Wife selling


Throughout the 1800s there was barely a year without a newspaper report of a court case involving the sale of a wife. It seems that some people believed that if a wife were taken to market on market day with a halter (or sometimes a rope) around her neck the transfer was legal. It happened all over the UK; for example, West Lutton 1801; Wrentham 1802; Sheffield 1802; Ireland 1806; Hull 1810; Leominster 1818; Selby 1827; Honiton 1828; Bridlington 1828; Liverpool 1829; Banbury 1831; London 1832; Lancaster 1832; Bath 1833; Portsmouth 1833; West Riding 1837; Bardford 1838; Bridlington 1838; Witney 1839; Bradford 1839; Wisbech 1840; Leeds 1844; Stockport 1851; Bodmin 1853; Bury 1854; Thirsk 1855; Devonport 1856; Stonehouse 1856; Bradford 1858; Dudley 1859; Selby 1862; Newland 1862; Merthyr Tydfil 1863; Armagh 1864; Liverpool 1864; Chester 1864; Wolverhampton 1865; Hull 1868; Blackburn 1868; Bristol 1871, and so on ...

Prices ranged from a shilling to £150. Punishments included a month's hard labour, a £5 fine.

The magistrates and newspaper reporters expressed disgust at the lower classes' behaviour and ignorance, and were particularly shocked to find the wife herself perfectly satisfied at the arrangement.

Illustrated Police News 1870

A much earlier case of wife selling, mentioned in the Morning Chronicle 30 October 1819

Morning Chronicle 28 July 1828

Illustrated Police News 21 Oct 1899

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