Married man arrested in Preston and jailed for the seduction of 16-year-old girl

Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at the case of the seduction of a teenager by a married man.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 3:45 pm
The couple joined the crowds flocking to the Theatre Royal
The couple joined the crowds flocking to the Theatre Royal

In late Victorian times Frederick George Kay kept a lodging house in Butler Street, across from the Preston Railway Station, and on the second Saturday of March 1899 a couple arrived on his doorstep.

They gave their names as Mr & Mrs. Leslie, the gentleman and his young looking companion engaging a sitting room and a bedroom, planning to stay until the following Wednesday.

In the next couple of days they went out and about around the town, including a visit to the newly modernised Theatre Royal to see ‘Jane’ a farcical stage comedy and also visited a fashionable restaurant where the proprietor, in a jocular mood, teased them about being on their honeymoon as the girl showed off her gold wedding ring.

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On the following Tuesday the Chief Constable of Preston, Major Francis Little, received a telegram from Walsall police asking him to apprehend a couple believed to be staying in Preston at the Kay lodging house. The pair were described as Albert Woolley, aged 32, a married man and Dorah Farmer, aged 16, who was described as having dark blue eyes and brown hair and was believed to be wearing a sailor hat and a blue costume.

Detective Sgt. Coupe was assigned to the task and with two other detectives stationed outside he entered the premises where he was informed the couple were upstairs in a bedroom. Mr. Woolley answered his knock and upon entering the room he explained that he had a warrant, taken out at the instance of the underage girl’s father.

The man excused himself of any blame, insisting that he believed the girl to be older, and tears streamed down the girl’s face as she realised the situation.

The couple were at once taken into custody and by mid afternoon Chief Inspector Gore arrived in Preston and congratulated Major Little on his officers performance. Under police escort the couple were taken to the railway station and back to Walsall.

In mid-July 1899 Woolley appeared at the Staffordshire Assizes accused of having taken Miss Farmer, a girl aged under 18, against her father’s wishes with the intent of seduction. The court heard that Woolley was a harness furniture maker in Walsall and was a married man with a family. About three years early the girl had entered his employ as a packer in the warehouse and gradually he had paid attention to her.

In February he had written a letter to her in very affectionate terms which her parents saw and remonstrated with Woolley about the contents, saying she was a mere child. Ignoring the pleas of the girl’s parents Woolley continued to pay her attention and clearly enamoured with the girl arranged to meet her at the railway station.

The girl told the court that he had asked her to go away with him several times and they had gone to Birmingham, where he bought her a wedding ring and placed it on her finger. They then headed for Preston where they occupied a room as man and wife for three nights. In December she had told him she was 17, although she was only 16, and although she was in the habit of saying she was older, she denied telling him she was 18.

Despite his insistence that he thought the girl was of age the jury were unimpressed and after a brief consultation found him guilty. His Lordship Mr. Justice Day described it as a shocking offence that had brought sorrow to a respectable household and degradation to a young girl’s life. He then sentenced Woolley to twelve months imprisonment with hard labour.