The Hannah Chronicles – Shocking Immorality

1880 – Shocking Immorality -Sheffield Independent 05 March 1880, p4 col2

In 1880, Hannah and her husband Alexander ROLLETT made the papers again with regards to their ‘shocking immorality’. According to the articles, Hannah had taken up with Henry Banks, who happened to also be married. Selina Banks, in turn took up with Alexander – in some kind of ‘wife swap’ scenario.  Hannah went round ‘to fetch her child’ (how long the child had been with his father is unclear) and an argument ensued during which Hannah attacked Selina with a fire fender.

SHOCKING IMMORALITY. -At the Derby Police Court, yesterday, Selina Banks was summoned for assaulting Hannah Rollett. – The complainant’s husband, it appears, lives with the defendant, and Mrs. Rollett formerly lived with defendant’s husband. Complainant went to defendant’s house on Sunday to fetch her child, and defendant assaulted her with the fender. – The Bench convicted the prisoner, and the Chairman (Ald. Turner) described the revelations that had been made as shocking in the extreme. A fine of 5s. and costs would be inflicted.

1880 – marriage laws – Derby Mercury 10 March 1880, p2 col6

THE MARRIAGE LAWS.-Selina Banks was charged by Hannah Rollett with assaulting her. -The complainant’s husband has left her, and lives with the defendant. Complainant went to the house where the pair live, saying that she had come for her child. A row ensued, and the assault took place. -Defendant, in her defence, said that the complainant had been unduly intimate with her husband, and had caused her to be separated from him. She therefore went to live with Mrs. Rollett’s husband. -Mr. Turner (who had taken the chair in the absence of Mr. Bailey) said the case had revealed a most disreputable and immoral condition of affairs. Defendant would be fined 5s. and costs, or seven days’ hard labour.

Alexander was still living with Selina at the time of the 1881 census (April) – also with them were his son William, and Selina’s son Joseph (both 6 years old). Perhaps William was the child referred to in the articles?  Either way, the incident seems to have marked the end of Hannah and Alexander’s marriage despite being unable to officially divorce.

Interesting note: a few months after the 1881 census was taken, Alexander was found ‘drunk and riotous’ in Rivers Street.  He claimed to have been “off his beer” for two years before having a tipple at his sister’s wedding. The sister would have been Sarah Ann Rollett whom Hannah had attacked a few years previous.

Derby Daily Telegraph 16 August 1881, p3 col3

The Slums of Derby

early-postcard-willow-row-old-derby
Willow Row, Old Derby

If you lived in the West End of Derby in the 19th century, you were considered to live in the slums.  It is here that the families I’ve researched lived mainly in what was known as court housing (see Discover Liverpool for a good explanation of this type of housing).

An article on the Derby Telegraph site mentions that this area was part of an 1849 report to the General Board of Health on “The Sewerage, Drainage and Supply of Water and the Sanitary Conditions of the Inhabitants of Derby”;

 In Willow Row, Court 1, 103 inhabitants shared two privies and residents reported that milk would turn to curd when mixed with water from the communal pump…

Observations of Walker Lane, where 75 cases of typhus fever were reported between June 15 and September 14, 1847, were: “The houses are of the most inferior description and the inhabitants of a piece with their houses; to crown all, there are lodging houses, which are the principal headquarters of vagrants, and of those comers and goers who, for reasons best known to themselves, prefer darkness to light.”

Model of Court Housing via National Museums Liverpool

It is in these conditions that Hannah Bates, William Lamb (& their families) lived most of their lives.  The slum clearances of the 1930s mean that the court housing is now long gone but it’s important to keep these living conditions in mind when researching the people of the area and trying to understand their lives.

derbymap
2016 map of Derby (old street layout  in black)