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Crime Chronicles: The Seduction of Mary Robinson

Lies, Deceit, Heartache, and a Country's Vengeance

By Greg SeebregtsPublished 4 months ago 4 min read

A few weeks ago I re-discovered a book I'd read several years back called The Chronicle of Crime. It's a collection of news stories spanning 193 years from 1800 - 1993. As I opened the book for the first time in years I found a story that I thought would make a great starting point for a new project...I seem to have a lot of projects here on Vocal.

Now, I need a about Crime Chronicles? Yeah, that works! Let's get into this first story; the Seduction of Mary Robinson.

The Villainous John Hadfield

The villain of our story is a man named John Hadfield and sadly I wasn't able to find out much about him. He was born in 1756 to Thomas and Mary Hadfield in Mottram, in Longdendale, England.

From what little I did find, he was seemingly from a fairly affluent family and was well-educated, although, I wasn't able to find out where. Now, being well-educated at that time was a big deal and ol' Johnny boy could've had a great life...obviously that isn't what happened. No, instead he took to gambling, skirt chasing, and swindling...this would subsequently be what got him caught.

He married a lady named Ann Sutton in 1777 and had 3 children with her; this will be important later as you'll see.

Sweet Mary Robinson: The Maid of Buttermere

A colored print depicting the Maid of Buttermere (Grasmere Wordsworth)

Mary Robinson was a shepherdess and the daughter of a local innkeeper in the village of Buttermere. She was born in 1778 in the village of Buttermere in Cumbria, England.

In 1802, at the age of 24, she met someone...someone special; a man named Augustus Hope. He was a Colonel in the military and the brother of an Earl, and she found his courtship of her quite flattering - especially considering how wealthy he apparently was.

During their courtship, she insisted on a proper wedding and the two were married later that year. Mary was head over heels for him and her marriage was celebrated which only makes what happened next all the more gut-wrenching.

Plain ol' John

So, Mary Robinson gets married to Augustus Hope. The marriage of the local small town belle to someone of high social stature was widely reported. What happened next is sort of up to speculation, but here's what we know.

"All of England pitied the girl who yielded to this false deceiver" - The Chronicle of Crime

Shortly after the wedding, Augustus Hope was arrested for forgery (he was forging cheques) and subsequently escaped. After his escape, it came to light that Augustus Hope was none other than John Hadfield. Not only was he John Hadfield, he was also already married!

The Rogue is Recaptured and Mary is Avenged

Following his exposure and subsequent escape, John Hadfield went on the lam. He was on the run for several months before being recaptured in South Wales. Once he was recaptured he was taken to Carlisle prison. He was tried for forgery and impersonating an officer of the military.

Both of these were capital offences at the time and, upon his conviction, John Hadfield was sentenced to death. Later in 1803, John Hadfield was led to the gallows and was hanged for his crimes.

Hadfield's execution was considered by the decent folk of England to be revenge for the pain he'd inflicted on Mary Robinson.

How was John Hadfield Not Caught Sooner?

John Hadfield was a conman and a fraudster whose penchant for women finally came back to bite him. That said, there's very little information available regarding this case beyond a family tree, the brief mention in The Chronicle of Crime, and one lonely, only blog post that I could find.

The means by which the man was exposed and arrested are unknown but it may be that several factors led to his demise. We know he was already married to Ann Sutton when he married Mary Robinson. We know that he was passing himself off as Col. Augustus Hope, the brother of an earl. What else do we know?

Well, we know that the wedding was widely reported in several papers including the London Morning Post. Now, we also know that he was forging cheques - presumably signing them under his military persona of Augustus Hope...and it's at this point that I wonder why he wasn't caught sooner.

I know it was 1803, but surely the military would've had a record of some kind of an 'Augustus Hope' in their headquarters? If they did, which I'm assuming was the case, then they'd have searched the archive or whatever they call it and find no mention of him.

As far as his exposure as a bigamist goes, it stands to reason that his wife - Ann - either saw the report in the paper, or got word of her husband's arrest through a different source and confronted him at some point - thereby exposing his infidelity herself. Unfortunately, nothing I found mentions how he was caught forging cheques or bigamy so I doubt we'll ever get that part of the story.

This was Interesting...

Well, this was an interesting piece to write. I'm definitely going to do more but I don't think they'll all be as tame as this one - especially when I get to some of the more well-known guys and gals. Still, I hope you all enjoyed this piece and feel free to suggest other interesting cases for the series.

See ya!


About the Creator

Greg Seebregts

I'm a South African writer, blogger and English tutor; I've published 1 novel and am working on publishing a 2nd. I also write reviews on whatever interests me. I have a YouTube Channel as well where I review books, and manga and so on.

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