You can only Marry One at a Time!

Hertfordshire Mercury, 19th December 1914



At Cheshunt Police Court on Wednesday, Charles James Burton (30), giving an address at 1 Cromwell Villas, Cromwell Avenue, Cheshunt, was charged with feloniously and bigamously marrying Clarice Hester May Rawkins at St Peter’s Church, Regents Square, on October 11th, his lawful wife, Edith Kate Burton, being then and now alive.

Outlining the case for the prosecution, Mr Kershaw, of Tottenham, said that the defendant had made an extraordinary series of false statements, whereby he had imposed upon a respectable girl, only 22 years of age, who was a telephone operator in a London hotel.

His first marriage took place on 15th August 1908, and not only was his first wife still living but, in ignorance of his action in marrying again, she had actually sent him two sums of 30 shillings.  The defendant had told Miss Rawkins that he earned £6 per week, and that he had been educated at St Augustine’s College, Canterbury.  He had also said that he held a lay preacher’s licence, granted by the Bishop of London, which document was in fact a forgery.  His second marriage took place by licence, granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to obtain this licence, the defendant had been required to swear an affidavit, which he did, falsely.  The defendant had told Miss Rawkins that he was in business with his father who was a forage contractor, whereas it appeared that his father really earned a living by carting around manure, whilst the defendant himself had done no work for months.  So heartless was his conduct that the defendant actually induced Miss Rawkins  shortly before their marriage to accompany him to a celebration of Holy Communion, and the Bench would know what to think of that !

The Clerk pointed out that the Bench were not concerned with such points, but which would no doubt be taken into consideration should the defendant be committed for trial.

Miss Rawkins, giving an address at Ashgrove Road, Goodmayes, Essex, bore out Mr Kershaw’s opening statement.  She added that she had first met the defendant at Southend-on-Sea on 3rd September.  She had believed him to be a single man.  The defendant had told her that he had preached at various churches,  and he gave into her keeping what purported to be a lay preacher’s licence, a cassock, a surplice, a girdle, and a hood (produced).  Mr Kershaw pointed out that the licence bore no seal and, where the Bishop’s signature should have appeared, the name was printed.  The Chairman remarked that the vestments were such as a chorister might wear.

The witness said that the defendant had told her that his father was a forage and agricultural contractor.  She had asked to be introduced to his parents but he had made excuses and said that his father was very ill, and that his mother was prostrate with grief.  The defendant had told the witness that he had preached at the church of St Mary of Eaton, Hackney Wick.  The witness had been to a service of Holy Communion with him at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden.  He had told her that he would make a will in her favour and, after their marriage, would make over to her the sum of £500.  The defendant had said that Mr Dean, his family solicitor, would arrange these matters.  The witness never met Mr Dean, but on one occasion had spoken to him over the telephone.

After their marriage, the defendant only contributed slightly to the expenses of the household.  The witness took most of her meals at her place of business.  The defendant borrowed money from her and had not paid it all back.  As a result of what she had been told, the witness went to see the Reverend C. B. Law.

Frederick James Sandford, of Hackney Wick, verger of the church of St Mary of Eton, said that he had known the defendant for about 12 years, during which period he had been in the choir.  The cassock and surplice produced were such as would have been worn by the defendant when singing in the choir, but he would have had no occasion to wear either the girdle or the hood.  The witness attended the defendant’s marriage at the church to Edith Kate Knight, who was present that day in the Court.

Mr Jessop remarked that the defendant’s lawful wife could not be called until the new Act providing for such cases came into force on 1st April.

Continuing, the witness said that so far as he knew, a lay preacher would be required to hold a certificate.

In reply to the defendant, the witness said that he knew that the defendant had given addresses to men outside the church, and he might also have spoken in Eton Mission Hall.

Detective Sergeant James Bishop said that, on 5th December, he visited the Rev Law and, after the interview, the witness went to Hackney Wick where he saw the defendant’s lawful wife.  On the Sunday morning, 6th December, the witness went with Inspector Tritton to 1 Cromwell Villas and there met the defendant.  When told he was arrested for bigamy, the defendant said “Yes, that’s right.  I won’t give you any trouble.  Let me say “good-bye” to her” (meaning Miss Rawkins).  When taken to Cheshunt Police Station and charged, the defendant made no reply.  The witness handed in certified copies of both marriage certificates.  The defendant had no questions to ask, but expressed himself as grateful to the police for the tact that they had shown when making the arrest.

The Rev C.B. Law, Vicar of Cheshunt, said that, on Saturday, 28th November, Miss Rawkins had called on him at the vicarage and had shown him her marriage certificate and a lay preacher’s licence.  The following day both Miss Rawkins and the defendant paid him a visit.  On the Monday, Miss Rawkins called on him again.  The witness made enquiries about the preacher’s licence, and then informed the police.  The defendant had no questions to ask, but thanked Mr Law for the trouble he had taken in the matter.

Inspector Tritton corroborated the evidence of Sergeant Bishop and added that, after being charged, the defendant had asked permission to write a letter, and had said to the witness  “I do not look upon this as a serious offence.  My wife is nothing to me, although we lived together for over 4 years.  We agreed to separate last year”.

On 12th December, the witness searched a room lately occupied by the defendant and Miss Rawkins at 34 Regents Square, St Pancras, and there took possession of the vestments produced.  That (Wednesday) morning, the defendant said to the witness “Are you going to produce that hood?  I bought it for a friend in Australia.  It denotes a theological degree of St Augustine’s College, Canterbury”.

In reply to the defendant, the witness agreed that the period during which the defendant had lived with his wife might have been stated as 6 years.  The witness added that he understood him to say that the friend for whom he had bought the hood was in Australia.  The defendant said “One must plead guilty.  I believe I may make application to the Justices to obtain legal advice”.

The Clerk told the defendant that to obtain that assistance gratuitously he must show he had a defence and prove himself a poor person, otherwise he could only obtain legal assistance when his case came on at the Assizes.

The defendant applied that he might be allowed to see his lawful wife.  The Bench said that no doubt the police would make the necessary arrangements.  The defendant was committed to the Assizes, the date of which has not yet been fixed.  As he left the Court, the defendant thanked the magistrates for the consideration that he had received.



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