20 April 2009

Wife selling in old England

'John Walker, emailing me from Warwick on wife sales, tells me it seemed fairly common in Cornwall and quotes several accounts from the West Briton newspaper, from 1818 to 1853. In November 1818 this Cornish newspaper reported a wife sale at Bodmin Market, thus: "A man named Walter, of the parish of Lanivet, led forward his wife by a halter, which was fastened around her waist, and publicly offered her for sale. A person called Sobey, who has recently been discharged from the 28th Regiment, bid sixpence for her, and was immediately declared the purchaser".

A further example, sent in by John, concerns the sale of the wife of George Trethewey at St Austell in March 1835 who was sold to a tinker for four pence, the couple then proceeded to a neighbouring pothouse for a jug of ale. There they were approached by a market collector of tolls where the 'husband' handed over a penny in commission, "the sum usually demanded for selling a pig"'.

- Tom Wood, Family Tree Magazine, December 2008

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