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  1. #1
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    Default Searching for Clara Annie Harris court cases

    I have a newspaper article from the The Western Morning News, 4th February 1919. Here is my summary:

    Clara Harris, a 28-year-old woman, who pleaded guilty to bigamy in Devonport. She married William Harris in December 1906 but went through a second marriage ceremony with Arthur Williams in June 1918.

    The judge found the circumstances peculiar and leaned towards showing more sympathy than antagonism. He sentenced Clara to one month in prison without hard labor, considering her health condition, and promised to address her pending operation after her sentence.

    Here is my summary for another article, from The Western Times, 4th Feb 1919:


    In Plymouth, a woman named Clara Harris, aged 28, who was visibly in poor health, admitted to the charge of bigamy at Devonport court. The prosecution was represented by Mr. Ambrose, while Mr. W. T. Lawrance defended her. The judge noted that the circumstances surrounding the case were unusual and engendered more sympathy for the defendant than condemnation. Despite this, she was sentenced to one month in prison without hard labor.


    Will there be court records for the trial? I would like to find out as much as possible, but in particular I would like to find out which prison she was sent to and when.

  2. #2
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    I haven't found the 1919 case, but I found an article in The Western Times dated 12 October 1917:


    Exeter Woman Sent to Prison at Barnstaple

    At the Barnstaple Petty Sessions yesterday, Barnstaple Board of Guardians further proceeded against Clara Ann Harris, of Exeter, for the non-maintenance of her children.
    Mr G Mills, Clerk to the Guardians, recalled that a letter was read from the defendant at the last Court to the effect that the Salvation Army at Exeter were going to try to get the children into their homes; but inquiries showed that the captain knew nothing of the case. He had heard nothing from the defendant since the last hearing. She was owing a considerable sum. The Bench sentence defendant to one month's hard labour.

    From North Devon Journal 18 October 1917 you learn that she did not appear in court, and that the case concerned two children who had become chargeable on the public purse.

  3. #3
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    UK,Calendar of Prisoners,1868-1929 at Plymouth Court has a reference to Clara Harris bigamy case.3rd Feb 1919.

    As well as the record for bigamy there’s a handwritten addition to the document.

    ‘1 month,Barnstaple Boro: 11th October 1917.Leaving family chargeable as Clara Annie Harris’

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    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Roberts View Post
    I haven't found the 1919 case, but I found an article in The Western Times dated 12 October 1917:


    Exeter Woman Sent to Prison at Barnstaple

    At the Barnstaple Petty Sessions yesterday, Barnstaple Board of Guardians further proceeded against Clara Ann Harris, of Exeter, for the non-maintenance of her children.
    Mr G Mills, Clerk to the Guardians, recalled that a letter was read from the defendant at the last Court to the effect that the Salvation Army at Exeter were going to try to get the children into their homes; but inquiries showed that the captain knew nothing of the case. He had heard nothing from the defendant since the last hearing. She was owing a considerable sum. The Bench sentence defendant to one month's hard labour.

    From North Devon Journal 18 October 1917 you learn that she did not appear in court, and that the case concerned two children who had become chargeable on the public purse.
    Thanks, Megan Roberts. I had found the pre-conviction articles, but this one is new to me!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pamelawagster View Post
    UK,Calendar of Prisoners,1868-1929 at Plymouth Court has a reference to Clara Harris bigamy case.3rd Feb 1919.

    As well as the record for bigamy there’s a handwritten addition to the document.

    ‘1 month,Barnstaple Boro: 11th October 1917.Leaving family chargeable as Clara Annie Harris’
    Thanks, Pamelawagster! Are you able to share a link or let me know where I can search this?

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowch View Post
    Thanks, Pamelawagster! Are you able to share a link or let me know where I can search this?
    I found it on Ancestry.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megan Roberts View Post
    I haven't found the 1919 case, but I found an article in The Western Times dated 12 October 1917:


    Exeter Woman Sent to Prison at Barnstaple.

    At the Barnstaple Petty Sessions yesterday, Barnstaple Board of Guardians further proceeded against Clara Ann Harris, of Exeter, for the non-maintenance of her children.
    Mr G Mills, Clerk to the Guardians, recalled that a letter was read from the defendant at the last Court to the effect that the Salvation Army at Exeter were going to try to get the children into their homes; but inquiries showed that the captain knew nothing of the case. He had heard nothing from the defendant since the last hearing. She was owing a considerable sum. The Bench sentence defendant to one month's hard labour.

    From North Devon Journal 18 October 1917 you learn that she did not appear in court, and that the case concerned two children who had become chargeable on the public purse.
    Don't let that headline lead you into believing that Clara was sent to Barnstaple prison.
    It means that the case was heard at Barnstaple.
    There had been a gaol/bridewell in Barnstaple but it closed in 1878.
    Quite a bit of history to be found if you stick 'Barnstaple prison' into a search engine.

    I don't know if this guide from The National Archives is any help.
    https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/...-and-convicts/

    I think I would start my search at Devon Archives.
    https://swheritage.org.uk/devon-archives/
    Vulcan XH558 - “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

  8. #8
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    Thanks, Pam Downes

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