[Stories - Mary Sandall]

The story of Mary Sandall

A young woman of about 23 years, of middle stature and by no means of a masculine aspect, was trotting long the highways in the vicinity of Wilton, dressed as a man, mounted astride a good horse, armed at all points and looking out for adventure. She was a native of the neighbouring village of Baverstock and, though of course very well known in her proper attire, was indicted at her trial by the name of Mary Abraham alias Mary Sandall (spelt Sandy).

In the spring of 1779 Mrs Thring of North Burcombe was intercepted while walking along the turnpike road, by a person on horseback wielding a pistol, who demanded her wealth. Rather grudgingly Mrs Thring handed over 2s and a black silk cloak. When the highwayman demanded her ring and shoe buckles Mrs Thring proclaimed she could see her husband approaching, whereat the young horseman took flight. On arriving home the feisty lady raised a posse who quickly tracked and arrested the novice and were greatly surprised to find it was not only a woman, but a neighbour whom the recognised.

She was brought before Henry Penruddocke Wyndham Esq. and the Rev. Canon Bowles, JPs who were not inclined to treat the caper lightly and she was committed to Fisherton gaol to await her trial at Devizes Assizes.

A blacksmith at Quidhampton and a weaver at Wilton were arrested on suspicion of being accomplices. It appeared the blacksmith had procured her pistols, lent her his own clothes and a spare suit for further disguise, but there was no proof that he knew what she was going to do with them so he was bound over to appear in Devizes, as was the weaver.

At the July assizes in 1779 she was found guilty and a sentence of death was recorded, but this was soon after respited.

October 2003

Content last updated
14 January 2007

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