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A Wife for Sale

Cloudesley Shovell Henry Brereton (1863-1937) a school master and educationist, who was born at Briningham House and later retired there where he farmed, wrote to The Times a letter which was published on 3 May 1932.

From Dr. Cloudesley Brereton

Sir, The extract on the sale of a wife from 'The Times' of 100 years ago, in your issue of today, reminds me of what the late George Danby Kerrison once told me. As a small boy he was riding one day with his uncle down one of our Norfolk roads, when they came across a farmer standing by the wayside with a woman 'with only her shift on' and a rope around her neck, as if she were an animal for sale. She was his wife, and he was offering her to passers-by for 10s. Another farmer bought her, and the curious thing is that the woman, who lived for several years with her second 'husband', was treated by the neighbours with exactly the same consideration as if she had been his lawful wife. Judging by my friend's age, this must have happened much later than 1832 - round about 1840, in fact.

Yours faithfully,

Cloudesley Brereton

So it seems that the practice of valuing wives in monetary terms is a long established Norfolk practice.