Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Bigamist: What Happened Next?

The bigamy case featured on the archive website as Paths to Crime document of the month for May 2011 has now been fully catalogued with summaries of all the depositions under reference QSR1841/4/5/39. Richard Kelly had married Mary Ann Crawley of Bedford while still married to his first wife, Amelia Austin. Despite his excuses - which varied from claiming Amelia was already married to someone else to believing that she was dead - Kelly was found guilty of bigamy and sentenced to one year in gaol. A newspaper report of the case tells us that "The prisoner asked the Court whether, when he came out of gaol, he was to be served so again by the first wife. The Court hoped he would be in a better mind; she was his legal wife."

After a little digging I have discovered that Richard Kelly and Amelia did indeed eventually resume their relationship as man and wife. In one of the Quarter Sessions documents Richard Kelly describes Spalding in Lincolnshire as his home. In 1851 a Richard Kelley, aged 31, was visiting William Kelley, an innkeeper at Spalding. Both Kelleys were natives of the town. Richard is described as married, but there was no wife recorded with him. An Amelia Kelly, aged 30, was living in Whitechapel where she was described as married and a "relative" of the other member of the household, 67 year old Thomas Murphy from Ireland. This Amelia was born in Beccles (Suffolk) and was working as a dressmaker. I can find no record of either Richard or Amelia on the 1861 census, but in 1871 Richard Kelly, a factory foreman born at Spalding aged 53, was living in the parish of St.Leonards, Shoreditch with his wife Amelia Kelly, aged 50, born in Lowestoft (Suffolk). As Richard and Amelia met and married at nearby Great Yarmouth this must surely be the same couple. In 1874 the death of Amelia Kelly, age 52, is recorded at Whitechapel.

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