Philobiblon: A Victorian almost-feminist and a Stuart jailkeeper

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A Victorian almost-feminist and a Stuart jailkeeper

Yes, I'm back from my 17th-century sedition, and got some nice pieces for that. But I was particularly taken by C. Jeaffreson, editor of the Middlesex County Records (Old Series) who wrote in 1892 ...
"at a time when countless gentlefolk of good birth and high education are sustaining themselves as teachers, artists, medical practitioners, legal practitioners, government clerks, private secretaries, journalists, tradewomen, hospital nurses without losing ... their ancestral dignity ... a lady of title ... would think twice and for a third time before she accepted the position of keeper of the county jail." (p. xxiv, in the 1972 edition)

He was talking about the case of Mary Lady Broughton, "widow" and "Keeper of the Gatehouse Prison" (in Westminster). On 29 August 1670 she was accused of "wittingly and wilfully" suffering Thomas Ridley, who was in her custody on the charge of stealing a silver cup worth 25 shillings, to escape. There's no subsequent information and the good Mr Jeaffreson concludes the case ends there.

Now I notice this is my 5th post for the day: enough already! I'm going away and not coming back, at least until tomorrow; 4,000 words to write in the meantime ...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The widow of the Denbigh county gaoler in the early 1720s took over from her husband (who was murdered in a particularly unpleasant fashion - poison, no less...) for at least a year or two. And I think I've seen one or two other references to that happening, but can't remember where now.

This Mary Lady Broughton wouldn't happen to have Denbighshire connections by any chance? Because I've seen a 'Dame Mary Broughton' in the Denbighshire records in 1683 (she was accused of assault along with two of her adult sons. I have a feeling she is described as a widow somewhere.) So I wonder if they're related, or even possibly the same woman (quite a few of the leading Denbighshire families had extensive London connections at the time).

I'm intrigued. I'll try to look up the reference in the library on Monday.

10/09/2004 10:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, forgot to sign off. That was from Sharon, in case you hadn't guessed already.

10/09/2004 10:31:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Hi Sharon,

I had guessed!

Sorry I don't know about country connections; in fact all I know about her is the paragraph on the post. I tend to put things on the blog snippets that I find interesting but are peripheral, or utterly unrelated, to what I was actually looking for in the source.(Saving the relevant stuff for the book ... I say hopefully.)

I am interested in the Gatehouse in an earlier period, from 1633 when Lady Eleanor Davies was imprisoned there, but I know the jailer then was one Aquila Weekes.

I'd be interested in what you find out though,
Thanks, Natalie

10/09/2004 11:35:00 pm  

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