Little Bits of History

Shrigley Abduction

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 7, 2011

March 7, 1827: Ellen Turner, 15-year-old daughter of William Turner, is abducted by 30-year-old Edward Gibbon Wakefield. William Turner was a wealthy mill owner from Shrigley in Cheshire, England. His businesses included calico printing and spinning mills. He was also High Sheriff of Cheshire. Ellen was a very desirable heiress in her day. She was also a student at a boarding school in Liverpool run by two women, the Misses Daulby.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield

Edward plotted with his brother, William, to kidnap and then marry Ellen hoping to secure her money for himself. The brothers sent a carriage to the school with a servant, Edward Thevenot, asking for permission to take Ellen to her father who had been stricken ill. The Daulby sisters were not immediately willing to send Ellen with this stranger, but were eventually persuaded.

Thevenot took Ellen to Hotel Albion in Manchester where Ed Wakefield told her that her father’s business had collapsed and he was to take Ellen to him. Mr. Turner was aid to be fleeing his creditors. Wakefield then changed his story and said that two banks had offered to help save the family money if it could be deposited in Ellen’s husband’s accounts. So, would Ellen marry him? The couple fled to Gretna Green, Scotland where lax marriage laws made it a favorite rendezvous for those wishing to elope. Ellen begged to see her parents after the wedding and was told that they had fled to Paris. Off the newlyweds went to France.

Ellen’s parents received a letter telling them of the nuptials. Wakefield hoped that the family would quietly accept him as a son-in-law. Instead, Turner went to London, risking a public scandal, and requested help from the police. Ellen’s uncle and two police officers went to France and brought Ellen home. Wakefield returned to England and was promptly arrested. The two brothers were tried and found guilty, each serving three years in prison. After his release, Edward went to Australia for a few years and was also elected as MP from Lancaster (1832-1841). Since the marriage had not been consummated, Parliament annulled it. Ellen went on to marry a wealthy neighbor, Thomas Lagh two years later. At the age of 19, she died giving birth to their son.

“There can be no doubt as to the debilitating effect of kidnapping on the law-abiding majority, the fear and anxiety it creates and the extent to which it contributes to the perception that our country is not safe.” – Patrick Manning

“If an abduction is reported, it is dealt with in the same way as a kidnap.” – Mark Shields

“It is not the criminal things which are hardest to confess, but the ridiculous and shameful” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“You don’t have to be an heiress to look like one, if you act like one then everyone will just presume you are one.” – Paris Hilton

Also on this day:
Gilbert and Sullivan – In 1896, The Grand Duke opened at the Savoy Theatre. The last G&S work.
Alexander Graham Bell – In 1876, Bell patented the telephone.

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One Response

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  1. Abby Ashby said, on October 31, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Some inacuracies in this account. The abduction was in 1826 not 1827. Edward Gibbon Wakefield never visited Australia although he did go to Canada. He never served as MP for Lancaster for, although he had political ambitions as a convicted felon he was debarred from standing as an MP


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