Bigamy in Petworth

By Tim Mander

This article was published in the August 2021 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

Both parties were tried and both parties were acquitted of stealing and receiving. They were in the clear. But who was William FULLICK and were did he fit into the scheme of things?
All became clear just three months later when Mary and William were once again in the dock together. It transpired from this later case that William Fullick had been a lodger with Thomas and Mary Sole.
First we have to turn the clock back to early February of the year of the latest court case when in the Golden Square, Petworth, love was once more in the air and preparations were underway for a quiet wedding between a widow and a widower. On 4th February 1878 there took place at the Congregational Chapel the marriage of William Fullick (widower) and Mary Sole (widow). Yes, Mary had declared herself to be a widow despite Thomas Sole, her husband, being alive and kicking!

Congregational Chapel where Mary Sole and William Fullick married in 1878.

Image licenced under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Quickly wind forward to 26th October 1878 and both William and Mary were in the dock again. This time the charge was Bigamy. It attracted the attention of the press from all over the south of England. ‘BIGAMY AT PETWORTH’ were the headlines in the days following as the news was splashed across the adjoining counties. Even the Morning Post picked up the case for the nationals.
Mary Sole, aged 40 was accused of ‘feloniously marrying William Fullick, her husband being alive’. To this charge of bigamy she pleaded guilty with no defence. She was convicted, sentenced to four months imprisonment and was to be kept to hard labour.
William Fullick, woodcutter, was accused of ‘feloniously aiding and abetting the other prisoner to commit the offence’. To this charge he pleaded not guilty and in defence put it that ‘the woman’s husband had given her up and did not want anything more to do with her, and therefore was not doing wrong in marrying her’. This defence caused the Morning Post to call him an ‘ignorant man’ and the Hastings and St Leonards Observer referred to him as being ‘densely stupid’. The court found William to be guilty and he too was convicted, sentenced to four months imprisonment and was to be kept to hard labour.
Once free from prison Mary appears to have behaved herself. She and William lived as Mr and Mrs Fullick and upon William’s death in 1895 she reverted to her maiden name of Mary Boxall.
Thomas Sole meanwhile led a alone in Woolbeding. He died in 1905 and was buried at Treyford cum Didling on 29th June 1905.

Photo of the ruins of St Peters, Treyford where Thomas Sole was buried in 1905.

Image Andrew Shaxson

Thomas Sole was born about 1829 in Lurgashall and was the first born son of Thomas Sole/Soal and Barbara Jordan. His two elder sisters were born in Birdham but, as Thomas senior and Barbara were regarded as paupers, and a Removal Order was issued requiring them to move to Lurgashall, their place of legal settlement.
Thomas, the son, always lived and worked in the area moving from Lurgashall to Titty Hill upon marriage and then to Woolbeding after separation from Mary.
He always referred to himself as an agricultural labourer, labourer or, on occasions, a shepherd. Thomas was buried at Treyford cum Didling on 29th June 1905.
There is more about this family in Maureen Storey’s Research Co-ordinator’s report