But soon after Woolsey had settled in to his parish of sixty souls, he was called to the Bishop's palace in Norwich. Bishop John Sheepshanks had received a troubling letter, stating, "One day last summer, the Rev. Jeremiah Woolsey took me for a cycle ride and, taking advantage of me, seduced me." Miss Evelyn Hoare of Shrubland Lodge, Eaton, had since had a child. "Inasmuch as Mr. Woolsey has declined to make any offer and to see me personally, I must beg your Lordship to institute inquiry into the truth of the allegations brought by me."
In January 1899, the case of Woolsey v Hoare was heard at the Norwich Assizes. The clergyman (the plaintiff) admitted meeting Evelyn at a dance, and they had cycled and lunched together many times. He had thought she was "the one" but owing to some issues within the Hoare family, he stopped seeing her. He was astounded when he then learned of the accusation she had made. On the day in question, he had ridden with her but he had never misconducted himself. Under a searching cross-examination, Woolsey adhered to his denials.
|Bluebell Marsh (Norfolk Wildlfe Trust)|
Evelyn was 21 and a "smart-looking young woman." She was from a prominent family and her father was a local factory inspector. She told the court that on 7 July 1897, she met Mr. Woolsey in Norwich and they went cycling along the Yare. It was a bit late for the famous bluebells but they stopped at a place called Bluebell Hole near Eaton, where, in a copse, he seduced her. Under cross-examination, she admitted she was very angry when Woolsey stopped seeing her. She even wanted to "wring his neck," On the stand, Evelyn admitted also keeping company with a local constable, P.C. George Rollitt. She hadn't told her parents about George because he was below their station. He had given her gifts. She also admitted going to him first with news of her "condition." The manager of the Norwich Castle Museum testified that Evelyn and Rollitt had to be asked to leave one day because their "courtship" was offending the other guests.
All of this led Mr. Woolsey's barrister to heights of eloquence with the all male jury: "She is not believable. She is a confessed, unchaste, impure woman. Do not condemn upon her uncorroborated and contradictory statements a man whose character had hitherto been beyond reproach." The jury very quickly found for the Rev. Woolsey and awarded him £500 in damages.
The little congregation in Brightwell welcomed Woolsey back and he remained their vicar well into the 20th century. In 1900, he married the daughter of the rector of March (Cambridgeshire).
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