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.