Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mary Crawley (not of Downton) and the Newdigate Rectory Scandal

St. Peter's Church, Newdigate, Surrey
A clergyman must set an example. "The Clergyman and his house is as it were a light placed in the parish, to which all eyes are turned for example and guidance." Thus the outrage in September 1854 at the events alleged to have occurred at a rectory in Surrey. 

The Rev. Arthur Sugden, son of the Lord Chancellor, was rector of Newdigate. He was accused of allowing rampant immorality under his roof. 16 year old Mary Crawley, a new housemaid, went to the police claiming that on a Sunday night (!), she had been sitting up smoking and drinking with the groom (Elphick) and the cook (Maria). They were joined by 15-year old George Elton, the younger brother of Mrs. Sugden. Mary and Maria went to the bed they shared; Mary claimed she locked the door, but then heard Elphick telling George, "You get in on Crawley's side." What followed was an unprintable story of "appalling profligacy." Mary couldn't scream because the cook placed her hand over her mouth. Mary's story of "violation" was news across England. There were rumors that "Master George" was being packed off to Germany. The Society for the Protection of Women intervened to prosecute George, a "genteel-looking" lad, as well as Elphick and Maria. Mary Crawley made a poor witness. She admitted Elphick had been in her bed before. She had never called George her "little husband" but she had kissed him. She had also been sacked by the Sugdens when they learned she was Catholic. The jury was instructed to consider well "the conduct of the woman" making the charge. All three were acquitted and the judge (Baron Platt) declared that there was "not the slightest ground" for any criticism of life at the Sugdens (thanks, in part, to all new faces "below stairs.")

A Yorkshire vicarage scandal is one of five tales told in the new E-book Clerical Errors - A Victorian Series, Volume 1.
A new Kindle has just been released - or download the free app for phones/tablets. Thank you.
Comments: victorianga@aol.com
Illustration: Geograph (Creative Commons) 

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