The Life of Christian Luke, 1808-1895- Part Three, The Bigamist. 

Welcome back to the life of Christian, now known as Christian Kemish nee Collins nee Luke.
Let’s have a recap of what we know about her life so far.

Christian was born in Lockerley, Hampshire, in the year, 1808, to Moses Luke, son of Moses Luke and Hannah Luke nee Grey and Catherine Kitty Mason, daughter of Jonathan Mason and Catherine Southwell.
She was baptised at, the church of St. John The Evangelist, on Sunday the 12th of June, 1808.
On Sunday the 18th July 1830, at The Church of St. John The Evangelist, Lockerley, Hampshire, Christian married, George Collins and at some point in the same year Christian gave birth to their daughter, Anne Collins.
Christians husband George, was transported to Van Diemans Land, Australia, for rioting in the Swing Riots.
He never returned instead he wed Mary McCaul, a convict women at Sorell.
Christian found comfort in the arms of, David Kemish and they married, maybe illegally on Tuesday, the 6th June, 1843, at The Parish Church of Fisherton Anger, Wiltshire.
On Monday, the 14th of September, 1857, Christian illegally married, John Pit at The Parish Church of Fisherton Anger, Wiltshire. And was witness to her Daughter, Anne’s, marriage to Christians second husband, David Kemish.

We are all court up, let’s see what happened next, to our very own bigamist Christian.

The Life of Christian Luke, 1808-1895- Part Three, The Bigamist. 

Criminal life caught up with, Christian and David, just over a year later, when a warrant was issued for, Christian and David’s, arrest for bigamy, on Tuesday, the 26th of October, 1858.

How would they get out of this one? 🤔
Were they frightened or blissfully unaware of the situation?
Of course, it was not long before the tabloids, cottoned on to their scandalous ways. As on, Tuesday, the 02nd of November, 1858, the Western Daily Press, printed the below article about them.

How To Get Rid Of A Troublesome Wife. –   

A man and woman named David Kemish and Christian Pitt have just got themselves into a scrape, from which escape without punishment will be no easy matter. The parties have been residing somewhere in Hampshire, and it appears that about 15 years ago Mrs Pitt, who for sometime deployed a state of widowhood (her husband having been transported for rioting), received the addresses of the male prisoner, and was married to him at Fisherton church under the name Catherine Collins. Their path in life lay among thrones, and some time in 1857 they agreed to dissolve the marriage bond. But it seems that each had in the meantime found a new attachment : Mrs Kimmich had consented to become the partner of a man named John Pitt while Kemish himself had become enamoured of a daughter of his wife by her first husband-a young woman about 27 years of age. The arrangement, however, seems to have been a mutual one, for, instead of vowing undying hatred, the parties obtained licenses and presented themselves for marriage,all at the same time, at Fisherton Church. Kemish here renounced all claim to the object of his first affection, whilst Miss Collins became the blushing bride of her father-in-law. The facts at last came to the knowledge of the police, and Mr Sparsholt superintennant of Romsey division, having visited Salisbury to examine the registers and investigate the circumstances, the parties were a day or two since compelled to exchange the comforts of connubial life for the dreary desolation of a cell. As soon as all the links in the chain of evidence have been completed, they will be brought up for examination. The case is altogether a curious one. – Wiltshire Mirror.

Many other newspapers also cottoned on and printed very similar stories.

On Wednesday, the 2nd of February, 1859, the police caught up with them and Christian and David were brought in to custody.

On Monday, the 28th of February, 1859, Christian and (her second husband), John Kemish were convicted of bigamy 1. And were sentenced at Assize, in Winchester.

Winchester Prison Entrance Gate 1850

Christian, was sentenced to, 21 Days imprisonment with hard labour, at Winchester Prison and, David was sentenced to, 2 calendar months imprisonment with hard labour, also at Winchester Prison.

Their hard labour may have consisted of,

  • The Treadwheel 
    The treadwheel was a large cylinder with steps around its circumference. The prisoner would stand in a stall facing the outside of the wheel and tred on the steps. This action caused the wheel to turn, forcing the prisoner to keep walking on the spot whilst getting nowhere. The average number of steps a prisoner would make was 57,000 a day. 
  • The Shot Drill
    For the Shot Drill exercise, the prisoner would have to pick up a cannonball, lift it to their chest and carry it to the far end of the yard and put it down. This process was then repeated all day.
  • Oakum-Picking 
    Prisoners would have to untwist old tar-covered ropes from ships to separate the fibres. These fibres were then used to patch cracks in the hull of ships and fill prison mattresses. The process of oakum-picking would make the hands of the prisoners’ cramp and bleed and they would have to do this for long periods of time.
  • The Crank Handle 
    The Crank was a mechanical handle which prisoners were forced to turn thousands of times, for absolutely no reason. The slang term ‘Screw’ for a prison officer has its origin in the fact that officers were able to tighten the mechanism that makes the prisoners work harder.

On the 5th March 1859, their trail was reported in many newspapers,

The Morning Herald (London) printed,


David Kemish was indicicted for feloniously marrying Anne Collins, at Fisherton Anger, on the 14th day of September, 1857, his former wife being then alive; and Christian Kemish, wife of the first-named prisoner, was charged with feloniously marrying John Pitt, at the same time and place.
When the prisoners were arraigned they did not attempt to deny the charge. The man said, “We did it all for the best, without intending to do injury to anybody.” The woman said, “We done it for the best, and we thought we hurt no one.” It appeared that the female prisoner was sister to the woman whom her husband married at the time she married the man Pitt. Weather as man and wife they had got tired of each other, or from what cause they separated, did not appear; but it was quite evident that the whole affair was perfectly mutual. Kemish, his wife Anne Collins, and John Pitt, all presented themselves together at the church at Fisherton, near Salisbury, and the man Kemish became married Collins, and his first wife to Pitt, each party signing the register as witnesses to the other’ marriage. The wife of Kemish, in order to deceive the ecclesiastical officers, gave and signed her maiden name of Collins. The jury convicted the prisoners. 
The male prisoner was sentenced to two months and his wife to six weeks imprisonment.

On the 05th of March 1859, The Hampshire Telegraph, printed,

And the Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette, printed,

As well as the Hampshire Independent.

And on the 07th of March 1859, the Liverpool Mercury, printed the following article.

It’s kinda normal for the press to get information wrong and as you can see, they got it very wrong.
The papers state, that Anne, was Christians sister, but we all know that she was her daughter.
Also the papers stated the Christian got six weeks imprisonment, when it was, 21 days.

I wonder what Christians time in the gaol, would have been like? I’m sure she would have been very frightened. 

A few weeks ago, we visited, Shrewsbury Prison, in Shropshire, and saw first hand what a Victorian womens cell would have been like.
Women were allowed a bring their young babies/children with them up to the age of 4, when they would have been sent to family members or the workhouse.
Can you imagine bringing up your children, in this tiny space?

Shrewsbury Prison, Victorian Cell.

In the Victorian period, the prison system was created by men for men. Accommodation for women was often an afterthought, and the penal system devised for them was largely a modified version of that designed for male convicts. 
The system of separate confinement  was introduced to convict prisons in England in 1842 and Ireland in 1850. It was designed to strictly regulate male and female prisoners in body and in mind to produce deep-seated and lasting reform.
Women were isolated for four months, confined to individual cells where they ate, slept and worked for 23 hours per day.

So poor Christian would have been confined to a room, very similar to the above photo, of the Victorian cell at Shrewsbury prison, for 23 hours a day, for 21 days.
I’m sure she would have been going stir crazy, I know I sure would. 
I solemnly swear, I never ever want to go to prison after visiting one.

As for what she would have eaten, The longer one’s sentence the better the food was (and there was more of it, too). For short sentences, say a month or two, the inmates got worse food because they weren’t going to be there that long and it was considered a waste. But, for those serving longer terms the food was more nutritious.
Bread, potatoes, fish, and milk were all staples of prison food in England. But, there was another food that prisoners hated, stir about. It sounds like a lumpier version of gruel and it’s made from cornmeal, oatmeal, water, and sometimes a pinch of salt.

I wonder how Christians 21 days, with hard labour, would have change her, effected her mental health?  And of course her physical health. Would she have lost numerous amounts of weight?
Would she have made connections while in there? Or even, formed a criminal mind? 
How would those harrowing 21 Days imprisonment, with hard labour, have altered the rest of her life?

Jumping forward a few years to the year 1861, Christian is a free women, Queen Victoria was on the throne, Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (Liberal) was Prime Minister. It was the 18th Parliament.
Criminal Law Consolidation Acts (drafted by Charles Sprengel Greaves) was granted Royal Assent, generally coming into effect on 1 November. The death penalty was limited to murderembezzlementpiracyhigh treason and to acts of arson perpetrated upon docks or ammunition depots; the age of consentwas codified as twelve. The Home Secretary took over the power to reprieve or commute sentences from the judiciary and Privy Council. The last execution in Britain for attempted murder by Martin Doyle in Chester, took place.

The Union Poor House in Romsey had a visit from British courtier and amateur photographer, Lady Jocelyn, Misses Jocelyn, Mrs Cowper, the Hon. R. Dutton and Mrs Dutton. They gifted them a good supply of tea and cake, pipes and tobacco and books for the school children.

A sad occurrence took place at East Wellow, not far from Lockerley, when a local man named John Roberts shot himself.

Also a fatal accident happened, on the viaduct at Romsey, when George Head, was struck by a train, while he was working on the viaduct. Sadly George Head, died almost on impact.

And the United Kingdom census was taken on Sunday,the 7th of April, which shows the population had more than double, that of 1801.
And that Christian, her husband John and Father In-law Joseph Pitt were residing at, Awbridge Common, Awbridge, Michelmersh, Romsey, Hampshire, England.
Christian, John and Joseph were all working as Agricultural Labourers.

Over the next few years, death was never far from their door.
On Saturday, the 15th of October, 1864, Christians father in-law, Joseph Pitt, passed away, at the  age 78.  
He died at Awbridge, Hampshire, England.
Joseph died from Decay of nature.
Mary Ventham, of Awbridge, was present and registered his death on Monday, the 17th of October, 1864, in Romsey, Hampshire.

I wonder if Christian had any involvement in nursing Joseph, as he became fail with age. Was she the picture perfect daughter in-law and cared for all his needs.
Was her nature one of kindness? Or did she begrudge living with her father-in-law.

Christian and her Husband John, laid Joseph, to rest at, St Mary Church, Mitchelmersh, Hampshire, England, on the 19th October 1864

How would Christian have felt, being back at the church were her first husband George Collins, Swing riots ordeal had started. Did it bring back painful memories?
If George, hadn’t been involved, would her life have been totally different to how it was now? 
Would they have lived their, happy ever after, we all dream about, the one fairytales have been promising us all since Infancy, for generations.

Just over a month later, Christians second husband/Son In-law, David Kemish, died on Tuesday, the 29th of November, 1864, at Sherfield English, Romsey, Hampshire, England, at the age of 45.
He died from Phthisis, also known as, Tuberculosis.
George Collence (George Collins, Anns son), of Sherfield English, was in attendance and registered his death on Monday the 5th of December1864 in Romsey, Hampshire.

And Christians brother, Moses Luke, husband of, Sarah Seanes, died on Monday, the 7th of March, 1870, at Mottisfont, Hampshire, England, at the age of 78.
He died from Natural Decay.
Eliza Luke, of Mottisfont, was present and registered his death on the the same day, Monday the 7th of March 1870, in Romsey, Hampshire.

Moses was laid to rest at, St Mary’s Church, Mitchelmersh, Hampshire on Thursday the 10th of March, 1870.

It was soon time to welcome it a new year, Queen Victoria was still Monarch, William Ewart Gladstone (Liberal) was prime minister.

Romsey’s soup kitchen open and was in full swing.

The workhouse, was once again treated, this time by the, Broadlands Family and the Hon. Mrs Dutton.

Locals Charles Edwards and, James Newman, were Indicted for stealing 46 pounds of hay, the property of his master, which had been cut and trussed at Parsonage Farm, Awbridge. 

And of course the 1871 census, was taken, which shows Christian, and John were residing at, Newtown, Lockerley, Romsey, Hampshire, England. Mary Luke was visiting them.
John was working as a Hurdle Maker. (Hurdles were traditionally used as moveable agricultural fencing, and to pen livestock, especially sheep. Made from hazel twigs.)

Hurdle Making

In the January March quarter of 1874, Christians brother, John Luke, died in the Whitechapel district, aged 73.

You can order his death certificate with the following information. Name – John Luke, Quarter – January to March, Year – 1874, Place – Whitechapel, Volume – 01c, Page – 263

And on the 19th December, 1877, at her daughters residence in, Auburn, Australia, Christians sister, Sarah Collins nee Luke, died at the age of 81.

Sarah was laid to rest at, Auburn Cemetery, South Australia, Australia.

May she rest in peace.

Jumping forward to the year, 1881, Queen Victoria was still on the throne and William Ewart Gladstone (Liberal) was Prime Minister.
Edward Rudolf founded the ‘Church of England Central Society for Providing Homes for Waifs and Strays’ (later The Children’s Society).
Godalming becomes the first town to have its streets illuminated by electric light (hydroelectrically generated).
Frederick Gonnerman Dalgety (1817-1894), merchant and financier, returned home to Lockerley Hall Estate (which he had built in 1868-73), after visiting his estate in Australia for the last nine months.

And on Sunday, the 3rd of April, the census was taken.
It shows, Christian and John residing at, Newtown, Lockerley, Romsey, Hampshire, England.
John was back working as a agricultural  labourer.

Nearly ten years later on, Monday the 2nd of February, 1891, Christians only child, Anne Bailey nee Kemish nee Collins, died.
She died from, Morbus Cordis and Chronic Bronchitis.
Annes husband, William Bailey, was present and registered her death on Tuesday, the 3rd February, 1891, in Romsey.

Unfortunately I haven’t uncovered any documentation until the next census which was taken on the eve of Sunday, the 5th of April, 1981, which shows, Christian and John, residing in a four room dwelling in, Newtown, Opposite the Chapel, Newtown, Romsey, Hampshire, England.
John was still working as a Agricultural Labourer.

Newtown Chapel.

Newtown chapel in Hampshire was opened in 1867 and closed in 1991. The 1845 Primitive Methodist magazine contains a note that they had built a movable Primitive Methodist chapel at Newtown (and a similar one at Sandhill Heath) . A movable chapel was required becuse they had been turned out of two cottage preaching houses because of opposition “through the intolerance of Puseyites and country squires”. One man whose cottage it was lost his job and expected to lose his home for the same reason. 

The next documentation for Christian is the registery of her death in the July to September quarter, of the year, 1895, in the Romsey district of Hampshire, England.

Christian died on Friday, the 12th of July, 1895, at Newtown, Lockerley, Hampshire, England, at the age of 87.
She died from, Hemiplegia and Natural decay. Hemiplegia (sometimes called hemiparesis) is a condition, caused by a brain injury, that results in a varying degree of weakness, stiffness (spasticity) and lack of control in one side of the body. 
Her Grandson, Benjamin Kemish, of Woodington, East Wellow, Hampshire, was present and registered her death on Saturday, the 13th of July, 1895.

Christian, was laid to rest at, the church she was baptised in, 87 years ago, The church of St. John The Evangelist, Lockerley, Hampshire, on the 16th July 1895.

How lovely is it, that her Journey ends at the same place as it began.

After researching Christians life, I feel very sorry for the hardships she endured throughout her life. 
If only George hadn’t been part of the riots, her life may have been very different.
Maybe she would have had more children and a life time of love and happiness.
She leaves me with so many questions about her life with David Kemish and how the situation arose that would lead them to become bigamists .
Had it been sourly his idea, or had she caught John and Anne together and then found peace and solitude in the arms of John Pitt.
Or was it Christian, that had played away from home, driving David into Anne’s arms.  Had the four of them sat around the kitchen table, mastering up their plans to foul the system? 
Had goal even crossed their minds, or were they one hundred percent sure they would never be caught out?
How had their families taken the news of their scandal?
Were they cast out or had all been forgotten because, family always comes first, no matter the situation.
Was it true love that had blinded them into breaking the law?
How awful had, Christians time in the gaol been?
Had it harden her soul and was she a different person after her time spent with other criminals? 
Was she sorry for her crime or when her days were coming to an end, did she stand by her actions or look back with regret?
More importantly did she ever get her “Happy Ever After?”
I sincerely hope Christian and John, were so deeply, passionately in love, that finding their soulmates in one another, was all they felt they needed to conquer any of the hardships they faced throughout their bigamist marriage.
And when all was said and done, love really was the Saving Grace.

Each and every one of us, on this earth, deserves to find the missing part of themselves, the person that completes the other, and I like to think that Christian and John were truly, one soul inhabiting two bodies and they did get their, happy ever after, no matter what they had to do to get there.
I also hope that where ever their souls may be now, they are lost in internal love and life together.

Rest Peaceful 
Christian Luke 


I have brought and paid for all certificates,
Please do not download or use them without my permission. 
All you have to do is ask.
Thank you.

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