Divorce of Louisa Mary Hooper (nee Dudley), 1883

Louisa Mary Dudley (b. 9 Dec 1851) was the daughter and only child of Samuel Burnham Dudley, farmer and land agent, of The Limes, Horn Street. She was also the main heiress of her great-aunt Mary Elizabeth West. In 1875 she married William Hope Hooper (b. 1853), a solicitor, son of the rector of Thornton and Nash. It was a "fashionable marriage" with 50 "handsome and costly presents" according to the Buckingham Advertiser. Hooper was in partnership with Herbert Bullock before moving to London.

In 1857 the Matrimonial Causes Act made divorce in England available for the first time to people other than the very rich. Women could only apply for divorce on the grounds of aggravated adultery, e.g. when the husband had also committed cruelty. Those were the grounds used by Louisa Hooper, possibly the first Winslow woman to petition for a divorce.

The following text is extracted from the Court for Divorce records (National Archives J 77/281/8294):

[Summary:]  In the High Court of Justice: Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division (Divorce)
Hooper Louisa Mary   v.   Hooper William Hope
Petition Filed    28 July 1882
Decree Nisi     23 Feb. 1883
Final Decree    6 Nov.  1883

In the Matter of the Dissolution of the Marriage of Louisa Mary Hooper
The Petition of Louisa Mary Hooper of Winslow in the County of Bucks the lawful wife of William Hope Hooper
1. That on or about the 23rd day of September 1875 at the Parish Church of Winslow in the County of Bucks your Petitioner (then Louisa Mary Dudley Spinster) was lawfully married to the said William Hope Hooper
2. That after the said Marriage your Petitioner lived and cohabited with her said husband at Winslow aforesaid and at No. 70 Tavistock Crescent, Westbourne Park in the County of Middlesex
3. That in or about the month of July 1880 at Winslow aforesaid the said William Hope Hooper seized your Petitioner by the throat and told her she had better leave the room or by God he would shoot her and shortly after threw your Petitioner against the wall of the room
4. That in or about the month of August 1880 at Winslow aforesaid the said William Hope Hooper pinched your Petitioner and threatened to murder her
5. That frequently during the months of June, July, August and September 1880 the said William Hope Hooper seized your Petitioner and locked her in a cupboard
6. That in and during the years from 1877 to 1881 both inclusive at their residence at Winslow aforesaid and 70 Tavistock Crescent aforesaid the said William Hope Hooper has habitually used coarse violent and threatening language towards your Petitioner
7. That on or about the 16th day of September 1881 the said William Hope Hooper without any reasonable cause left the house No. 70 Tavistock Crescent aforesaid where your Petitioner was then living with him without making any provision whatever for the maintenance and support of your Petitioner and has ever since lived separate and apart from her
8. That on or about the 8th day of July instant at the Bells of Ousley Hotel Old Windsor in the County of Berks the said William Hope Hooper committed adultery with a female whose name is unknown to your Petitioner
9. No collusion or connivance exists between myself and the said William Hope Hooper with respect to the matters contained in or the Relief prayed for by the said Petition[er]

Your Petitioner therefore humbly prays that this Honorable Court will be pleased to decree that the marriage of your Petitioner with the said William Hope Hooper be dissolved. And your Petitioner will ever pray to &c.

Extracts from Decree absolute:

On 6th day of November 1883 Hooper L.M. against Hooper W.
referring to the Decree made in this Cause on the 23rd day of February 1883 whereby it was decreed that the Marriage took place on the 23rd day of September 1875 at the Parish Church of Winslow between Louisa Mary Hooper then Dudley Spinster the Petitioner and William Hope Hooper the Respondent

[the Marriage] be dissolved by reason that since the celebration thereof the said Respondent had been guilty of Adultery coupled with Cruelty towards the said Petitioner

The said Decree to be made absolute within six months from the making thereof …..the President …...declared the said Marriage to be dissolved.

H. L. Strong Registrar
The said Respondent to pay the costs incurred on behalf of the said Petitioner in this Cause.

The newspaper report on the granting of the decree nisi recorded some more details:

Buckingham Advertiser, 3 March 1883

Her father made her an allowance. Her husband was extravagant in his habits, consequently her father curtailed the allowance. This was not appreciated by her husband, who called her abusive names. In July, 1880, he took her by the throat, pointed a revolver at her, and knocked her down. Corroborative evidence was given of the cruelty; while, in respect of the other charge, testimony was adduced to the effect that at The Bells, near Datchet, the respondent came with a woman. They had been rowing together in a double canoe. They passed as man and wife at the hotel. The respondent left there a handkerchief, which was one of the means of the identification of the respondent.

Memorial of Louisa HooperTwo days after the granting of the decree absolute, William Hooper (who presumably colluded in the divorce) got married again. He emigrated to Runnymede, Kansas, and died in the U.S.A. in 1909.

Louisa returned to Winslow and lived with her mother, who died in 1902, at 17 Market Square. She sold the property, and in 1911 she was lodging at Market Hill, Buckingham. She died at Penzance in 1917, aged 63. Read her will.

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Copyright 16 December, 2022