A Breach of Promise Case at Hertford

From the Bury & Norwich Post

 22 July 1818




In 1818 local newspapers were slim and squeezed in short reports of local news with usually short and highly selective reports of national and international news. In addition there are no surviving series of papers covering Hertfordshire for the early decades of the 19th century. When "Glory1505" posted a query on Rootsweb asking about the trial of Joseph Saunders at Hertford in 1818 she was lucky to find this report in a Norfolk newspaper.


At the above assizes W. Anderson, for burglary; Joseph Saunders and Chas. Archer for sheep-stealing; Jas. Letting, for horse-stealing; and John Williams for highway robbery; were all capitally convicted, and received sentence of death, but were reprieved.


A pretty minimal amount of information, but at least if you were sentenced to be hung you might just get a mention in the press - even if, in some cases, you were reprieved. (It is likely that further information can be found in the Court Records at HALS - see below)


What is more interesting are the immediately adjacent news items. Before it there was a long report (as compared with other national news items in the same issue) describing a breach of promise case involving a young lady, Miss Harden of Hatfield, aged 21, and her first cousin, a Mr Canston, of Finch Lane, Cornhill, London. The jury found for the plaintiff and she was awarded damages of 4000. [More than most people earned in a lifetime.]


After it there was a case when the landlady's daughter, at the White Hart Inn, Henley [on-Thames] had been seduced by a Mr Dixon, who had to pay 1000 damages.


It would seem that news stories involving attractive young ladies and rich man helped to sell newspapers 200 years ago, just as they do today.


Source: British Newspaper Archive


Transported beyond the Sea is based on Court records and includes the following:


W. Anderson: No entry - so presumably never considered for transportation

Joseph Saunders: Aged 30: He was sentenced to death for stealing a wether sheep worth 2 10s from Henry Crabb, and stealing a linen sail cloth worth 10 shilling from Henry Hodgson (possibly at Hitchin). The sentence was commuted to 14 years transportation and  he travelled on the Baring, which sailed on 27/1/1819 under Captain John Lamb.

Charles Archer:  No entry - so presumably never considered for transportation

Jas. Letting: Aged 20. He was sentences to death for stealing a bay gelding  worth 30, the property of Charles Kingsley (possibly of Pirton) but this was commuted to transportation for life. He was transported to Van Diemen's Land in the Hibernia leaving on 20/11.1818 under Captain John Lennon, and arriving 11/5.1819.

John Williams: Aged 31. He was sentenced to death for an assault on Sophia Bassil on the Kings Highway between St Albans and Hatfield, and stealing one shilling, but this was commuted to 7 years transportation but he was never sent to Australia.

Page Created   January 2013