Richard Henry Sackett

(1813-1872)
FatherRichard Sackett (1783-1863)
MotherJane Kemp (c 1785-1851)

BIGAMIST DISCOVERED LIVING IN ESSEX
ABANDONED WIFE AND CHILDREN LEFT DESTITUTE IN KENT
by Marion Sackett

When tinman Richard Henry Sackett, aged 52, married cook Mary Webb, aged 47, at St. Leonards, Shoreditch, on 5th August 1867, he did more than ensure a life of well-made meals; he was committing the crime of bigamy. Although he claimed to be a widower, his abandoned wife Sarah was still living in Kent, and she was to out-live him by 20 years.

Richard Henry, a journeyman brazier and tinplate worker, had married his first wife Sarah Ann Kemp on Christmas Day 1835 at Shoulden, Kent, just three months after the end of his apprenticeship to John Fisher of Canterbury. It would appear that the marriage had been undertaken in a hurry because their first son, Richard, was already on the way. After his birth the family moved from Canterbury to Deal, where a daughter and two more sons were born between 1839 and 1847.

It seems that Richard Henry had tired of married life by 1850, and abandoned his young family. In August of that year, Sarah was so desperate that she placed her third and fourth children, Mary Jane and William, in the care of the Poor Law Guardians of Eastry Union. Eastry Workhouse was to be their home until 1857 (with brief breaks when their mother was able to remove them). Fortunately her father-in-law was able to take in her second child, John Kemp, but her first son, Richard, then aged about 16, must have been able to find work, and is thought to have kept in touch with his father – no more was seen of him until he reappeared in Stratford, Essex in 1881, having taken on his father’s zinc and tin business in the High Street, after Richard Henry died in 1872.

Was bigamy the poor man’s alternative to divorce? At this time, divorce was obtainable only through an act of parliament; a procedure prohibitively expensive for all bar the nobility of the land. So what choice did the ordinary man have? In some parts of the country, as memorably described by Thomas Hardy, an unwanted wife was taken to market and publicly “sold” to her new “husband”. While this process may have satisfied local opinion, it had no legal standing. Others simply chose to live in sin, and thus the myth of the “common law marriage” was born. Perhaps, some 17 years after he had last seen her, Richard Henry felt justified in assuming – or at least, claiming – that his first wife was dead.1

Richard Henry Sackett, son of Richard Sackett and Jane Kemp, was baptized at St Leonard's Church, Deal, KentG, on 14 March 1813.2 He died aged 59 in West Ham, EssexG,3 and was buried at West Ham CemeteryG, on 10 July 1872.4 He married first at Sholden, KentG, on 25 December 1835, Sarah Ann Kemp.5 She was born in Deal, KentG, in about 1816.6 She died in Eastry, KentG, in 1889.7 Richard married second, bigamously, at St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, MiddlesexG, on 5 August 1867, Mary Webb, daughter of Richard Webb.8,9 Mary was born in Epping, EssexG, between 1817 and 1821.10 She was probably the Mary Sackett whose death was recorded in the West Ham registration district, EssexG in 1901.11
     In 1841 Richard was living at Princess Street, Deal, KentG, and was recorded in the census as Richard Sackett, a publican, aged 25 and born in Kent. The other members of his household were his wife Sarah, aged 25 and born in Kent, and his sons, Richard, aged six, and John, aged three.12,13
     Richard left his wife Sarah in 1850. On 14 October of that year, Sarah was tried at the Dover quarter sessions accused of "larceny in a dwelling house to the value of £5." The court acquitted her, finding her not guilty. She was named in the record as Sarah Ann Kemp alias Sarah Ann Sackett.14
     Records for Richard and Sarah in the 1851 census have not been found but by 1861 he was living at 9 Harrow Cottages, High Street, Stratford, EssexG, and was recorded as Richard Sackett, a tin plate worker, head of household, married, aged 48, and born in Ramsgate, Kent. Also in the household were his "wife" Mary, aged 40, and born in Epping, Essex, and Mary Webb, a visitor, aged 20. It would appear that his "wife" Mary would be Mary Webb who he was to marry in 1867 and it is conjectured that the other Mary Webb would have been her daughter.15
     In 1862 and 1867 Richard Sackett was recorded in Kelly's Directory as a zinc & tin worker, of High Street, Stratford, Essex.16,17 In 1872 he was recorded in Kelly's as a zinc and tin worker of 92 High Street, Stratford.18
     The same entry appeared in the 1880 edition although he had died some eight years earlier.19 It is noted that Sarah described herself as unmarried in 1861, her husband having left her eleven years earlier, but by 1871 she described herself as a widow although Richard, with whom she was presumably not in contact, did not die until the following year, 1872. In 1871 Sarah was still living in Thomas Erridge's household at 123 Middle StreetG, and was recorded as Sarah Sackett, a servant (housekeeper), a widow, aged 55, and born in Deal.20
     In 1861 Richard's first wife Sarah was living at 123 Middle Street, Deal, KentG, in the household of Thomas Erridge, a boatman, and was recorded as Sarah Sackett, housekeeper, unmarried, aged 48, and born in Deal.21
     In 1871 Richard was living at 92 High Street, Stratford, EssexG, and was recorded as Richard Sackett, a tinman, head of household, married, aged 59, and born in Dover, Kent. Living with him were his "wife" Mary, aged 54, "son" Arthur, a tinman, aged 22, and born in Ramsgate, Kent, and Henry Doe, a boarder. (The "son" Arthur would have been Richard's nephew, Arthur Edward Sackett, son of Robert George and Judith (Fegen) Sackett).22
     Both of Richard's wives had to resort to the charity of the workhouse in their later years, Sarah in Eastry, Kent, and Mary in Leyton, Essex.
     The 1881 census shows that Mary was then an inmate at the West Ham Union & School, Leyton, EssexG. She was recorded as Mary Sackett, inmate, a widow aged 62 and born in Epping, Essex.23
     In the same year Sarah was living at the Union Workhouse, EastryG, and was recorded as Sarah Sackett, inmate, a widow aged 71 and born in Deal, Kent. (Although the stated age of 71 is at variance with other references which suggest she would have been 65 or perhaps 68, the place of residence and the birth place both support a conclusion that this would have been Sarah the widow of Richard).24

Children of Richard Henry Sackett and Sarah Ann Kemp

Appears inFeatured Sacketts
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ReferenceO.3

 Notes & Citations

  1. This article appeared first in The Sackett Family Association Newsletter in April 2005.
  2. Baptisms Register, St Leonard's, Deal, Kent (Transcript), "14 March 1813 Richard Henry Sacket s. Richard & Jane, Union Row. Father's occ: pilot."
  3. GRO Indexes to Deaths, 1837 to date (National Archives), "Sep qtr 1872. Sackett, Richard, 59. West Ham."
  4. Burials register, West Ham Cemetery, Essex (deceasedonline.com), "10 July 1872, Richard Henry Sackett."
  5. Marriages Register, Sholden, Kent (Mrs Nichol's Index), "25 December 1835 Richard Henry Sackett, bachelor, of St Alphege, Cant., & Sarah Ann Kemp, spinster [made mark]. Witnesses: Rd. Geo. Sackett, Rd. Sladden." [Rd. Geo. Sackett was probably Richard's brother Robert George Sackett.]
  6. Date of birth based on age 25 in 1841 census record, age 55 in 1871 census, and age 73 at death in 1889. Place of birth from census records.
  7. GRO Indexes to Deaths, 1837 to date (National Archives), "Mar qtr 1889. Sackett, Sarah, 73. Eastry."
  8. Marriages Register, St Leonard's, Shoreditch, Middlesex, "5 August 1867 Richard Henry Sackett, 52, widower, tinman, father Richard Sackett, pilot, & Mary Webb, 47, spinster, cook, father Richard Webb, labourer, both of 17 Boundary Street. Banns. Witnesses: James Boushall, Ann Boushall."
  9. GRO Indexes to Marriages, 1837 to date (National Archives), "Sep qtr 1867. Sackett, Richard Henry. Shoreditch. 1c:397."
  10. Mary's date of birth is variously calculated as c1821 based on her age being stated to be 40 in the 1861 census, c1820 if aged 47 on marriage in 1867, c1817 if aged 54 in 1871 (census), c1819 if aged 62 in 1881 (census), and c1820 if she is correclty identified with the Mary Sackett who died aged 81 in 1901.
  11. GRO Indexes to Deaths, 1837 to date (National Archives), "Jun qtr 1901. Sackett, Mary, 81. W Ham."
  12. 1841 England census, digital image from National Archives microfilm, Ancestry.com, Princess Street, Deal, Kent
    Richard Sackett, 25, publican beer house, b. Kent [11262]
    Sarah Sackett, 25, b. Kent
    Richard Sackett, 6, b. Kent
    John Sackett, 3, b. Kent
    [Ages of adults rounded down to nearest five years in 1841 census]
    HO107; Piece 466; Book: 2; Civil Parish: Deal; County: Kent; Enumeration District: 5; Folio: 31; Page: 7; Line: 13; GSU roll: 306861. [Also researched at PRO by Marion Sackett].
  13. 1841 Census for England & Wales.
  14. Website England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1791–1892 (Ancestry.co.uk) (http://www.ancestry.co.uk), "Kent, Borough of Dover and its Liberties, Quarter Session, 14 October 1850, Sarah Ann Kemp alias Sarah Ann Sackett, larceny on dwelling house to the value of £5, acquitted, not guilty."
  15. 1861 Census for England & Wales, RG9/1854/f56
    9 Harrow Cott., High St., Stratford, Essex
    Richard Sackett, head, married, 48, tin plate worker, b. Ramsgate, Kent
    Mary Sackett, wife, 40, b. Epping, Essex
    Mary Webb, visitor, 20, general servant, b. Epping.
  16. Kelly's Post Office Directory (London, Suburban, 1862), "High St., Stratford, Essex; Richard Sackett, zinc & tin worker."
  17. Kelly's Post Office Directory (Essex, 1867), "High St., Stratford, Essex; R Sackett, zinc worker."
  18. Kelly's Post Office Directory (London, Suburban, 1872), "92 High St., Stratford, Essex; Richard Sackett, zinc & tin worker."
  19. Kelly's Post Office Directory (London, Suburban, 1880), "92 High St., Stratford, Essex; Richard Sackett, zinc & tin worker."
  20. 1871 Census for England & Wales, RG10/?
    123 Middle St., Deal, Kent
    Thomas Erridge, head, widower, 56, mariner, b. Deal
    William Erridge, son, unm., 19, mariner, b. Deal
    Sarah Sackett, serv., widow, 55, housekeeper, b. Deal.
  21. 1861 Census for England & Wales, RG9/?
    123 Middle St., Deal, Kent
    Thomas Erridge, head, married, 46, boatman, [birthplace blank]
    Sarah Sackett, unm., 48, housekeeper, b. Deal.
  22. 1871 Census for England & Wales, RG10/1623/f14
    92 High Street, Stratford, Essex
    Richard Sackett, head, married, 59, tinman, b. Dover, Kent
    Mary Sackett, wife, 54, b. Kent?
    Arthur Sackett, son, unm., 22, tinman, b. Ramsgate, Kent
    Henry Doe, boarder, unm., 16, tinman, b. Mile End, Middlesex.
  23. 1881 Census for England & Wales, FHL 1341415, PRO RG11/1729/95/8
    Leyton, Essex
    Institution "West Ham Union & School"
    Mary Sackett, inmate, widow, 62, b. Epping, Essex.
  24. 1881 Census for England & Wales, FHL 1341236, PRO RG11/0994/116/4
    Eastry, Kent
    Union Workhouse, Eastry, Kent
    Sarah Sackett, inmate, widow, 71, b. Deal, Kent.
Last Edited22 May 2017