Bigamous Marriage at St Mary’s Church, Ruabon (1857)

Bigamous Marriage at St Mary's Church, Ruabon (1857)

Benjamin Jarvis was a old blind collier who lived in Rhosllanerchrugog. Despite his old age and his blindness he was obviously still a cad!

On the 26th August 1854, Benjamin Jarvis married Sarah Evans from Ponkey, more recently known as Ponciau, at the local registry office.

According to Benjamin Jarvis, to rid himself of his wife, he sold her to a friend, John Jones also known as Barnabas Jones for 1s 2d. In the days when only the wealthy could afford a divorce, a traditional custom was that a wife could be sold to create a divorce, although this practice had no legal basis.

However, it transpired that Sarah had in fact left him to live with John Jones. Furthermore, she had a child with John Jones, and it was later alleged that she had been bigamously married to him.

Benjamin Jarvis successfully wooed Puah Roberts, also from Rhosllanerchrugog. On the 4th April 1857, Benjamin Jarvis and Puah Roberts went to see Mr Lloyd, the Parish Clerk for St Mary’s, Ruabon, and in accordance with the customs of the established church, the Banns of Marriage were published and advertised . On the 6th June 1857 Benjamin Jarvis, despite knowing that he was already married and that his first wife was still alive, married Puah Roberts at St Mary’s, Ruabon.

Whilst it would appear that none of their neighbours made any mention or objection prior to the marriage taking place, the bigamous marriage caused gossip in the village. The gossip reached the ears of the vicar, Reverend B.M. Bonner, who in turn informed Police Sergeant Stant.

On Saturday 11th July 1857, PS Stant took Benjamin Jarvis into custody and charged him with bigamy, and kept him prisoner until the next available court. On Monday 13th July 1857, Benjamin Jarvis appeared before the Wrexham court, and the case was adjourned until Monday 20th July 1857 for further evidence to be obtained.

When Benjamin Jarvis appeared before the Wrexham Court on Monday 20th July 1857, despite him admitting the offence, the court felt that the case was serious enough for it to be committed to the Ruthin Assizes court, and Benjamin Jarvis was bailed to appear at that court. An application was made for a warrant to apprehend his first wife, Sarah, for bigamy. However, this request was denied as no evidence had been presented to prove that she had married John Jones, and it would appear that matter was not pursued any further.

On the 27th July 1857, Benjamin Jarvis appeared before the Ruthin Assizes court. For the crime of bigamy he was sentenced to one months imprisonment.


Source: Written and researched by Wayne Cronin-Wojdat, B.A (Hons.), MSc – Historical Gems.