A husband on sufferance in his wife’s house

This post’s title is the dramatic first sentence, in capital letters, of a report from the magistrates’ court at Hastings, in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, 22 October 1870. It continues:

JOHN THOMAS MULHEARN, of 28, Warrior-square, coachmaker, was summoned, but did not appear, for having disturbed and annoyed his wife, Jane Mulhearn.

Mr Philbrick in a pertinent speech opened the case for complainant. He then called

Mrs Jane Mulhearn, who deposed that she was the wife of the defendant, and was married to him in July, 1854, at St Mary Magdalen. On the May in the following he deserted her. Since that time she had got her own living by keeping lodgings. She contributed to defendant’s support, who had earned nothing since, with the exception of three weeks he was at work at Mr Rock’s. On the 22 September, 1859, she obtained a protection order from the Bench. After the desertion he remained away for three or four years, but since he returned she allowed him to sleep and have his meals in her house, and without any charge. Defendant had been from time to time a great annoyance to her, and used to ring the bell to annoy the lodgers. At midnight of the day mentioned in the summons the defendant came to the area door and rang the bell. Complainant went to the front door and told him to come in that way, but he refused to do so, and continued pulling the bell for about twenty minutes. He then broke the area window and went in that way, although the front door was opened. Complainant held the house under a lease from Mr Beecham since 1862. She had never done anything to dissolve the protection order.

A fine of 20s and costs, in default fourteen days’ imprisonment, was imposed.

In the following week’s issue, the 29 October 1870, appeared the following notice:

I hereby give notice that I am not answerable for any debts contracted by John Thomas Mulhearn. Jane Mulhearn. 28, Warrior Square, St Leonards, 28th October 1870.

This sounds conclusive: a final breakdown in the relationship. Yet, in the census the following April, we have at no. 28 the following household:

John T. Mulhearn, head, married, 48, coach maker, born Oxford

Jane Mulhearn, wife, 48, married, lodging house keeper, born Somerset Milvern

Sarah A. Mulhearn, dau, 7, born Sussex St Leonards on Sea

Eliza Carpenter, niece, 6, born Somerset Clipstable

Elizabeth Shaw, ser, unmar, 20, ser domestic, born Kent Pembridge

Not only were they apparently together, there had been a daughter born after he had returned to the house.

The couple had married at St Mary Magdalen, 31 July 1854, both of the parish, he son of a coachmaker, she daughter of James Carpenter, farmer. I cannot trace him in the 1861 census, during the separation, but she was at 2 St Margaret’s Terrace, married, lodging house keeper, with a 16-year-old “servant of all work” and four lodgers. In 1871 she evidently had no lodgers.

In the 4 October 1873 issue of the Observer we have the following notice.

DEATHS. September 22nd, at Warrior-square, St Leonards, Mr John Thomas Mulhearn, aged 51 years.

In the 1881 census Sarah was in an apartment at 28 Warrior Square, widow, lodging house keeper, with her daughter and a servant. She evidently had rented the rest of the house out. She died in 1888 in the Isle of Thanet, Kent. As for Sarah the daughter, she named John Mulhearn, lodging house keeper, as her father when she married in 1884 in Somerset.

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