Not just a 21st Century problem

Sometimes accidental finds – when you are looking for something else entirely – are occasionally the most intriguing and eye-opening to say the least!

Occasionally we see in newspaper reports now of ‘abductions’ of young girls by older men, running off willingly with them, infatuated with an ideal or what they think is love.

Whilst I made my way through my great great grandmother’s Scotter family, I found myself diverted to the teenage daughter of one of her sisters – Martha Ann Grantham, nicknamed Pattie.   There seemed to be a streak in this particularly for women that did not conform and lived, shall we say, on the edge – of society and of the law!

I’d already known she never married the man she claimed to be her second husband but what I did not expect to find was news of her ‘abduction’ by a man named William Brownill and reported in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent on 19 December 1885.

The headline screaming ‘Serious Charge against Sheffield Auctioneer’ preceded a vast article outlining his Trial.  What became clear though was that ‘abduction’ was not quite the correct description.

Martha was 15, about to turn 16, and working in service at a public house when she met Mr Brownill and his wife who were both regular visitors to this particular establishment.  A friendship it would seem was struck up between Martha and the Brownills including Mr Brownill – married and a father of 4 young child – taking 15 year old Martha to the theatre.

On Sunday 15th October 1885 plans were afoot when Mr Brownill approached Martha and asked her to go to London with him, presenting her with a diamond ring for her to wear and asking her to leave a note for her employer to say she was going to Liverpool (to throw her off the scent.  Martha had cousins in Liverpool).   They met in Chesterfield where Martha was encouraged to buy a wedding ring after which they travelled to London, where it was said there was ‘no further impropriety’ other than a kiss.

His wife, however was quick to find out, and followed him to London only to find they had left and Martha had returned to Hull, stating plainly to her parents that she was now ‘Mrs Brownill’.   When confronted though by Martha’s mother, her employer and indeed his own wife, Mr Brownill is alleged to have denied it all and subsequently became abusive to all concerned.

After further ‘questioning’ though he maintained that Martha had told him she was 18 and in attempt to avoid scandal offered to pay Martha’s parents £100 in restitution.

The matter however came to the attention of the police and a trial commenced.

Martha maintained she was asked to go to London with him and she was to pass as his wife.  They spent several days in London, staying in various hotels and going to the theatre; admitting in Court that she told Mr Brownill she was 18 – supposedly as a ‘joke’.  She did however confess that she had gone willingly and never told him she wanted to go home.

She had indeed written Mr Brownill a letter stating:

“Dear William – You would get to know that I had come to Hull.   I went to Liverpool first to see if Mrs Edge had been there.  No one knew anything about her.   But when I got to Hull they played the devil with me.  But, my darling, how did you get on?  I shall never get over this; it will kill me.  I shall not stop in Hull for they are treating me shamefully.  I had first to tell them that I was married, for there was no living with them.   Now, my darling, what I am to do?  Will you get me a situation wherever you can?   It does not matter if it is a kitchen maid.   Will you write to me before Tuesday, or I think  I shall drown myself, for I have had nothing on my lips since I had breakfast with you.  Now, my darling, do not let this trouble you, for it is not your fault, I love you all the more.   There is many a tear shed over this letter; your face is ever before me whenever I look up.  Mrs E has wrote such a letter to my mama telling her the biggest lies that ever was uttered.  But never mind!   They have turned me on the streets, but I have a pair of hands and can work for my living.   Not a friend that I had in Hull will look at me now.   But, my darling, do not forsake me, for I am a bad girl.  I hope that this has not caused  any unhappiness between you wife and yourself.  Now, my darling, do not let this trouble you mind.  So, good-bye, love.   Excuse bad writing, as I am trembling so.  I remain, your ever loving.  PATTIE G xxxxxxxxxx

When the letter was read in Court, it was laughed at as the delusions of a child and Mr Brownill continued to deny any such a plot to go to London, to maintain the pretense of marriage – albeit for only three days – and indeed that any impropriety went on.

Mr Brownill, found guilty of abduction although deceived she was 18, was subsequently sentenced to six weeks hard labour.

Three years later, at the age of 18, Martha married her first husband – another older man – 29 year old Charles Proctor and bore him three daughters before he died in 1891.   She then went on to live with a man called Tom Halliday who left her in some time before the breakout of World War One.

She died in 1932.




The Bankrupt Shoemaker

When these posts are read as a complete story it will become clear to the reader that the fortunes of this family are vast.

The life of Edwin, Joseph and Mary’s 4th son, had far too many a parallels with that of his father although it must be said that Edwin avoided his father’s ultimate fate of the Debtor’s Prison.  Financially though, Edwin, his second wife and children did not have a stable home for a number of years.

He married his first wife Jane (nee Pringle) in 1852 in Berwick, then in Scotland, both at the age of 18.  By 1861 they had moved to Newcastle, Northumberland and had taken in Jane’s younger cousin, 12 year old Mary Cran.  Mary is named as ‘cousin’ of the head of household i.e Edwin but she is in fact Jane’s blood relation, although a few years later Mary’s position in the household became quite significant.

It is not known how many children Edwin and Jane may or may not have had as the only one that can be traced is a daughter called Mary Jane who died aged aged 3 in 1869.  Her mother Jane also died in 1869, leaving Edwin a widower at the age of 31.

Less than 2 years later Edwin remarried – to his wife’s now 19-year-old cousin Mary Cran.  She may or may not have been living with them all these years.  Edwin and Mary went on to have eight of their own children and adopted another (although probably not adopted in the sense that we know it now).  The children were : Edwin (1870 – 1871), Ann (1871 – 1871), May Jane (1873), Albert Edwin (1875), Edith (1879), Joseph George (1881) and Louisa (1885).  They adopted a little girl called Elsie in around 1898/99.

Between the births of these children, Edwin found his name in the local newspapers as a Bankrupt like his father and, unfortunately,  as a victim of crime.

His troubles seem to start in 1870 when an employee, Samuel Gregory, was said to have embezzled the sum of £13 from him although the charge was withdrawn.

He then suffered the theft of two pairs boots by a Sailor, Henry Frazer on 28 October 1870 and by a Lucy Davidson in November 1876 for which the former received 7 years imprisonment and the latter a one month prison sentence.

By 1879 he was now working as a boot and shoe manufacturer and had 3 premises in Newcastle, two in Gateshead, 2 in North Shields, 1 in Jarrow and 1 in Hetton-Le-Hole.

In March 1879 two women – Jane O’Neil and Mary Ann Eltringham – took 4 pairs of boots and were committed for 6 and 3 months respectively.

He was made bankrupt for the first time on 28 April 1880, after filing a Petition for Liquidation in June 1879 with debts of some £14,000.00 and assets of £16,000.00, although was discharged in around June 1880.   He then went to work as a Shoe Shop Assistant and to live with his mother in law, also called Mary.

A further theft of boots from him took place in January 1881 when a Mary Ann Hardy stole 2 pairs of boots for which she received a month in gaol with hard labour.

On 4 August 1894, whilst he was working as an Auctioneer’s Clerk, he was made bankrupt again.   In 1901 he could be found as having ‘no occupation’ but as a Head of Household with 6 working boarders paying rent and many members of his wife’s family. By  1911 he was living with his daughter Louisa and her husband Henry Godfrey and his grandchildren.

He died in Newcastle in 1921.   His wife Mary died 7 years later.








Robert Scotter: Blacksmith & War Hero

Robert was born on 25 April 1831 and at 5ft 7 in height, with grey eyes and brown hair, he first went to sea in 1852 as a Stoker on board H M S Fury, before joining the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders in around 1853/54.

The 93rd  made its  name through it’s actions during the Crimean War and indeed that was where Robert found himself when they were sent to Russia in 1854 under Colin Campbell’s Highland Brigade.

Perhaps more readily the words ‘The Thin Red Line’ may be recognised and when the battle of Balaklava began on 25 October 1854 Robert found himself as one of that band of men.  A family story states that he too witnessed the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Robert returned from the Crimea when the war ended and settled into the life of a Blacksmith in Portsea, Hampshire.   He married a young widow, Sarah Watkins (nee Passingham) on 20 March 1858 at St Mary in Portsea and a first son Robert Herbert was born the following year.  Another son William Henry was born in 1862 and he completed their family.

Robert, Sarah and their children were perhaps slightly more well to do than his siblings and by 1871 had moved north to Birkenhead, Wirral and later, certainly before the 1881 census ‘over the water’ to Anfield, Liverpool.  His sister Hannah and her family were already living in Liverpool and this may have been part of the attraction of moving.

1884 however brought the death of his wife Sarah.  Their son Robert Jnr, had trained as a Teacher and William Henry was studying at Theological College in Chester.  The two boys deserve posts of their own as they led quite diverse and interesting lives so I will return to them; both hitting the headlines for perhaps very diverse reasons.

There always seemed to be, once I had found out more about the Scotter family, clear contrasts and fortunes and Robert and his family are perhaps where that stark difference really began to make itself known.

He married again to another Sarah – Sarah Susan Cox – where she was living in Eton in Buckinghamshire in 1896 before they returned north to live initially in Winwick, near Warrington, Cheshire and then to Over in Cheshire.  Robert, now described as a Navy Pensioner and Sarah, a Housekeeper seemed to live with her employer for some time.

Robert died at Winsford, Cheshire in 1913, aged 81 and did not leave a will.  Sarah died in Brighton, Sussex in 1931.

A photograph is said to exist of Robert in his declining years of him, bearded and proudly  standing tall with a rifle propped at his side and sporting a velvet smoking jacket and cap; cigar in mouth.  Older members of the family remember it, but unfortunately no-one can find it!


Elizabeth : Another Quiet Life

The next sibling, Elizabeth was probably the last of the children of Joseph and Mary that could be said to have led a ‘quiet life’ and perhaps one of the few that we know little about because of it.   This doesn’t say much though as she was only their 4th child.

She married on 23 January 1858 at Holy Trinity in Hull to a widower, John Topham.  Six years her senior he came from Sancton in Yorkshire although seems to have lived some of his early years in Lincolnshire.  He worked as a Foundry Labourer.

John and Elizabeth stayed and settled in Hull.  Their first born son, Joseph died in 1860 at the age of 1 but he was followed by Mary Jane (1861), Edwin Charles (1864 – 1932) and youngest daughter Amelia (1866 – 1941).  The living children all married, although Mary Jane was widowed at a very young age, Edwin and his wife Mary had 8 children and Amelia and her husband William Henry Land had 10.

John died on 18th May 1885 and Elizabeth never remarried, dying in 1907.

Louisa : A Desperate Woman?

From an affair with a married man to two illegitimate daughters born within the space of a year, Joseph and Mary’s second daughter Louisa lived a somewhat checkered life.

She was born on 15 November 1823 and on 20 April 1850 at Number 20 Carr Lane, Myton, Hull she gave birth to her first illegitimate daughter – Hannah Elizabeth Scotter Atkinson.

Purchase of the baby’s birth certificate – in the hope of finding her father – only served to create more problems.  On the certificate Louisa calls herself Louisa Atkinson, and the child’s father as John Atkinson, a Baker; however no marriage between a Louisa Scotter and a John Atkinson can be traced.  It can only be presumed for the sake of respectability that Louisa fabricated the marriage to save face and possibly even fabricated John Atkinson himself.

Research into John Atkinson found several such individuals living in Myton in 1851, but not one was a Baker by profession.

Whoever the child’s father was and despite having her parents alive and a large number of siblings she could have gone to, Louisa found herself in Charity Hall Workhouse with baby Hannah and pregnant with a second illegitimate child, who would be born in 1851 and called Emma.  She would have been desperate to introduce herself to the Workhouse; usually a place for the sick or destitute who had no home or employment and as an unmarried mother of two children with different fathers, it may be that her parents refused to support her. It would have been the choice of the Workhouse or the streets for Louisa and her daughters.

What we do know this time,however, is who Emma’s father was.   Emma was registered as Emma Scotter Horsfield, father Thomas Horsfield.   As it transpires, Thomas – at the time of Emma’s birth – was a married man living in Cherry Burton with his wife Harriett who gave birth to their son James less than a year before his illegitimate daughter was born.

Emma was born in Charity Hall Workhouse in early 1851 but this was swiftly followed by the death of her half sister Hannah on 12 August 1851, still in the Workhouse.

Louisa and Emma came out of the workhouse and by 1861 she has found gainful employment as a dressmaker.

In 1864 Thomas Horsfield’s wife Harriet died and he and Louisa must have kept some form of contact as he married her the following year (1865).  The marriage between Thomas and Louisa, however, last less than 10 years.

Louisa died aged 50 (although more likely this is an error and she was 52/53) on 25 July 1875.  Her obituary in the York Herald Newspaper states that she was a widow.  This does not however match records as Thomas was well and truly still alive (he died in 1882).  It could well be they were separated and again to save face; Louisa stated she was widowed.

As for her surviving daughter, Emma married but was widowed and childless at the age of 25 when her husband William Fugill died in 1878.



The Reason The Family left for Hull?

Joseph Scotter Jnr (born 24 May 1822) was perhaps one of the least controversial siblings. It was him that made the move north first and it may well be that his father back down in Norfolk felt that he could escape the past of Debtor’s Prison and Bankruptcy once and for all.

Joseph Jnr had married Sarah Harvey in Hull in 1843 and, apart from a short stint in London in 1845/46, Joseph settled in Yorkshire being well established by the time the 1851 census was taken.

Joseph and Sarah’s first child, a son Joseph Thomas was born in Hull in January 1845 and baptised at West Street Chapel (Primitive Methodist). That summer however it would seem the family decided to take themselves to London.   Again it may have been an economic decision but they quickly realised that it was perhaps not the place for them.   In September 1845 their young son Joseph Thomas died whilst they were living in Holland Park, aged about 9 months.  He was buried at St Mary Abbot’s in Kensington.

Sarah was by now expecting their second child, a daughter Lydia Harriett who was born on 22 March 1846 after which the family returned to Hull.  She was joined by Thomas Joseph (1848 – 1906), William Henry (1851 – 1930), Robert (1853 – 1854), Mary Ann (1854 – 1885) and Elsey Elizabeth (1856 – 1937).

The family lived a fairly quiet life – certainly in comparison to some of the other siblings – until Joseph Jnr died aged 41, in October 1863.

Sarah was now widowed with several young children and did not remarry.  She died in 1880.

Perhaps the only ‘scandal’ to touch Joseph Jnr’s family was the illegitimate birth of a grandson Arthur Seymour Moody on 6 June 1891, his mother (Joseph’s daughter Elsey Elizabeth) naming her husband – who had been dead for three years – as his father on Arthur’s birth certificate!




The Cabinet Maker of Norwich

Joseph Scotter was born the eighth son of a Brewer, John, and his wife Sarah (nee Wilde) on 7th March 1800 at Norwich; baptised on 6th April 1800 at St George’s Church, Colegate.

He was named after two older brothers that died in 1794 and 1796 respectively and grew up in the Courts and slums of Norwich with his nine brothers and one solitary sister, also called Mary Ann.  Of 10 children of John and Sarah, only five are known to have lived beyond the age of 6 years.

Joseph apprenticed as a Chair Maker initially and on 5 March 1821, at the age of 20, he married eighteen-year-old Mary Ann Lilley at St Andrew’s Church, Hingham.  Mary Ann was born in Hingham in 1802 from a family of Thatchers and turned 19 that following July; already 7 or so months pregnant with their first child when they married.

Joseph and Mary did not remain in Hingham long.  A daughter Louisa was born just over 2 months after their marriage on 10 June 1821.  Baby Louisa was baptised at the age of 3 days at St Andrew’s and tragically died the following July, aged just shy of 6 weeks, soon after the family returned to Norwich.

They also lost a 3 year old daughter, called Hannah, in 1828.

The family first appear on a census in 1841 living at Dutton Court, Elm Park, Norwich.  Joseph was now working as a Cabinet Maker and the family had grown to add several more children – Joseph Jnr, Louisa (named after her sister), Elizabeth, William, Robert, Edwin, Charles, Hannah (my great great grandmother and named after her deceased sister), Amelia and George.

Later that year, however, the growing family were under significant financial strain.   On 21 October 1841, the families’ goods were sold ‘under distress’ by a Mr. Harper.  By the end of November 1841, Joseph was in the Debtor’s prison at Norwich Gaol, taking his wife and younger children with him.

By March 1842 Joseph was discharged from his Bankruptcy and this was perhaps the tipping point where he decided to take his family from Norwich to what he may have hoped were better fortunes elsewhere.

Between 1843 and 1847 three more children – Sarah, Mary Ann and James – were born in the small village of Holt, about 23 miles from Norwich.

By now his oldest son, Joseph Jnr (a bricklayer’s labourer) had left Norfolk to go to Hull, East Yorkshire and between 1847 and 1851, the entire family moved to join him.  It is likely, again, that in the more industrial area, Joseph intended to provide his family with more secure environment.

It would seem, however, that this was where and when the vast gulf between the siblings began to form……