Sarah Gale, b. 1767

Pauper Apprentice and Three Times Mother of Bastard Children

A woman whose family apparently fell into poverty when she was young, Sarah Gale engaged in a series of sexual relationships which resulted in the birth of illegitimate children, and her dependence on the parish for help with their subsequent care.

Family Background

Sarah Gale was probably the daughter of John and Mary Gale who was christened at St Marylebone on 24 May 1767.1

In February 1771, her mother Mary was examined by the magistrates of St Clement Danes about the circumstances of the Gale family: John (her father), Mary (her mother) and their two young daughters Sarah and Mary. It is possible that the family had recently been forced to move to St Clement Danes from elsewhere in London following a slide into pauperism resulting from illness: Mary stated that John was currently a patient in Middlesex Hospital. His settlement in the parish was through an apprenticeship he had served there with a plumber and glazier, which must have been completed more than a decade prior to his marriage to Mary in the parish of St Giles sometime around 1760.

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Workhouse and Apprenticeship

In August 1777, at the age of 11, Sarah was admitted to the parish workhouse on her own. She was set to work with the other children making mop yarn. The following year she was apprenticed by the parish to Joseph Walker, a tailor of Wych Street. Walker was a man of sufficient substance to appear in the Westminster pollbooks in 1780 and 1784.

But in 1784 disaster struck. Joseph Walker was himself reduced to pauperism and admitted to the parish workhouse, probably in about November. This may simply have been the result of old age, as he was 68, and he died in the workhouse the following March.

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Sarah Gale joined him in the workhouse in about December, where she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Maria, at the end of 1784 or beginning of 1785. The father of her child was her master's son, also named Joseph, who was aged about 25. He had reportedly "gone abroad" by this time. Sarah was discharged from the workhouse in February 1785.

In 1787, Sarah became pregnant again. The father of this child was William Underwood, who worked with a glass polisher in Long Acre. On 1 August 1788 she gave birth to a daughter, named Ann, at a "licensed house" in Mountague Close, in the Borough, south of the river.

On 31 October 1790 Sarah gave birth to her third illegitimate daughter, Margaret, once again in the workhouse. This time she named the father of her unborn child as Jeremiah Sullivan, a journeyman dyer, "he having had Carnal knowledge of this Examinants Body sometime in the Month of February last and at several times since". The magistrates added a note that Sullivan had been bound to appear at the September sessions.

The eldest daughter Maria and her younger sister Margaret were both put under the care of Nurse Taylor at Enfield. Tragically, Margaret Maria and Margaret died there in August 1791. Maria survived (although the record suggests she died on the same day as Margaret) and is recorded in a number of registers during the 1790s.

Sarah Gale does not appear again in London Lives. There is, however, a record of the marriage of a Sarah Gale to Thomas Voak at St Clement Danes in December 1792, who may well be the same woman.2

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External Sources


1 Family Search, consulted 17 April 2010.

2 Family Search, consulted 17 April 2010.

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About this Biography

Created by

Sharon Howard 

Further contributions by