(Three examples)

The accessibility of newspapers and whether they are indexed (or on-line) is variable. In the examples below I used "The Times" (of London) on-line archive to randomly search for surnames and places of interest. The "Times" carried reports of events throughout Britian, not just the "home" counties. Finding a report in the "Times" enabled access to a provincial newspaper which, like most, has not been indexed (though do check with the Record Office nearest your interest just in case).


It was a report on court proceedings, Hereford Azzizes "Verry Versus Watkins" - "Hereford Times, Friday 26 March 1836". Here is an abstract -

"This was an action of seduction. Mr Serjeant Talfourd stared the case on behalf of the plaintiff (Joseph VERRY) who, it appeared, was what is called a "little farmer" living in the parish of Much
Dewchurch and the defendant was employed in the same parish by his father."

"The plaintiff's daughter Elizabeth VERRY, a good looking girl of 18, became acquainted with Michael WATKINS on Michaelmas Day 1833 at a dance at a public house, although they had known each other for some time as neighbours."

"She had agreed to "give him her company" on his promising marriage - and continued to do so for a month or six weeks when an intercourse took place which ended in the birth of a child. On informing the defendant (Michael WATKINS) of her pregnancy he urged her to take some vegetable which she refused, saying - "I suppose it is to kill my child and if so, I should think myself just as wicked as if I killed it after it was born".

(The defendant then ceased communicating with her and made no contribution to support the child).

On her cross examination she admitted her father allowed her to go to dances at public houses and about six times she remained all night but denied intercourse with anyone other than Watkins.

"The questions put to the witness were of such a nature that the learned Judge ordered all the boys out of Court and advised all modest women to retire also, which they did. But a great many of a different sort remained and appeared to listen with degrading anxiety to the disgusting evidence."

"Mr Phillips, for the defendant addressed the jury in a powerful speech, commenting with great severity on the carelessness of the plaintiff Joseph VERRY in bringing up his child, the consequence being that she had become vicious and profligate. He undertook to prove that she had become so depraved before her acquaintance with Watkins that she had been guilty of the grossest acts of immorality in the public highways."

"A number of witnesses were then called who all stated that Elizabeth VERRY had for the last two or three years borne a very loose character. But as they all appeared to be friends of Watkins and there were variations and inconsistencies the jury found for the plaintiff Joseph VERRY and awarded damages of five pounds."

The "Times" report (of same date) added more biographical details -

"Elizabeth VERRY, examined by Mr McMahon stated - I am the daughter of Mr Verry. He has four children. I am 18, the eldest. I am living at home with my father. I receive seven pounds wages a year from him. Watkins offered me love and promised to  make me his wife. I became pregnant and was delivered on the 16th of last August. I told him of my pregnancy on the 5th of May last. He said if I was it was by someone else and advised me to take something. He said there was a tree in his garden called Savin."

On further examination  she said - "I was not accustomed to be out a night. I was never out except with Thomas FRANCIS and Watkins at midnight or at 2 o'clock in the morning. Yes, I know BOWDLER - and Charles MACKLIN, he is a mason. The defendant Michael Watkins is a sort of wagoner to his stepfather. Thomas SEALE slept in my father's home but I never stopped in his room except to go through it. I have gone to dances and I and my sister have stopped out all night. Yes, I was in a public house in Hourford this monring but I did not say I did not care a d---m what was said against me" (Note "Hourford" - interesting sounding of "Hereford").

Mr C Phillips (with whom was Mr Greaves) addressed the jury for Watkins -

"The girl was profligate and abandoned and the jury ought not to act upon her testimony uncorroborated by other evidence."

Mr Baron ALDERSON in summing up told the jury - "They were to be satisfied that the defendant was the father of the child, then in awarding damages they might consider the character of the young woman." :"If her conduct had become depraved since the seduction, the damages ought to be diminished. " "But if it were bad before, the case would be very different."  He pointed out very strongly the probability of stories told by witnesses for the defence and reprobated the conduct of those who came forward to divulge secrets which they nead not and ought not to have disclosed."

The child William Michael VERRY was christened in Aconbury Church 27 December 1835 and brought up in the home of his grandparents' Joseph and Mary Verry, Cross-in-Hand Farm, Aconbury. He worked as a farm servant for a MORRIS family at Holme Lacy and after his grandparents died in 1842 and 1847, emigrated to the USA circa 1855 eventually farming in Muscatine County, Iowa and had issue. His mother, Elizabeth went on to marry John COOPER of Holme Lacy. His father, Michael Watkins' fate has not been fully researched. But it is known that, by the will of his step-father (1843) James PORTER, Little Lowe Farm, Much Dewchurch, the lease of that farm was to devolve to him after his mother died. May we speculate that Joseph Verry, perhaps aware of this pending inheritance was seeking to force a marriage?

Finally, although the Savin (Juniper species) and its berries seem to have been known amongst the "upper classes" as an abortifacient from earliest times, I was surprised it was known by "small farmers" of Herefordshire and wonder how often if was used there.


Although not my family a random search of the "Times" Digital Archive for places my ancestors lived, revealed several reports of interest. This concerns a murder at Ruardean in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire to where my Verry family had moved in the 1850's. It is an event which must have been well talked about.

"The Times" 11 April 1876. In the Crown Court at Gloucester Joseph BIDMEAD was indicted for the wilful murder of Elijah READ at Ruardean."

"The prisoner and the deceased were drinking at the Rose and Hand in the evening of 17th January and it was proved by a police constable that up to half-past nine none of the party were drunk or disorderly. Later on, after a quarrel between two of the men had broken out and had ended peaceably, the accused said he would "knock"  Ben Read, referring to the brother of the deceased."

He then struck him and the deceased got up and tried to part them. "Immediately after he exclaimed "I am stabbed, I shall die" - and fell back. "Ben Read charged the prisoner with having a knife upon which the prisoner threatened if he said so again to knock his brains out with a poker."

More fighting occurred and the prisoner stabbed Ben Read and two others who interfered,.

"A Doctor came to the scene, who had been sent for, and it was found that the deceased had been stabbed in the side. The prisoner was present at the examination and held a candle while the Doctor attended to the wound. The next day another Doctor was called, and on the morning of the 19th death ensued. A post-mortem examination was held, from which it appeared that the deceased was muscular and healthy."

"The prisoner when charged with the act, admitted the blow, but said it was inflicted with a bone and then with a chisel. No knife was found on him, but the landlord saw one in his hand after the deceased had fallen and a witness proved that he had lent him one two days before." "It was the Doctors' opinion that the wound was caused by a knife."

"The learned Judge (Justice FIELD) summed up. His Lordship said the question would be as to what provocation there was, if any, and as to this he could not do better than adopt the words of another Judge. If they found the deceased did no more than was necessary to prevent the prisoner beating his brother, it was not manslaughter; but if he did more than was necessary, looking at the exited state of the prisoner's mind at the time, then it would be manslaughter."

The jury found a verdict of manslaughter and the prisoner was sentenced to 25 ytears penal servitude.

Finally, while the following report is of a matter less grave than the previous examples, it too concerns the Forest of Dean and reveals a little piece of genealogical information.

"The Times" 23 December 1902 "Wrongful Seizure of Furniture"

The high sheriff of Gloucestershire at the Shire-hall, Gloucester, yesterday, sat for the assessment of damages in an action brought by John Appleton, until recently a grocer's and draper's assistant at Drybrook, Dean Forest, against the Clerical and Medical Bank (Limited), Bristol. The defendants, who were sued for the wrongful removal of the plaintiff's furniture, did not appear. Mr Harry Lewis, the plaintiff's counsel, stated that Appleton became surety for his brother-in-law, William MINCHIN in respect of a loan of forty pounds, borrowed from the defendant company at 60 per cent interest and he signed a document which he was not aware at the time, was a bill of sale on his furtniture. The bill of sale was executed last July and in September the defendants, without any justification, as the plaintiff contended, he not having commited any breach of his agreement, seized the whole of Appleton's furniture in his absence, and without observing the requirement to put a man in possession for five days. When written to by the plaintiff's solicitors, the defendants said that they were quite prepared to fight Appleton upon any point with reference to the bill of sale, and suggested that they might deal with him in a criminal Court. Counsel said that the defendants' conduct was fraudulent, and that, instead of their business being a philanthropic one, as its name implied, it bore the impress of Shylock. He asked for vindictive damages, as it was a case of an aggravated character, and the defendants had not the conscience to come to Court and attempt to defend their conduct. The jury assessed the damages to be awarded to the plantiff at one hundred pounds."

A search in the local Gloucester paper may well reveal further details.

The "Times" Digital Archive (pay to use, though occasionally free) is probably the easiest portal to British newspapers, especially for those of us living overseas. Of course, armed with specific dates, ample time or funds,  the British Library newspaper collection should also be useful if one can make a personal visit or engage an agent.

Having found something relevant to your rsearch in the "Times" it becomes the "gateway" to discovering a report in a local newspaper where the content may be complementary. Depending on the rules of the depository a photocopy may be requested. However, because of damage many record offices are refusing to copy but will either abstract the report, arrange for it to be photographed or invite the requestor to employ an agent to hand copy the report.

Finally other journals and newspapers seachable on-line include "Gentleman's Magazine" and "Notes and Queries". (A GOOGLE search will locate these).