Our Visit to Lincolnshire – Huttoft: Home of Frances Stephenson, Horse Thief

July 17, 2010

St Margaret's Church of Huttoft

The last that I will share with readers of our trip to Lincolnshire is our visit to the village of Huttoft.  I am not sure if any of my ancestors came from Huttoft, but we found an abundance of Stephenson graves here.  One theory holds that Thomas Stephenson, the son of Henry Stephenson and Mary Richardson, moved here, married Mary Badger, and raised a large family. We are working to confirm this.  If this is true, Frances Stephenson, described in the article below, would be his granddaughter.

From the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury (http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/LIN/lfhs/NewspaperExtracts/1820Listing.htm):

Frances STEPHENSON, aged 21, singlewoman, was charged with stealing a bay mare the property of Edward LINDSAY, at Raithby, on the 10th June (1828). The novelty of this case excited considerable attention, which was not at all diminished by the appearance of the prisoner, who was neatly dressed, and rather of an interesting appearance, but the strange situation in which she was placed seemed to excite no terrors in her, she gazed around with a considerable portion of effrontery, although the eyes of every person in the court were fixed with earnest curiosity upon her. The evidence for the prosecution, which was of considerable length, but not requiring a detailed notice, went plainly to prove that shortly after the robbery, the female had the mare in her possession, and employed a person to dispose of it, under the pretence that her master, the prosecutor, was distressed in his circumstances, and that he had commissioned her to dispose of the mare. – The Counsel for the prisoner insinuated that the mare had been given to her by Mr LINDSAY for certain favours which had been allowed by her. The prosecutor, in reply to a severe cross-examination upon this point, steadfastly denied that any thing of the kind had occurred. In her defence, the prisoner admitted taking the mare from the prosecutor’s stable, but asserted that it was with his license, as he resorted to this mode of requiting her for the favours already alluded to, and in consequence of which she declared that she was at that time far advanced in pregnancy. – Guilty, sentence of death recorded.

Frances was not executed, but was deported to Australia as a convict.  There she married Henry Sherwood, another convict.  According to our sources, being a convict deported to Australia conveyed considerable status, and a marriage of convicts was close to royalty.  Pat Stephenson has made contact with her descendants in Australia and is gathering more information.

Pat and Eve Stephenson talk with me as we search for Stephenson graves.

I have often heard that everyone has a horse thief in their background, so maybe Frances is ours.  It seems that most of my ancestors were law-abiding citizens, and I haven’t discovered any other criminals — unless you look at them from the British point of view, and then some of my colonial ancestors were pretty despicable.  I did have a cousin tried as a witch in early Massachusetts, but she was found innocent.  Anyway, if Frances is confirmed to be related, she would be my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.