Thursday, 24 July 2008

Double Suicide - A Saddington Family Tragedy

I found the following article from The Morning Chronicle in an on-line collection of 19th century newspapers. The newspaper concerned was dated Saturday 25 February 1860, and the article itself had been culled from The Stamford Mercury.

"DOUBLE SUICIDE - An extraordinary case of double suicide occurred on Tuesday night at Easton, a small village near Huntingdon. An aged couple named Saddington, both upwards of seventy years of age, who had lived many years in the village, were found drowned in a pond opposite their cottage, having nothing on but their night dresses. The policeman of the village, being on duty about eleven o'clock, heard a scream, and with another man proceeded in the direction, but were some time before they could discover anything; they, however, succeeded at last in finding the man in the pond, and after further search, discovered the woman; both were quite dead. An inquest was held the following morning before Mr Mellor, coroner, when it was stated that the deceased had been, on the previous Saturday, to the guardians at Huntingdon for relief, which it is believed was refused out of the house, but were told they might go into the union. This, it is supposed, preyed so much upon their minds as to cause them to commit suicide. It appears it was a premeditated act, as on the previous day they had disposed of their few articles of furniture, and paid off some debts owing in the village. The coroner having summed up, the jury returned a verdict, found drowned. - Stamford Mercury"

On checking the GRO indexes, I found death references in the March quarter of 1860 in the Huntingdon registration district for a George Saddington and a Mary Saddington with the same volume and page references (Vol 3b, Page 180).

As this tragedy had occurred the year before the 1861 census, and the article said that the couple had lived in the village for many years, I went back and checked the 1851 census.

Living in the village of Easton, Huntingdonshire, on the night of the 1851 census were George Saddington, age 51, a pauper and agricultural labourer, born in Stow, Huntingdonshire, and his wife, Mary, age 60, born in Dean, Bedfordshire [HO107/1748, Folio 401, Page 8, Sch No 31].

Going back a further ten years, the 1841 census for Easton contained George Saddington, age 40, Agricultural Labourer, born in Huntingdonshire, Mary Saddington, age 55, born outside Huntingdonshire, and Mary Saddington, age 15, born in Huntingdonshire [HO107/450, Book 12, Page 1]. The second Mary could be either a daughter or a granddaughter.

So now that we know who the tragic couple were, why did they commit suicide? Well, it would have been one thing to receive out relief from the local Poor Law Union, i.e. receiving money whilst remaining in their own home, but to have to go into the union or workhouse would have been considered shameful. Only the undeserving poor who lacked the moral determination to survive outside went into the workhouse. In addition, this elderly couple who had been married for many years would have been separated from each other.

For details of workhouse life, I recommend that you visit The Workhouse Website, which contains a wide variety of information about the Poor Law system in this country, and about specific workhouses. There is a page relating to the Huntingdon Workhouse, which is the one in which George and Mary Saddington might have ended, which can be found under Workhouse Locations - English Poor Law Unions - Huntingdon.

It should also be noted that suicide was still a civil crime in 1860 - it was not decriminalised until 1961. If the jury had given a verdict of suicide, rather than "found drowned", the Saddingtons would have been denied Christian burial, i.e. they would not have been allowed to be buried in the churchyard, because suicide was also considered to be a sin against God. They might even have been buried at the local cross roads, possibly with a stake through them to prevent them from rising.

It appears that there is quite a lot of information surviving about the Huntingdon Workhouse, so I hope to be able to find further details about this tragic event. If George and Mary are your ancestors, please do get in touch.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Lewis Bryan Saddington, the Habitual Criminal (1860 - ?)

This is a work in progress post about Lewis Bryan Saddington, previously mentioned on the Old Bailey post.

Lewis Bryan Saddington was born in the December quarter of 1860 in Wantage, Berkshire. His parents were William and Jane Saddington. William was born in Sutton, Northamptonshire, while Jane was a Berkshire native, born in Abingdon.

In the 1861 census, the family were living at the Crown Inn, Market Place, Wantage, Berkshire. William's occupation was 'Innkeeper', and he employed three servants who lived on the premises. The family consisted of William and Jane, their daughter, Matilda (6), and their three sons, George (2), William (1) and Lewis (6 months). The family had obviously moved around a bit, because Matilda was born in Weybridge, Surrey, George was born in Brighton, Sussex, and the youngest two were born in Wantage. [RG9/736, Folio 36, Page 36]

Over the next ten years, there were major changes in the family's life. Jane Saddington appears to have died at some point, and William has remarried. In the 1871 census, William and his new wife, Julia (born in London), are living at 17 Albert Street, Paddington, London, sharing the house with three other households. William is described as an 'Agent'. Living with their father are William, age 9, and Bryan, age 8. Both sons' ages are wrong, William's birthplace has changed from Wantage to Abingdon, and Lewis is now using his second name. [RG10/8, Folio 57, Page 31]

Things then go down hill. As yet I do not know what crime Lewis had committed, but in the 1881 census, Bryan Lewis Saddington,age 18, a Carman, born in Wantage, Berkshire, was a prisoner in Holloway Prison, London. [RG11/248, Folio 81, Page 13]

I have been unable to find Lewis in the 1891 census under either of his names, but, judging by his behaviour over the 20 years after that, I believe that there is a fair chance that he was in prison somewhere, perhaps under another name.

According to the transcript of Lewis' trial at the Old Bailey in 1911, on 2 October 1893, he was sentenced to three months imprisonment at the Court in Clerkenwell for stealing a watch; on 4 March 1895, he was sentenced to six months imprisonment, possibly again at Clerkenwell, for stealing linen.

On 20 November 1900, at the North London Sessions, Lewis Saddington (38) and his accomplice, William Taverner (27), were sentenced to four and three years' penal servitude respectively for stealing cheques. According to the Times of 21 November 1900, "On the evening of October 26 the prisoners were arrested in the act of attempting to get letters out of Messrs. Speirs, Morton and Murray's letter-box by means of a leaden weight covered with bird-lime and attached to a piece of string, which they put into the box and pulled up again. Detective-sergeant Darby said that nearly 40 similar thefts had recently been committed in the City, and there had been numerous complaints from Clerkenwell, the West-end, and other neighbourhoods. Since the prisoners' arrest no such case had occurred. Their practice was to erase the crossing on the cheques, and then cash them at the banks on which they were drawn."

Lewis had pleaded Guilty to three indictments: stealing a letter containing a cheque for £52 13s from the Paris Optic and Clock Company, Clerkenwell-road; stealing a letter containing a cheque for £6 6s from Arthur Douglas Gardner; and attempting to steal letters from the letter-box of Messrs. Speirs, Morton and Murray, Bucknall-street, Bloomsbury.

As a direct consequence, the 1901 census found Lewis Saddington, age 38, a Painter's Labourer, born in Wantage, Berkshire, residing at His Majesty's Prison, Lewes, Sussex.

But Lewis was incorrigible. On 24 February 1904, Lewis pleaded Guilty at the North London Sessions to attempting to steal letters belonging to John Halsey, along with his accomplice, John Daymer (25). According to the Times of the same date, "on January 31, Detective Sharp saw the two prisoners go to the letter-box of a house in Carlisle-street, Soho, and attempt to draw letters out of a letter-box by means of a piece of wire with some adhesive substance on the end of it. He arrested Daymer, but Saddington escaped. Saddington was arrested on February 4, and in the meantime two cheques which had been stolen from the prosecutor's box had been cashed, but the bank clerk was unable to identify Saddington as the person who cashed them." As the only crime that could be proven was an attempt, Lewis was sentenced to two years' hard labour, rather than penal servitude. Daymer got 21 months hard labour.

Lewis didn't change. On 14 August 1906, he was sentenced to eighteen months' hard labour for larceny at the North London Sessions. On 31 October 1908, he was sentenced to three years' penal servitude at the York Assizes for altering and forging a banker's cheque in the sum of £90 10s.

Having been released from prison on 24 February 1911, he was back in the dock on 28 March, this time at the Old Bailey, where he was found Guilty of 'feloniously uttering, knowing the same to be forged, a cheque for £80 14s'. Lewis was indicted as being a habitual criminal, a very dangerous criminal and letter-box thief, and one who had been repeatedly seen in the company of well-known thieves. He was sentenced to three years' penal servitude and five years' preventive detention.

So, at the age of 50, having spent a minimum of 11 years and three months of his life behind bars, Lewis was sent down again for at least another five years and possibly eight, depending on how his sentence was to run.

What happened to Lewis Bryan Saddington after this, I do not know. He does not appear to have married, but there may be descendants of his brothers and sister out there. If this black sheep belongs to your family, please let me know.