London, 25 May 1786
Stopping to ogle the pornographic literature in the window of the popular little print shop at 66 Drury Lane, passers-by were drawn to the latest addition to the erotic display. Prominent among the pictures of prostitutes in lewd poses and women wielding instruments of discipline was a new print by the aspiring caricaturist James Gillray. Having so far failed to distinguish himself as a conventional artist and engraver, Gillray had recently decided to devote his talents to the burgeoning cartoon industry in league with William Holland, who sold topical prints from the Drury Lane shop he shared with the pornographer George Peacock. Ultimately, Gillray would produce more than a thousand satirical works lampooning every quarter of Georgian society, from politicians to princes, courtiers to courtesans, in flamboyant and frequently obscene detail.
Unusually large, at 16 by 21 inches, and exquisitely executed in delicate lines and rich colour, the caricature was indecorously entitled, ‘LADY TERMAGANT FLAYBUM going to give her STEP SON a taste of her DESERT after Dinner, a Scene performed every day near Grosvenor Square, to the annoyance of the neighbourhood’. Although Lady Termagant Flaybum was a reference to a well-known comic character in a book on flagellation previously published by Peacock, customers would have been in no doubt that the real target of Gillray’s ridicule was Mary Eleanor Bowes. A statuesque figure lounging provocatively with her breasts bared and her plump legs indecently crossed, she holds a bundle of birch twigs with which she is evidently about to beat a protesting boy whose breeches are being unfastened by a maid. The wine bottle and glass on a nearby table suggest a life of debauchery, the character’s elaborately piled hairstyle and voluminous clothing evoke vanity and extravagance, while her exposed flesh and the anticipated act of flagellation are a blatant slur on her morality as well as a titillating morsel with which to tempt customers. While no evidence of correspondence survives, it is highly probable that Gillray was commissioned to produce the print by Bowes.
Having just lost his case against divorce in the first level of the ecclesiastical courts, Bowes was making it clear, in commissioning such a brazen and offensive cartoon, that he intended to play dirty in his forthcoming appeal. No matter that Mary had left Grosvenor Square more than a year earlier, nor that the scene was meant to portray her eldest son, rather than a stepson, the message in the print was plain. For all Mary’s allegations of savagery and infidelity recently founded against Bowes, it was in fact she who was promiscuous, degenerate, cruel and an unnatural mother to boot. The print was one of two, possibly three, produced by Gillray lampooning Mary in 1786. The second, and even more outrageous picture, entitled ‘The Injured COUNT..S’, depicts her carousing with servants as she suckles two cats from huge exposed breasts while a small boy at her side cries: ‘I wish I was a cat my mama would love me then.’ Recalling an anecdote from The Ton Gazette in 1777, which attributed the same words to the little Lord Strathmore, the grotesque scene furnished more ammunition for Bowes’s campaign. Behind Mary the print shows her footman, possibly George Walker, inviting her to bed, while on her right sits an emaciated maid, apparently Mary Morgan, with her waist reduced to a slender line and a pock-marked face. The same bizarre figure features in a third Gillray caricature, ‘The Miser’s Feast’, which had been published two months earlier. In this a similarly wasp-waisted character, this time with bare breasts, opens the door for a sumptuously dressed woman on to a scene of bleak poverty. The fashionable woman carries a book entitled ‘Woman of Pleasure’, better known as the erotic novel Fanny Hill, an obvious slight on her virtue. Although the identity of the wealthy female character is unclear, the print was later assumed to refer to Mary.
Expensively priced, at 7s 6d, the Lady Termagant print was aimed at an affluent market, effectively Mary’s peers. For the radical politician John Wilkes, writing to his daughter in Paris, it was ‘too extravagant’ to buy. Yet the high cost apparently did not deter a regular stream of customers, for the cartoon was still on sale three years later. And for those who could not afford to purchase their own copy, there was always the opportunity to press their noses against the window of Holland’s shop where best-selling prints were generally displayed.
It was the beginning of a paper war. Dangling the lure of seamy revelations to come, Bowes was ensuring a ready audience eager to follow each twist and turn of the couple’s high-profile divorce. As the Gillray caricature signalled, he would be willing to unearth all Mary’s past indiscretions as well as pedal monstrous lies in his campaign to sully her reputation and damage her support. The fact that Bowes was plainly projecting his own lasciviousness and debauched lifestyle on to Mary, not to mention his perversity in debasing the wife he avowedly wished to win back, did nothing to deter him. Over the ensuing months he would use every possible medium - from false reports and vexatious advertisements in newspapers to spiteful cartoons and mendacious handbills - in his effort to achieve his goal. The threat to Mary was clear: Bowes would stop at nothing to prevent their divorce.
Determined not to be cowed by media ridicule, Mary steadied her nerve for the next round of legal wrangles as she kept close to her Bloomsbury Square house and her loyal coterie of servants. While letters from the north-east brought almost daily reports of Bowes’s antics there, at least she knew that he remained at a safe distance.
Denied the usual punchbag for his temper, Bowes stormed about the Gibside and Streatlam estates with his hired henchmen laying waste the land and venting his fury on the defenceless country folk. Alerted by the tenants who stayed faithful to her, Mary attempted to prevent Bowes hacking down more trees by applying for an injunction in Chancery in June.1 With Bowes having already felled timber worth more than £20,000, including many young and ornamental trees, Mary complained that he had declared he would ‘not leave a single tree standing’. On the very day that she filed her bill, Bowes advertised 908 oak trees for sale in the Newcastle Courant. Just as with his previous battle with the Newton heirs over the woods at Cole Pike Hill, the advertisement appeared alongside a counter order from Mary declaring that the sale was unlawful. Gaining her injunction in July, Mary now circulated handbills warning potential buyers not to purchase the felled trees, while Bowes responded with his own handbills claiming the injunction had been dissolved. More damagingly, Bowes also set forth rumours that Mary had been reconciled to him and had dropped her divorce suit, which Mary then had to contradict with a further announcement in the Courant.2 Robert Thompson, the ever-loyal gardener, displayed one of the handbills forbidding the sale of wood prominently in the window of his house. When Bowes threatened him, Thompson promptly rode into Newcastle and handed the bills out in every tavern in town.3 Yet Thompson was concerned at the rumours that Mary had returned to Bowes, which he told her ‘most people here believe true’, begging her to deny the reports ‘or eals we are broken harted’.
As Bowes persecuted all who supported Mary, the fearful tenants put their faith, as she had, in common justice. ‘He says that he will starves us out if possabill & that we shall have no farem under him . . . and he says that all of the old tennents shall quit ther farems,’ Thompson informed Mary. True to his word, that summer Bowes served a raft of eviction notices on farms and smallholdings throughout the region regardless of the desperate circumstances of their occupants. ‘The poor man who has sent you the notice, which he recd. from Mr Bowes, is in great distress for fear of being turn’d out of his farm on acct. of his large family,’ Mary Morgan reported to James Farrer. One woman appealed to Mary for help five days after she had lost her husband - Bowes had seized the family’s entire possessions. ‘The reason Mr Bowes destraind [distrained] upon us was for my late husband keeping up the name and dignity of the Honble. Countess,’ she explained, ‘which Mr Bowes got intelligence and being so revengefull as to take the bread from us, and destrain also upon our goods.’
Furious at Robert Thompson’s efforts to preserve Mary’s plants from neglect, despite having already been sacked, Bowes now ordered the gardener to be thrown off the estate. Aged and infirm, Thompson was forced to flee his home when Bowes threatened to burn it down. Having failed to tempt William and Mary Stephenson to hand over Dorothy, Bowes now rained threats and writs on them and encouraged his annuitants, to whom Bowes had guaranteed Gibside farms in return for ready cash, to order them to quit their farm. Writing to Mary, Mrs Stephenson pleaded, ‘We hath nothing left save just our familey which is all gon but onley one that canst work & if my husband be to go to gayle [jail] it will be berri hard.’ As Bowes turned his anger on Mrs Stephenson’s brother, who had agreed to swear an affidavit against Bowes, the couple wrote in desperation, ‘We have Mr bows amongst us like a roring lion threatnin that he will punish my brother aboot the writ.’ After months of such intimidation, the brother finally confessed himself too petrified to testify. Reduced to poverty, turned out of their farms and sacked from their jobs, the majority of tenants and workers still pledged their allegiance to Mary and supported each other in their adversity.
The old Bowes charm appeared to be growing tarnished. When Bowes sued poor Robert Thompson for the theft of a saddle at the Durham assizes in July, the grand jury threw the case out of court telling Bowes’s witnesses - in Thompson’s words - that ‘thare was no more such villins to be found in the county as them & thare master’.4 In another vengeful lawsuit in the same court that month, however, Bowes successfully sued Thomas Colpitts for receiving rents in Mary’s name, asserting his right to the profits of the estate on the basis of the questionable revocation deed. Sending her regrets to Colpitts, Mary hoped he would have more success on appeal. But when Chancery overturned Mary’s injunction against felling the woods later that summer, having been convinced by Bowes’s counsel that the young Lord Strathmore’s guardians would have intervened if serious damage had occurred, it seemed that the Gibside master’s fortunes had turned. Evidently Thomas Lyon preferred to stand by and watch his ward’s fortune be ruined than lend his voice to Mary’s cause. Vowing that ‘there is no condescension wch I wd. not make even to my worst Enemies, to get the better of that Villain’, Mary appealed again to Lyon for help in defeating Bowes.5
Remaining steadfast and optimistic despite the setbacks, Mary was slowly attempting to rebuild her life, spending part of the long summer break with friends in the countryside and even embarking on a new romance. Having spent a week with one set of friends at their ‘charming & extensive seat’ at Bury Hill, in West Sussex, Mary had stayed for ten days with other friends at Leybourne in Kent. In a newsy letter to Colpitts that July, she enthused, ‘Their little neat Box is surrounded with fine prospects, beautiful gentlemens seats, & places to see all within a small distance’.6 With Morgan her constant companion, Mary enjoyed an excursion to fashionable Tunbridge Wells and outings to tea with neighbouring gentry. After years of being forced to appear rude or deranged in company, her conversation schooled by Bowes, she seemed almost surprised to find that those she met were ‘extremely civil to me’. And now at liberty to follow her own desires for the first time in a decade, at the age of thirty-seven she had discovered a new admirer who was rather more than civil.
Indebted to the support of James Farrer since he had taken charge of her legal business at the beginning of 1786, Mary had forged a firm friendship with the attorney and his family. Farrer and his wife had been invited to dine in Bloomsbury Square and Mary grew fond of the couple’s young daughters, but it was Farrer’s brother, a 41-year-old ship’s captain named Henry Farrer, who brought spice to her summer days. Having returned from India and China at the helm of the East Indiaman True Briton after a two-year round voyage the previous October, Captain Farrer quickly inveigled himself into Mary’s affections. 7 By the summer, the dashing captain was rarely away from her side, and seldom absent from her letters, joining Mary and her friends at their Kent retreat and accompanying them on their jaunt to Tunbridge Wells. Still plainly unable to resist a man in uniform, Mary was reassured by the courteous captain’s presence, telling Colpitts that ‘Captain Farrer . . . came down to protect us here’. When Mary returned to London in August, he remained her escort.
The fact that the gallant captain was already married and had previously, if not still, kept a mistress in town, suggested that Mary’s judgement of character was as flawed as ever. Having married Mary Goldsmith in 1781, Captain Farrer had kept his wife a secret from his family - possibly because it was not the most advantageous of matches - and on his return from his travels he evidently wished that his wife would remain conveniently out of sight. Mrs Farrer would later claim that her husband had left her destitute, forcing her to wash laundry to make ends meet, though in reality it seems that she had resorted to a rather less salubrious method of earning her keep. Certainly the pair had endured a strained and largely estranged relationship since the captain’s return; indeed, it is possible that Mary had no idea that Mrs Farrer existed.
Staying in London, where she felt safer than in the country, Mary tentatively dipped her toe into the city’s social life, although always remaining on guard for Bowes’s next move. In September, when Captain Farrer departed to spend three weeks at Cheltenham, Mary visited friends in Chelsea and dined with the artist George Engleheart at his home in Kew. Whether it was at this point that Engleheart painted Mary’s portrait is unknown; a prolific artist who portrayed many of the Georgian nobility, Engleheart did not list Mary in his fee-book but a miniature later painted by his nephew, John Cox Dillman Engleheart, which shows Mary at about this time, is said to have been copied from an earlier portrait made by his uncle.8 There was time too for her sons, George and Thomas, who had recently enrolled - at Uncle Thomas’s behest - at Eton. Enjoying the company of her teenage boys, now fourteen and thirteen, Mary promised George a puppy. Relations with her older children remained difficult, while her two youngest, of course, were still in Bowes’s custody. That same month she rejoiced with Colpitts at the success in Lancaster of his appeal against Bowes’s vexatious lawsuit over Colpitts receiving her rents and hoped the decision boded well for her ongoing Chancery plea to reinstate her premarital deed. While she confided to Colpitts that James Farrer was far from confident that her deed might be restored, understandably given the prevailing legal climate against women’s rights to property, she remained convinced that ultimately she would succeed.
By October, as the metropolis swelled with the return of the usual well-heeled pleasure-seekers for the start of the winter season, Mary had almost regained her zest for society life. ‘There has been a vast deal of mirth & elegant entertainment going forwards amongst us for this last fortnight,’ Mary reported in a chatty letter to the faithful Colpitts.9 Relating details of her visits to the theatre, concerts and parties, she confessed, ‘I have been an incessant Rake during the time I mention; every Night (except one that I was at the Play) has been spent either at a Rout or a Concert; besides wch. I frequently both dined & supped out; so that I was rarely longer in the House than was necessary to dress myself for going out again.’ With Captain Farrer returned from Cheltenham apparently reinvigorated by its restorative waters, Mary seemed as skittish as a teenage debutante. At least now she had a little more regard to society gossip - fully aware that Bowes would use any scandal to oppose their divorce - and told Colpitts that her devoted captain was ‘skipping about the town, & is to be seen in all places, except Bloomsbury Sq. & Bread St’.
For all her newfound liberty and re-entry into society, as the autumn law term neared, Mary remained wary. Even as she enjoyed games of quadrille in elegant salons and attended routs in opulent ballrooms, she told everyone she met that she lived in constant terror of Bowes seizing her. Accustomed to the fabricated image of Mary’s eccentricity, most dismissed her anxiety as fanciful. When Mary told friends that strange men claiming to be law officers, or women feigning madness, had attempted to force their way into her home, they assumed she was being over-imaginative. When she claimed that her coach was being followed whenever she ventured out, they put it down to the inevitable congestion of city streets. And when she complained that her post was being intercepted, she was dismissed as overwrought. Only Mary Morgan, and the other servants who had experienced the extent of Bowes’s guile and vengeance for themselves, shared her fears.
At the end of October, Morgan informed Colpitts that a chaise with its blinds shut and a hackney carriage had been spotted loitering in the square before following Mary’s coach when she went out. Only the quick-thinking of Ann Parkes, who spotted the chaise setting off in pursuit of her mistress’s carriage and sent a footman to overtake Mary, had averted possible danger. Seeing the chaise and hackney carriage stop, Morgan was certain she spotted Bowes leaning out of the window. ‘The watchers are grown desperate & I am afraid some dreadful disaster will Terminate in this business,’ she warned. But three days later, when Bowes was discovered by Colpitts’s son, lying in the road near Barnard Castle after apparently falling from his horse, the suspicions were assumed to be groundless. With Bowes reported to be confined to his bed by life-threatening injuries, a condition verified by the lawyer John Lee who circulated the news in London, it appeared that Mary Eleanor had nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, on 2 November, when Morgan noticed two coaches following Mary’s, then stopping at either end of a lonely section of the King’s Road, she feared the worst. This time Robert Crundall, Bowes’s former footman who was now in Mary’s service, swore he saw Bowes - despite the reports that he was still lying injured in Streatlam Castle - but the pursuers made no attempt to stop them and Crundall returned home relieved.
Growing increasingly alarmed, Mary now insisted that no strangers be granted entry to her house and declared that she would remain locked inside until the conclusion of the divorce appeal expected imminently. ‘Our House is all over Bolts, Bars, Bells, Alarms, Swords, Pistols, Hangers, Guns, & Clubs,’ she informed Colpitts, ‘& we have borrowed a House Dog that wd seize any Man by the Throat, so I trust that through the Blessing & Justice of God we shall escape all dangers. All the Garret windows are barricaded with Iron.’10 Her house locked and barred, her servants armed and alert, and with her ferocious guard dog by her side, even then Mary did not feel secure. And so when an earnest and bespectacled young constable named Edward Lucas called at the house that same week and offered to provide protection against dubious characters he had spotted lurking near her stables, Mary gratefully engaged him as a bodyguard for the princely sum of 12 shillings a week. Informing Colpitts a few days later that ‘we have got a trusty additionall Watchman, a Constable in the House’, Mary Morgan put her faith in God and the law to preserve her mistress ‘from the murderous hands of this Wretch’.
At midday on Friday 10 November 1786, Mary set off in her carriage from Bloomsbury Square with Captain Farrer and Mary Morgan on a social visit to the owner of an ironmonger’s shop, Edward Foster, in nearby Oxford Street.11 Although still apprehensive, Mary had felt faint from being confined in the house and longed for an ‘airing’. Assured by her new bodyguard Lucas that all was quiet in the neighbourhood and secure in the knowledge that her staunch protector, Captain Farrer, was armed with a pistol, she had decided to venture outdoors. Enjoying her first excursion for days, Mary was taking refreshments with Mr Foster when she heard a sudden commotion in the street outside. Rushing upstairs in alarm, Mary and Morgan locked themselves in a garret room. To their relief, moments later, they heard the calm voice of Lucas at the door assuring them that it was safe to descend.
Emerging into Oxford Street, however, Mary realised that her carriage was surrounded by men armed with pistols, blunderbusses and swords and that her own footman and driver had been replaced with strangers. Now Lucas announced that she was his prisoner, informed her that he had a warrant for her arrest and demanded that she accompany him to appear before Lord Mansfield at his home, Kenwood House, near Highgate. Confused and frightened, Mary was bundled into her carriage but managed to drag Captain Farrer with her as Morgan slipped away to raise the alarm. Knowing that James Farrer was away on business in Carlisle, Morgan rushed to alert his partner, Thomas Lacey, to summon help. With a crowd of curious onlookers gathering, the carriage sped off east along Oxford Street towards the Tottenham Court Road turnpike where it was joined by a hackney coach. As Mary alternately screamed for help from the windows and begged Lucas on her knees to save her, the two carriages hared northwards out of town. When the coach pulled up at the Red Lion tavern in Highgate Mary was horrified as, standing in the yard of the inn, she saw Bowes. Now frantic with terror, Mary implored the tavern keepers to help her escape but bribed with a guinea by Bowes they ignored her pleas. Leaping into the carriage beside her, his pistol at the ready, Bowes maintained the notion that they were headed for Kenwood but when the coach continued up the Great North Road beyond Highgate it was clear, as Mary had suspected, that the story was a concoction. When Captain Farrer protested, Bowes simply stopped the coach, shoved the hapless defender into the road and left him to trudge meekly back to town as the carriage disappeared in a flurry of mud.
Alone now with Bowes and his armed ruffians, hurtling north through the rapidly darkening day, Mary faced the horror she had long been dreading. Just as she had feared, it transpired that Bowes had been plotting her abduction for weeks.12 Anxious that his appeal against the divorce was likely to be lost, but determined to cling on to the Bowes fortune at all cost, he had resolved to coerce Mary into relinquishing her suit or, failing that, force her to cohabit with him again, thereby invalidating her case. Having waited until his bail had expired at the end of July so as not to forfeit his friends’ sureties, Bowes had recruited a gang of lawless hoodlums culled from the dregs of the Durham criminal underground. After following Mary’s coach on several occasions in London he had scurried back north to fake the fall from his horse and while supposedly fighting for his life at Streatlam Castle had secretly returned to the capital and rented a house in Norfolk Street near the Strand.
Adopting a variety of false names and disguises, masquerading as a sailor, a judge and a crippled old man, Bowes had bribed the constable Edward Lucas to infiltrate Mary’s household. Typical of the feckless wastrels appointed by London parishes as constables and watchmen, Lucas had duly reported to Bowes on Mary’s daily activities. Acting well beyond the call of duty, on 8 November Lucas had helped obtain warrants for the arrest of Mary’s coachman and footman, Daniel Lee and Robert Crundall, on the trumped-up grounds that they had threatened the lives of two of Bowes’s hirelings. And when Lucas had relayed word that Mary intended to venture out on 10 November, Bowes had immediately swung into action. As his armed vagabonds seized Mary’s coach, despatching Lee and Crundall to swear their innocence before a bewildered magistrate, Bowes waited eagerly in a hired carriage for his reunion with the wife he had not seen for nearly two years. The period of separation, Mary discovered, had not improved his behaviour.
Petrified for her safety but utterly determined never to return to Bowes’s violent regime, nothing would now induce Mary to bow to his bullying tactics. So as Bowes urged the coach onwards at reckless speed, stopping only to change horses or snatch refreshments at inns, Mary attempted every possible means of escape.
At the first halt to change horses, at Barnet, Mary smashed the carriage window with her bare hands and yelled, ‘Murder for God’s sake help me’, but she was immediately gagged by Bowes and held fast by Lucas. Halting shortly afterwards at the Brick Wall turnpike, she begged to be allowed out for a call of nature. Trembling so much that she could hardly hold the chamber pot, she persuaded the tollbooth keepers to fetch her a pen and paper. But having been told by Bowes that they were headed for St Paul’s Walden Bury, on the pretext that one of her children was seriously ill, she scribbled a note to Morgan urging her to hurry there. Incredibly, the hastily scrawled note found its way back to London; even more incredibly, torn and stained with damp, it still survives. ‘My Dear Morgan,’ she pleaded, ‘Let me beg that you and Mr Lacey will come to me immediately upon the receipt of this to Pauls Walden, & bring any other of our Friends with you, & for Heaven’s sake don’t lose a Moment.’13
Further along the road, when the carriage pulled in that evening at the George Inn, Buckden in Cambridgeshire, Mary succeeded in snatching a few words alone with a sympathetic serving maid whom she entreated to send a message by express carrier - a messenger on horseback - to Lord Mansfield. Later the maid would testify that Mary seemed ‘in great fear trouble and distress and wept very much and appeared to be very sick and vomited’. But reassured by Bowes that Mary was merely ill through fasting, the maid never sent the message. Continuing up the dangerously rutted northern road, the dishevelled party arrived at 1 a.m. at the Bell Inn, Stilton. Raising the tavern staff from their beds, Bowes dragged Mary into a parlour, held a pistol to her head and threatened to shoot her unless she signed a paper suspending the divorce. When she adamantly refused, he clenched his fist and punched her in the head. Dragged by his ruffians towards the coach, Mary managed to wrestle free and ran screaming up the high street, but although her cries were heard in several houses nobody came to her assistance. Recaptured by Bowes’s hoodlums she was forced back into the carriage where Bowes struck her on the chest with the heavy chain and seals of his watch.
Charging on through the night, Bowes stopped at Stamford, where Mary again screamed for help, and at Grantham, where Bowes kept her locked in the coach while the horses were changed. Arriving in Newark at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Mary was allowed under tight escort to visit the garden privy, where she was recognised from past visits by an ostler who noted that, ‘she appeared to be in great agitation and distress of mind and seemed worn out and spent with fatigue’ while a chambermaid remarked that Mary seemed ‘not in her senses’. Closely guarded as the carriage dashed on through Saturday, Mary was given no further chance to seek help until Bowes stopped for fresh horses at Barnby Moor in Nottinghamshire. Complaining of sickness, probably exacerbated by the swaying motion of the speeding coach, she was allowed upstairs to a parlour. Hurriedly whispering her plight to a chambermaid while Bowes was out of sight, Mary was finally rewarded. Shocked at details of the kidnap, the maid promised to send an urgent message to Lord Mansfield in London. On her knees, Mary kissed her in gratitude.
Convinced by now that Bowes planned to continue on to Scotland and from there set sail for Ireland, where her lawyers would have little hope of retrieving her, Mary was frantic. When they reached the familiar town of Barnard Castle, close to her ancient family seat of Streatlam Castle, she screamed as loudly as she could. ‘My whole conduct from Highgate to Streatlam was alternately screaming out, where there were hopes of assistance’, she later wrote, ‘and remaining quiet where there were few.’ Three miles further on, when the carriage rattled up the sweeping drive of Streatlam Castle and pulled up in front of the stone steps at about midnight, Mary shrieked to the postboys who had driven the horses from their last staging post that she had been brought there by force. Always ready with an answer, Bowes assured them that Mary was out of her mind. Bedraggled and exhausted, at the end of a journey lasting thirty-four hours, Mary certainly must have had the appearance of a madwoman. And as Bowes dragged her into the castle, shutting the great wooden doors behind them, she had no idea whether she would ever emerge again.
Originally built to withstand attack from Scottish invaders and powerful northern barons in the fifteenth century, Streatlam Castle provided Bowes with the perfect stronghold in which to keep Mary captive.14 Sited in a deep valley, surrounded by forested hills and encircled by a broad channel, originally the moat, the castle had kept Mary’s ancestors secure for a century before Sir George Bowes had been forced to flee from advancing Catholic forces during the Northern Rebellion of 1569. Promptly captured by the rebels, the castle had been wrecked and plundered before the patriotic Sir George could return lamenting that, ‘I am utterly spoiled of all my goodes.’ It was Mary’s supercilious uncle William who had transformed the Gothic pile into a family mansion at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Never fully completed, the gloomy and forbidding house had been disliked by Mary’s father, who preferred his cherished Gibside, and it had never evoked fondness in Mary either. Comfortless and dilapidated, the power base built to protect Mary’s ancestors now served as her prison.
Met at the door by Henry Bourn, Bowes’s right-hand man, Mary was taken to the oak-panelled dining room where generations of her ancestors had lingered over lavish banquets and toasted family triumphs. Having demanded food after the arduous journey, Bowes grabbed Mary and pointed his pistol at her breast then threatened to fire unless she consented to live with him again as his wife.15 Once cowed and submissive, terrified of her husband’s violent assaults, now Mary was defiant, refusing to comply with his demands, even at gun-point. Flinging down his weapon in exasperation Bowes berated her until supper arrived but no sooner had their plates been cleared than he snatched up his pistol again. Holding the gun once more to Mary’s breast, Bowes calmly informed her that he was determined to shoot. When he ordered her to, ‘Say your prayers!’ Mary did just that. Closing her eyes, she declaimed, ‘I recommend my spirit to God, and my friends to his protection: - fire!’ Mary heard the trigger being pulled and waited for the fatal blow but the gunpowder failed to ignite, probably due to the damp conditions of the journey, causing the proverbial ‘flash in the pan’. Demented with rage, Bowes punched Mary twice so that she fell to the floor, her head pounding so much that the room seemed ‘in a blaze of fire’. Towering over her, Bowes demanded to know whether she had had enough to which Mary retorted, ‘not the thousandth part enough; you may shoot me, or beat me to a mummy: my person is in your power, but my mind is beyond your reach.’ At that Bowes threw his ineffectual pistol aside and exclaimed in evident awe, ‘By God you are a wonderful woman.’
Undeterred, nonetheless, Bowes now ordered two of his ruffians to carry Mary up the grand oak staircase to bed. Once alone with her in the bedchamber, he told Mary to undress and get into bed with him; when she refused, he began to tear at her clothing then forced her on to the bed. Well aware that if Mary consented to have intercourse he could legitimately claim that she had returned to him as his wife and thereby invalidate her divorce suit, Bowes demanded sex. Equally resolved to resist, Mary swore that she would rather die than consent. Although she was plainly no match for Bowes’s looming six-foot figure and renowned might, Mary threatened she would sue him for rape if he attempted to take her by force. No doubt aware that rape was a hanging offence, he relented and left her to sleep alone. Throughout the following day, Sunday 12 November, Bowes continued to threaten Mary with violence, harangue her with insults and cajole her with details of a fresh round of eviction notices he planned to serve on her tenants. Closely guarded by Bowes’s confederates and served by Bowes’s mistress, a maid called Mary Gowland who was pregnant with yet another of his illegitimate children, Mary remained resolute.
News that the Countess of Strathmore had been abducted in broad daylight from one of London’s main thoroughfares spread rapidly through the streets of the capital and ultimately travelled even as far as India. ‘The town was ringing about your old neighbour of the north Countess Strathmore and the enormous barbarities of her husband,’ gossiped Horace Walpole to his friend Lady Ossory.16 The Duchess of Brunswick, sister of George III, exclaimed to the Duchess of Argyll: ‘What a shocking story this is of Mr Bowes carrying off Ldy Strathmore. ’ Despatching for good any remnants of Bowes’s reputation, the sensational events also prompted many to reassess their assumptions about marriage. While Walpole considered that wealthy widows should in future prove ‘a little cautious of Mac-Philanderers’, the Duchess of Brunswick firmly pronounced: ‘I seldom see love matches turn out well, love dose [does] make such havock.’
Eager to reveal the latest remarkable twist in the Bowes divorce, the press related the story in full. Rushing into print on the day after the kidnap, the London Evening Post announced: ‘Yesterday, about two o’clock, Lady Strathmore was forcibly taken away from the house of Mr Forster [sic], brazier, in Oxford-street, where she had called on business, by five or six armed men, who violently seized and put her into her own carriage, which waited at the door.’17 Describing the incident as an ‘outrage’, The Times averred that it was Bowes’s ‘unquestionable design’ to carry the countess to Ireland. The Gentleman’s Magazine carried the news in florid detail, reporting eye-witness accounts of Mary’s struggles and appeals for help as her coach sped through villages ‘at a most furious rate’. And finally catching up with the drama six months later, when the London news arrived by sea in India, the Madras Courier would astound its readers with ‘the particulars respecting the forcibly taking away the Countess of Strathmore’.
Meanwhile Mary’s friends and supporters lost no time in rushing to her aid. Appalled at seeing her beloved mistress and closest friend snatched from her side in Oxford Street, Mary Morgan had immediately dashed across town to find Thomas Lacey. But in an era seventy years before the existence of a nationwide police force, when even the most heinous crimes had to be pursued and prosecuted by the victims and their families, Mary’s supporters were forced to rely on their own resources. Too late to seek legal redress that day, on the following day Morgan and Captain Farrer, who had trudged back to town footsore and shamefaced, swore an affidavit before Lord Mansfield to secure a writ of habeas corpus ordering Bowes to surrender Mary along with a ‘Rule for Informations’ demanding that he explain his actions.18 A court tipstaff, Thomas Ridgeway, set off at once to serve the legal notices taking Captain Farrer as his guide. Together the pair galloped out of town, following the unmistakeable trail of Mary’s journey northwards. Reporting the tipstaff ’s quest, the English Chronicle confidently predicted, ‘There is no doubt he will succeed as many accounts have arrived in town from the places they passed through, which point out and ascertain their route.’19
Left in London to rally forces, Morgan and Lacey rejoiced when they received Mary’s damp-stained note revealing that she was heading for St Paul’s Walden Bury. Relief quickly turned to anguish, however, when she and Lacey arrived at the house to find it empty. Now convinced that Mary was being taken to Ireland, the pair despatched express messengers to all the main seaports urging that Bowes be apprehended, and distributed handbills throughout the capital appealing for help in finding her. Warning of the legal measures taken, the leaflets urged, ‘It is therefore hoped that all Persons will use their utmost Endeavours to stop their Progress, wherever they go, and prevent her being conveyed out of the Kingdom, and give every possible and speedy information thereof at her Ladyship’s House in Bloomsbury-Square, London.’20
As predicted by the press, Ridgeway and Captain Farrer collected distressing reports of Mary’s ordeal at every coaching inn they stopped at on the Great North Road; the information they gathered from witnesses would prove crucial. It was two days later, however, a full day behind Bowes, when their trail finally culminated in County Durham and the two crusaders were reliably informed that Mary was being held captive in Streatlam Castle. Joining forces with the resourceful Thomas Colpitts, the rescue party collected at the offices of a sympathetic local lawyer, Zachary Hubbersty, to consider their next move. ‘I have to inform you by express that Capt. Farrer, Mr Colpitts & Mr Ridgeway arrived here this morning about 9 o’clock, after hearing of Mr Stoney all the way,’ Hubbersty wrote in a dashed letter to Lacey in London.21 Having likewise heard of the various weapons being brandished by Bowes and his lawless crew, Ridgeway reasonably concluded that he needed to raise reinforcements before proceeding. To that end, the tipstaff summoned help from law enforcers in the region and placed a ‘strong guard’ around the castle for, as Hubbersty presciently noted, ‘there is no doubt but Mr B. will take Ly. S. off if any opportunity is given him so to do’.
With news of the extraordinary events radiating to every town and port, friends and allies throughout the country rallied to Mary’s cause. Horrified to hear of Bowes’s latest villainy, Robert Thompson, the sacked Gibside gardener, swore that he would save his mistress or ‘dye on the spott’.22Receiving the alarming news in Cambridge, Mary’s seventeen-year-old son John set off on horseback to rescue the mother he had not seen for six years. ‘The young Earl of Strathmore’, the English Chronicle told readers, ‘has set out for the north, and is determined to liberate his mother out of her present disagreeable situation at the risk of his existence.’23 Even the Duke of Norfolk, Bowes’s old drinking chum and bail guarantor, sent messengers to friends in the north urging them to join the rescue efforts. And once they learned that Bowes had barricaded himself in at Streatlam, local miners besieged the house, hollering for Mary’s release and lighting immense fires in an effort to prevent her being removed under cover of darkness. Watching the castle night and day, armed with guns, swords and bludgeons, the formidable force was variously estimated at two hundred, three hundred and even five hundred angry and determined men illuminated by ‘great blazing coal fires’ positioned in every avenue.24
While the miners were evidently prepared to risk their lives to deliver Mary from her ordeal, others were seemingly more resigned to her plight. Informed of events by Colpitts, Mary’s aged aunt, Margaret Liddell, in Durham promised to launch inquiries in the neighbourhood to ascertain her niece’s whereabouts but added lamely, ‘I dare say he will send her abroad.’25 Another correspondent, relating the news that had captivated the region, suggested, ‘she is most likely a Prisoner for Life’. And one witness, reporting details of Mary’s journey through Yorkshire, anticipated an even worse fate, writing, ‘It’s a dammed rascally affair . . . I hope he will not be vilain enough to do her away.’26
Although temperatures hovered close to freezing, the unyielding pitworkers gave a warm reception to Thomas Ridgeway when at last he approached Streatlam Castle with his documents in hand on 13 November. To nobody’s surprise the tipstaff was gruffly refused entry by one of Bowes’s hoodlums but when Ridgeway noticed a smartly dressed figure answering to Bowes’s description at one of the windows, he pushed the writs underneath the castle door by way of serving them.27 Powerless to take further action within the confines of the law but certain that his quarry was well and truly cornered, Ridgeway confidently awaited Mary’s release.
With the castle surrounded by pitworkers, law officers and neighbours, its walls illuminated by giant bonfires, supplies of food stopped and even the water pipes cut, it seemed only a matter of time before the prison would be breached. Yet with no sighting of Mary for two days, her putative rescuers were growing apprehensive. Confirmation that the habeas corpus had been served took an inevitable two days to reach London, whereupon Mary’s lawyers immediately requested that the King’s Bench send an ‘attachment’, or posse of officers, to take Bowes into custody for failing to comply. It took a further frustrating day for the court to agree, on 16 November, to the plea. Accordingly a band of armed officers then set off from Bow Street, the pioneering police station founded in the 1750s by the novelist and magistrate Henry Fielding, with a warrant to arrest Bowes and rescue Mary. With the whole country now agog at the scandal, one newspaper duly reported, ‘a party of peace officers, armed, in post chaises, went off with all expedition to Streatlam Castle’, while the Gentleman’s Magazine ruefully noted that fulfilling their task ‘will prove a dangerous attempt to execute’.28
Meanwhile James Farrer, arriving hotfoot from Carlisle, had decided to take the law into his own hands - or at least those of local magistrates. Impatient at the interminable delays, he obtained a warrant from a local justice and with the aid of several sturdy supporters determined to force open the castle gates. As the assembled crowd watched with bated breath, on 16 November Farrer, Hubbersty and Colpitts burst through the doors, tripped over the habeas corpus writ lying unread on the floor and commenced a search of the building. 29 To their astonishment, and the subsequent amazement of the gathered assembly, there was no sign either of Bowes or Mary. Closely questioned by the lawyers, the handful of ruffians left behind refused to yield a single clue to their whereabouts. Since no carriages were missing the bewildered rescuers were stumped as to the means of Bowes’s vanishing act and as there had been no sign of him since, they were equally flummoxed over his destination. Seriously alarmed that Mary might be irretrievably lost, it seemed, as one correspondent poignantly remarked, that Bowes had ‘Arts & Contrivance enough to accomplish any thing he undertakes’.30
One step ahead, as ever, Bowes was long gone. For on the evening of Sunday 12 November, the day after arriving at Streatlam and a full four days before James Farrer broke in with his search warrant, Bowes had fled the castle under the very noses of the vigilantes. Having forced Mary to dress in a man’s greatcoat and a maid’s bonnet he had smuggled her out of a back door and, with Mary riding pillion, accompanied by his pregnant mistress and several armed accomplices, ridden stealthily away across the moors.31 The next eight days would test Mary’s powers of endurance to the limits. Suffering barely credible extremes of deprivation and brutality, exposed to intolerable conditions during the coldest autumn of the century, Mary would draw on a remarkable inner resilience and the long-buried physical strength which her father had instilled in her as a child.
Heading due west across the boggy moorland, aiming for Carlisle and probably Ireland, Bowes first halted at a rough cottage belonging to his mistress’s father in a remote spot known as Roger Moor where the party laid low for the next two days. Here Bowes crammed Mary into a ‘press bed’ - a type of bed concealed in a cupboard commonly stored in eighteenth-century kitchens. When she still refused to sleep with him, he threatened her with his pistol, beat her about the head and shut her in. Enclosed in the darkness for most of the first day, she heard Bowes calling for padlocks and a hot poker but defiantly shouted that she was ready for whatever cruelty he might attempt. When finally the doors were opened Bowes laid her on her side then beat her severely with a rod.
Leaving the cottage once darkness fell the following evening, 15 November, Mary was placed on a horse behind Charles Chapman, a miner recruited as one of Bowes’s heavies, and headed west again across the moors. ‘It was a very windy, cold, dark night, when we left Roger Moor’, Mary would remember, ‘and travelled thro’ part of the Yorkshire Highlands, scattered with occasional villages.’ With sleet and snow beginning to fall, Mary’s flimsy clothing and thin slippers rapidly became sodden, so that she felt so ‘overpowered with the various fatigues, cruelties, want of sleep and the very wet condition I was in’ that several times she almost fell from Chapman’s horse. Breaking the ice on frozen rivers and trudging through deep snow drifts, the bedraggled party arrived in the early hours at the ramshackle cottage of Matthew Shields, a gamekeeper, in the hamlet of Arngill at the eastern foot of the North Pennine hills. That night Mary slept in a draughty loft with Mary Gowland while a fierce storm raged outside.
The following day, as James Farrer stormed Streatlam Castle, Mary was sitting on a wooden bench in Shields’s hovel only fourteen miles away. Warmed by a feeble peat fire and sustained only by hot milk and water with a little bread, she met another of her husband’s mistresses, Isabella Dixon, who was nursing the latest of his illegitimate children. Marooned in the cottage for a second night by the drifting snow, on 17 November Mary was encouraged when Henry Bourn arrived to inform Bowes that Captain Farrer and Thomas Colpitts junior, her agent’s son, were now scouring the countryside for her. Fearful of being discovered, Bowes insisted that they set out again soon after dark.
With Mary mounted behind Chapman once more, the party was guided by Shields over the North Pennine hills. Known even now as ‘England’s last wilderness’, the North Pennines form the highest points in the range which divides England down the centre, from Derbyshire in the south to the Scottish border in the north. As they rose forbiddingly before her now, capped with snow, Mary may well have echoed the judgement of the author Daniel Defoe that: ‘This, perhaps, is the most desolate, wild, and abandoned Country in all England.’
Keeping to lonely country roads and treacherous moorland paths, the horses stumbled over the fells as sleet blinded their way. When they stopped briefly at a turnpike cottage near Brough, Shields told the tollkeepers that Mary was being taken to visit her daughter who was in labour. Arriving in the early hours at Appleby, a little medieval town on the road to Carlisle, Bowes installed Mary in one inn and sent his hoodlums to another in order to avoid suspicion. Again he tried to force her to have sex with him; again she swore she would prosecute him for rape if he persevered.
Anxious that Captain Farrer and young Colpitts might overtake them, Bowes forced the party to leave hurriedly the following morning, 18 November, so that in the rush Mary left behind her stockings. Bundling Mary into a chaise which Bowes had hired to reach Carlisle, they were stopped after only three miles by a man on horseback who warned them that they were being followed. Mary sank to her knees in gratitude that she was about to be rescued, but Bowes dragged her into the road, sent the carriage on towards Carlisle as a decoy and took off across the fields with the pregnant Mary Gowland riding pillion on his horse, Mary Eleanor mounted behind Chapman. When the determined Captain Farrer and his fellow pursuer hurtled past in their chaise in pursuit of the empty carriage only minutes later, Mary was being hidden in a cowshed a few hundred yards away.
Doubling back, Bowes now trekked east towards the steeply rising western escarpment of the Pennines, stopping only to find guides at remote cottages along the route. Never short of a ready fiction, Bowes told the country folk he encountered that he was a doctor and Mary a demented patient. Clinging to Chapman as their horse stumbled along the narrow passes, her bare legs numb from the cold, Mary gazed with awe on the ‘stupendous rocks and mountains deeply covered with snow’ and ‘tremendous precipices’ as they negotiated a route over the 2,454-foot peak of Burton Fell. So bleak was the terrain that even one of their guides lost his way. Weak from fatigue and cold, Mary fell from her horse when it plunged into a snowdrift but was promptly reseated by Bowes’s henchmen. As they crossed a plain so immense and white that it ‘perfectly resembled the wide Ocean’, Mary recognised some rare alpine plants peeping out from the snow. Pointing them out to Bowes she shouted, ‘that as I now saw them against my inclination, I would when released from him come there some future summer for my own pleasure and to indulge my Botanical passion’.
As the day darkened, Mary found that they had returned to Matthew Shields’s house at Arngill where Isabella Dixon confessed herself astounded that they had survived the mountain crossing in such foul conditions. Yet before she had time even to dry her wet clothes by the fire, Mary was forced outside again, this time mounted behind Bowes, to press on towards Darlington. Creeping along the back roads through the night, the bedraggled group passed within three miles of Streatlam Castle where Bowes even had the gall to send one of his gang to glean news of the rescue efforts. The resulting information did not bring him comfort.
Having passed within yards of Mary’s hideaway in the cowshed near Appleby, Captain Farrer and Colpitts junior had continued to Penrith, just as Bowes had hoped, but finding no trace of their quarry retraced their route with growing anguish.32 Gathering jumbled reports of the fugitives as they went, they called at Arngill - missing Mary’s second visit by hours - but were met with contemptuous silence from its inhabitants. In bewilderment they returned west as far as Carlisle, but discovering no sign of Bowes, doubled back again, their efforts now focused on County Durham. With armed officers arriving from London, every village watchman and country constable on the alert and sightings of the conspicuous group circulating widely, it seemed only a matter of time before Bowes would be cornered. ‘Various & many are the reports of the Fugitives,’ reported one correspondent following developments, ‘& a whole Country upon the Watch.’33
At last rising to the seriousness of the situation, Mary’s aunt, Margaret Liddell, sent instructions to every coaching inn in the region to refuse fresh horses to Bowes’s men. Conveying news to Colpitts, she lamented, ‘This most melancholy afair has effected my nerves so much, that really I can hardly hold my Pen.’34 At the same time James Farrer issued posters offering a £50 reward for any information leading to the arrest of Bowes and the rescue of Mary.35 Pasted on tavern walls and turnpike gates throughout the north, the posters gave descriptions of Bowes, his accomplices and Mary herself in less than flattering terms. Bowes, one poster asserted, was ‘above the middle size, sallow complexion, large Nose which stands rather one side, and lisps in his speech’, while Mary was described as ‘a little woman, a longish Face, with fine dark brown Hair, rather Bulky over the Chest’.
While Mary’s lawyer was sparing no efforts to effect her release, Bowes’s own lawyer was proving equally industrious on his client’s behalf. An attorney in Darlington renowned for his sharp practices, Thomas Bowes - no relation to his defendant or to Mary - had acquired the soubriquet ‘Hungry Bowes’.36 It was Thomas Bowes who had masqueraded as his client when Ridgeway arrived at Streatlam Castle, and it was in the lawyer’s own house that Mary was next imprisoned. Having arrived in the early hours of 19 November, she had been locked in a windowless room, or passage, without a candle before being allowed to sleep in a bedroom. That afternoon, however, the party was on the move again.
Plainly panicking as his pursuers closed in, Bowes and his crew took Mary in a hired chaise through Durham to Newcastle from whence he hoped to negotiate an alternative route to Carlisle. That night was spent at a coaching inn at Harlow Hill, just west of the city, where Mary was confined with Mary Gowland in the stableyard as wind and rain came in through the cracks in the chaise windows. But the perilous weather conditions, which had earlier proved almost fatal, now worked to her advantage when the postillions refused to continue on next morning so that Bowes had no alternative but to head back for Newcastle. Refused fresh horses at several coaching inns in the city, Bowes eventually found an amenable innkeeper. In a fury at the ingratitude of his former constituents and, for once in his life, seemingly devoid of any clear plan, Bowes now headed back south towards Darlington.
Nearing the town, Bowes realised that he was being followed - by one of Margaret Liddell’s servants - so he promptly commandeered a horse from a fellow traveller on the road and, waving his pistol wildly in the air, chased the man for nearly two miles. Continuing in the chaise, a few miles further on they were met by Bourn who warned Bowes that a crowd had gathered in Darlington ready to seize him. Growing dangerously irrational in his panic, Bowes sent the chaise on to Darlington with Mary Gowland inside, seized Bourn’s horse, and with Mary mounted bareback behind him and only his French valet, Mark Prevot, for protection galloped away across the open fields. It was mid-afternoon on Monday, 20 November, when Bowes arrived in the little village of Neasham, a few miles south of Darlington, beside the River Tees. Having travelled at least 180 miles in eight days, by coach, on horseback and on foot, with barely any nourishment in freezing conditions, Mary was now near exhaustion. Demented with fear and confusion, her captor was scarcely in any better condition.
Seated on his farm horse in his grubby workclothes, Gabriel Thornton, a ploughman who worked for Thomas Colpitts’s son-in-law, bore little resemblance to a knight on a white charger. Yet from the moment he spotted the suspicious-looking couple riding through Neasham, he acted with chivalric courage and determination.37 Although the woman riding pillion was unkempt, mired in dirt and dressed in a man’s greatcoat with no stockings and only one slipper, he had no doubt that he had discovered the Countess of Strathmore. Well aware of the nationwide hunt to rescue the countess he initially followed at some distance. But knowing that Bowes was reported to be heavily armed and observing that the man who rode with him carried an unsheathed sword, he thought it prudent to summon assistance from the parish constable, one Christopher Smith. Together Thornton and Smith advanced towards their target and as they closed the gap, they were gradually joined by a growing number of farmhands and villagers. At last, as Bowes turned into a field, the little group of about a dozen men had him surrounded. Surprised at the ambush, Bowes immediately flourished one of his pistols and threatened to shoot out the brains of any man who tried to seize him. Although they were unarmed apart from a few sticks and farm implements, the villagers stood their ground. As Thornton stepped forward to challenge Bowes, an elderly man grabbed the bridle of his horse and Mary saw her chance. She slid to the ground and begged the gathered crowd for assistance. Staggering towards Thornton, she was grabbed by Prevot with his sword drawn but with her last ounce of strength she pinched his arm so severely that he dropped the weapon. Wrenching herself free, she was lifted by one of the farmhands on to Thornton’s horse. In the confusion, Constable Smith seized Bowes’s pistols and with the butt end of one of them gave Bowes a blow to the head that knocked him off his horse. Seeing her captor sprawled on the ground, disarmed and almost senseless, Mary now exclaimed with a flourish, ‘Farewell, learn to amend your life’, and with her gallant ploughman bearing her away she headed straight for London.
Safely back, at Farrer and Lacey’s house in Bread Street Hill by the following evening, Mary was in little condition to celebrate. While Lacey scrawled a hurried letter informing Colpitts that Mary was ‘just arrived safe at our House’, Mary Morgan rejoiced ‘at the blessed Restoration of my Dear & suffering Lady’.38 Covered in bruises, severely affected by exposure and unable to walk, Mary Eleanor had to be carried into the court of King’s Bench on 23 November to swear articles of peace against Bowes. A crowd gathered to watch her being lifted from her carriage and carried into the courtroom, limp, pained and exhausted. Spectators and reporters alike were then stunned to hear both the details of her suffering and her fortitude in surviving them. ‘Lady Strathmore, from the extreme ill-treatment she has received since forced from this metropolis, is become an object of the most extreme pity, and compassion to every beholder,’ pronounced the English Chronicle while the Public Advertiser reported that she had ‘experienced the greatest hardships and distress, too tedious, and almost too dreadful to relate’.39 Determined, nonetheless, to regale their readers with the details, newspapers from London to Madras devoted copious columns to the story while Grub Street publishers rushed into print with illustrated pamphlets and jaunty poems describing Mary’s villainous abduction by her scoundrel husband and heroic rescue by a hardy band of country folk. In the meantime, Bowes had evaded his pursuers and taken refuge once more in his lawyer’s house in Darlington where he was finally apprehended by the dogged Thomas Ridgeway. Now held firmly in the custody of the tipstaff, Bowes was conducted to London to face judgement. Naturally he still had a few tricks up his sleeve.