist, and elbow, but that there was no evidence before them to show in what state of mind the deceased was when she committed the act.

James Wallace, Foreman of the Jury: We find that the deceased Sarah Blackburn died from wounds inflicted by herself on the throat, wrist and arm on the morning of 19th September 1879 at Mount Moriac, but we are unable to say what state of mind the deceased was in at the time she so harmed herself.


Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Victoria, Australia) Monday 22 September 1879; pg3

Geelong Advertiser (Geelong, Victoria, Australia) Saturday 20 September 1879; pg3

“Australia, Victoria, Inquest Deposition Files, 1840-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q24C-6ZT5 : accessed 7 February 2018), Sarah Blackburn, 20 Sep 1879; citing Probate, Geelong, Victoria, Australia, Public Record Office of Victoria, North Melbourne; FamilySearch digital folder 004836154.

Image from :Geelong Infirmary and Benevolent Asylum. http://zades.com.au/gandd/index.php/geelong/people/gdghosp

Shearsby, 12 July 1866: Church bells rung for Woolmer’s return

Leicester Chronicle: A farmer named Samuel Palmer Woolmer, of Shearsby, who was convicted of shooting a gamekeeper on the Stanford Hall estate, at Leicestershire Midsummer Assizes, last year, and sentenced to twelve months hard labour, returned home on Thursday week his term of imprisonment having expired. On Woolmer’s arrival, the bells of the parish church were rung, and kept ringing until nearly midnight, to the great annoyance (we are told) of the respectable inhabitants in the neighbourhood.

The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, July 21, 1866;

The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, July 22, 1865: MIDSUMMER ASSIZES

The Leicester Chronicle and the Leicestershire Mercury (Leicester, England), Saturday, April 01, 1865; pg. 3

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, March 09, 1861; pg. 5 [A separete incident involving Woolmer and John Corbett, a cattle dealing from Oxfordshire, convicted of assault on Woolmer].

Leicestershire, 1741: Thomas Badeslade’s map

When the first edition of Thomas Badeslade’s map book, ‘Chorographia Britanniae‘ came out in 1741 it could claim to be the first in pocket book format. Badeslade’s map making interests had developed while working as a surveyor and engineer on waterway schemes, particularly around the Fens, to the East of the county. He was active in this area from 1719 to his death in 1745.

The first edition of the Leicestershire map plotted the county town and its ring of surrounding market towns. In the second edition published later the same year added a number of villages, partly to help the traveller orient themselves. So Shearsby appears at the head of a stream that flows into the Sence and later the Soar rivers.

The only roads marked south out of Leicester were the old Roman Fosse Road, running parallel to the Soar for a while and the route (now the A6) down through Oadby and Kibworth, on to Harborough, which dates back to 1726, built as the main road linking London and Scotland.


A Map of Leicester Shire : North from London / T. Badeslade delin. ; W. H. Toms sculpt. | Badeslade, Thomas (1718-1750). Cartographe and Toms, William Henry (17..-17..). Graveur [Online: accessed 21/09/2017] http://www.europeana.eu/portal/en/record/9200365/BibliographicResource_3000094695930.html?q=leicester Public Domain Marked

Baum, R.K. (1972) Antique maps of Leicestershire. Loughborough, The Book House; Syston, De Elarge.

Somme, 1 July 1916: Private Horace Alfred Hensman

Horace Alfred Hensman was born on 26 July 1896 in lower Thrift Street, Northampton. He was the eldest son of Alfred Hensman and his wife Angelina Jane Jenkins. Alfred had been born in Ecton, Northants. and he and Angelina probably met when both working as attendants at the Northampton Lunatic Asylum. Horace had a younger brother, Percy, who also enlisted (underage) in the army in October 1915. He stated that his next of kin was Lena Hensman, then keeping the Old Crown Inn, Shearsby. Both Horace’s sister Lena, and father, Alfred are buried in the Shearsby churchyard.

Horace served in the 7th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment as a private. His service number was 13015. He died on the first day of the first battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916, a few days short of his 20th birthday. He is buried in the Dantzig British Cemetery at Mametz, Grave III, D.5.


“England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2FQS-N2J : 1 October 2014), Horace Alfred H Hensman, 1896; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Northampton, Northamptonshire, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England.

SCHULTKA, H., & JENKINS, R. P. (2007). Lost lives: the war dead of Countesthorpe, Kilby, Peatling Magna, Peatling Parva and Shearsby, 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. [Countesthorpe], Henritetta Schultka.

Private H.A. Hensman. Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Featured Image: Mametz [Somme] : [photographie de presse] / [Agence Rol] [public domain]


Bell Inn, Market Harborough, 22 September 1791: The Manor of Shearsby intended to be sold

Three Shearsby farmhouses were up for sale in September 1791, with news of a Manor House that might become available for later private sale. This is one of the last mentions of the presence of a Manor House, and the fact that it was not included in the auction that month may hint that the building was not then in a saleable state of repair. The land sale was publicised in London though the sale itself was scheduled to take place in nearby Market Harborough.

The three lots that were put up for auction amounted to 283 acres of mixed agricultural and wood land. The first was a farmhouse, then occupied by John Higgs, with just over 60 acres of land. There were outhouses, conveniently nearby inclosed fields and ‘a Spinney in Hand’.

The second and third lots were linked by the turnpike road from Leicester to London that passed through Welford. Lot 2 was a farmhouse with 121 acres of land, shared between John Higgs (24 acres) and Thomas Mitchell (97.25 acres). Lot 3, again, included a farmhouse, then occupied by William Langham. There were 100 acres of land, of which more than two acres were wooded as a spinney.

There are christening records for a William Langham in Shearsby in October 1745 and a Thomas Mitchell in Kibworth Beauchamp in June 1714. A ‘John Higs’ (parents: Jno. Higs and Catherine) was christened in the village in August 1780 or 1781.

The location of the Manor House appears now to be lost. The location recorded by the records of the Archaeology Data Service seem to point out where the village is, rather than where the Manor House is to be found within the village.


Whitehall Evening Post (1770) (London, England), September 10, 1791 – September 13, 1791

Archaeology Data Service record for Shearsby Manor House.

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JWZY-WLV : 30 December 2014, William Langham, 31 Oct 1745); citing SHEARSBY,LEICESTER,ENGLAND, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 585,287.

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NP4M-R56 : 30 December 2014, Thomas Mitchell, 25 Jun 1714); citing KIBWORTH BEAUCHAMP,LEICESTER,ENGLAND, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 590,793.

“England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NP7Q-L3J : 30 December 2014, John Higs, 19 Aug 1781); citing SHEARSBY,LEICESTER,ENGLAND, index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, Salt Lake City; FHL microfilm 585,287.

© 2017

Shearsby, Friday 6 March 1846: To Blacksmiths and others

Under an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors



On Friday next, March 6th, 1846

ALL the HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, STOCK-IN-TRADE, and WORKING TOOLS, of Mr. ATTON, Blacksmith, &c., SHEARSBY, Leicestershire : comprising (in part) large bellows, nearly new, anvil, vice, taps and screws in complete sets, grindstone and frame, and working tools in general.

The Furniture consists of deal and mahogany tables, chairs, eight-day clock, &c.

Sale to commence at eleven o’clock precisely.

Catalogues may be had at the place of sale, and of the Auctioneer, Lutterworth.

In the same issue the Leicester Chronicle was announcing news of the assignment by indenture of all the personal estate of effects of John Atton, Blacksmith, of Shearsby, to Charles Buswell, Ironmonger, of Lutterworth and Robert Atkins, Maltster, of North Kilworth. Any proceeds from the sale would be distributed to the creditors after 3 months. Any debtors were reminded to pay the amount of their respective debts, or face being sued. Creditors were asked to send in their claims to Stephen Mash, Solicitor, of Lutterworth.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, February 28, 1846; pg. [2,3]

Image taken from page 86 of ‘The Child’s Book of Poetry. A selection of poems, ballads and hymns’ 1886

Shearsby, 3 October 1822: The highwayman strikes

Daring attempt at Robbery, – Between six and seven o’clock, on Thursday evening se’nnight, as Mr. John Hidson, grazier, of Mowesly, was returning home he was overtaken by a well-dressed man mounted on a blood horse, who entered into conversation and rode alongside of him till he arrived [at] a gate near Shearsby leading up to his residence, when the stranger, without any notice, struck Mr. H. several severe blows on the arm with a bludgeon. Mr. H. not being prepared with a similar weapon to repel the attack made upon him, rode off at speed, pursued by his assailant till he arrived at another gate, when Mr. H. having intimated to the villain that he had assistance at hand and would have him secured, he turned his horse, and made a hasty retreat. The animal on which the highwayman rode, was in a high state of perspiration, and appeared much fatigued.

From the The Leicester Chronicle,  (Leicester, England), Saturday 12 October 1822; pg. 3

© 2017 These posts get tweaked and updated from time to time, so are best viewed in the original WordPress site at https://shearsbyhistory.wordpress.com/


Leicester Exchange, Friday 14 October 1836: A striking picture of matrimonial disagreement

Court Reporter: The Mayor and Messrs. Brewin, Stokes, Ryley, Oldacres and Paget spent the day examining cases of theft while of unsound mind; drunks throwing bricks; diversion of the contents of an employer’s till; cheese theft; children caught picking pockets and robbery in the context of such depravity as I will not mention here. However, the case that stood out for me was that of Thomas Ward, of Belton, Rutland, who was charged with assaulting his wife, Elizabeth Ward. This was a singular case and one which afforded a striking picture of matrimonial disagreement.

Elizabeth Ward: I was born in Husbands Bosworth, but moved from there some time ago with my father to Belton in Rutland. It was there that I met and married my husband. We had three children, but two of them have died and the other is staying with friends. About five years ago we parted and I have since maintained myself, partly by dress-making and partly by binding shoes. I lived for about three and a half years in Nottingham and about half a year in Shearsby, but since last Christmas I have lodged with Mr. Bates in Redcross Street, Leicester. I was going to Mr. Kinsman’s with some work when I was surprised to encounter my husband. He expressed a wish to come home with me, but I did not want him to know where I lived, as he had molested me before in private dwellings .  So I consented to walk with him as far as the race-course on the London Road. But when we got there he knocked me down, rudely assaulted me and tore my bonnet, gown and undergarments all to shreds.

Mr. Bell of the Granby Toll Bar: Mrs. Ward took refuge in my house. Never in my life have I seen a woman in such a condition. Her clothes were in ribbons from head to foot.

Thomas Ward: It is true that my wife maintains herself, but she is, none the less, a very bad woman. She is a faithless wife, and what’s more, she is intensely irritating. This assault, as she calls it, was not started by me. She first took off her bonnet and started buffeting me with it. Then she began to tear her own clothes and I merely helped her in that.

Elizabeth Ward: It is all lies.

Thomas Ward: I am telling you the truth. She stays away from me only because her conduct has been such that she durst not show her face again in Belton.

The Mayor: Why would she be afraid to go to Belton?

Thomas Ward: She destroyed the life of one of her infants by over-administering laudanum. That is the reason.

The Mayor: Are you aware of the serious nature of the charge that you bring against your wife?

Thomas Ward: Yes, Sir.

The Mayor: Have you ever charged her with the crime before?

Thomas Ward: I have never mentioned it to a soul before, except herself.

Town Clerk: Then, as it is not known to any person in Belton, why would she be afraid to go back? Is there any other cause?

Thomas Ward: Yes, she robbed a wagon on the turnpike-road.

Town Clerk: Was she taken before a Magistrate for the offence?

Thomas Ward: No one ever knew of it but myself!

Town Clerk: Then that could not be the cause of her being afraid to return.

Thomas Ward: Oh she is well known for a loose character in Belton and her conscience troubles her so, she will never be able to stay long anywhere. She is always moving about!

Court Reporter: Mrs Ward treated all her husband’s charges very lightly and declared them to be totally false. It was clear that, though her manner showed no symptoms of insanity, her husband’s incoherent stories indicated either derangement of intellect or the most unscrupulous recklessness.

Mrs Ward: Can you not bind him over to keep the peace?

The Mayor: He clearly has no sureties by which we can hold him to any such promise and I am reluctant to send him to gaol. There is nobody present here to day who can tell us anything about the previous lives and conduct of either party, so we can conclude nothing on the merits of the case. Yet he has assaulted the lady most unjustifiably and for that we shall fine him five shillings and costs. If he is unable to pay he shall go to prison for fourteen days. It seems highly likely to me that we have not heard the last of these goings on.

The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser (Leicester, England), Saturday, October 15, 1836; pg. [2]

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