The travellers troubles……

One thing that I really enjoy about the ramblings in my blog is that I never quite know in what direction they’ll take me next.

I love the fact that I often have people contacted me from all over the world, some saying that I’ve written about a long lost ancestor of theirs or about a place they once lived, often these messages are accompanied by photos or personal snippets to go along with the tales.

Well, recently a lady got in touch with me with some interesting information about her husbands ancestors, who way back used to be Romany gypsies, but they had settled down in Weymouth around the turn of the century.

With her husbands permission, (thought I’d better check that first just in case!) this blog will tell a little of their fascinating story.



Not knowing a great deal about the history of the Romany travelling community I decided to do a little digging first, and it was riveting the history our South West area has with the genuine travelling people.

LRM02 The james family at Puddletown in 1899


(Picture kindly supplied by the Lyme Regis Museum; the James(or possibly Jones,) family camped at  Puddletown.)

I clearly recall from my childhood the swarthy skinned gypsy women when they used to be in town with their baskets of heather hawking in the street, my mum would always buy a bunch and stick it in a little pot on the windowsill convinced that it brought good luck.

Or the weather-worn men travelling men who would congregate at the Dorchester market for the animal sales days, crooked hazel stick in hand, their intelligent eyes fastened onto the horses for sale.

Anyway, I digress somewhat…back to the tale.

This story concerns the James family who ended up living in the row of stone cottages four doors down from the public house that is now called the New Inn at Littlemoor.

The father, Thomas,(actually christened Andrew Thomas,) was born in Shirley, Hampshire around 1855, his wife, Martha, was a cousin, she had been born at Tolpuddle or Blandford around the same time. (It is hard to sometimes pin down their exact place of birth because they travelled so often between places, and frequently their supposed birthplace changed from census to census.) They both grew up knowing a hard life on the road, travelling the lanes of the Victorian countryside in their wagons or vardos with their families and they would pitch in a group where ever they arrived that day.

In the 1871 census we find an unmarried Thomas pitched on Kinson Common, Dorset along with his parents, Dennis and Laura and with many others of the extended family. (Kinson was and still has a connection with the gipsy community.)

Within the next few years Thomas had married cousin Martha and a succession of children arrived, Louisa, Dennis, Andrew, Caroline, Laura, Leonard and Vardlow, their assorted places of birth in Dorset proof of their continued travelling life style.

By the time of the 1891 census the family were encamped on the village green at Fordington, in the vardo next to them was Thomas’s aged parents, the enumerator listing them as travellers.

LRM01 The James family at Puddletown in the 1890s


(Picture courtesy of Lyme Regis Museum.)

By the time their last child, a daughter named Elsie arrived in 1895, the family had left the road behind them, they had moved into a little stone built cottage in Littlemoor.

They might have given up  travelling the highways and byways of Dorset and Hampshire in their vardo but they hadn’t given up completely on the lifestyle.

The 1901 census enumerator lists them both as hawkers, ( he still describes them as gipsies in brackets in the occupation column.) Thomas and Martha’s sons were already in steady work, they were employed  in the nearby farms or in the building trades,  but Mum and Dad were reluctant to let go of their old traditions. They might well have been confined by the four solid walls of their cottage but every day they travelled forth far and wide to hawk their various wares in the towns and villages around.

Life must have been very interesting for their close neighbours, this colourful couple  and their lively antics causing no end of delicious gossip over those stone garden walls.

Living in the same terrace as the James’s were their next door neighbours, George and Jane Guppy on one side with their two young daughters and on the other side were Isaac and Mary Powell and their family of 3 boys and a girl.

Around the same time the family moved in so appeared in the newspapers one of many frequent sensational stories of their somewhat dubious doings.

On a Tuesday, the 24th September 1895, Thomas and Martha stepped outside into the fresh morning air, they were on their way into Weymouth where Martha would ply her trade up and down the streets of the town, with her trusty old wicker basket slung on her arm, Martha would be selling what she could to bring in a much-needed penny or two to the household.

But this was going to be no ordinary day for either of them…one would end up seriously injured, and the other behind locked doors.

The couple waited on the platform for the train at Upwey station, boarded it and made for Weymouth.

Once in town, Thomas headed for the nearest watering hole while Martha went about her business.

womn street

After tramping the streets around town for a few hours and come lunch time, Martha went to meet Thomas at the public house where he had installed himself for the duration. He was not in a good mood it seems,  he demanded of Martha some of her hard-earned coins from her mornings travels, but she far was too slow in handing them over for his liking.

With that an irate Thomas raised his stick and beat her over the head with it.

By the time the  somewhat well-inebriated couple had finished for the day in Weymouth they staggered their way back to the  station where they boarded the 3.30 train on their way  back to Upwey.

Also in their carriage  was Thomas’ mother, Laura James, who by all accounts was not in any less-inebriated  state than the other two.

What happened on that fateful train journey appeared as sensational headlines in the papers a couple of days later.

‘Western Gazette 27 September 1895; A WOMAN FOUND INSENSIBLE.’

According to the lengthy news report, Edward Hansford a GWR packer had been busy working on the line between Lawton Bridge and Two Mile Copse on that Tuesday afternoon when he came across  the seemingly  lifeless body of a woman lying besides the line .

The guard on the GW train that had left Weymouth at 3.32 had also reported seeing a woman fall out of the moving train onto the line.

On reaching Upwey, the guard informed the station master, 42-year-old Mr Richard Harry Dyke, who then proceeded back down the line and found the still form  and a flustered Mr Hansford attending it.

But the limp form wasn’t completely lifeless, a strange gurgling noise was emitting from it, the station master quickly turned her over and a thick stream of congealed blood drained from her mouth. Richard Dyke had literally saved her life. The victim, which was our Martha, had been virtually drowning on the blood pouring from a large wound on her head into her mouth.

By now, a flustered Thomas had  arrived on scene, having jumped from the train before it had even pulled into Upwey station, he had raced all the way back down the track to where his wife Martha laid, unconscious, battered, bruised and bloodied.

When he was asked what happened, Thomas quickly muttered that  his wife had had said something about going to Southampton, and that was that, she was out the door before he could do anything!

Martha’s  pale and limp form was placed upon a hastily fetched wicker hurdle and the concerned parties then conveyed it to her house at Littlemoor, which was about a mile away.

You can only imagine the neighbours surprise when they saw the gang of men and their strange baggage coming along the road and make their way into the cottage.

Chins must have wagged for Britain.

Dr Pridham was sent for.

Things didn’t look too good for Martha.

For the next four hours she didn’t stir, she was totally out of it, deeply unconscious .

Of course, before long the long arm of the law were knocking on the James’ door, Segeant Legg and P.C. Carter entered the cottage.

Carter sternly confronted the still drink-befuddled and  flustered Thomas, “James, I wish to see your wife.”

Thomas could do very little else but allow them entry, he sulkily replied “All right, she is upstairs.”

They climbed the narrow, creaky wooden stairs up to the bedroom where Martha was laid, she was being being tended to by one of her neighbours, Catherine, from the Guppy family next door.

woman in sick bed



Martha, having at last regained conciousness, managed to give her statement to the policeman, she was accusing her wayward husband of virtually beating out of the carriage door. “I, Marth James, saith I am the wife of Thomas James and reside with him at Littlemoor. We get our living by hawking. On tuesday the 24th Sep, I and my husband went to Weymouth. I hawked while he walked about. He asked me for some money while we were there, and because I would not give him some at once he struck me across the head with a stick. We came back to Upwey by the 3.30 p.m. train. Mrs Dennis James, my husband’s mother, got into the same carraige with us. As soon as we were in the carriage my husband began abusing me, and struck me down on the seat. I stood up, and he struck me again up against the door, and by some means it opened. I know I did not open it. I do not remember anything more until I found myself home in bed.”

Being unable to read or write, when she’d finished Martha slowly and painfully  raised her head from her bed and signed her damning statement with a simple cross.

Thomas was then summonsed to the bedroom where his battered wife laid before him, the charges were read out to him by P.C. Carter, “You wife has made a statement respecting you, which I have taken down, and which I will read to you.”

When  Carter had read out the charges to Thomas, his reply,  not surprisingly, was a complete denial,  in a very coarse manner he snapped “Then I must say it is a lie then”

But of course, there was only one place he was going, that was heading for the nearest lock-up. A fiercely protesting Thomas was led out of the cottage door by the two policemen.

However, when the case finally came before the local courts not everything was quite as it had at first seemed.

Evidence was produced that put doubt on Martha’s story and showed Thomas in a slightly better light, (not that beating his wife over the head with a stick could ever be described as ‘better.’)

The attending doctor at the time of the incident, Dr Pridham,  said when he went to visit Martha at her home, she was indeed deeply unconscious but he rather thought a lot of that was down to  Martha having imbibed far too much drink that day.

In the carriage next to the fiercely feuding James family had been three servants on their way back from Weymouth, they were also heading for the Upwey station.

One of them, Elizabeth Lane, was a  servant in Nottington House. She had seen something, which she took to be a coat, fall out past their carriage window. Curiosity getting the better of her, Elizabeth got up, looked out of window and saw the door of the next carriage open and someone stood at door waving their hand and shouting.

maid service 1887


Mary Woodrow, a second servant also from the adjoining carriage added her statement. All three had heard a right old commotion going on from that carriage, someone had been having one hell of an argument.

Thomas’ mother’s statement was read out in court, not that it had much validity, she couldn’t appear in person that day because she was too intoxicated!

According to her written words Martha had opened door herself and sat down on the floor, rolled back then fell out the door. Just to sort of statement you might expect from a mother trying to protect her precious son from a serious charge of attempted murder…that is were it not for corroborating evidence from an independent source.

Probably the most damning evidence of all as far as Martha was concerned was that of 32-year-old James Bulley, the brakesman in charge of train. He claimed that he had seen a hand projecting out from the carriage window, it then turning the handle of the door, at which point the door opened and a woman jumped from the train.

Then Martha herself took to the stand, relaying her version of those days events.

She said about 1 o’clock that fateful day she had gone to an underground public house by the Quay where she had met her husband Thomas. He asked her for money but because she hadn’t been quick enough in handing it over, he’d lost his temper and proceeded to bash her over the head with his stick, at this point she grabbed the coins out of her pocket and chucked them at him.

Not overly pleased with his wife’s contrary actions, he had growled between his gritted teeth that “He would swing for her.”

Instead, he threw her basket at her and sent her on her way to earn some more money, but Martha’s lucky heather obviously wasn’t up to its magical scratch that day, her good luck had run out…she didn’t earn a further penny.

The couple met again later at the station, Martha penniless and Thomas in a bad mood. Once they had climbed into their carriage, an irate Thomas had pushed her down hard into the seat, yelling at his weary wife“Sit down there.” An aggrieved Martha demanded to know what was wrong, “You have been quarreling with me all day;what is the matter with you?”

train 7 english illustrated magazine 3 london magazine_2

She recalled the violent row in the carriage, and Thomas attacking her again and again with his stick, but very little else until she awoke and found herself back in her own home feeling battered and bruised and very sorry for herself.

When she woke in her bed, Thomas had brought her up a strong drink of rum and beer which she pushed away saying she couldn’t face drinking it. With that Thomas’ anger erupted again, he shoved her hard in the chest and according to Martha he shouted at her that ” he wished he had picked me up dead.”

Martha also told the magistrates that Thomas used to beat her often with his stick which  sometimes causing her  to go into fits.

When she was questioned about the possibility of her having leapt from the train of her own free will, (fuelled by alcoholic stupor,) supposedly to go and see her missing daughter, she quickly and vehemently denied that.

Martha claimed she didn’t even know if her daughter was in Southampton, she had walked out of  the family home about 12 months ago…in fact, so unbothered by her sudden disappearance was she that she had almost forgotten her by now!

The case of Grievous Bodily Harm against Martha by her husband was considered serious enough to be referred up to the Dorset County Assizes.

When the County Court sat at their next session, they went through the list of cases to be heard. Arriving upon the James’ case, it was decided in their infinite wisdom that there was insufficient evidence to bring it before the courts.

Yes, Thomas had not been the most affable of men where his wife was concerned, but there was very little evidence to prove that he had in fact deliberately attempted to harm her by throwing her out of the moving carriage.

In fact the evidence of the guardsman pointed to the contrary. Consequently the serious charges of Grievous Bodily Harm upon Martha by Thomas were discharged. He was a free man…for now!

But poor old Martha’s woes weren’t to end there. Only a few months later and she was at the receiving end of Thomas’s alcohol fuelled anger again.

One evening in the June of 1896 she had retired to her bed. For whatever reason a drunken and angry Thomas had burst into the room and set about her in a vicious manner. He lunged at her, squeezing his hands tightly around her throat, nearly throttling the very life out of her. His hot, fetid breath in her face as he declared he would do for her and that he would swing for her “in the same way as two men had swung on Tuesday morning.” 

Finally managing to break from Thomas’ grasp and make her escape, Martha hurriedly barricaded herself in the next bedroom.

The following morning, while Thomas still slept, she slipped out of her cottage and made her way to the nearest police station, she couldn’t put up with this much more. A very determined Martha was going to make her errant husband pay for his misdeeds.

So once again, Thomas found himself arrested, thrown into jail and then hauled before the magistrates charged with violent assault and the attempted murder of his wife.

This time he didn’t escape so lightly, for his sins he was sentenced to one month prison with hard labour.

Mind you, Martha wasn’t exactly whiter than white, she too had encountered the courts wrath on a few occasions.

True to traditional gipsy folklore she pedalled her wares wherever the road took her, selling bunches of heather for good luck or telling fortunes to the unsuspecting females who hung on her every word.



In September of 1891 she was before the police courts in Salisbury charged with stealing a silver brooch of the value of 2s, the property of Louisa Bragg of 8 Egerton Place, Windsor Road, Fisherton.

Martha had knocked on the door of the house and offered the woman some of the  wares from her trusty basket.

When the lady refused to buy anything from her, Martha then induced her to part with a few random old unwanted items, a brooch, jacket, pillow case and other bits and pieces of clothing, with the promise that she could foretell her fortune.

Getting well into her story-telling stride Martha declared that she was one of the mysterious and select Seven Sisters, she held such strong powers that she  could work her magical charm on the lady’s wedding ring, promising her that she would be happy for ever after.

All the good lady had to do was to place a simple glass of water on the mantle-shelf and if she got up at 4 o’clock in the morning and peered into it she would see the features of her husband.

The magistrate, not surprisingly, was not quite so taken in with Martha’s mystical powers, or worried by any hideous hexes she may inflict upon him, he committed her to 6 weeks in prison.

In December of 1915 Martha found herself before the Weymouth courts again. This time accused of “Telling Fake fortunes and Selling Dragon’s Blood.”

Martha, now in her 60’s, was still up to her old tricks.

She was in the habit of going into the seed shop of Mr Courtenay in Bond Street to purchase bits and pieces. A young girl who worked behind the counter had suddenly found herself under Martha’s steely gaze and was soon pulled into Martha’s mystical world of spells and magic.

After a few months of listening to Martha’s mutterings for which she paid dearly, the frightened girl had confessed her fears to the shop keeper and the police informed.

On her next visit, the shop bell rang out as Martha made her way into the store, the young assistant was waiting nervously behind the counter, she was beginning to feel very silly now having been taken in all this time.

Martha purchased her goods and turned her attention to the young girl. “How is your young man? You are looking better.” 

Then looking around carefully to see who was listening she sidled up to the girl and whispered “You have got a silver coin in your pocket?” the girl nodded, a sixpence she admitted, “That will do, hand it to me” Martha brusquely replied.

Once the coin had been handed over, Martha spat on girls hand and passed the silver coin over it. With that ‘magical charm’ not only came the promise of a long and happy marriage to her beau but also the great delights of her own prosperous business to look forwards to.

Her parting shot to the girl as she left the shop was, “God Almighty bless you and good luck.”

She might not have been quite so quick to bless the assistant had she known that a certain P.C. Pitman was concealed inside the shop to witness this exchange of money and ‘magic.’

Hauled before the magistrates Martha’s once mysterious magical methods were revealed for all and sundry to hear, bringing forth a great deal of mirth and laughter from those disbelievers attending the lively session.

The shop assistant revealed that she had only handed over her money because she was so scared of her, what the gipsy would do to her if she didn’t give her the silver when asked for, she didn’t want no bad luck in her life. So far, over the last few weeks, she had given Martha nearly a sovereign of her hard earned money.

No wonder Martha was a frequent visitor to the shop, it had become a very lucrative stop.

The girl continued her tale of woe. She said that at one stage Martha had handed her a tiny, (but very expensive…“half a crown that cost me!”) bottle containing a strange red liquid. Dragon’s Blood Martha firmly assured her, with great powers.

The girl was told to tip just three drops of this magical blood onto a piece of paper  when it was a new moon, which she did… and when it was a full moon she was given instructions to burn it.

Those listening to the young girl as she carefully explained the spell couldn’t contain their mirth.

When asked if she had indeed “had good luck ever since?” she innocently replied “I do not know, I did not burn the paper.” 

Even the Magistrates Clerk couldn’t resist gently mocking the witness “She did not complete the process, so that was not giving the charm a fair chance,” which brought forth peals of laughter.

When it was Martha’s turn to stand in the box, she of course had a perfectly logical explanation for everything.

It was purely out of the kindness of her own sweet heart that she had told  the young girl about her beau coming back to marry her, it was just to keep the her happy.

The same way that the money the girl handed her was only from kindness, she had freely given it to her for a drink…nothing at all to do with fortune telling.

As for the Dragon’s Blood?…she knew nothing about that, hadn’t even seen it before!

Martha received a proverbial slap on the wrist, a fine and a dire warning that if she appeared in the courts again she would find herself in serious trouble.

I doubt whether either old Thomas or Martha could have completely given up on their gipsy roots, their old way of life. So ingrained in their family history from centuries of a life on the road and the stories told from generation to generation.

Martha passed away  in 1924 and Thomas followed in 1931, both are buried at St Nicholas church Broadwey.

So a way of travelling life passes into history, a few tales of these colourful old characters of the open road all that remains of their fascinating story. *********************************************************************** Pictures of the James, (or possible Jones,) family while on the road kindly leant by the Lyme Regis Museum Archives. *********************************************************************** Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics. I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy… Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


1889; Girl held against her will at Broadwey?

With all the media reports on the news recently concerning the shocking story of the 3 women imprisoned as slaves, Weymouth had it’s own version of the sorry tale back in 1889.

Sarah Guy was born in 1865 into a less than ideal and loving family home.

Her Dad John was a violent drunk, and her Mum Sophy was a woman who had been cowed down by life and her dire circumstances. Most of the time the family lived in dire poverty.

They lived in New Street, with the Dad working, when he was sober enough, as a Wheelchair man, they would ply their trade along the esplanade, pushing invalids in the large wicker chairs.

4 times weymouth

As the facts of the case were revealed over the weeks, we can catch a glimpse into their world. Sarah had obviously turned to prostitution to support herself, a case of when needs must. By the time she was 23 she already had an illegitimate child,  who had been removed into the care of the Union Workhouse.


It wasn’t unusual for young Sarah her to come ‘home’ and find her few clothes that she possessed had been pawned so that her Dad could buy drink, or no furniture left in the house and her Dad in his cups. He would often strike young Sarah, viciously lashing out at her if she didn’t give him any money. She began bringing men back to the house, who would give her Dad money to go any buy beer. One man in particular became a regular visitor, a chap by the name of Frederick Burt. He was a cab owner, and had stables in Broadwey where he kept his carriage and horses.

Frederick it was said was a married man, but he lived separately from his wife.

In the July of 1888 Sarah just vanished!

Her Dad John says he had approached Frederick Burt numerous times and asked him if he has seen his daughter, but his answer had always been no, that he thought she had run off to London. At one instance Frederick even told her father that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Ripper had got her!

Whether the Dad had even bothered to try and find her we’ll never know the truth. Probably the only thing that had annoyed him was that without her in the house selling her scraggy body…he received no beer money from her punters.

For weeks no one saw anything of Sarah… that passed into months…maybe she really had run away?

That was until one day in 1889.

On the 14th March, 1889, late one night, Annie Martin, the family cook in the home of Dr and Mrs Brown was clearing up the kitchen,

the light was on, the blinds pulled up. Suddenly, a frantic knocking on the door startled her, she looked out into the dark but couldn’t quite make out who it was. Scared, she ran up stairs to get her Mistress, both women came down and got the shock of their lives.

There, in the kitchen, huddled in a chair was a dirty, half starved girl, her eyes bulging out of her sockets from fear, crying “Burty will kill me! Oh! Burty will kill me!”, an  iron bar clenched in her hand…was this an escaped lunatic?

What should they do?

The girl was muttering over and over that the man called Burt, and others wanted to do for her…

The cook was quickly dispatched next door to where Colonel Tapper Carter lived. He would know what to do. But even he was flummoxed by this sorry piece of what had once been a human being, she was hardly recognisable as one one, curled in a tiny ball, muttering of murder and other foul deeds. She would tell them to “Hush…listen..” and kept repeating the names Miller and Baker.

Still believing the slip of a girl to be an escaped lunatic, the Colonel and his maid, Isabella Cruikshank,  led her gently next door, where she was bathed, given clean clothes and put into bed. She kept repeating the chilling words “murder” to Isabella, who just took them to be the product of a troubled mind. she had tried to feed her some food for Sarah had told her that she hadn’t eaten in days, but every time she tried to eat or drink, she brought it back up again.

Back in the doctor’s household, things seemed to have quietened down, but then Annie the cook looked out of the kitchen window, only to see Frederick Burt creeping around at the bottom of their garden, he appeared to be searching in the bushes and hedges for something. What was the man doing, was he mixed up with this.

By now the police in the guise of Sergeant Joshua Rackham had arrived at the Colonels house, he was summonsed back to the Doctor’s house, and after going out to talk to Burt, he cuffed the man, and took him in for trespassing on the Doctor’s land. The deranged girl had told him a story about being held prisoner, and a conversation she had overheard, men talking in the stable, she had crept to door,“I have got her there, and I must get rid of her.”

They needed to sort this mess out, what on earth had been going on?

At the end of March 1889, at the  County Petty Sessional Court, Dorchester, Frederick Burt was accused of having held the missing girl Sarah Guy captive against her will. She apparently had been held in a dirty, dark shed next to his stables,  it measured 10ft x 5ft x 4ft tall, with very little in it bar a box, and a couple of sacks.

Sarah had allegedly been held here against her will for nearly nine months, too scared to try and escape because Frederick had threatened what dire things would happen to her of she tried.

Frederick Burt was brought before the courts, he stayed partly hidden in the jury box, the court full of mainly women who made no attempt to hide their feelings of anger towards the disgusting man.

The problem was Sarah was too ill to attend court herself.

Burt was summonsed for “unlawfully imprisoning Sarah Guy”.

It was decided that the case should be adjourned on the grounds that she was not well enough to give her evidence, Burt maintained his innocence, he said she was his sweetheart, he was only protecting her from her vicious father

But he was accused of having locked her up in a small shed, subjected her to such brutal ill-treatment as to derrange her intellect.suffering acute consumption.

A letter was read out from Dr Simpson.

“Gloucester Row, Weymouth,

22nd March.

I hearby certify that Sarah Guy, now an inmate of the Weymouth Workhouse, is not in a condition to appear as a witness at Dorchester to-morrow. Her mental condition, which was clear and lucid on Sunday last, has undergone a considearble change during the current week; and she is unable now to return satisfactory answers to any queations put to her, or to make and coherent ststement. Under these circumstances it is my intention to arrange for her removal to the County Asylum, where, I trust, under special treatment, she may recover sufficiently to attend at Dorchester; and, if not, the opinion as to her future sanity will have been reported on by those most competant to judge of it.-


The case was adjourned until April 6th.

Burt was given bail and bound over to the sum of £50, with his brother George as security.

Frederick left left the Dorchester court, but a large angry crowd had gathered outside, the  hostile mob booing and hitting him as he passed along Trinity Street and Princes Street on his way back to the railway station. Four policeman had accompanied him, they too were on the receiving end of the crowds displeasure at this monster being able to walk free. By the time they’d reached the gates of the London & South Western Railway Station yard, so intense was the hallooing and violence towards Burt, that the police decided that it might be better of they took him into the safety of the County Police Station. From here he made his escape over the back wall and back to his home.

Frederick was brought back into the courts to face charges, but Sarah’s condition hadn’t improved, in fact, if anything she was worse. The solicitor for the defendant said that it was unfair on his client, the newspapers had cause great ill feeling towards his client. They should either charge him or let him go. As Sarah was unable to appear in court to accuse Frederick of the heinous crimes it was with great regret that the Bench decided to dismiss the case.


Once again a large and angry mob had gathered outside the courtroom waiting for this man who had allegedly got off scott free with the brutal kidnapping and imprisonment in inhumane conditions of Sarah Guy. A young girl who was now loosing her mind due to  of his heartless and cruel actions, and because she couldn’t give evidence…he was being freed!

They hinted at a further case that might be brought should things change…and they did.


When another case came to court again in the May of 1889, this time held at the New Asylum in Charminster, circumstances had changed dramatically, it was the inquest into her death..

Being severely malnourished, and also ill from consumption, Sarah had died in the May in the Asylum.

An inquest had been held into her death. The juror’s, made up of locals from the near by village were led in to view the emaciated body of Sarah.

One of the nurses at the Asylum, Julia Boyd, gave evidence, she  told of her frequent conversations with Sarah, who had admitted to living a wicked life, but she never spoke of being kept captive or being starved of food. The doctor who had attended her claimed that she was extremely emaciated, had advanced lung disease (consumption) and that she wasn’t very often lucid, was always afraid, and refused to sleep with out a light. He also said that despite their best care, Sarah had just faded away, unconscious for the last few hours before her happy release.

At the post mortem, done by Dr Mc Donald and accompanied by the Weymouth man, Dr Lush they couldn’t really answer many of the questions that the jurors were keen to ask.

Her body was extremely emaciated, but he had seen worse. There were no bruises or discolouration of the skin showing violence. Sarah’s cadaver had no body fat what so ever, both upper lobes of her lungs were severely diseased, containing cavities, not air. The lower parts of her lungs were also diseased. Her liver was enlarged and fatty. On examining the skull, the brain looked very pale, indicating a lack of blood circulation to it, this was caused by her advanced state of illness because of the consumption.

The jury asked if her being confined in a dark and dirty room for months on end could have contributed to this, but the doctor said it was hard to tell.

It was decided that the case should be adjourned until all the evidence could be brought before the jurors, who had also wanted to visit the place where she had supposedly been kept captive for the last few months of her life.


At the second inquest, a Mr Maw attended on behalf of the deceased Sarah, he was there from  the National Vigilance Society.

According to her father John, when questioned, Sarah was prone to running off, coming and going as she wanted. No she wasn’t a prostitute, Frederick might have stopped at the family house, but he slept in a separate bedroom from her. No he didn’t pawn her items for drink, anyway, he was now teetotal! He had asked after her when she went missing, he had asked Burt numerous times if he knew where she was…but no, he never went to Burt’s place of business to see if she was there. The last time he had asked Burt if he knew where she was, was the week Sarah had reappeared, Burt had told him “No, there’s something very strange about it.” then said “I cannot stay now, dad, as I’m ordered; I will see you by and by.” at which he drove off. Apparently when the two men met again on the sea front later that day, Frederick told Sarah’s father that she was definitely in London.

He claimed he wasn’t a bad father, and couldn’t understand why the police had kept coming round their house. Yes, he had drank a bit, but wasn’t that normal for working men? He didn’t beat her, sometimes he just ‘blowed her up!’

There had been an incident last summer before she had vanished for months when he had gone to Burt’s place to find his daughter there, he told her to come home, but Frederick had said to Sarah “What do you want to go with him for? He will knock you about again.” Sarah had returned home with her father that time, but vanished again soon after.

Once on the stand Frederick Burt claimed that Sarah was his sweetheart. They both went to his shed adjoining his stables at Broadway, Sarah went willingly, not wanting to go back home to her fathers house.  He had taken her there to keep her safe from her father. He had given her  a ring, despite the fact that he was already married! Sarah stayed willingly in the shed, she had wanted to be locked in at night to keep her safe.

He gave a statement;” I live at Broadwey, and am occupier of stables and premises there. Have known the deceased about two years. She was living with her father, and had a child aged 12 months. I used to go with her from time to time at her fathers house, and have been there when other men have come for a simiar purpose. Have been there stopping in the house for three weeks or a month together, and her father was  aware of the relations between us, and has been in the same room. He had given the father money for beer abd food sometimes when he had been with the deceased. He remembered an occasion about a year ago returning with her to her fathers house and finding him beastly drunk. He was often in that condition. He asked her for money, and because she had none to give him he was about to assault her, when witness prevented him, and took her away. She asked him to take her to the stables; and he allowed her to go and sleep for four or five nights in the carriage at the coach-house. That was the first time she had stayed there. After that time she would come there and stay for a day or two; and he would go and stay with her at her fathers house. Witness stayed there with her every night during the Yeomanry week in her fathers house, and he was present. Whenever he slept in the house he slept with the deceased, and the father knew it. He pawned her boots and clothes, and witness gave a woman named Davis the money to go and buy her a new pair. A few days afterwards he met her in the street, and she said that her father had been taken up for drunkenness, and she had no food or money; and she wanted to come back to the stable. She stayed about a fortnight, and on one morning-witness believed it was the morning he left gaol-her father came and fetched her away, saying he wanted her to go and fetch her child and mother out of the Union.

women in lodging house

The deceased asked witness if she should go or stay, and he told her t please herself. She went, and that same evening she saw witness and asked him about trying to hire a room, because her father had broken up the home and sold it for drink. He offered her money to get a bed, but she said she would rather come away with witness to the stable. She slept in the carriage by night, and lived in the shed by day. She came there on and off until the end of August, and then she came permanently; and witness spent each night with her until January last, when his brothers persuaded him to sleep at home. Each day he always left the key of the coach-house with her, and she frequently got herself ready, and, after locking up the coach-house, put the key under the door, and went into town in broad daylight, and in the evening. Witness and her were together in the town on the night of the Town regatta. She had always remained of her own free will.”

But the prosecution pointed out that he had  padlocked the door from outside. Though he had given her food, she had no bed, no change of clothes, she was completely naked when her undergarments washed.

The case was yet again adjourned !


During the next day the case resumed  when much confusing and conflicting evidence was given.

The maid who worked in the house and garden of the Doctor that the cabman’s shed had backed onto claimed that she had never heard anyone in there, and she would have heard any voices easily when hanging out her washing. The children played in the garden, they had mentioned nothing untoward.

Yet, on another night, the servants bedroom window had been open as it was hot, they had heard some womans voice shout out “murder,” going to the window to listen, they noticed Burt’s stable light kept going on and off,  twice more they heard the same cry, but then it had gone quiet. For what ever reason, the women went back to bed and asleep, only telling their mistress of the strange occurrence the following morning.

When Sarah had been at the house in the care of the Colonel, the maid, Isabella Cruikshank, had tried to remove the rags curled in her hair, but it was so dirty and matted that she couldn’t get them out. She told her of overhearing the men plot to kill her …that is why she had escaped and run for help.

Despite all this damning evidence as to her captivity,  back came the surprising verdict that it was “death from natural causes.” 

Because the doctor couldn’t say how long she had been suffering from consumption, and couldn’t just say that it was her imprisonment that had caused it, there was no alternnate verdict.

Frederick Burt walked away scott free,


As an end note, the next year, on the 2nd March,  little Henry Guy aged 4 was christened at Holy Trinity church, his mother Sarah Guy…deceased.


So, what I wonder, was the truth?

The only certain thing was that young Sarah seemed to have been abused by everyone in her short life…maybe she was better off where she was.


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