Share this page

Blind Solomon

Anne-Marie Ford    -    4 September 2012

Solomon was only nineteen when he found himself accused of the murder of his partner, Repentance Ayres. The case caused a sensation and Solomon Stanley was indicted with [her] wilful murder on 24th June 1836. Emily Stanley, who was a witness to the events, gave evidence that:

There was an encampment of theirs in Copner Lane, near Portsmouth, the prisoner and the deceased were there; they lived together as man and wife, but were not married, and had one child. The deceased was first cousin to the witness and the prisoner her second cousin. The prisoner and Ayres had a tent to themselves. On the day in question both of them had been out drinking and, on their return to the encampment, they both came to the tent of the witness, the prisoner came first, but was followed by Ayres, with her baby in her arms. She told the prisoner he should not stay there, and appeared angry and insisted upon prisoner going to his tent; the prisoner got into a violent passion, swore at her, and gave her a blow on the head with his fist. The witness’s father, who was there, desired Ayres to go away, or her baby would be injured. The prisoner again struck her on the body and also gave her a kick, which knocked her down. A woman who was present took the child out of her arms, and the witness went to assist her, and placed the deceased’s head in her lap, who breathed three times, and then died. The prisoner ran away, but was followed by witness’s father on horseback, who brought him back. Her father said to the prisoner, “Come and take your last farewell of Repentance and her baby.” The prisoner went and kissed them and appeared very sorry for what had happened.

The doctor, who went late in the evening in question to the Gypsies’ encampment, “thought appearances were enough to account for the death of the deceased; he told the prisoner he must take him into custody, to which the latter consented, and went with him to a constable at Kingston Cross.”

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle of 4th July 1836 recorded the commitment for trial of Solomon Stanley on a charge of manslaughter at the ensuing Assizes, and, in its publication two weeks later, on the 18th July 1836, remarked that the Grand Jury had returned a true bill for the capital crime, and decided to try him for murder. The doctor, however, had since attended a post mortem examination on the body of Repentance Ayres. He gave evidence that “there was a slight bruise on the left thigh, and another on the left arm, neither of which could have caused death.” In fact the results of the post mortem found that Repentance’s brain was “gorged with blood sufficient to produce death,” owing to “violent excitement, either from intemperate drinking or excessive passion, under the influence of both of which the deceased unhappily suffered immediately prior to her death.” The judge instructed the jury to acquit the prisoner, and Solomon was allowed to go.

Solomon was the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Stanley, and his relationship with Repentance Ayres had resulted in the birth of Caroline, baptised the month before her mother’s death, on 8thMay 1836, in Widley, Hampshire, the daughter of Solomon and Penty, travellers. She can be found in the census records of xxxxx, travelling with her uncle and aunt, Samuel Stanley, Solomon’s brother, and Samuel’s wife, Anne. Samuel and Elizabeth Stanley had seven known children, all boys: John, baptised 7th July 1799, son of a Gypsy man and woman; James, baptised on 31st January 1802, at East Tistead, Hampshire, the son of a pedlar; Samuel, baptised 4th November the same year; Daniel Dangerfield, baptised on 15th July 1804 at Chilbolton, Hampshire; Henry, baptised at Whitchurch, Hampshire on 20th August 1809; David, baptised at Soberton, Hampshire on 23rd February 1812; Solomon, baptised at Headbourne Worthy, Hampshire on 20th October 1816.

Intriguingly, the Emily Stanley who gave evidence at Solomon’s trial for murder claims him to be her second cousin. If she is the daughter of Charles and Mary Stanley, baptised in 1817 as Emeline Stanley, this is likely to be the case. Charles was the son of John and Susannah Stanley, travellers, and was baptised at Mountfield All Saints, Sussex on 21st September 1788, and a probably a cousin of Samuel Stanley, Solomon’s father. It would also suggest that Emily’s mother, Mary, was an Ayres, as the witness declared Repentance Ayres to be her first cousin; perhaps Emily’s mother is the Mary who baptised an “illegitimate” son, Charles Aires (sic), at Havant, Hampshire on 18th May 1809.

We don’t know when Solomon went blind, although some census records state that it was from childhood, this was clearly not the case, but by the 1851 census, when married to his second partner, Sarah, he is designated as such. He had married, as son of Samuel, toSarah Alexander, daughter of John,a carter, on 20th December 1842 at South Stoneham, Hampshire. By this time they appear to have had two children, Susannah, born about 1838, Solomon, born in 1842. David, named for Solomon’s brother, was to follow in 1844 or thereabouts, then Clara in 1847 and finally, Mary Ann, in around 1850.Sarah seems to have been a widow, having been baptised on 26th February 1809 in Michelmersh, Hampshire, the daughter of John and Mary, she married James Martin on 16th April 1827 at Timsbury, in Hampshire, which explains why when Susannah marries she does so as Susannah Martin, clearly her mother’s name at the time of her birth.

By 1864 Solomon was again in court, this time as the accuser, for his brother, Daniel Dangerfield was charged with assault and appeared before the Southampton County Bench, following a dispute over money, during which he had dealt Solomon a “severe blow on the head.” Found guilty, Dangerfield was fined £1/8/6d plus costs. Nor was it the first time he had found himself in court after fighting with a sibling. At the Hampshire Easter Sessions of 1825 Samuel Stanley, aged 16, and his brother, Daniel Dangerfield Stanley, 18 years of age, had been involved in a fight which led them to them both being charged with assault.

Solomon’s daughter Susannah married Thomas Cleft, baptised on 5th January 1834 in the registration district of Southampton, the son of William and Tabitha,duringthe December quarter of 1857 in the district of South Stoneham, where she is recorded as Susannah Martin. Clara married twice, her first union was with Edmond Rolph, andshe gave birth to a daughter, Sarah, named after her mother, in 1868. Upon being widowed, Clara remarried a James Stanley, presumably a cousin, and the 1881 census finds both Solomon and also Clara and her family, at Hound, in Hampshire. Solomon, now a widower, is recorded as a pedlar (blind), and is with his son, Solomon, born about 1841, also a pedlar, and his grand-daughter, Sarah Rolph, in Mr Hodder’s brickyard, School Road, Hound. In the same location is Thomas Cleft, working as a brick labourer, together with Susannah, and their children, Thomas, aged about 22, Mary Ann, named after her sister, aged about 15, Betsy, baptised at Scholing, Southampton, Rhoda, baptised in the same location, on 30th April 1871, as was Alexander, on 28th February 1875, Barbara was born about three years later and there was also one-year-old daughter Ethel. In addition, Thomas and Susannah had had two other daughters, Ellen, born about 1861 and Clara, born about three years later. Outside the brickyard, but still in School Road in a Gypsy caravan, are Clara and James Stanley, with children Alice, about 10 years old, James, about eight, Ellen, six, Georgiana, four, and a little son, named for her father Solomon, aged 2 years.

Solomon’s daughter MaryAnn, who had married Charles Hooper, son of John Hooper, in the registration district of Southampton on 15th August 1869,where the union was witnessed by her sister, Susannah, and brother-in-law, Thomas Cleft. Mary Anne was also the informant at the death of their mother Sarah, who died of heart disease at South Stoneham in 1879. Yet one more instance of how closely knit this family were. By the 1891 census Solomon can be found, now 75 years of age, although claiming to be 79, as a basket maker, living with his grandson, the 21-year-old Charles Hooper. Solomon was to die the following year of chronic bronchitis, with his daughter Clara in attendance, and his death certificate lists his occupation as that of a former horse dealer. It had been an eventful life, but to the end Solomon’s family appear to have remained united about him, and its closing years seem to have been considerably more peaceful than his turbulent youth.

Copyright © 2012 Anne-Marie Ford