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Country notebook

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 25, 2012

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Life was harsh in the mid 19th century in the villages of Knowstone and East Knowstone, and an event which took place in 1838, recorded in the Western Times and reprinted in the London Dispatch makes interesting reading if you are a devotee of the Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. "A most disgraceful exhibition took place in the retired town of Dulverton on the last market day. A man of the name of Harris of Knowstone, said to be a returned transport, brought his wife into the open space in front of the White Hart Inn with a halter around her waist, and publicly offered her for sale. After many ineffectual attempts to prevent the demoralising act taking place she was purchased by a man called John Thomas, labourer of Knowstone, for the sum of sixpence. Several respectable persons who ought to have known better were supporting and inciting the principals in this degrading transaction.

"Surely it is time for the schoolmaster to be abroad, or that an enlightened legislature should interfere to effectually check the repetition of such abandoned spectacles, not only for the good of the present but of rising generations."

Over the next three years Samuel Harris was involved in stealing poultry and sheep. In 1841 after being found guilty of trespass and poaching and being unable to pay a fine of five pounds ten shillings (approximately £250 today) he was sentenced to three months hard labour in Taunton gaol.

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