Solicitor’s Spouse Springs Prisoner from the Marshalsea, 1850

If you were to find yourself in a 19th century Victorian cab, driving through Dublin, where would you direct the driver to go? The Four Courts of course! Be careful, though, to check your pocket for your fare, or you might end up at the other Four Courts – the Four Courts Marshalsea – where debtors were sent for not paying their debts!

Sometimes the two institutions overlapped, with interesting results, as shown in this story from the Montrose Standard of 5 July 1850:

Mrs Philips, the wife of a solicitor, has been tried at Dublin on a criminal charge for conspiring to aid Miss Thompson to escape from the Four Courts, Marshalsea. Miss Thompson was a prisoner for debt; one evening she entertained some friends, and Mrs Philips was continually passing through the prison gate in making or pretending to make preparations for the entertainment; and when it grew dark, she changed duties with the prisoner, and Miss Thompson hurried out of the prison in the guise of the busy Mrs Philips.  Miss Thompson has not been recaptured. In the course of the trial, it appears that the seal had not been affixed to the writ of execution until after the flight of Miss Thompson. This was held to be a fatal objection to the proceedings against Mrs Philips, and she was acquitted.”

The ‘busy Mrs Philips’ was very lucky to be acquitted!

I wonder what happened to Miss Thompson?

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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