As I write this it is exactly 137 years ago to the day that my family would have got the full measure of John George Herrod’s duplicity: From The Sheffield Independent, 30th August 1879:
“THE ALLEGED ROBBERY BY A SHEFFIELD MAN AT SOUTHPORT
Yesterday, at the Southport Petty Sessions, John George Herrod, alias Arthur Walton, was again brought before the Bench upon the charge of stealing gold watches and chains from the Shakespeare Hotel, Southport, the property of the proprietress, Mrs. Kersaw, her daughter, and her niece. The prisoner, who is a young man, has for some time resided in Southport, and ostensibly occupied a good position, so much so that not the slightest notice was taken of his movements. On the 21st of December last he spent a great portion of the day at the Shakespeare Hotel, and after he had left the watches, chains, and a necklet were missing. Information was given to the police, and it was discovered that, although he was a married man, and the father of three children, all of whom, with their mother, were residing at Sheffield, to which place the prisoner also belongs, he had for two years been courting a young lady in Southport, to whom he handed one of the missing watches. This young lady had money in the Preston Bank, and from her he succeeded in obtaining £44. He told her to put the watch and chain out of the way, and forbade her ever wearing them. He always led her to suppose that he had a lot of money, and told her that he intended marrying her. The case had been adjourned several times in consequence of her not being able to attend, she having given birth to a child, of which the prisoner was the father. Another watch and chain he left, in about the last week in February, with a Mr. Bevan, proprietor of the Grapes Hotel, Vernon street, out of Dale street, Liverpool, who lent him £2 on them, the prisoner stating that he must have that amount, as he at the time was hard up. Mr. Bevan brought the watch and chain to Southport, when it was identified, in consequence of having seen a report of the alleged robbery in the newspapers. The prisoner also told the young lady that he had lost a lot of money with betting, and that he bought the articles when he had plenty of money. The defence was that the prisoner had bought the watches from some betting men in Liverpool, and that he had no knowledge whatever of the robbery until he was charged with it. —After a short consultation, he was committed to take his trial at the sessions.”
John George Herrod, estranged husband of Jane’s sister Emma, is revealed in this newspaper report to be not only a thief but as someone who habitually sees women as a means to an end. After leaving Emma and his three children with absolutely nothing but the clothes they stood up in, he spends the next couple of years thieving, gambling and ruining the life of another young woman. I am quite surprised as to the amount of outrage I feel – I’m not one for casting people as villans but John George Herrod is certainly auditioning hard for the role.
So in this way, having no idea where he had gone, Emma and the rest of the family find out that they now have a felon in the ranks, and that he committed adultery and fathered a child. As the distressing details were discovered I wonder if the family, and Emma in particular, found some consolation in realising that Herrod was now revealed to everyone as untrustworthy – to an alarming degree. Perhaps Emma would now be seen with more sympathy?
James Warburton, Jane and Emma’s father, was the local constable in Handsworth as well as the publican and maltster of the Cross Keys. He would have had some connections and now that he knew the whereabouts of Herrod, he and his son William (elder bother to Emma and Jane) started making enquiries into how Emma could be rid of Herrod. Glimpses into James’s character from Jane’s later letters show James Warburton to be someone who utterly adored his children and that he clearly regretted what had happened to Emma deeply. It was after Herrod came to light in this and the previous newspaper report that I believe James tried to come up with a plan to rescue his eldest daughter.