Epsom coachman wins breach of promise damages

The cases described on this website under 'Marital Mayhem' were pre-dated by Pizzey v Boulter. In Breach of Promise to Marry: A History of How Jilted Brides Settled Scores by Denise Bates, 2014, the author remarked that Sarah Boulter appeared to have been the only woman who was penalised in a breach of promise claim for poor conduct towards a man.

The Court

Sheriffs Court, Red Lion Square, Holborn, London, by George Sidney Shepherd, 1828.
Image Source Getty Images

The Gentleman's Magazine recorded during 1829 that in Red Lion Square, London,at the house at the north-east corner, an ancient Baronial Court was held monthly under the authority of the Sheriffs of Middlesex, before the Sheriff or his deputy. Whilst as powerful as Courts at Westminster, 'it was more expeditious and less expensive; persons seeking to recover debts could do so to any amount at the trifling expense of only six or seven pounds'. This department for the County, which handled about 24,000 writs every year addressed to the Sheriff, was an extensive establishment managed by the firm of Burchell, Sayer, Henchman, and Cator, who acted as deputies to the Under-Sheriffs to receive and execute all processes, summon all Juries, and hear and determine all causes in the Sheriff's County Courts. ct as deputies to the Under-Sheriffs to receive and execute all processes, summon all Juries, and hear and determine all causes in the Sheriff's County Courts.

The Case

The Ladies' Literary Cabinet, published in New York during 1821 had contained an article headed 'Ladies look out. - The following case will show that the ladies have no more right than the gentlemen to break their promises in love affairs!'
"Sheriff's Court, Red Lion-square London, June 2. Breach of Promise of Marriage.: -
This was an action for a breach of promise of marriage. The damages were laid in the declaration at one thousand pounds. The plaintiff was coachman in the family of Mrs. Bowen, at Colnebrook, and the female was also a servant in the same family. At first she entered the service from a charity school, and her letters proved that she had benefited by the education she there received. On her first entering the service of Mrs. Bowen, she received no wages; but as her industry and diligence made her a better servant, she had fourteen, and then sixteen guineas a year - a very handsome sum! At this period, the courtship between the parties began. He expressed to her his intentions of marrying her, and fixed all his hopes of happiness upon its being shortly realized. About this time, the female defendant, Sarah Burchett (Mrs. Boulter), purchased the sixteenth share of a lottery ticket, which, unhappily for all parties, came up a prize of 20,000 pounds. The learned counsel then read several letters written by the female defendant, after this good fortune, in which she still professed her intention to marry the plaintiff, and proposed that a public house or shop should be opened by them when thus united. She, at length, however, altered her mind and married her present husband; and that she did after the wedding ring had been got ready, and the banns had been out-asked in the church. After the witnesses had been examined, and Mr. Creswell had replied for the defendant, Mr. [Francis?] Henchman [Solicitor/Under-sheriff for the County of Middlesex] proceeded to sum up the facts to the jury. It was clear, he said, that a promise had been given and broken; and it was the province of the jury to say what damages the plaintiff is entitled for the disappointment he had sustained. The jury retired, and in a few minutes returned with their verdict assessing the damage at £200.

The Lottery

The lottery had been announced in the London Gazette of 3 July 1819 with the second two days of drawing set for 12 and 29 January 1820.

Sarah Burchett

Additional details of the case, including transcripts of letter apparently written between May and August 1820 may be read in Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin, Ireland), Thursday, 7 June 1821. The Bowen propery appears to have been Horton (Manor) House, Colnbrook, Bucks.

Sarah had been born to John and Hannah Burchett in Chobham, Surrey, and baptised at the parish church of St Lawrence, 30 December 1798. She could well have attended Sir William Perkins's Charity School founded in 1725 by a wealthy Chertsey merchant: originally for twenty five boys, the school had extended its education to include twenty-five girls from 1736.

The Charity School

In an indenture, made the 8th September 1736 (and subsequently enrolled in Chancery), between Sir William Perkins, of the one part; and the Right Honourable Heneage Earl of Aylesford, Henry Weston, Esquire, and George North, of the other part, it was recited that the said Sir William had not only thitherto continued, at his own costs and charges, to maintain the said school for 25 boys, but was willing also to institute another school, in the said town of Chertsey, for teaching 25 poor girls reading, the catechism of the church of England, and plain work; such girls to be of the parish of Chertsey, if the trustees thereby appointed should find so many there, in their discretion fit to be admitted into the said school, or of the three adjacent parishes of Thorp[e], Egham and Cobham [Chobham], any or either of them; and to grant and convey one other new-built brick messuage of him the said Sir William, in Chertsey, for the habitation of a schoolmistress, therein to teach the said 25 girls; and also, to provide and assign a competent revenue for the clothing such girls, and supporting the expense of such school …

it was further witnessed, that for providing a proper schoolhouse for the mistress to teach the said 25 girls, the said Sir William did thereby grant and convey unto the said parties of the second part, all that his new-built brick messuage or tenement, situate on the north side of Windsor Street, in the said town of Chertsey; to hold to them, their heirs and assigns, in trust, to permit and suffer such person for the time being as should from time to time be appointed in pursuance of the said indenture, to be mistress of the school for 25 girls, to occupy the said messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, as a school, house, for the use and purpose of teaching therein reading, the catechism of the church of England, and plain work, to 25 poor girls of the said parish of Chertsey, if the trustees should find so many there, in their discretion, fit to be admitted into the said school, or of the three adjacent parishes of Thorp[e] Egham and Cobham [Chobham], any or either of them …

A report, dated 18th December 1818, certified that a scheme had been laid before a Master of the Court of Chancery for the extension and improvement of the said charity, and its better direction and management for the time to come, whereby it was proposed, that the then present school-houses, which were in a very dilapidated state, and too small for the number of children who were the objects of the charity, should be sold, and that a piece of land situate at the west end of Chertsey, measuring one acre and a half, should be purchased, being sufficiently large whereon to erect two school-houses for the education of the children, and that so much of the charity funds should be sold, as, with the produce of the old school-houses, would raise £2,000 to be applied, or so much thereof as should be necessary, in discharge of the expenses attending the application to the court, and the proceedings consequent thereon, and in purchasing the said piece of land, and building new school-houses… Sarah Burchett would have left before the old accommodation [14 Windsor Street, Chertsey - SHC 3298/53] was abandoned but, because John Pizzey also grew up in Chertsey, the parties could have met whilst children.

The Boulter Marriage

On 27 January 1821, Sarah Burchett had married John Boulter at St Nicholas, Brighton.

John Pizzey and family in Epsom

Before 20 June 1820 John Pizzey seems to have entered the service of Samuel Knipe at Hookfield on Clay Hill, Epsom because Sarah addressed letters to him with that address. The opposing barristers seem to have been John Adolphus and Cresswell Creswell well known advocates likely to have been instructed by Samuel Knipe and Mrs Bowen in support of servants in their respective households.

After the case had been concluded, John sought comfort in another's arms because he and Charlotte brought a daughter, Sarah, for baptism at St Martin of Tours, Epsom, on 3 December 1823. Charlotte Cook from Epsom, however, did not marry 'Little Jack' Pizzey until 31 December 1824, at St James Middlesex - Westminster?

Samuel Knipe died during 1827 and by the 1841 Census Pizzey appears in the household of Mary Ashley [in Ashley House] on 'The Road Leading To The Corn Fields From High Street'. Charlotte was living in a messuage on the High Street [Lehmann 4C7]with their daughter Sarah and grandson Arthur (b. reg Epsom 3/1841). Sarah married Alexander Simmonds, 13 January 1847 (reg St James, Westminster 3/1847) and for the 1851 Census 10 year old Arthur is enumerated with his Pizzey grandparents on South Street, Epsom. Subsequently Arthur Pizzey disappears, possibly because his surname was changed to Simmonds.

In the 1871 Census John Pizzey appears as a 'retired coachman' with his wife Charlotte and married daughter, Sarah Simmonds. He died aged 75 and was brought for burial in St Martin's churchyard on 25 July 1871.

By 1881 Charlotte Pizzey, widow aged 84, was living off 'income from rents' on The Parade, Epsom, with her daughter Sarah J Simmonds. On 25 May 1882 she was brought from St Martin's church for burial in Plot C234 at Epsom Cemetery. Apparently Sarah Simmonds continued to reside in The Parade until interment in Plot C186 of Epsom Cemetery on 12 January 1893.

John Boulter and family at Staines and elsewhere

John Boulter had owned a painting and glazing business in Datchet but for the 1841Census John and Sarah were enumerated on Staines High Street with six children, and were still there in 1851. John Boulter's death came to be registered in Staines for the March Quarter of 1856 - His Will, 'Painter of Staines', proved 25 February 1856, PROB 11/2226/422, had been made the previous 17 January leaving everything to his 'dear wife Sarah, the sole Executrix. He was buried at the parish church, St Mary's Staines, on 25 January 1856. The plumbing and glazing business was continued by his eldest son, Edmund but he became bankrupt in 1868.

The widowed Sarah is found in Buckingham for the 1861 Census as a 'Housekeeper' aged 62 at Alpha Road, Upton. Her unmarried daughter Eliza, born 1836, remained with her employed as a governess. The death of Sarah Boulter appears to have been registered in Marylebone for the June Quarter of 1872.

The conclusion

A lottery windfall which did not lead to happiness ever after!

Brian Bouchard © May, 2017