Mrs. Leigh Perrot in the goal.
Posted by P. Bingham on March 27, 1998 at 17:41:02:
In response to Regency gaols, written by Cheryl on March 27, 1998 at 14:50:24
Many families joined their prisoner relative, usually a father, in the British goal system. Charles Dickens spent some time of his youth in one while his father was imprisoned, I believe, for failure to pay his bills. Look a little further down and you'll see a little passage about Leigh Hunt who also had his family join him, but went much further than that!
As far as the case of Mrs. Leigh Perrot, she was sent to County Gaol at Ilchester as she awaited her trial at Taunton assizes. Her husband apparently had been unable to bail her out yet. He had to find a judge from the King's Bench to sign the order, but at the time, during the "summer" season, judges were hard to find. The prison was one like most, only she did not stay in the main cells where other prisoners would have been. She worked a deal with the goaler to stay in his home where he lived with his wife. She was also spared the wearing of the coarse "brown and yellow striped prison outfit. If she had stayed in a cell she would have likely been sleeping on straw and her roommate might very well have been a murderer. As it was not uncommon for family members to come along, there is no surprise that her husband stayed with her. Yes, there would have been a little extra payed for his right to stay there, or for any other family member. You'd be surprised at what money could buy. This was a way for the gaoler to suppliment his income, and the jailers as well. The gaoler's house would have been on the premises but would have been a separate building. It probably looked just like any other little house. This goaler also took her and her husband to London to find a judge willing to give an order for bail, finding none they did find "surities" from several traders (unfortunately rivals of the traders who accused her of stealing in the first place) but her accusers objected to this and eventually bail was refused. Mrs. Leigh-Perrot was escourted back to her little "house" prison. Mrs. Austen wrote to Mrs. Leigh-Perrot and suggested that she could send Jane or Cassandra to stay with her! Luckily she turned the offer down. But wouldn't that have given Jane Austen an interesting perspective? The goaler had five young children as well as two dogs and two cats. Tomalin didn't spare you any details in regards to the lack of cleanliness.
This sort of treatment was very common, especially to a woman of Mrs. Leigh Perrot's social standing. If you have the money that might make the life easier for a few gaolers or common jailers, then you could buy yourself a little ease. This situation that Mrs. Leigh-Perrot was able to obtain was not unlike that of many who would stay at a bailiff's house while waiting for trial, that is, if the prisoner was accused of something such as bankruptcy.
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