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Stillington and District Community Archive

In the Heart of North Yorkshire

A Case of Bigamy


On 30th January 1858 George Simpson, a 30 year old guard with the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, was brought before E. S. Strangeways Esq., at Alne, charged with deserting his wife and young children - later marrying a young woman bigamously.
On examining the evidence of Superintendent Driscoll, who had pursued the prisoner in order to apprehend him for deserting his wife and leaving her with their children to be cared for by the Parish of Marton cum Moxby, Simpson was remanded in custody for one week.
On 6th February more details of the case emerged when the prisoner was brought before H. G. Wytehead Esq.
It appeared that the previous August the family had been living near Worcester when Simpson suddenly sold the family's furniture and announced that he was leaving for London to find better employment. After that time his wife heard no word from him but with the small amount of money her husband had left her she travelled back to York where the family had been living. From there she next journeyed to Marton believing it to be Simpson's place of birth and he had family there.
However, once there she became a dependant of the parish and the authorities intervened. What isn't mentioned in the newspaper reports was that Mrs Simpson was heavily pregnant when she took up residence at Marton and subsequently gave birth to a daughter, Isabella. She already had four boys - William aged 9; Thomas, 6; Charles, 5, all born at York, and two year old George, who was born whilst the family were living in Worcester.
A search was begun where Simpson was last seen, Worcester, and he was traced to a house there. He was living with a young woman called Mary Jane Sharpe who declared she was his wife and produced a certificate to prove the couple had married at St Pancras church, London on 2nd January.
At this point Superintendent Driscoll arrested Simpson for not only deserting his family, but on suspicion of bigamy.
At the hearing another certificate was produced to prove that Simpson had married before  - on 31st January 1848 at St Mary's, Bishophill the Elder, York - at which time he was remanded to York Castle for trial at the Spring Assizes on the charge of bigamy.
On 11th March Simpson pleaded guilty at York to the offence.  He was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.

 When released Simpson went back to his wife, Mary, who was still living at Marton, presumably still at the Parish's expense.
In 1861 the family, with another addition one year old Leonard, were living in the Alms Houses at Marton. George had found work as an agricultural labourer. These cottages were demolished some years ago and were later known locally as 'The Barracks'.
Between the birth of another son, Samuel, in 1862 at Marton and that of their eighth child Newry in 1865 the family had returned to York and George to the railways.
By the 1871 census the family, now ten strong, were living in Gorton near Manchester with George working as a signalman. 

Compiled from reports in The York Herald, The Yorkshire Gazette and The Leeds Enquirer published during the months of February and March 1858.
Also from Parish, Census and Civil Registration information.

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