Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MARCH 7th  

On this day in history in 1827, took place the Shrigley Abduction

The Shrigley abduction was a notorious kidnapping and duplicitous marriage of a young heiress, Ellen Turner.  

Ellen Turner was the only child of William Turner, a prosperous cotton magnate, and High Sheriff of Cheshire, of Shrigley Hall, Macclesfield. She was aged 15 and one of the most eligible heiresses in the land. Ellen attracted the attention of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who had a previous history of enticement, having eloped with a daughter of an officer in the Indian Civil Service, and married her in secret ceremony. His wife was now dead and he was seeking another victim.  

On 7th March 1827, Wakefield sent a servant with a carriage to Ellen's boarding school in Liverpool, with a message to the mistress of the school, stating that Mr. Turner had been taken ill and required to see his daughter immediately.  

The servant took Ellen Turner to an inn in Manchester, where she met Wakefield, who told her that her father's business had failed and that he must take her without delay to Carlisle, where Mr. Turner had fled to delay his creditors. On the way to Carlisle, Wakefield elaborated that her father had reached an agreement with his main creditor, a banking company, whereby a portion of his property would be transferred to Ellen, provided that she were married to a respectable gentleman, like himself.  Ellen believed this fabrication and agreed to marry him.  

Wakefield took Ellen across the border to Scotland, to Gretna Green, which had become the elopement centre of choice, for those who wanting to exploit the more relaxed marriage laws of Scotland. At Gretna Green, they were married in the blacksmith’s shop, by the anvil.  Wakefield now claimed that Mr. Turner had left for Paris, and that the newlyweds were to follow him there, and they departed at once for Dover and then to Calais.  

Meanwhile, Ellen's parents received a letter from Wakefield, who informed them that he had married their daughter. Mr. Turner was outraged and enlisted the help of the police, who discovered that Ellen had left for France. Mr. Turner sent his brother, accompanied by a police officer and a solicitor, to Calais where they tracked down the missing couple. After she learnt the truth, Ellen returned with her uncle and Wakefield fled for Paris.  

Wakefield had insufficient funds to remain in Paris, so when he returned to Britain, he was arrested in Dover and committed for trial at Lancaster. His brother, step-mother and his servant, who had assisted in the abduction, were also sent for trial. Wakefield was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to three year’s hard labour at Lancaster Castle Prison. As the marriage had been unconsummated, it was annulled by the court. 

On his release, Wakefield left for the colonies and became one of the founders of the settlement of South Australia. Ellen Turner was genuinely married, aged 17 to Thomas Legh, a notable magistrate, and sadly died in childbirth aged 19, but was survived by a son.

Previous day       Next day      

©2006 Ward’s Book of Days