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One Wife Too Many

This month we highlight the case of Richard Kelly, who in October 1841, was tried for bigamy. Many witnesses were called to give evidence and we get an idea of the somewhat hasty weddings which led Richard first into marital disharmony and then into gaol.

Richard married Amelia Austin in Great Yarmouth in April 1839, he then married Mary Ann Crawley in Bedford on the 8th of July 1841.

Marriage Register of St Pauls 1841

The case hinged on whether Mr Kelly knew that his first wife was still living at the time of his marriage to Mary Ann. In his evidence Kelly, also known as Richard Richards, first claimed that the marriage lines dated 22 April were false as no one at Yarmouth knew his name until July. He then claimed that after his marriage to Amelia Lucy Austin she had shown him marriage lines that showed her to be married to a man called James or John Sadler at which point he threw her out and didn’t see her again for three months. He claimed she later wrote to him at Deerham and ‘I sent her word if she would behave herself I would try her again: she sent me answer back to say “She did not care a Damn about me and should not come” and I never heard of her from that time till I heard of her being dead when I was at St Neots by two women travellers that I knew.’

Marriage Licence of Richard Kelly 1841

The case highlights how the Quarter Sessions records tie in with other records in Bedfordshire & Luton Archives’ holdings. We hold: the marriage license for Kelly’s marriage to Mary Ann, who was under age and had to have her parents’ consent (ABM95 8 July), the marriage register for St Paul’s, which shows clearly that there was some confusion over Richard’s surname (P1/1/18), the Bedfordshire Mercury for 23 October 1841 giving a write up of the case and the gaol register (QGV10/2), which describes Richard as 24, 5 feet 8 inches tall with brown hair and grey eyes.


  Report in the Beds Mercury

Evidence of Richard Kelly in Quarter Sessions Papers

Unfortunately we don’t know what became of Richard after he served his 9 months in Bedford Gaol. According to the Bedfordshire Mercury he had 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” we may hope so too.