Monday, 12 December 2011



In early December 1862, after four months awaiting trial for a serious offence, George Dennis of Cranbrook was acquitted at Maidstone Assizes. It was bad enough being imprisoned for such a time but he also had worries about his wife and children.

Only a day or so before his arrest his wife had borne their third child. What most immediately concerned her was how to provide for the children. She feared she might have to go to the workhouse. ‘I cannot bear to go there,’ she said. ‘They have taken George away and if I go there my poor children will be separated from me too.’ She knew that if the Guardians offered her some financial relief she would be able to keep the family together. But the Guardians were adamant: she must go in to the workhouse. If she refused she would have no help from them. Her father, a farm worker, now offered to take his daughter and her three children into his house and provide for them on condition that the Guardians would allow them two gallons of flour and two shillings a week.

One morning, after having had a small piece of bread and a little weak tea for breakfast, Mrs Dennis, carrying her baby, went to the workhouse to hear the decision on this latest proposal. After waiting for some hours she was told that the Guardians’ decision was unaltered. She must enter the workhouse or do without. By the time she reached home it was 6 o'clock and she had had nothing to eat since breakfast time. No one had thought of giving her or her child anything during the long hours in which she had waited. One of the Guardians said that he was aware that Mrs Dennis would starve but that the remedy was in her own hands.

When George Dennis returned home after his acquittal he found his wife in a state of semi-starvation, and his children in rags. His watch, his furniture, even the bed, had been sold partly to procure bread and partly to provide a counsel to assist him in proving his innocence of the crime of which he was accused.

1 comment:

  1. And we think we have it hard! Really enjoying your snippets of the past.