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Topics / People/Mary Eaglefield

Mary Eaglefield



If all men are born free, how is it that all women are born slaves?

Mary Astell C18 philosopher



Leicester Journal – December 9th 1887




A BRUTAL HUSBAND. – James Eaglefield, 67 a higgler  Worthington, was charged with assaulting his wife, Mary 62, on the 19th of November. The prosecutrix, who appeared with her face much bruised and discoloured, said that while she was milking her cows in the shed on the day mentioned, her husband came up and pulled the stool from under her, and knocked her out of the shed. He hit her on the head with the stool, and threatened to knock her brains out. She had previously suffered from his violence, as he regularly beat and kicked her. The prosecutrix, who appeared to be a very respectable woman, went on to tell the Bench that her husband was constantly drinking, and that she had kept him for the last seven years without his earning a penny. All the cows were her own. She implored the protection of the Bench against her husband, who was continually beating her. P.C. Prue said he had often heard at night defendant threatening his wife, and the latter had frequently complained to him, though he had not seen any actual violence. The Bench convicted defendant, and sent him to prison for six weeks hard labour.


On reading this sad story we decided to find more background:


Background from further research

1841 Census James Eaglefield was born in Breedon in 1820 and was living with his parents in Breedon.


1861 Census James is married living on his own on Main St Worthington near the chapel, occupation coal seller. 

His wife Mary is boarding with Samuel Bailey a shoe maker, her occupation is Glove Stitcher.  Her father-in-law an Agricultural Labourer boarded next door with his brother Abraham a Coal Higgler.


1868 June 19th Leicester Journal – ASHBY PETTY SESSIONS

George Mee, Cordwainer of Worthington, was charged by Samuel Bailey with assaulting him at Worthington, on Friday the 5th of June. These parties and also their witnesses had been drinking in a public house the greater part of the day, and being rivals in the shoe trade, they did all they could to annoy one another. Case dismissed, each party to pay his own costs. The defendant in the above case was charged by Mary Eaglesfield, housekeeper to Samuel Bailey, with an assault on her at the same time and place, but at the suggestion of the Magistrates, this case was withdrawn.


1871 Census James is still on Main street occupation Agricultural Labourer with a House keeper Julia Gibbs 27 who was born in Liverpool.


1871   March 11th Leicester Chronicle  ASHBY PETTY SESSIONS

James Eaglesfield, of Worthington, was fined 10s. for allowing his asses to stray on the highway. Defendant is an old offender.


1881 Census James and Mary are now living together in Worthington he is still an Agricultural Labourer


1891 Census James and Mary are living in Worthington he describes himself as a Farmer, but is classified as neither employed nor unemployed.


1897 February 19th  Leicester Journal – ASHBY PETTY SESSION


At the Ashby Petty Sessions on Saturday, before Geo. Moore, Esq., Colonel Partridge, and John German Esq. John Englefield, labourer, of Worthington, was summoned for assaulting his wife. Mr. J. J. Sharp, solicitor, of Coalville, appeared for complainant, whose life, he said, was in jeopardy, and he asked the Bench to make an example of the defendant, who was an idle man, and had been kept by his wife for years.  Complainant stated that she was taking the cows out when her husband hit her in the face. He turned her out of the house, and she was afraid to live with him as he constantly ill-treated her. Geo. Barker, parish constable, spoke as the defendant turning his wife out of the house, and P.C. Adcock said from what he heard “there were six of one and half a dozen of the other”. The defendant, who had twice been convicted of assaults on his wife, was now committed to gaol for one month with hard labour. Mr. Sharp asked the Bench to remit the costs but they declined.


1900 Summer James 79 dies


1901 Census Mary 75 occupation is Cow keeper  living in Worthington.



This is a tragic story of an able woman who was always subject to abuse and cruelty from her husband  and was unable to escape it when she was separated from him by her landlord. For his last 20 years she was the bread winner and provided him with the money for drink.


How this is indicative of other woman at this period we can only speculate  What we do know women had very little rights. Divorce  was not an option for women until the later part of the C20.  Calling himself a farmer indicated that James bore scant consideration for the Married Women's Property Act 1882 .



The census indicates that the Eaglefield’s lived 2 properties from the Chapel. The site indicated is therefore the most likely site for their property

Map Eaglesfield Property.jpg
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