Part of the “Crime & Punishment in Cocking in the Nineteenth Century” series
In February 1866, Elizabeth Strotton, aged 20, a married woman with three children, was the victim of an alleged rape by 19-year old Edward Savage, a hawker in cloth. In the court case, when Savage was charged with rape, the evidence given by the two parties was contradictory. As a consequence, the case against Savage was dismissed.
Edward Savage was arrested shortly after the assault by P.C. Richard Denman and appeared before Midhurst magistrates on 8 February. The report on the hearing in the Chichester Express of 13 February 1866 coyly states “the depositions are totally unfit for publication”.
The trial was heard at the Sussex Spring Assizes at Lewes on Wednesday 21st March with the Lord Chief Justice Sir William Erle presiding.
In Elizabeth’s evidence she testified that Savage had come to her door on 1st February and tried to sell her some blankets. She said that she had no money and couldn’t afford them. He then went to his cart and came back with some cloth which he offered her for 3s 6d. She once again stated that she had no money, when he took hold of her and kissed her, asking her to kiss him back, which she refused. He then locked the door and threw her to the ground and raped her. She passed out and when she came round she was in a chair. She told Savage to “take himself off” or she would send for the police. Savage then unlocked the door and left.
In the cross-examination the defence lawyer suggested that it was Elizabeth who had locked the door, having told Savage that she was alone in the house. The lawyer also claimed that Elizabeth had been previously “immodest and unchaste” and that her evidence conflicted with her statements at the magistrates hearing. She refused to answer questions about her previous life or about “any other case but this”. During the cross-examination, Elizabeth fainted briefly.
Mrs. Miles, a neighbour stated that she had gone to the house shortly after Savage had left and found Elizabeth slumped over the washtub in tears. She stayed at the house to look after the children while Elizabeth went for the constable.
P.C. Richard Denman, who had arrested Savage, testified that Savage had denied rape and claimed that she was “quite agreeable to his proposals”, that she should exchange her “favours” for the cloth.
In his address to the jury, the defence counsel drew attention to “the youth of the prisoner compared to the prosecutrix”, saying that there was “insufficient resistance” by Elizabeth to constitute rape. He implied that her refusal to discuss her “previous mode of life” and the discrepancies in her evidence suggested that her testimony could not be relied upon.
In his summing up, Lord Justice Erle explained the relevant law and brought out all the key points. The report in the Sussex Advertiser of 28 March states that he “summed up greatly in favour of the prisoner”.
The jury were unable to agree on their verdict and at ten o’clock, they were called before the judge who asked if there was any possibility of them reaching agreement. Following the foreman’s negative response, the judge said in an aside that he thought it unlikely that they would reach a verdict if they were locked up for a week, and discharged the jury.
Savage was then released on his own surety of £30 to return to court should there be a retrial. [There is no record of Savage coming back to court.]
Brighton Guardian. 28 March 1866. Sussex Assizes
Brighton Gazette: 22 March 1866. Alleged Rape at Cocking
Chichester Express & West Sussex Journal:
13 February 1866. A Serious Charge of Rape on a Married Woman
27 March 1866. Charge of Rape at Cocking
27 March 1866. Sussex Spring Assizes
28 March 1866. Alleged Rape at Cocking
Elizabeth Strotton was born on 22 March 1845, the daughter of Thomas (a farm labourer) and Winifred Challen. She was baptised at Graffham church on 27 April 1845.
At the 1861 census, she was living with her parents and five siblings at Graffham.
On 2 August 1862, aged 17, she married 19-year old Edward [sometimes recorded as Edmund] Strotton at Cocking parish church. On the marriage register, her age was recorded as 18; Edward was recorded as “of age”, i.e. 21 years or greater.
Her first child, John was baptised at Cocking on 7 February 1864. He died of inflammation of the lungs and was buried at Cocking on 8 November 1865.
In 1865, she had twin girls, Mary Ann and Sarah Ann, both baptised at Cocking on 6 August 1865. Mary Ann died on 25 February the following year [shortly after the alleged rape] from Inanition (lack of nourishment) and was buried at Cocking on 28 February 1866. Sarah Ann died from whooping cough and was buried at Cocking on 1 June 1867.
A fourth child, Rosa, was baptised on 5 May 1867 but only lived for a few weeks and also died of whooping cough and was buried at Cocking on 13 June 1867.
Thus by this time, Elizabeth had lost all four of her children, none of whom live to their second birthday, all within a two year period.
Over the next 21 years, she had a further 10 children, all of whom were baptised at Cocking as follows:
Kate 4 October 1868
Winifred 6 November 1870
Alice 1 December 1872
Elizabeth 4 January 1874
Percy Edmund 7 May 1876
Arthur 3 August 1878
William 3 April 1881
Edith Emma 1 October 1882
Henry George 7 June 1885
May 5 August 1888
At the time of the 1891 census, Elizabeth and Edward were still living in Bell Lane, Cocking with eight of their children.
Percy died of cholera while serving with the 57th Field Battery, Royal Artillery in India on 24 September 1900.
By 1901, the family had moved to Philliswood, near Treyford, where Elizabeth and Edward were living with the four youngest children. and two grandchildren. Ten years later, all the children had left the family home and Elizabeth and Edward were now at Clay Lane, Old Fishbourne, near Chichester.
Elizabeth died in early 1913. [Death registered at Westbourne in March 1913 quarter.] Edward died in 1924.
Edward Strotton was the ninth of ten children born to William (1794 – 1874) and Sarah (1800 – 1879) Strotton. He was baptised at Cocking church on 25 September 1842.
1851 England Census
1861 England Census
1871 England Census
1881 England Census
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records, 1760-1920
West Sussex, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1920
West Sussex, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1995
West Sussex, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936
Cocking Parish Register: 25 September 1842. Baptism of Edward Strotton
Graffham Parish Register: 27 April 1845. Baptism of Elizabeth Challen
Cocking Parish Register: 2 August 1862. Marriage of Edward Strotton and Elizabeth Challen
Cocking Parish Register: 7 February 1864. Baptism of John Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 8 August 1865. Baptism of Mary Ann Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 8 August 1865. Baptism of Sarah Ann Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 2 November 1865. Burial of John Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 28 February 1866. Burial of [Mary] Ann Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 5 May 1867. Baptism of Rosa Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 1 June 1867. Burial of Sarah Ann Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 13 June 1867. Burial of Rosa Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 4 October 1868. Baptism of Kate Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 6 November 1870. Baptism of Winifred Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 1 December 1872. Baptism of Alice Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 4 January 1874. Baptism of Elizabeth Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 7 May 1876. Baptism of Percy Edmund Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 3 November 1878. Baptism of Arthur Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 3 April 1881. Baptism of William Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 1 October 1882. Baptism of Edith Emma Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 7 June 1885. Baptism of Henry George Strotton
Cocking Parish Register: 5 August 1888. Baptism of May Strotton
In August 1891, two of Elizabeth’s sons, Percy (aged 15) and Arthur (aged 12) appeared before the Midhurst magistrates charged with stealing apples from the garden of William Ring-Smith. They were charged with stealing 10 apples, valued at 2d on 23 July.
During the hearing against Arthur, Elizabeth fainted; after she recovered, she explained to the court that her husband had left her, through jealousy the previous week.
The boys were given “a good talking to” by the bench, and bound over to be on good behaviour for six months, under the First Offenders Act, 1887.
Sussex Agricultural Express:
11 August 1891. Apple Stealers
29 August 1891. Theft