From the Darlington & Stockton Times of November 26, 1870

THE Right Honourable Lord Penzance heard the application for the dissolution of Elizabeth Wood’s marriage to her husband, Joseph.

They had been married in Thirsk in 1852 and had had three children, the last of which had been born in Northallerton in 1862. A few months later, Joseph had gone away to plant trees at a large house near Catterick Bridge.

A letter arrived at the family home in Northallerton from Catterick Bridge addressed to Joseph. Elizabeth opened it and discovered to her dismay it was from a Harriet Scrafton who tells Joseph how surprised she was that he left her so early on Sunday morning.

“If you wish to keep my company, write to me, and tell me if you are coming on Friday,” says Harriet. “I should like to see you wending your footsteps from the station. Master and mistress go on Thursday night so I shall be all alone.”

When Joseph returned home, Elizabeth confronted him. He denied everything and then disappeared, and she had not heard from him in eight years.

George Garthwaite, a farmer from Neasham, told the Divorce Court that he had been working with Joseph at Catterick.

“He told me he was having a lark, and I was to pass him off as a single man. He told me it was with the servant girl at the house…

“One night we slept in the hothouse to save the expense of a lodging. While we were in the hothouse at night, Harriet Scrafton came to Joseph Wood and stayed there with him till after I went to sleep (laughter). I do not know how long she slept there, but while she was there I saw them in a criminal act. On the next day, I saw them together in the kitchen and they were again committing a similar act.”

Lord Justice Penzance then interrupted the evidence and said: “That will do. There will be a decree nisi.”