Advertising For A Widow

In June 1886, a case began at the Richmond Police Court which gripped the newspapers for several weeks. Most of the newspapers referred to it as the “Advertising For A Widow Case”, although Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper broke from the herd and headlined it as “The Alleged Matrimonial Adventure” case.

It all boiled down to a man by the name of Frederick Dauncey who had placed an advert in a newspaper advertising for a wealthy widow to act as his “housekeeper.”

Lady reads the advert in the paper.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 10th July, 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


The South Wales Echo took up the story on Monday, 5th July 1886:-

“At the Richmond (Surrey) police-court, on Saturday, Fredrick Dauncey, alias William King, of no occupation, residing at 18, Bernard-street, Russell-square, was charged with having obtained by false pretences the sum of £600 from Mrs Sarah Annie Groves, who was then a widow, residing at Spring Grove, Surbiton, in May, 1885.

Mr Doveton Smith appeared for the prosecution.


Mrs Groves said that, in April, 1885, the prisoner called upon her at her lodgings at Peckham, proposed marriage, and asked when she would marry him.

She consented to marry him if the references were satisfactory.

He said he was well-known on the Corn Exchange, and did not know that she required any further references.

The couple meet for the first time.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 10th July, 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


Three days after this conversation, she received a letter from him with an appointment to meet him at Victoria Station.

She kept the appointment on the day after receiving the letter.

He then said that his wife had left him about seven years previously, and he was sure that she was dead, and he believed he could re-marry, but he should like to get proof of her death.

He said that he was in a very bad state of health, suffering from heart disease. He complained that he was not attended to at his lodgings, and asked her to join him.

To this she strongly objected, but a few days afterwards she did go to Mortlake and stayed about four weeks with him.

Whilst living with him she did not notice anything the matter with him.


Shortly after she had given him a cheque for £600, she found an address card with the name Frederick Dauncey upon it.

She accused him of deceiving her in every way, of making a dupe of her, and of passing in a wrong name.

He said that he had no other name than William King.

Cross-examined by the prisoner:- She went to Malden with him on one occasion to see her house, which she had authorised him to sell or do what he liked with. She meant for him to mortgage the house or sell it, but not to do what he liked with it.

Prisoner:- “I have that in your own handwriting.”

Cross-examination continued:- She did know what was the value of the house. It would be worth £1,000, at the least. He took every step to sell or mortgage the house, but nothing came of the transaction.

She knew at Victoria Station, when she met him by appointment, that he had no proof of his wife’s death.

She demands her money back.
From The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, 10th July, 1886. Copyright, The British Library Board.


She lived with him as her husband because she believed that he would ultimately marry her.

He suddenly disappeared from Mortlake on a Tuesday in April, 1885.

She left Mortlake on Whit-Tuesday.


William Higgin Cockerton, a clerk in the Lothbury branch of the London and Westminster Bank, deposed to the prisoner paying in on the 6th May, 1885, £600 to the credit of Frederick Dauncey.

Prisoner closed his account at the bank on the 23rd January, 1886, there then being £456, 15s 11d to his credit.

Miss Wintall, of 9, Marchmont street, Brunswick-square, deposed to knowing the prisoner both as William King and Frederick Dauncey.

John Robinson, of 5, River-street, Putney, said he was a waterman, and he knew the prisoner as Mr. Dauncey.


Mr Smith said that for the information of the prisoner he would state that more than a hundred letters had arrived, since the prisoner’s arrest, in reply to the following advertisement which he had caused to be inserted in a London daily newspaper:-

“Lady housekeeper required by a widower. Must be well educated, and accustomed to good society.”

It had also transpired that a gentleman named King was on the Corn Exchange, and was a gentleman of undoubted respectability, and occupying a good position.

The prisoner was remanded.”

The Globe Friday, 9th July 1886:-


This morning at the Richmond Police Court Frederick Dauncey, alias King, of no occupation residing at 18, Bernard Street, Russell Square, was charged on remand with having obtained by false pretences from Mrs. Sarah Ann Groves, who was then a widow, residing at Spring Grove, Surbiton, in May, 1885.

Mr. Doveton Smyth appeared for the prosecution; and Mr. Woodcock, for the first time, defended the prisoner.

The allegation is that the prisoner inserted an advertisement in a daily paper for a lady with means, and that the prosecutrix subsequently entered into communication with the prisoner, and upon his pretence that he was a widower, named King, and that he held a position at the Corn Exchange, and on an understanding that they should be married, she advanced him the money in question for their mutual benefit.

The prisoner afterwards disappeared, and his whereabouts were not discovered until twelve months after.


Mr. Smyth now said that evidence of an important nature reached him only yesterday, and he should, therefore, have to ask for an adjournment. This evidence was based on another false pretence, which he thought he should be able to establish.

A very important part of the depositions now in possession the court had reference to the defendant’s statement that he was a widower.

He (Mr. Smyth) had now received information as to where the defendant’s wife was. He should be able to prove on the next occasion that she was still alive. That was very important as bearing on the whole case.


Mr. William King, a member of the Corn Exchange for 30 years, residing at Uxbridge, said that he had never seen the defendant on the Exchange, and knew nothing whatever about him. He was under the impression that he was the only “William King” on the Corn Exchange. There were other Kings, but the defendant was not one of them.

Cross-examined:- He was not aware that the defendant had used his name on the Corn Exchange. He could not say whether he had any connection, either directly or indirectly with the Corn Exchange.


Mr. Woodcock said that he had not yet perused the depositions, as he had only just been instructed; but, judging from what had appeared in the newspapers, he should say that it was a case that might very properly have been pursued upon civil lines, instead of bringing it before a court of criminal jurisdiction.

He was satisfied that his client had no criminal intent. He was well able to pay any liability.

So far as he understood, the money was lent to the prisoner, and a promissory note taken for it, payable on demand. No demand had ever been made, and he now suggested a lengthy remand, with the view of some arrangement being come to between the parties, upon the footing of it being a civil and not a criminal transaction.


Mr. Homidge, the presiding magistrate, said that, in the present circumstances, he was not disposed to assert to any such arrangement.

The prisoner was then further remanded for the production of additional evidence by the prosecution.

An application that the money, now in the hands of the police, belonging to the defendant, should be handed over to him for the purposes of his defence, was granted.”


Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, on Sunday, 25th July, 1886, published details of his final appearance at Richmond Police Court:-

“Frederick Dauncey, alias King, no occupation, of 18, Bernard-street, Russell-square, was on Tuesday again charged at Richmond with obtaining £600 by false pretences from Sarah Annie Groves, of Spring-grove, Surbiton, in May last year.

Mr. L. Smyth, for the prosecution, now stated that the wife of the prisoner, who had represented himself as a widower, was present in court, she having been traced from France to Ramsgate, and from Ramgsate to Scotland.

Wm. Doody, clerk to a firm of solicitors, deposed to witnessing the marriage of the prisoner to Charlotte Green, at Croydon parish church, in April, 1883.

Detective-serjeant Bush L, produced a copy of the marriage certificate.

The prisoner, who reserved his defence, was committed for trial at the Old Bailey.”


Unfortunately, at this point, the newspapers appear to have lost interest in the case, and he doesn’t show up in the record of transcripts on the Old Bailey Website.

So, much as I would love to be able to tell you what fate befell the accused, I am, currently, unable to do so.

My presumption is that he pleaded guilty and was duly either sentenced or fined.