Bridget Kenny (1855-)Bridget Coyne (née Kenny) was baptised at St Werburgh’s Catholic Church in Chester on the 16th September 1855, and her birthdate is given as the 6th September. Although she didn’t have to, her mother registered her birth on the 19th of November that year, and gives her birthdate as the 15th October. This is not the only problem with her birth registration. I’ve seen quite a few birth certificates in my time but never one with so many crossings out and initialled corrections. Bridget’s parents were Michael Kenny and Margaret McDonnell and both had been born in Ireland, arriving in Chester in the 1840s, probably as refugees from the famine. They married in Chester on the 31st July 1852 in the Roman Catholic Chapel, Queen Street. Michael was a widower: his first wife Bridget Stanton had died in Chester on the 5th November 1851 just one day after giving birth to twins Michael and Bridget. Tragically both twins also died before the week was out. Michael and Margaret Kenny went on to have five children: three daughters and two sons. Bridget was their second child, and joined her older sister Mary who had been born in 1853; Anne was born in 1857, John in 1863 and James Francis in 1868.Bridget’s birth certificate appears to be a case of mutual misunderstandings. Her father’s name was originally entered as Michael Cannon, corrected to Kenney; her mother’s name was originally Bridget Cannon, corrected to Margaret Kenney. Was their Irish accent totally inscrutable, was English even their first language, or was Margaret confused about the questions she was being asked? It looks perhaps as if the corrections were made once Margaret was specifically asked what her name was when she made her mark. The address on the certificate is 23 Stevens Street: the centre of the city’s Irish district, dominated by dilapidated and overcrowded lodging houses. Michael Kenny with his first wife Bridget, and Margaret McDonnell (or McDonald) are both lodging in that street in the 1851 census. Michael and Margaret Kenny, with daughters Bridget and Ann are still in Stevens Street, at number 12, at the time of the 1861 census. By 1871 they have moved to 22 Seaville Street; Michael, as he has been on all previous censuses, is an agricultural labourer. Bridget, now aged 15, appears to be working away from home as a servant to Jane Dean, a retired Sadler, in Abbey Square, Cathedral Precinct.Bridget married John Coyne on the 20th May 1876 at St Werburgh’s Catholic Church, and by 1881 they are living at 26 Love Street with two children: Thomas Patrick was born at the end of 1877, and a daughter Ann was born in July 1879. On the 5th of July 1881 great grandmother Bridget Coyne presented herself at the Chester Workhouse. With her were her two children: Thomas, aged three and a half and Ann who would be two in four days time. Describing herself as a Roman Catholic from the St. John's area of the city and the wife of John, a Water Bailiff, she gives her reason for entry into the Workhouse as "Deserted". She was discharged a week later to the address of her mother, Margaret Kenny of Fosbrook Street. Though she went back to John: WARNING TO HUSBANDS. John Coyne, water bailiff, was summoned by his wife, Bridget Coyne, for assault. The case for the complainant was that her spouse drank and spent his wages himself, not leaving a sufficient amount for her support. The result was that she complained, and he assaulted her several times. The case had been adjourned from a previous day, and in the interim the husband again struck his wife. The defence was a mutual recrimination, the husband ascribing to his wife the vices of drunkenness and prodigality with his wages, which he swore he delivered to her weekly with regularity. The Bench, believing the woman's story, sentenced the defendant to a month's hard labour. Cheshire Observer Saturday May 17 1884.Bridget herself already had a criminal record as she had been found guilty of assault on a neighbour in July 1878. Possibly while John was in prison, Bridget left home. Deserting her husband and her children, and re-naming herself Mary Coyne, she “obtained situations as a single woman, and while in service in 1890 as housemaid at Combe Court, Kingston-on-Thames, she made the acquaintance of the gardener, Arthur Lowdwell. Three years afterwards they were married at the Kingston Registry Office, she describing herself as a spinster.” (From report of the proceedings at Westminster Police Court in the Liverpool Mercury 26 November 1897)They had until shortly before the bigamy trial lived together in a cottage at Blendworth Hill, Horndean, on the estate of Mr Williams, a Hampshire magistrate, but it was in Chelsea that Mary gave herself up to the police. They were living at the time at 10 Uverdale Road; as this address was the residence of Arthur’s sister Dinah when she married William Kemp in 1898, and it backs on to Tadema Road - I feel there might be more to this story than meets the eye.London Evening Standard 31 July 1897Mary appeared twice at Westminster Police Court; at her first appearance she entered the dock “attired in black” and weeping, but as they could not call any evidence as to the first marriage, the witnesses being in Chester, she was released on bail. Two weeks later she was back in court, and Terence Doyle, one of the witnesses to her marriage to John Coyne, said she had been badly treated by her husband, so she had left him. Arthur Loudwell was asked whether he knew her first husband was still alive when he married her, but he declined to answer; he did deny that it was his bad treatment of her that had made her give herself up to the police. Mary was bailed again, this time to appear at the Old Bailey.Three weeks later Mary appeared at the Old Bailey charged with bigamy. Her defence was that she thought her husband was dead, and she was found not guilty. Though actually it was the seven year rule that saved her: “Mary Coyne. Feloniously marrying Arthur Loudwell, her husband being alive. There being no evidence that the prisoner had seen her husband within seven years, the Court directed a verdict of Not Guilty”. [from Proceedings of the Old Bailey]In her trial at the Old Bailey, Mary gave her trade as Nurse, so the Mary Coyne aged 40, widowed, born in Chester and a Trained Hospital Nurse living in Flat 4, 29 Glengall Road in Willesden in 1901 is possibly her. I have no idea what happened to her subsequently or whether she had any further contact with her children.Her husband John Coyne, lived out his days in Chester, and the children were brought up by Bridget’s (Mary’s) mother, Margaret Kenny, with whom they had moved to Bebington near Birkenhead by 1891. Their daughter Ann married John Charles Hopkins (who registered John Coyne’s death in 1913 - so his children kept in touch with him) and their son Thomas sailed for Toronto, where apart from a spell in Europe in World War I, he spent the rest of his life. Arthur Loudwell married Lucy Warren in the Reigate registration district in the autumn of 1898.
Hopkins families: The CoynesJohn, Bridget (Mary) & Thomas : from Chester to Toronto