On 5th August 1791, the Stamford Mercury printed this cryptic story about a Market Deeping couple:
“Of selling of wives, we had occasion at different times to record instances, which at best can only be called a disgrace to the parties concerned … Now let it be said that a man, much to his credit has bought his own wife! In or about the year 1782, Miss A.. C…..g of Market Deeping married Mr T…..n of the same place, and happy enough they were for full sixteen weeks, when for reasons known to many, the bridegroom found it prudent to make a hasty retreat and was lost to his bride and friends for a long space of time. Tedious no doubt to a young woman, Mr O….n, late of Wisbech, full of love, made his addresses to the deserted fair one and married her. After they had co-habited together for near two years, Mr T made his appearance, demanded his wife and fully proving his claim, gave to his kind substitute twenty guineas and cordially took his wife to his own care.”
From St Guthlac’s parish register, the couple can be identified as Amy Catling and William Trueman, a carpenter, who married on 2nd May 1785. They were both sufficiently educated to sign their names and Amy was from a respected local family. When her father John Catling died in 1780, he was described as “a considerable butcher, much esteemed by all his acquaintance”. In 1783, her widowed mother married John Bonner, a maker of horse collars in Market Deeping, and Mr. Bonner was a witness at Amy’s wedding. Four years after her husband’s desertion, Amy Trueman married widower Charles Osborn in Wisbech on 20th July, 1789, describing herself as a widow.
So what were the reasons “known to many” for William Trueman’s “hasty retreat”? There are no reports in the Stamford Mercury around the date of his disappearance to give any clues. However, a newspaper called Newcastle Courant regularly printed national appeals for members of the public to apprehend criminals, and the following notice appeared on 22nd July 1786:
“Oakham, June 19th. Escaped out of the House of Correction at Oakham, in the county of Rutland, over a wall, on Sunday the 18th of June last, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, WILLIAM TRUEMAN, late of Market Deeping, by trade a carpenter about 24 years of age, born in Whellener (Wellingore) in the county of Lincoln, about 5ft 9 inches high, fair complexion, black lank hair, broad set, dark eyes, had on when he escaped a light short drab coat, velveret waistcoat, a pair of nankeen breeches, round hat bound with ferret, light grey stockings and a pair of half boots. Whoever will secure the said WILLIAM TRUEMAN and give notice to the keeper of the House of Correction at Oakham, shall receive two guineas reward of me. HENRY LUMLEY.”
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been possible to discover the nature of Mr Trueman’s crime, whether he was re-captured and kept in prison or transported for the next five years, or if he was in hiding until he came looking for his wife in 1791. It’s hard to imagine the conversation which took place between him and Amy and Charles Osborn. She was in a difficult situation – her second marriage was bigamous and her first husband was untrustworthy. Somehow he had acquired the considerable sum of twenty guineas and Amy was “bought back”.
William Trueman eventually returned to his home village, as he is recorded as tenant of a carpenter’s workshop in Wellingore in 1812. He died at the age of 71 and was buried at Wellingore in 1834. Whether his wife remained with him, isn’t yet known. If any reader has Amy Catling in their family tree, perhaps they can tell us…