22nd April 1916

Guernsey bigamist got married for the second time

Herbert Stanton, a labourer from Guernsey, committed bigamy when he married Hannah Thomas on 22 April 1916.

The 47-year-old had told her he was single, and even in court he maintained his belief that this was true – under Guernsey law. His first marriage had been to a Guernsey widow in 1890. The marriage had lasted 22 years, until Stanton left when her drinking became too much.

Left one wife, then a second

He moved to Cornwall, leaving behind four children from his first marriage, and met his new wife at church. They married within the year, but 14 months later he’d left her, too. They’d had a child together by that point. Both the baby and Hannah had to resort to charity to support themselves.

Unfortunately for Stanton, he had pleaded guilty when brought to court in 1919. This somewhat negated his claim that he was free to marry under Guernsey law. When the judge, Mr Justice Lawrence, asked him for a copy of the relevant law, he was also unable to produce it.

He was sentenced to three months’ hard labour. In part this was due to the fact that he’d lied to his second wife. As the judge pointed out, if he really had believed he was free to remarry he should have told Hannah Thomas this rather than claiming to be single. At least then she’d have been able to make up her own mind.

Penal servitude

Hard labour was a particularly cruel form of punishment in which convicts were set physically demanding but often entirely pointless tasks. One of the most common was working the penal treadwheel. This was a large wooden wheel with paddles on the outside. Prisoners walked on the wheel for up to six hours a day, in silence, with only short breaks.

Some prisons used the wheels productively to grind corn. Many, though, were not connected to anything other than belts and weights to make the work even harder.


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