By Ruth Pringle
This article was originally published in the December 2005 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
I finally closed another chapter in my Family History today when a brown letter from Birmingham City Archives was delivered to me.
In the last issue of "Soul Search" I related how my Grand Uncle, Alfred Allibone Sewell, had erroneously married Mary-Ann Griffiths, who was already married to William Thomas Griffiths, a soldier who was away fighting in WW1.
A neighbour informed the police about her bigamy and she was arrested, given bail and committed for trial on Wednesday 1st December 1915.
I applied for the Court Records, thinking that there was a closure of 75years, but that was for Coroners' Inquests. The closure period for Courts is 100 years, or, if one is a family member it is up to the Court official to use his discretion. I got the information after 90 years but don't tell anyone!!!
Birmingham Record Office did not charge for this information and I have found their postal service for certificates, in general, to be excellent. I would like to publicly thank them for a most user-friendly approach.
Mary Ann Griffiths was 30 years old when she appeared before Mr. Justice Shearman, i.e. The Honourable Sir Montague Shearman, (Knight). She must have sunk low in her circumstances, as her occupation is given as "Bottle Washer", a terrible job, which is dirty, wet and extremely noisy. She was number six on the list and the charge was -
"At Birmingham, on the 26th June, 1915, the accused feloniously did marry and take to husband Alfred Allibone Sewell, her former husband to whom she was previously married, to wit, on the 11th March 1996, being then alive."
She pleaded "Guilty." Her sentence was "1 month imprisonment". She spent Christmas 1915 in jail.
I wonder why she did it? I suppose we will never know.
I feel just a bit sorry for her, especially this festive time of the year.
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