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Grace Meaden and her bigamist husband

Grace Ann Meaden was baptised in West Lulworth on 6 June 1813. She was the first child of John Meaden (1791-1871) and Grace Meaden nee Meaden (1791-1847) who married at West Lulworth on 19 April 1813.

John and Grace Meaden had eight children:

  • Grace (1813)
  • John (1815)
  • Sarah (1817)
  • William (1819)
  • Ann Basket (1822)
  • Jane (1826)
  • Amelia (1829)
  • Charles (1832)

At the time of the 1841 census, just the four youngest children were living with their parents in West Lulworth. Ten years later in 1851, the four youngest children were still living at home in West Lulworth with their father – their mother Grace had died in 1847.

In 1851, eldest daughter Grace was living at 2 West Street, Wareham as a servant. Two years later, she married Solomon Selby on 20 October 1853 at Wareham. Solomon was 13 years her junior. He was baptised at Church Knowle on 29 January 1826 and in 1851 was employed as a claypit labourer, lodging at Stoborough, near Wareham.

It is not clear what happened next, but in 1861 Grace and Solomon were living at Weymouth in separate lodgings. Solomon was now a carpenter and was a boarder at 14 Hope Street. Grace was shown as a carpenter’s wife and was lodging at 9 Park Street.

Ten years later in 1871, Grace was still lodging at 9 Park Street, Weymouth. She was now a laundress and recorded as a widow.

However, Solomon was still well and truly alive and now employed as a joiner in the dock yard. He was living at 31 Fyning Street, Portsea with Elizabeth Selby, 16 years his junior, who was shown as his wife. In reality, they had not yet married – that happened on Christmas Day 1874 at Southampton – Elizabeth’s maiden name was Hoskins and she was born at Easton in Portland.

In 1881,  Solomon and Elizabeth were still at 31 Fyning Street, Portsea but Solomon was now shown as a Wood Turner in Block Mills. A year later Solomon completed work on a wonderful clock, now displayed in the Apprentice Museum at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard. Solomon and his clock are pictured below.

Solomon Selby

Meanwhile, Grace was still a ‘widow’ back in Weymouth, now a charwoman aged 66 lodging at 1 Albert Street. Just over a year later she died.

In 1891, Solomon and Elizabeth were once again at 31 Fyning Street, Portsea but Solomon was now shown as a Brass Turner and they now had an adopted daughter, Fanny Jackson, aged 3.

In April 1901, Solomon and Elizabeth were still at 31 Fyning Street, Portsea but Solomon was now shown as a Retired Joiner and Fanny Jackson, aged 13 was now shown as a boarder, not an adopted daughter.

Solomon died 13 July 1901 and Elizabeth died 7 September 1910. It is not clear what happened to Fanny.

The Solomom Selby Clock

We are indebted to Mike Smith of the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard Historical Trust for allowing us to publish the two photographs above. Mike has also advised us that 31 Fyning Street was demolished after being bombed during the Second World War.

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