A Question of Seduction

This is not my title, but the title given by Daniel Parker Coke to one of the cases he provided legal advice for over 200 years ago. Of the 40 or so cases he records in this particular notebook (one of five in our collection), there are several being similar to each other (for example, several relating to the settlement of a pauper and the right to an apprentice). There are also several that give us an insight into the position of women and the way they are viewed by the men in and out of their lives. This is one such case in which the former lover (Richard) of a young woman (Hannah) who has apparently had children by at least one other man. The parish and Quarter Sessions feature a number of cases of child maintenance and bastardy, this one however, is from a slightly different angle, with the father of Hannah claiming damages against Richard as his daughter has been unable to fulfill all her servants duties.

Here is the transcript from his notebook, which begins with the letter he received (abbreviations expanded):

Please to answer this Law Question. I was at Lenton wake this week at a friends of mine Mr John Hopkin a reputable farmer. He has a nephew Richard Potter a Farmer that I know & lives at Trowell in the County of Nottingham & he being a young man made love to a young woman of the same village Hannah Hewitt a Farmer’s Daughter & after some time they differed & parted & after she had a child by one Robert Whitehead a blacksmith of the same village of Trowell & since then Richard Potter has had connections with her but he solemnly says not of above a year past & now she brought to bed of another child & her father Hewitt has employed Mr Bolton the Attorney to bring an Action against Richard Potter for Trespass & the loss of his Daughter’s service who acted in the capacity of Servant & has served Potter with a Declaration he has employed Mr Evans and Middlemen & expects a Trial at the next Assize for the County of Nottingham. Now Honoured Sir I should be glad to have your private opinion on the Case. Mr Hopkin is a freeholder of Nottingham & strongly attached to your Interest & Richard Potter & his two Brothers are in the Derby Yeomanry & has been exercising this morning Thursday on Breadsall Moor or Common. Note Richard Potter is married about a Month past. Note Hannah Hewitt has not sworn the Child if she does & swears it to Potter he knows he must maintain the Child though he says it’s none of his. Your most Humble and Obedient Servant, Wright Hawley

Parker Coke’s reply dated the following day reads:

This is an unpleasant business to Mr Potter as he admits he has had a connection with Hannah Hewitt which will undoubtedly be proved by her as she may be a witness in the Action which is brought by her father. The Action is brought for Seduction & if is founded upon the loss of service. And if it should turn out to be a strong Case the Damage may be considerable. At all events the Verdict must necessarily be against Potter with some Damages which will be followed by the Costs of the Cause so that upon the whole the Expence to Mr Potter must be considerable. What I would recommend to him is to compromise the matter by offering a sum of money – if the Cause should come into Court it will probably be referred by the Judge as these Causes are seldom tried I would therefore advise Mr Potter if they cannot agree upon the sum of money to be given to offer to leave it to one two or three friends as Arbitrators & if Hannah Hewitt’s character should be proved to be (as it is here stated) that of a common woman the Damages will probably be small

Too often I think we think of such complicated relationships as being a modern occurrence, but this account shows this is not the case.

D1881/UL – Coke of Brookhill Family Papers

Have bike, will travel – a splendid celebration of cycling

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Thursday 5th May saw the start of our latest ‘What’s in the Wall?’ exhibitions.  Running (or should I say pedalling?) until the 30th July, ‘Have bike, will travel’ is a comprehensive collection of items from our Local Studies and Archives, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day. Many of the photographs are courtesy of Picture the Past

Bicycle related photos, maps, magazines, drawings and diaries are all there, along with a large dose of nostalgia, from the early days of the penny farthing, the bicycle as an essential form of transport, to the cycling proficiency test and 80s BMXing!

This exhibition will coincide with the Aviva Women’s Tour which has a whole stage in Derbyshire on Friday 17th June (it will go up Bank Road in Matlock, definitely worth watching!) It will also coincide with the Eroica Britannia – a 3 day festival held in Bakewell from Friday 17th June – Sunday 19th June, which ends on the Sunday with over 4,000 riders taking part in a vintage bike ride.

Come and take a journey with us through the history of Derbyshire cycling.  The display is in our Reception area and we are based on New Street, Matlock – parallel with Bank Road (if you don’t know the road, come and take a look at the steep gradient the women will have to climb on the Derbyshire stage of the Women’s Tour!)

Directions are here and we are open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm and Saturdays 9.30am – 1pm.  We have cycle parking as well as car parking.  Our other forthcoming events can be found here

Nothing but Nuns!

Index of Nuns

Following hot on the heels of the Record Office appearance at Derbyshire County Council’s International Women’s Day is a female-focused addition to the Local Studies Collection. It’s a searchable Index of Nuns from the Catholic Family History Society on CD.

It lists records of approximately 14,000 nuns who professed later than 1795, with information about their parents, birth, religious name, profession and death. It should provide a fascinating and useful reference to anyone who might be researching their family history and knows there might have been a nun in the family!

Women leadminers

We like to bring you news of research discoveries as and when they happen; this discovery was made in our search room about two hours ago, by Matthew Pawelski. OK, actually, it’s not a discovery per se, having been published in various forms before (e.g. Lynn Willies’ article in the Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society). But let us not get bogged down in semantics. Instead, have a look at this extract from a 1737 reckoning book for the Miners Engine lead mine at Eyam Edge. The section shown is principally dedicated to recording payments made to individual “coppers”. Nothing to do with the police, and it’s usually spelled “copers”; it refers to the men who were extracting lead ore below ground. Above their names, you will spot a reference to “17 women’s wages”, coming to £6 16s. Assuming this was shared equally, that comes to 8s each, or 40p in new money).
D7676 BagC 382 account

Nearer the back of the same book, we can actually see the names of some of these women Continue reading

On This Day: ‘Death of a Distinguished Derbyshire Woman’

From the Derby Mercury, 4th October 1893:

Death of a Distinguished Derbyshire Woman

The death is announced from New York of Mrs. Mary Monroe, on the 15th September, in her 98th year.  Born in Derbyshire, England, February 1, 1795, she early in life developed a passion for travel, and was counted at the time of her death the most travelled woman in America.  In 1830 she passed Easter week in the city of Rome as a guest of the Pope.  She was a friend of Lafayette, and was twice a guest of Sir Walter Scott, and she counted among her friends the Duchess of Kent.  When 70 years of age she travelled for 20 weeks alone, visiting every part of Great Britain and Ireland in order to investigate the condition of the working classes.  Her husband was an officer of the Customs service of the United States.

The County Local Studies Library holds the Derby Mercury – just ring to book a microfilm reader.  If you have a Derbyshire library card you can also view 19th century issues of the newspaper online at the libraries area of the council website.