Ilchester Gaol

Just a couple of months after Mary Stevens was held at Ilchester gaol, Jane Leigh-Perrott was being held at the Ilchester gaol awaiting her own trial at Taunton. Unlike Mary Stevens, Jane Leigh-Perrott was in many of the local and National Newspapers for months with full coverage of her trial and statements by herself and all relevant witnesses.[1]

Jane Leigh Perrott was the aunt of Jane Austen. She came from a well off and titled family and had all of the advantages of wealth and birth that Mary Stevens did not have. [2] Thus life was very different for the two classes of inmates. Mary Stevens was limited to one courtyard room crowded with all the other female prisoners, with no occupation for any of the prisoners so they had little to do with their time. As a result the female ward was described as a place of dissolution and profligacy, just six years later when the gaol was being assessed and improvements organised.[3]

A Peep into a Prison; or, the Inside of Ilchester Bastile 1821 https://www.bl.uk/collection­items/account­of­poor­prisonconditions­at­ilchester­by­henry­hunt#sthash.pDu9Xmdh.dpuf

A Peep into a Prison; or, the Inside of Ilchester Bastile 1821 https://www.bl.uk/collection­items/account­of­poor­prisonconditions­at­ilchester­by­henry­hunt#sthash.pDu9Xmdh.dpuf

Mary Stevens would have had an uncomfortable time in Ilchester gaol. The experience of Jane Leigh Perrott would have been very different. Much as Jane Leigh Perrott complained of her situation the realities were far less uncomfortable than those of the other female prisoners. Jane, herself was housed in a room adjoining the gaolers rooms. She gives brief descriptions of the gaol and of her situation in the gaol- “Vulgarity, Dirt, Noise from Morning till night…”[4]

…the Man told me that the Dining Room I was to consider as my own whenever I choose to be along- and so it was till the Fires began; but this Room joins to a Room where the Children all lie, and not Bedlam itself can be half so noisy, beside which, as not one particule [sic] of Smoke goes up the Chimney, except you leave the door or window open, I leave you to judge of the Comfort I can enjoy in such a Room.[5]

 Jane Leigh Perrott was accused of stealing a card of lace worth twenty shilling from a shop in Bath. She was arrested in August of 1799 but was not able to obtain bail.[6] Thus she stayed with the Ilchester gaoler until the Lent Assize of 1800. This was the same Assize that Mary Stevens had her sentence confirmed at, before being transported to New South Wales for the term of seven years.[7] Jane Leigh Perrot was acquitted.[8]

 Mary Stevens

[1] Gale Newspapers. 1800 Somerset Assizes ‘The Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette’ Reading, England, Monday, April 07, 1800; pg. 3; Issue 1993. British Library Newspapers, Part III: 1741-1950. Viewed 1 June 2016.

[2] The Jane Austen Centre. ‘The Life and Times of Jane Leigh-Perrot. Posted June 16 2011. http://www.janeausten.co.uk/the-life-and-crimes-of-jane-leigh-perrot/ (Accessed 1st June 2016)

[3] Guttenburg Project. A Narrative of the  Rise and Progress of the Improvements Effected at His Majesties Gaol at Ilchester Between July 1806 and November 1821. https://archive.org/stream/anarrativerisea00bridgoog/anarrativerisea00bridgoog_djvu.txt  (Accessed 1st June 2016)

[4] Austen Papers 1704-1856. Edited by Austen- Leigh, R. A. 1942. Published by Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co. Ltd. http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/austen-reading/introduction/introduction.index.html (Accessed 26th May 2016)

[5] Austen Papers 1704-1856. Edited by Austen- Leigh, R. A. 1942. Published by Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co. Ltd. http://www.janeaustensfamily.co.uk/austen-reading/introduction/introduction.index.html (Accessed 26th May 2016)

[6] Gale Newspapers. 1800 Somerset Assizes ‘The Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette’ Reading, England, Monday, April 07, 1800; pg. 3; Issue 1993. British Library Newspapers, Part III: 1741-1950. Viewed 1 June 2016.

[7] TNA, Somerset Lent Circuit 1800 ASS1 23 9, Mary Stevens

[8] Gale Newspapers. 1800 Somerset Assizes ‘The Reading Mercury and Oxford Gazette’ Reading, England, Monday, April 07, 1800; pg. 3; Issue 1993. British Library Newspapers, Part III: 1741-1950. Viewed 1 June 2016.


Comments

Ilchester Gaol — 2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Mary Lees nee Stevens | Gransden Family

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.