Share this page


Anne-Marie Ford    -    28 February 2015

The name Clarinda Stanley appears three times in Hampshire records in the eighteenth century. The first reference is in the Midsummer Quarter Sessions at Winchester in 1744, when Peter Stanley, Richard and Millicent Stanley, their daughter, Clarinda, together with James Scamp, Thomas and Elgina (?Algenny) Scamp and their daughter, Mary, are brought from Odiham House of Correction. (Are these two families related? Algenny is a name which appears in the Stanleys and Clarinda a popular name in the Scamps, this may simply be coincidence, but it is possible that Millicent Stanley was a Scamp before her union with Richard, the county of Kent being popular with both family groups.)

Peter Stanley was, almost certainly, the husband of Jane/Jenny, with whom he had children, baptised in Hampshire and Berkshire, between 1737 and 1756; Richard Stanley is a cousin, son of Hercules and Parthenia, and he and his wife, Millicent, were to baptise their known family in Hampshire, Dorset and Surrey. There is no age given for Clarinda and no known baptism, but a gap in the family might suggest a birth in about 1743.

A Clarinda Stanley appears again in the Midsummer Quarter Sessions at Winchester in 1780, together with Sylvia and Caroline Stanley, all described as vagabonds. If this is the same Clarinda she is at least 37 years of age, the other two women are younger. Sylvia/Selbea is, in all probability, the daughter of Peter, son of the first Peter mentioned, and his wife, Sarah, who was baptised at Hampreston, in Dorset, on 20th May 1760. She married William Fletcher at Millbrook, Hampshire in January 1781 and Clarinda Stanley married Thomas Tapps at Portsea St Mary on 13th May 1782. Caroline is possibly the daughter of a William and Ann Stanly (sic),travellers, who baptised her at St Mary Bourne, Hampshire on 2nd April 1758; she, too, was to marry at Portsea St Mary, on 1st May 1784, to a John Fletcher.

In the early nineteenth century, and living in London, Clarinda reappears in a satirical report in the Morning Post of 24th October 1814:

Clarinda Tapps, an ancient Sybil, was charged by Caroline Walker with having defrauded her of 2s 6d under pretence of opening to her the page of futurity. It appeared that the prophetess resided in Maypole Alley, and Mrs Walker, having heard of her fame, went to enquire what lot was written down for her in the book of fate. Having obtained admission to the presence of the venerable matron, she was informed if she wished to have her fortune well told, she must deposit 2s 6d as an offering at the shrine of information. This request was complied with, though rather reluctantly. Several mystic rites were then performed. The temple was fumigated, and the sacred book was opened. The fortune of the curious enquirer appeared in the brightest colours. She was informed that, though at present a single woman, she would soon marry; that fate had decided she should have 11 children, all of whom should travel and be fortunate. It happened, unfortunately, that Mrs Walker was already married. This made her entertain doubts of the skills of the prophetess; she demanded her money back and, on its being refused, had the prophetess committed, as a vagabond, to prison.

However, in tracing the known baptisms of the children of Clarinda Tapps, it becomes clear that she cannot be the daughter of Richard and Millicent Stanley, recorded at the Quarter Sessions of 1744. Her first child with Thomas appears to have been born on home territory, and was baptised Thomas on 14th April 1784 at Portsea, Southampton. However, two other children attributable to this couple are born in the following decade and in London: Margaret Frances is baptised at St George’s, Southwark, on 5th January 1792, having been born the previous November. Another daughter, Caroline Clarinda, baptised at the same location in April 1800, was born on 27th November 1799.The original Clarinda Stanley would have been at least 56 at the time of this last known child, so, clearly, another Clarinda, probably named for the first, was born later; she is possibly the child of a sibling of the original Clarinda (a fairly common practice amongst Gypsies and Travellers was to name children after a brother or sister).

On 29th January 1800 there is a settlement examination for Thomas Tapps and his wife, Clarinda, in London:

Thomas Tapps, 55, his wife Clarinda and three children, Richard, 10, William, 2, and a female infant, born 7th November 1799. He was born in St Peter Bedford and 22 years ago married at Kingston, near Portsmouth, Hampshire. He lived for four years as an apprentice to Mr Thomas Simpson of Cow Cross, pipe maker, then ran away and enlisted as a soldier.

It was, in reality, 18 years since Thomas and Clarinda had married, but the location is correct and the three children include Caroline Clarinda, who had indeed been born on 7th November, just two months before. Their first child, Thomas, who would have been about 16, is not with them and, as Margaret Frances appears to have done, he may have died in childhood. Richard, however, and William, are interesting additions to our knowledge of Clarinda’s family and suggest the possibility of her descent from either the William Stanley, probable father of Caroline, the name Clarinda chose for her little girl, or Richard. Richard Stanley, son of Richard and Millicent, could have chosen to name a daughter after his sister. This is mere speculation of course, what we know is that Clarinda settled in Southwark, where she seems to have made a number of court appearances.

In the Easter of 1802 she accused William Wilkes, a labourer, and his wife, Esther, of “assault and threatened violence.” The case was dismissed. In January 1808 Clarinda was in court again, accusing Mary Peggs and John Nichols of “feloniously stealing a silver watch and other articles, the property of Thomas Tapps.” They were both acquitted. Finally, in July 1814, a few months before she herself was to be imprisoned, she accused Patrick Sullivan of “assault and threatened violence.” He was found guilty and imprisoned in the county gaol for three months.

Clarinda Tapps, wife of Thomas, also appears in the Southwark rate books, for the years 1821 and 1831, the location where she had worked as a fortune teller; her address is Redcross Court, Redcross Street, in the parish of St Saviour’s. It was, unsurprisingly, a poor district. Since her name is on the rates books it also suggests that, by this time, she is a widow. However, the City of London Burials record a Cliorander (sic) Tapps being buried on 10th June 1829, at Ireland Yard, St Anne’s, Blackfriars. This is very close to her address in Redcross Street, and suggests Clarinda Tapps may have died long before she could pay those rates in 1831.

The record of her death lists her age as 67, having been born in 1762, which also indicates that the three young women appearing at Winchester in 1780 were of an age; Sylvia/Selbea was 20, Caroline Stanley about 22 years and Clarinda was the youngest, at 18 years of age.

Copyright © 2015 Anne-Marie Ford