The man whose wife had sex with the lodgers

adulteryIn 1900, a Pimlico hairdresser and waiter sought a divorce from his wife, on the grounds of adultery.

His wife seems to have been a busy woman – she and her husband rented out their spare rooms to lodgers, and she was accused of sleeping not just with one but with all three of them.

The husband, Ephraim Riseley, had married Emily Elizabeth Murkett at St John’s in Fitzrovia on 9 May 1886. Ephraim, a coachman’s son, was 23; his bride, the daughter of a carpenter, was 24; both were originally from Huntingdonshire.

They moved into a house at 15 Glasgow Terrace in Pimlico, and had two children, Edwin Ephraim, born in February 1889, and May Emily, born in August 1891.

Ephraim had been working as a footman and butler since his marriage, but wanted to invest for his and his family’s future – so he took over a hairdressing business. They moved to 4 South Wharf Road in Paddington, where Ephraim installed Joel Edwards as manager of the hairdresser’s, renting out one of his rooms to him, with the business being run from there. The other rooms were taken by lodgers named Alfred Leaman and Mr Hammond.

While Edwards was running the hairdresser’s, Ephraim continued to work as a waiter or footman at private functions, which often required working through the night into the early hours of the morning.

On 3 July 1899, when he returned home at 3am after finishing work,

“he found his manager and wife occupying the same bedroom.”

Ephraim's divorce petition, taken from Ancestry.

Ephraim’s divorce petition, taken from Ancestry.

He unceremoniously turfed the couple out into the street, and when it had reached a more civilised hour, lodged a petition for divorce. Initially, he only named Joel Edwards, but then, later, he requested that he be allowed to amend the petition by adding charges of adultery with both Leaman and Hammond – making it clear that he had never found out, or been told, the latter’s first name. He also recorded that he had only been made aware of these ‘offences’ on 30 July, although he didn’t note how he had found out or who had told him.

He alleged that Emily had slept with Leaman at their house on 29 June 1899, and with Hammond on 30 June 1899 at the same address; in other words, that she had slept with different lodgers on consecutive days, both in the marital home. It was only Edwards, though, who Ephraim thought his wife had regularly slept with.

The divorce was granted, and Ephraim was awarded custody of the couple’s children. As soon as he divorced, he married again, and in 1911 was living in Fulham, where he was working as a gentleman’s servant. His children, Edwin and May, were still living with him, together with his daughter Mary Elizabeth, from his second marriage – born only a year after his divorce case.

Emily, meanwhile, so maligned in the divorce case, with her response to Ephraim’s charges unrecorded, was not so fortunate. For the next decade, she eked a living as a charwoman. The 1901 census recorded her as married still; by 1911, she chose to describe herself as a widow. There was no sign of Joel Edwards – or, indeed, any lodger living with Mrs Riseley. She obviously knew the dangers of having lodgers now.

Sources: The National Archives, divorce case J77/673/454 (also on Ancestry); Reynolds’s Newspaper, 18 March 1900; 1911 census for 20 Burnfoot Avenue, Fulham; 1911 census for 42 Theobalds Road, Holborn; 1901 census for Paddington (address not visible on census return).

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Miss Ingrouville and the bigamous “baronet”

314px-ForAfternoonWear1894The press was agog in 1899, when it heard about Agnes Roselle Ingrouville. “All must sympathise,” The Era reported breathlessly, “with the distressing position of Miss Agnes Ingreville [sic].”

Agnes, aged 27, was appearing in the Divorce Court, seeking the end of her marriage on the grounds that her husband already had a wife living.

She had married just two years earlier, to a 39-year-old baronet named Greville Louis John Temple – the couple marrying on 8 March 1897 at St Peter’s, Pimlico.

However, a year later, in August 1898, a court case was heard in New York. A woman named Estelle Wassall was seeking a divorce – from Greville Louis John Temple.

Estelle had married Greville Temple in 1895, but three years later, he had confessed to her that he had since married Agnes in London.

Agnes too sought a divorce, filing the papers on 3 March 1899. Greville Temple failed to appear at the Central Criminal Court to defend himself, and Agnes was duly awarded a decree nisi.

Why did Greville fail to defend himself? There was good reason. On 20 June 1898, Greville had been convicted of bigamy at the Central Criminal Court, after Estelle’s case had been heard in the States.

Greville was given a harsh punishment – he was sentenced to five years’ penal servitude (at a time when others convicted of the same offence were more likely to receive six months).

He was therefore already in prison when Agnes sought the divorce from him, his conviction providing her with a clear-cut case.

It also turned out that in addition to being a bit of a cad when it came to marriage, the bigamist was also anything but a baronet. The grand Greville Louis John Temple was actually William Woodman Runcieman, a chancer from Chelsea.

Born there in 1858, he was the son of a Welsh commercial traveller, and named for his father, his middle name being his mother’s maiden name.

He spent his early childhood in Ewell in Surrey, before being sent to stay with his uncle, an army schoolmaster, at the Royal Military Asylum of Children of Soldiers in the Regular Army, back in Chelsea. He was educated there, under his uncle’s supervision.

Runcieman is not to be found in the 1881 census; the next time he appears in the archives is in April 1889.

He was convicted at the Oxfordshire Easter Quarter Sessions of obtaining an endorsement to a cheque by false pretences – with an additional charge of larceny not proceeded with – and was sentenced to five years’ penal servitude.

Runcieman's initial conviction in 1889.

Runcieman’s initial conviction in 1889.

He served his sentence in Dorset, at Her Majesty’s Convict Prison in Portland, where he was listed as a convict in 1891.

Therefore, when he was convicted of bigamy, his earlier conviction was considered and he was given a harsher sentence as a previous offender.

Agnes’s decree nisi granted on 12 June 1899 and the final decree on 22 January 1900.

She may have had reason to want to divorce Runcieman quickly, for as soon as the final decree was issued, she married again.

Dartmoor Prison, c.1879

Dartmoor Prison, c.1879

Conned by a man who said he was a baronet, Agnes’s second husband made no such claims.

Meanwhile, William Runcieman continued to live a life not suitable for a baronet – this time, in the confines of Dartmoor prison.

 

 

Sources: The Era, 17 June 1899; Old Bailey Online, trial of William Woodman Runcieman, bigamy, 20 June 1898 (t-18980620-426). 1871 census, 1891 census, 1901 census and Oxfordshire Quarter Sessions register (Easter sessions, 1889) via Ancestry.