Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Vicar Charged with Assault

The Old Vicarage, Cramlington
The pits are now closed, replaced by bedroom estates and leisure centers but Cramlington was a coal mining village in Northumberland. One chilly October night in 1874, the Rev. Joseph Smithard-Hind crept into a servant's bedroom - and poured a jug of cold water on her sleeping head. A late-arriving guest from London needed a fire lit in one of the vicarage bedrooms. The vicar had sent his son to waken Mary Ann Mulholland but he couldn't raise her. Mary Ann was none too pleased with her liquid wake-up call and gave notice in the morning. Mr. Smithard-Hind settled up her wages and - as he recalled - gave her 10 shillings by way of an apology. But egged on, no doubt, by her friends, the young woman went to the magistrates and the vicar of St. Nicholas Church was summoned for assault. The clergyman attended as called and explained the lodging crisis that unfolded that fall evening. He had employed no more than a "little cold water" to get his reluctant servant in motion. Miss Mulholland denied that she had gotten anything more than her due wages from the vicar but it was his word against hers. When Mary Ann took the extra ten shillings, she had - in effect - condoned the vicar's conduct. Case dismissed although Mr. Smithard-Hind was cautioned against such "violent and improper" conduct in the future.

"The Servant Problem" in a clergyman's home was a frequent cause for scandal in the Victorian church. The tragic story of the Rev. Joseph Weedow and his cook is told in Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1. (only $5.49 US; £3.86 UK) 

Photo: rightmove.co.uk.

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