Conisborough Elopement Case – Drink and Black Eyes – Sordid Revelations

April 1905

Mexborough and Swinton Times April 8, 1905

Conisborough Elopement Case
Drink and Black Eyes
Sordid Revelations

On Monday at the West Riding Quarter sessions, Wakefield, a singular case came on for trial in which Sarah AnnOliver (30) married and Herbert Thorpe (20), filler were indicted with stealing a tin box, a skin rug, a timepiece and other articles valued at £25, the goods of Frederick Oliver at Conisborough, between the first and 28th of February of this year.

Sir Theophilus Peel was in the chair, and there was a full bench of magistrates. Mr T.E.Ellison appeared for the prosecution, Mrs Charles Mellor defended

Mr Ellison, in opening, said that the two prisoners between the first and 28th of February of this year were charged with stealing about 100 articles belonging to the prosecutor. It was a case of the old story of the husband, the wife, the lodger and the furniture. The prosecutor married Mary Ann Oliver, one of the prisoner’s in 1889, and for 13 years they enjoyed a fair share of domestic happiness. In July of last year, unfortunately, the prisoner Thorpe came to them, and was taken in as a lodger.

It seems that after having been there a short time he turned his attentions to the prosecutor’s wife. The suspicions of the husband were aroused, and on January 14 of this year he gave the lodger a week’s notice to leave. On January 21 he went, but on February 7, whilst the prosecutor was at work, his wife took the opportunity of also going off, and subsequently she and the lodger were found living together in another house. That was a matter which had nothing to do with the present jury, but it so happened that the man was not content with taking away the wife. In addition, you took away a box which belonged to the husband, and also to parcels containing electro plate. The why, when she went, to the larger portion of the furniture of the house.

A warrant was issued against them, and the matter came into the hands of the police. They were not there to try a matrimonial charge, but simply to determine whether the prisoners stole the furniture. The only question for the jury would be that whether as a matter of fact this man Thorpe did takeaway property belonging to the husband, and whether the wife also took away furniture which did not belong to her, with a second point as to whether the property was a property of the husband. If they did take the property of the husband it would be no defence for them say that the man took away the wife as well.

Frederick Oliver of Tickhill Street, Denaby Main, gave evidence, supporting the statement. When, he said, E married a female prisoner, she was a widow with three children. He gave Thorpe notice to leave because of his suspicions concerning the behaviour of the man with his wife. There are been no quarrel on the day is wife went away. When he got home at night he found his wife are gone there was a letter from him under the political. The letter was in the writing of her son Johnnie and read as follows:

Dear Husband,

Just a few lines to let you know that I have gone. I got to know where you was on Sunday. I have taken the sewing machine and two beds, and sold the room fender to pay my train.

You have no need to bother yourself about me and Johnny and Lizzie, we shall be all right. All as I owe you must not pay. I have left you six blankets. I hope you will keep off the drink. You have told me to go many times and I have took it in my head this time. It has nearly broke my heart. I shall not stop Johnnie to write to you.

Your Wife and Child

The lodger also left a letter for the female defendant’s son, in which he said he had taken Mrs Oliver away to get her out of her misery.

“She has confessed to me that she will be happier with me than she has ever been in our life, as she has, therefore, come to live with me,” the letter read, and, in conclusion, was an intimation that he will be glad to see the son any time he cared to go. There was no ground for suggesting she had been miserable. When he went to the house where they were living he found the missing furniture.

Mr Mellor: Isn’t it a fact that all the articles mention in the indictment you have got back? – Yes

Then when did you think of the other things – I don’t know exactly what had gone.

You haven’t always gone by the name of Frederick Oliver during the last 10 years? – Generally I have.

But not always? – Sometimes I was caught Frederick Wright, because there was another collier like me with the same name.

Wasn’t there a question of bastardy case? – Yes, but that would not make me change my name.

And didn’t you make your wife take that name? – Yes

I think that in connection with these bastardy proceedings you were arrested at Durham? – No, I gave myself up.

When you manage this was she was a widow? – Yes

She had a house rather nicely furnished? – No, she had not a house at all.

It is suggested that you had not been married very long when you began to drink away that furniture? – No.

Except in such spare moments when you were punching her head? – I didn’t punch her.

You have assaulted her? – Once I’ve struck with the flat of my hand.

That was followed by two black eyes, was it not? – No; she got those through falling down.

I also suggest that you used to thrash her, and that you turned her out of the house in a nightdress? – Never in my life.

On another occasion you find her out of her wits by putting the carving knife under her pillow? – Never in my life. This is news to me.

Everyone of the articles mentioned in the indictment you have got back. Is it because your wife has left you that you are prosecuting? – Yes, I want the goods.

But you have got the goods; what else do you want? Six months for your wife? – I have not got the things back yet.

I think amongst other things your wife had was a sewing machine? – She has sold that.

I suggest you sold it and spent the proceeds in drink? – No

Is it not a fact that your wife has made money by sewing? She never made 10/- in her life.

Didn’t she also take lodgers in? – No; I took them in.

Oh, you took them in. She did the work and you took the money, I suppose? – I had to look after them.

Did you ever give her money? – Yes; but it was spent on the house.

Well, you have got everything back but your wife, and now you want? – No, she can stop where she is.

The only thing you want is what you can convert into money? That is the only thing he got out of my house worth the having.

Re-examined by Mr Ellison, witness said that among the things which is wife took away there was nothing that she had when he married her.

George Llewellyn Williams, of Cardiff, a son of Mrs Oliver by a first husband gave evidence that whilst he lived with his mother and the prosecutor there was no serious trouble.

William John Oliver, aged 13, son of the prosecutor and Mrs Oliver gave evidence of his mother going away. He wrote the letter which was put under the butter cooler.

For the defence Mr Mellor said that when Mrs Oliver’s first husband died he left with a house and furniture, into which the prosecutor stepped. Prosecutor had ill treated her ever since he married her. He drunk away all the furniture. Things eventually got too hot for him in Wales, and he left that country and came to Conisborough to get work in the mine. The prisoner was a hard-working industrious woman, and she made a little money by sewing when she had the spare time. She also met some money by taking in lodgers, her husband allowing her to do what she liked with that. Gradually she got the home together, and purchased the things which she was now charged with stealing.

Before they can find this unfortunate woman guilty on the evidence of her affectionate husband they must come to the conclusion that not only were the articles the property of the husband but that she never thought that they were her own. It did not matter whether the goods belong to the husband or not. It was a question of whether she thought she was honestly entitled to take them away. The prosecutor did not come in the interests of the public good at all, but simply with the idea of being revenged on his wife, who having lost all affection for him had left him.

Mrs Oliver in the box, said that she and the prosecutor quarrelled the day of their marriage. Because she did not walk home with him from church he cursed and swore at her. He had black to arise on two or three occasion. She had been turned out of the house in her night shirt. Her husband’s all the furniture she had when she was married. He got about £40 for it and for three months he did not work, but spent the time drinking. He was drunk every day. She had had lodgers for 13 years, and from time to time she bought furniture with the money she made, and her husband never claimed this. She considered that the money she made out of the lodgers was her own money. Thorpe did not assist her in taking things away. She described the contents of the boxes she took away, and said that all the things were her own.

A daughter of the prisoner by her first husband gave evidence see no mother ill treated by the prisoner.

Thorpe also gave evidence on his own behalf. The things you took away from the house he said were entirely is own. The parcels contained his own clothes. He had certainly not taking anything out of the house that belonged to Mr Oliver.

Oliver was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment, and Herbert Thorpe to 6 weeks imprisonment.