Sunday, October 18, 2015

DIVORCE - 1896 Leonard Shelford BIDWELL vs Susannah BIDWELL nee WARBURTON


DIVORCE - 1896 Leonard Shelford BIDWELL vs Susannah BIDWELL nee WARBURTON

I didn't know a lot about my 2 X great grandfather or great grandmother.  But after a few years I became curious and started searching for information.  Now remember, this was way before the internet and in libraries and research rooms, it wasn't a simple 'push' of the button to find this information.  So I hunted and hunted and eventually found a Divorce Index, which I curiously looked at.  I had no idea, that they had divorced.  In fact, it wasn't that common for people to divorce, one of the reasons given, was because of the expense involved. So I needed to investigate more about the Divorce of the Bidwells. But I couldn't discover any more information other than the Divorce Index. 


The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 in England gave men the opportunity to divorce their wife if the wife had committed adultery. The downside to this was that any children of the marriage became the property of the husband.  Thus, the mother could be prevented from having any contact with her children.

Eventually, I came across this article on the Trove website:


In the Supreme Court yesterday. Mr. Justice Hood dealt with the following divorce causes:- 


This was a petition by Leonard Shelford
Bidwell, of Malmsbury, miner, for a divorce from his wife, Susanna Bidwell on the grounds of desertion and adultery. Mr. Kenny appeared for the petitioner. Evidence was given by petitioner that the parties were married at Kyneton on 30th November, 1873, and in 1883 settled down at Malmsbury. Four children were born of the marriage. In October, 1886, husband and wife quarrelled over the visit of a man who used to call on the latter during petitioners absence. They continued to live in the same house, but he ceased to cohabit with her from that time.  In 1893 she gave birth to a child, which he said was not his. In May, 1893, she left him without cause, and went to live at Diamond Hill, Bendigo. He did not go after her.

Between 1888 and the date of desertion she used to leave home for two and three weeks at a time. She visited Kyneton and Melbourne, but would not tell him where she stayed. She finally left home without telling him she was going. Mr. Justice Hood said he thought it clear there was no evidence of adultery, and there was not sufficient evidence of any desertion contrary to the husband's wish. He utterly disbelieved the husband's story. Petitioner said he suspected his wife of misconduct with some man, but he continued to live in the same house with her, though he suspected her sufficiently he refrain from cohabiting with her. Even after the birth of the child, which he said was not his. He continued to live with her and support her for five years, though she frequently absented herself from home. He (Mr. Justice Hood) did not believe the story, and would refuse the petition.

 "DIVORCE COURT." The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954) 14 Nov 1896: 10. Web. 18 Oct 2015 .

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  1. What an interesting story you have uncovered, a glimpse of the hardships concerning divorce in the late 19th Century.

  2. Yes, Marie. It was a scandal at the time. Something that the family just 'glossed' over when asked about.