The York Herald, Saturday, August 23rd 1879; page 7;

Margaret Precious

Trial For Breach of Promise at York Castle

Mr. Wm. Gray, Under Sheriff of Yorkshire, sat in the Magistrates’ Room at York Castle, with a jury, on Thursday, for the purpose of assessing the damages in an action of breach of promise, the parties to the action being, Margaret Precious, spinster, daughter of Mr. Wm. Precious of Hive, near Eastrington, plaintiff and Robert Wilbert, Stationmaster of Keyingham, near Hull, defendant. Mr. F. H. Anderson, York, appeared on behalf of the plaintiff and defendant conducted his own case.

Mr. Anderson stated that the plaintiff and defendant had known each other for many years, and when they began to keep company, in 1876, when both were under age, defendant was living at Skelton and plaintiff with her father. An engagement took place, and a great many letters passed between the parties, most of which it would be unnecessary to read. In 1877, some sort of a quarrel took place, the engagement was broken of, and the plaintiff took a situation in Leeds. It was arranged on parting that they should correspond as friends; and a correspondence ensued, in the course of which the defendant’s attachment again began to ripen. On the 5th June 1878, he wrote:

“Well, Maggie dear, as they cannot let you have your holidays at the time, they cannot refuse you one day out. So will you ask for one day and come and meet me at Hull? Of course I shall bring you to Keyingham, but that we can arrange in Hull.”

Plaintiff at first refused to meet defendant and numerous letters followed, but subsequently plaintiff agreed to meet defendant at Hull, and in a letter of 15th June he says:

“Well Maggie, I can meet you in Hull on Tuesday. You must leave Staddlethorpe at 6 past 9, and when you get to Hull take a ticket to Southcoates station”

Defendant met her at Hull and took her to Keyingham. During that day he asked her to marry him, and she consented. On 19th June - that was a day after - defendant wrote to plaintiff a letter, in which he says:-

“My dear Maggie - You will be surprised to hear from me so soon, but as I have been so miserable since you left me, I must write to you today, Maggie. Well, Maggie, I believe you thought I was not in earnest yesterday. To show you that I am, I will ask you the same today. Will you be my wife, Maggie? If you will only promise me that you will, I will wait as long as you like. I cannot tell you Maggie, how I love you.”

The letter concludes:

“Yours only, Robbie”.

When defendant asked her on the 18th to marry him, he named August or September, and he then requested her to leave her situation. On the 22nd of June he then again wrote to the plaintiff two letters bearing that date. He said:

“I was indeed glad to receive such a reply to my letter this morning from you. I did not think, Maggie dear, that you cared sufficient for me to promise to be my wife. I have today wrote to your father. I will send a copy of it when I get an answer. I dare say he will write to you before he answers mine. I hope he will.”

He wrote to plaintiff’s father asking his consent. Then on the 29th June he wrote:

“My dear Maggie:-Your kind reply to my last duly to hand. I was indeed glad to have such a nice long letter from you, Maggie. I am almost afraid that I shall tire you with reading my scribble. Maggie, as I write too often to you, Maggie. If you had rather me not write so often, I will not, but I like to write to you, Maggie. Well Maggie, I am glad you are going to be at home when I have my holidays. I hope I shall be at home about the 10th or 12th August, so if you give notice during the coming week, you will be at home few days before I am.”

Plaintiff did leave her situation and returned home, where she made all the necessary arrangements - purchased her dresses and linen and other things - for her marriage. Defendant suggested that the wedding should be put off a little and then a little more, his love apparently cooling off. On the 15th November he wrote to the plaintiff:

“Dear Maggie, - Your last letter duly to hand. I cannot say that I am surprised at your being uneasy, and the reason I wanted you to take a situation, I know, was the cause of your leaving your last, and had I not changed my mind, I should have married you ‘ere this, and as I have promised to marry you, I will do so, but not yet. You will have to wait my time. Do not think it unkind of me for using such a word.”

Then he went on to make excuses, and closed his letter:

“With kindest love, your affectionate Robbie”.

Margaret Precious was called and said she was 19 years of age when she was introduced to defendant, in 1876 by a friend. She then detailed the circumstances referred to in the opening, stating that he several times promised her marriage, and asked her to leave her situation in order to be married. She met him on the 2nd February, in Howden, and asked him to explain himself. He said he had no reason whatever for what he had done; he didn’t care for her now, and therefore he would not marry her. He had changed his mind. He asked her for his letters, but she refused to give them up. In cross-examination by the defendant she said she left her situation solely for the purpose of being married.

William Precious, father of the plaintiff, said he had known of his daughter’s intimacy with the defendant. The defendant said he had acted in every way honourably towards the plaintiff, and the action had simply arisen from spite. The engagement only lasted a few months, and he was not aware of the expenses she was incurring. She could not suffer from the engagement being broken off now, seeing she was of marriageable age. He had only been station-master two years, and his earnings did not exceed £1 per week. Under these circumstances, heavy damages would be ruinous to him. The jury found for plaintiff, damages £35.00

Keyingham Railway Station House

Station House Keyingham

Names in article

  1. Margaret Precious
  2. William Gray
  3. William Precious
  4. Robert Wilbert
  5. F.D. Anderson

Places named in article

  • Hive
  • Eastrington
  • Keyingham
  • Hull
  • Staddlethorpe
  • Southcoates
  • Leeds
  • Howden