Sunday, 11 September 2011

Black Sheep Sunday: Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary!

I was running through in my head the various occupations of my ancestors a few days ago and it occurred to me that in the Brown/Warren branches of the family there is a preponderance of policemen.  My great-great grandfather William Henry Mann Brown and my great-great-grandfather John Warren were both constables for a time, as was John Warren's father, Joseph.  Both William and John had sons who were policemen: Henry Brown, my great-grandfather, and Joseph Warren his brother-in-law.  How very upstanding, if not a tad boring.  But hold on!  Something has arrested (sorry, couldn't help myself) my attention - Miss Mary Jane Warren - you naughty girl!

Mary Jane Warren was the eldest daughter of John Warren and the sister of my great-grandmother Ellen Warren.  She was therefore the granddaughter, daughter, sister and sister-in-law of police officers.  It would seem that this was not enough to keep her on the straight and narrow.  No, Mary Jane went bad.

I know because I found her listed on the 1871 Census as an inmate of the Park Row Asylum in Bristol (not to be confused with the nearby Blind Asylum).  At first I imagined that she was a lunatic, but further investigations revealed that this asylum was founded in 1854 and was for "for hopeful discharged female prisoners and hopeful destitute girls not prosecuted" .  Mary Jane's occupation, like the other inmates, is given as "domestic servant". 

The mystery is, what is a "hopeful" woman or girl, prosecuted or not.  I presume it may mean one who is truly sorry for whatever (probably petty) crime she may have committed and who has hope of some redemption.  I cannot find out what Mary Jane did to deserve her incarceration, but it seems that she put her past behind her for I believe she married a couple of years later, at the age of 21, to Joseph Lancaster.  The couple lived in North Somerset and had a very large family, presumably to the relief of all her relatives in blue.


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