Worcester Mayor Elopes with a Girl of 18

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Historical Studies
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Worcester Mayors have on occasions been involved with scandal and corruption, but normally in the fields of politics or business - but William Winsmore, who became Mayor of Worcester in 1739, was concerned in a melodrama on truly traditional lines. He came from a family which had been prominent in Worcestershire for centuries, and was described vaguely as a trader in various kinds of merchandise - which is perhaps another way of saying 'he was living on his wits'. He certainly appears to have had his sights on an eventual inheritance.

There was living in the College Precincts at the time when Winsmore was Mayor, an elderly Archdeacon, very wealthy, an antiquarian and probably rather a recluse; a widower, and with an only daughter then aged 18. In 1740, she eloped with William Winsmore and they were married in Edinburgh on March 3rd 1740. In the same year he was declared bankrupt. The marraige kasted less than nine months together, and turned out a tragedy. The young wife left her husband on January 1  1741, and never returned to him. On December 24, 1742, she died of smallpox in 'mysterious circumstances' at Reigate, in Surrey, having in August of that year inherited more than £30,000 on her father's death.

The only child of this tragic match, a daughter, was brought up by her aunt, Lucy Winsmore, William's sister. William Winsmore must have come into his wife's inheritance, for he bought a large property at Monmouth in 1766, and became Sheriff of Monmouth in that year. The child of the marraige eventually married her cousin, Lucy Winsmore's son, Dr. Thomas Hooper, who owned a house at the Cross, Worcester, immediately behind St.Nicholas Church. He appears to have had the family trait of financial recklessness, and being greatly interested in the development of canals, lost a great deal of money in them by unwise speculation.