Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Stevington > The Evidence of the Siblings

The Evidence of the Siblings

The Evidence of Mathew Draper

Draper's brother Mathew, of Westminster [Middlesex] testified that he had had a letter from his brother shortly after his marriage to Mary Kins, stating that this had taken place. He visited them at Astwood and saw them in bed together. He also stated that Draper acknowledged his son John to him. Draper sent John to his brother in London where he stayed until he died at about a year old. He also acknowledged his second and third sons, Thomas and John, who Mathew had often seen at Stevington. Mathew also remembered being shown a stone in Stevington church under which Mary had been buried.

Mathew remembered, about twenty five years before, being asked by his brother to go to Stevington where his brother told him that he had married Dorothy Kins, his sister-in-law and that Mathew saw her and knew her to be Mary's sister. He then told Draper that the marriage to his sister-in-law was unlawful and his brother "did endeavour to lessen the crime by alleging that some Kings had done the same and pretended to prove it out of the Chronicles to the best of this deponent's remembrance" but in the end Draper did acknowledge t him that it was unlawful "and was afraid his parishioners would put him into the Court". Then Draper revealed "that the said Dorothy, his wife, was big with child". Mathew asked him what he was going to do and Draper said he would deliver the child himself to keep it secret. He would then "carry it to London in a little leathern Portmanteau which he then shewed to him lied with feathers and a lid to open on to the top of it to give air".

Thankfully Mathew dissuaded his brother from carrying through this somewhat fantastic scheme and had Dorothy taken to London "a short time after in the night … by way of Dunstable". She lay at a midwife's house in 2a little street … that leads out of Stanhope Street into Clare Market in the parish of Saint Clement's". The journey was none too soon as, the day after she arrived at the midwife's she gave birth to a girl who was baptised Mary Smart. After three weeks Dorothy returned to Stevington via the Dunstable coach. Meanwhile Mary was "put out to nurse" with a Mrs. Arnall of Saint Ann's, Westminster where she stayed for seven years, Draper paying for her care and lodging. During this time Draper visited her in Westminster "several times" and "did take it into his arms and give it blessing and owned it to be his child".

After the seven years Draper went to London and, via his sister Margaret Yarrow, sent the child to his brother Thomas who lived at Banbury for another seven years. Draper paid £6 a year for Mary's upbringing. Mary was then removed to Northampton and Mathew remembered being at Stevington when a Mr. Riley of Northampton visited his brother for money for her board. Draper gave him money and lace as payment. The placement failed and she was then sent to Cambridge for two years. Mathew deposed that, on his visits to Stevington he often saw his brother "of a morning come out of the said Dorothy's chamber" and that they continued living together as man and wife. He also, once again, often saw them in bed together. Mathew finished by explaining that he had been in the army for fifteen years and lived "upon his pay".

The Evidence of Margaret Yarrow

Margaret, wife of Evans Yarrow of Stevington, agricultural labourer was John Draper's sister. She deposed that her brother had asked her to come "from her mother's in Warwickshire" to his house in Stevington and on her arrival she found two children called Thomas and John, whose mother had died about six months before. Margaret stayed there three years and her brother always acknowledged the children to be his by Mary, his wife. During Margaret's stay "Dorothy Kins, who was reputed the sister of the aforesaid mar, deceased, continued and dwelt with the said John Draper and that he then always called her Sister, and told this deponent that she must call her Cozen but at the same time told her he was married to her the said Dorothy".

Seventeen or eighteen years ago, Draper wrote to Margaret "being then at service in London, to desire her to quit her service and be ready to go along with the Child and accordingly the said John Draper in a little time after came up to London and then told this Deponent that she must carry the child (which child he then called by the name of Mary Smart) to his brother Thomas at Banbury and the said John Draper did in the night himself in a Coach bring the said Child to her, this Deponent, at an Inn in London, but in what street she cannot remember. And she, this Deponent, the next morning did by his direction carry the said Child in Banbury Coach to his said brother at Banbury aforesaid, and there left it with him, which said Child is the same person that now lives with the said John Draper and is accounted and reputed to be his Daughter".