On 14th August 1880, Ellen Mary Briancourt (nee Lovejoy) submitted a divorce petition against her husband, my great great grandfather, George Arthur Briancourt.
The couple had been married for 12 years, and had four children: Annie Elizabeth Ellen, born 30th August 1868; Oscar George Arthur, born 15th September 1870; Carl Lovejoy, born 3rd December 1872, and Adlebert Henry, born 6th February 1875. Sometime after the birth of Adlebert, things started to go wrong in the marriage.
Ellen’s petition stated that she had been assaulted by her husband, who had thrown articles of crockery at her and told her “to go on the streets”. She provided a list of several occasions on which she claimed that George had struck her, beaten her and pulled her hair, causing bruising and injuries to her spine.
Ellen also stated that George had committed adultery with two other women, firstly with a Dora Rowlands, and secondly with Esther Annie Blackburn, (my great great grandmother, who gave birth to a daughter, Georgina Matilda, in about 1885.)
George was accused of cohabiting with Esther at 1 Church Row, High Street, Wandsworth, so presumably Ellen had left the household by this time. The 1881 census does indeed show Esther in the same household as George but her relationship to him is shown as “manageress”. Ellen, meanwhile, was a general servant in Lambeth in 1881 with her daughter Ellen, in the family household of Arthur Ashton, a funeral carriage proprietor.
The petition concludes with Ellen humbly praying that the court will dissolve her marriage and grant her custody of the children.
George Briancourt submitted his answer to Ellen’s petition in September 1880, denying that he had ever mistreated her and saying that if he had ever used any violence towards Ellen, he was acting in self defence because of her behaviour. He also denied committing adultery with Dora Rowlands or Esther Annie Blackburn. He said that he had only ever visited Dora Rowlands to collect money at her shop, and that Esther Annie Blackburn was “his shopwoman and housekeeper” and a “most respectable woman”. George continues by stating that if he had “at any time committed adultery with any person” (which he did not admit) then he was forced to do so because his wife “neglected her duties”, and “associated with bad characters”, using disgusting language and being of “violent and intemperate habits.”
Although George is my direct ancestor and it would be good to think well of him, I find his answer a little hard to believe, especially as by 1881 Ellen was working as a servant in what sounds like a respectable household. Surely a funeral carriage proprietor would be careful not to employ anyone who was “violent and intemperate”!
To date, I haven’t found any record of an actual divorce (the documents I received from TNA comprise only Ellen’s petition and George’s answer) although Ellen seems to have married William Shapcott in 1882.