Courtney v Crowther - the background Seduction and perjury However you look at it, someone was committing perjury in the case that James Courtney (great x2 grandfather) brought against Elias William Crowther in February 1871, as both sides cannot have been telling the truth. Something nasty most definitely had happened to James’s daughter Mary Jane, but as she was a milliner’s servant - with unfortunate connotations to our Victorian jurymen one suspects - while the aforementioned Elias was a man of means with an income of £60 a year from property and thus a gentleman and entitled to vote, the outcome was really a foregone conclusion. But add into the mix a helpful neighbour knocked insensible by a presumably spiked drink, and Mary Jane’s aunt and her husband who ran the hotel where Elias lived and give evidence against their niece, and who benefit to the tune of £1000, the oil painting of his father and his books after Elias’s death and things suddenly look less clear cut, at least to modern eyes. The case was reported in both the Cheshire Observer and the Liverpool Mercury, with slightly different details in each. The plaintiff - James Courtney The Courtneys were an old Tranmere family of Mersey boatmen with possible roots in the Isle of Man with the name Cretney. James Courtney was born c1832 in Tranmere to parents John Lloyd Courtney and his wife Jane, née Blundell, and he married Sarah Windsor on the 7th May 1854. In 1861 they are living in Albert Place, Bebington, and James is a Porter. Living in Queen Street, Tranmere in 1871 James is a Master Carter: it seems he preferred to work on dry land. By 1881 the family are established in Meadow Lane, Tranmere and James is a Furniture remover (Carter); in 1891 he’s a Marine store dealer, in 1901 a retired furniture remover and in 1911, at the age of 79, a retired metal broker;  James died later that year. The defendant - Elias William Crowther Elias William Crowther was born in Queen Street, Tranmere on the 25th of March 1845 to parents Elias and Margaret who had married just two years earlier also in Tranmere. This was possibly Elias's third marriage. In the 1841 census he is living in Grange Street, Birkenhead with his wife Mary, probably née Ashworth, whom he had married in Rossendale in Lancashire with a licence dated 15th February 1815 which states that he is already a widower. Mary, aged 47, died in January 1843, and was buried in Birkenhead, and Elias - now aged 58 - married Margaret Rylance in the autumn of that same year. Elias William appears to have been their only child, not really surprising as Margaret was 40 at the time of their marriage. On Elias William's baptism entry (20th April 1845 in Bebington) his father's occupation is given as Coal Merchant; the 1841 census described him as Independent, on his marriage to Margaret (18th October 1843) he is a Gentleman, and in 1851 he is a Proprietor of Houses. The 1851 census also confirms his place of birth as Ros(s)endale in Lancashire. The two houses that he owned can be seen on the Tranmere tithe map for 1843  on the corner of the Old Chester Road and what would later become known as Princes Place - he lives in one and rents out the other. So Elias William grew up as the only child of elderly parents. His father died in 1854 at the age of 68, when he was only nine years old, and was buried in Bebington on the 30th August. He had written his will in 1846 shortly after the birth of his son and he spends six closely written pages giving details of the trust set up to provide for his widow and any child or children. Margaret didn't re-marry and in 1861 she is living with her son at 8 Old Chester Road - probably the same property as on the 1843 tithe map. She has a private income, and Elias jnr. is an apprentice. Margaret died in 1867 when she was 63 and was buried in Bebington on the 14th September. Now aged 22 Elias William was well-provided for, with a collection of properties in trust raising a good income. As a property owner he first appears on the electoral register in 1868, and from then right through to 1880 his abode is stated to be 36 Old Chester Road, Tranmere. There’s only one census where we can double check this and in 1871, aged 26 and a Gentleman, he is living with Edward and Mary Jane Burgess at the Queen's Arms Hotel, 6 Holt Hill, as a Boarder. Living at 36 Old Chester Road is Robert Jones, a Fireman on a Steamboat, and his family. The 1871 census was taken on the night of 2 April 1871 and six weeks earlier Elias William and the Burgesses had been involved in an extraordinary court case. Here I feel I must declare an interest: Mary Jane Burgess had been born Mary Jane Courtney and was the aunt of great grandmother Sarah Ann Courtney (1856-1924). She was born in Tranmere in 1828 and married Edward Henry Burgess in Liverpool in 1851. They don't appear to have had any children. She was the older sister of great great grandfather James Courtney (1832-1911), who was the father of the aforementioned Sarah Ann and her older sister confusingly also Mary Jane Courtney (1854-1921). The court case was reported in both the Cheshire Observer and the Liverpool Mercury in February 1871 and concerned events that had unfolded in the September of the previous year. The two reports interestingly pick up different details from the case and put slightly different slants on the evidence offered. The headline for both is the same: "Extraordinary action for seduction", though the Cheshire Observer adds "Fearful perjury".  On the 1881 electoral register Elias William gives his abode as 19 Whitfield Street, Tranmere, and he is living there with the Burgesses in the 1881 census. He’s still there in 1882, at 70 Old Chester Road in 1883 and 99 Old Chester Road in 1884. For the 1885/86 register he says his abode is 12 Cathcart Street, but when he writes his will on the 19th September that year he gives 3 Cathcart Street as both his and the Burgess’s address. Elias William Crowther died on the 26th December 1885 aged 40, at 48 Corporation Road, Birkenhead. The cause of death is chronic bronchitis and general anasarca, and the informant is Edward Burgess. The gross amount of his property is placed at £5.00, no leaseholds, and the main beneficiary of his will is Mary Jane Burgess, the wife of Edward Burgess, licensed victualler. He leaves Mary Jane one thousand pounds, the portrait in oil of his father and his books. He leaves his gold watch and chain to John Henry Taylor, mariner, of 245 Cleveland Street, Birkenhead, and Mary Jane's nephew. His death meant that the trust set up by his father had to be closed and an advert that appeared in the Liverpool Mercury for 27th July 1886 conveniently lists the properties he owned: To close a Trust. - By order of the Executors of Elias William Crowther, deceased. Valuable Freehold Property, Tranmere (near the new railway) and Birkenhead, by Messrs. Anderton & Jude, On Wednesday, the 11th day of August next, at Five for Half-past Five o’clock in the afternoon, at the Woodside Hotel, Birkenhead. Lot 1. The dwelling houses and shops nos. 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, and 75, Old Chester-road, Tranmere, 705 square yards of land or thereabouts. The dwelling houses nos. 36, 38, 40, and 42, Old Chester-road, and nos. 31, 33, 35, 37, and 39, Queen-street, Tranmere, 690 square yards of land or thereabouts. 2. The dwelling house and shop no. 144, Chester-street, and dwelling house numbered 2 Grange-street, Birkenhead. To be continued ...
Hopkins families: the Courtneys of Tranmere 2
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