Tuesday, 27 April 2010

John Coventry 1793-1829

Is it me alone who finds this extraordinary; my 5 x great-grandfather's wife dies so he steals someone elses!:

The Times, Apr 12, 1854


HOUSE OF LORDS, Tuesday, April 11.

The House sat at a quarter before 5 o'clock this afternoon to take further proceedings in the "Berens' Divorce Bill".

The Lords present were the Lord Chancellor, Lord Brougham, the Earl of Fingall, Lord Monteagle, Lord Wynford and other peers.

The matter having been recently before the public, it will only be necessary for us to give brief outline of the facts of the case. The petitioner, Captain William Joseph Berens, or Orpington, in the county of Kent, sought to dissolve his marriage with Miss Rolleston his present wife. Captain Berens is a member of an influential family in that county, and was married to Miss Louisa Maria Rolleston on the 20th of July, 1837. The marriage was performed by the lady's uncle. Of this marriage there was no issue, and it was proved that the parties had lived most happily together until they had become acquainted with Mr John Coventry of Burgate House, in the county of Southampton. Mrs Berens first met Mr Coventry on the occasion of her visit to Scotland in consequence of the death of her sister, Mrs Bromley, who died in January, 1853. Subsequently to her return to England Mr Coventry called at Orpington Hall to consult her as to the nature of the tomb to be erected to her sister's memory in Scotland. Upon that occasion his visit extended to five days, but there was not any act, either of Mrs Berens or of Mr Coventry, which gave rise to the least suspicion as to their want of propriety of conduct. Mr Coventry paid one other visit only, and on the night of the 10th of May Mrs Berens eloped, as was afterwards proved, with that gentleman. The lady's flight was discovered on the following morning by the lady's maid upon her entering the bedroom of her mistress (Captain and Mrs Berens at this time occupied separate rooms in consequence of illness), when she found that Mrs Berens was gone, and had not been in bed during the night. Upon a subsequent examination of the premises the servant discovered that her mistress had gone out through a side door into the garden. It was then proved that the parties had fled in a fly, which had been hired by the gentleman at the Tiger's Head, Lee, by means of which they had been conveyed to the Bricklayer's Arms, in the Old Kent Road, where they had alighted and entered a cab, in which they were driven towards London Bridge. Notwithstanding that every inquiry was made the parties were not found till the 21st of June, upon which day a clerk to the solicitors of Captain Berens met Mr Coventry at Liverpool, when he served him a writ. Upon the former day evidence was given of the fact the Mr Coventry and Mrs Berens having, on the night of the 18th of May, slept together as man and wife at the Commercial Hotel, Dale Street, Liverpool, and that they then went to the Albion Hotel, Manchester, where they remained until the 23rd, when they took private lodgings. An action was commenced by Captain Berens against Mr Coventry, who allowed judgement to go by default, and a writ of enquiry which was subsequently issued resulted in the damages being assessed at £700. Which sum, together with £216 as taxed costs, were afterwards paid by Mr Coventry's solicitors. Proceedings were then taken in the Ecclesiastical Courts for a divorce, and on the 6th of December a decree for a separation a mensa et thoro was pronounced. The petitioner then instituted the present proceedings.

Evidence was produced on a former day, and reported in our columns in due course, and the further consideration was postponed.

The Lord Chancellor now moved the second reading of the bill. He had no hesitation in recommending their Lordships to read this bill a second time, inasmuch as a perusal of the evidence which had been offered at the bar of the House could not but prove to their Lordships that it was at once satisfactory and conclusive as to the facts and circumstances of which the petitioner complained. So clear, indeed, was the evidence as to the positive proof, that there could be no doubt of the improper conduct and elopement of the wife, nor could there be the least doubt, from the evidence given, that she had been most kindly and affectionately treated by her husband. Under such a state of circumstances, therefore, it was that he now advised their Lordships to read this bill a second time.

Lord Brougham entirely concurred in the remarks which had fallen from his noble and learned friend on the woolsack. It was impossible in any way to doubt the evidence which had been produced in support of the two points which had been adverted to by his noble and learned friend - namely, as to the bad conduct and elopement of the wife, and the fact of the kind treatment she had at all times received from her husband.

The bill was then read a second time.

An earlier and more detailed account of the Crim Con case to follow.


  1. Chris Wynne-Davies21 December 2016 at 18:44

    I was fascinated to read this and of your connection with the Coventry family. I volunteer at Croome the seat of the Coventry family and have put together quite a large Coventry family tree on ancestry.co.uk I would be happy to share information if you would find it useful. Many thanks.


    1. Hi Chris

      Thank you for the offer, I also have extensively researched the Coventry family.