7 Dec 2011

Part 16: A question resolved!

Those of you who have followed this Blog from the beginning will remember the tragic story of Jane Swinfield. My great-great-aunt, who was baptised at Earl Shilton in 1829, was convicted at the Leicester Quarter Sessions of January 1841 for stealing her mistress’s purse containing money, a gold ring and a pair of scissors. An account of her sentence can now be read through the very recent release of the digitised images of many 19th century newspapers from the British Newspaper Archive. Both the Leicester Mercury and Chronicle ran the story. We now know that Charlotte Bugg was the victim of the larceny.

Jane was sent away to Millbank Prison, Westminster, in late May where she was still awaiting transportation for seven years at the time of the 1841 census. Due to the intercession of a charitable prison visitor, who petitioned on her behalf, she was pardoned and released in very early August. What became of her?

No sign can be found of Jane in the 1851 census using any clever searches in the national indexes which are available from any of the major providers and there is no “good” marriage for her. The only possible record for her was a death registered in late 1854 in the Windsor district of Berkshire. Was that her? I have now obtained a copy and her fate is known.

Poor Jane died on 23rd November in the Union Workhouse aged just 26. It would be interesting to know when she was admitted as she was certainly not there in April 1851 at census time. Of course, no records of that institution survive from that date. The cause of her demise was recorded as phthisis, otherwise TB. It seems that she finally succumbed to the physical weakness which had been the reason for her early release from prison. Her “unsound lungs” gave up in the early winter of 1854. Perhaps she would have been better served by being sent to the other side of the World to join her distant cousins in sunny New South Wales!

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