Rochdale Observer March 31st 1917.


At the Rochdale borough police court on Wednesday, Harry Mortimer (35), a sergeant in the Royal Engineers, was charged with marrying Charlotte Tattersall of Back Joy-street, Syke, his former wife, Ada Mary Elizabeth, being alive. He was further charged with marrying Ellen Kell, his former wife being alive. The magistrates on the bench were Alderman Cuncliffe (in the chair), Councillor Booth, Mr. W.H. Schofield, and Mr. Richard Heape.

Ada Mary Elizabeth Coghill, a servant, of Grove Lodge, Harehills Lane, Roundergrove, Leeds,who was told that she was not obliged to give evidence, but stated that she was willing to do so, said she married the prisoner on October 3rd, 1903 at the church of St. Silas, Leeds. He then gave his name as Coghill. After he was married she lived with him about three months at Hunslet and Micklefield, where he deserted her leaving her destitute. About three years later he visited her at the place where she was staying at Bradford, and persuaded her to go to Barrow, stating that he had a home for her there. He, however, took her to lodgings there and she stayed there with him for one night only, as in the morning he went away with her savings £10 and again deserted her. A few years later she saw him outside a public house in Boar Lane, Leeds, and he spoke to her. She was afraid of him and did not answer but got in a tramcar and went home. Since they parted prisoner had not supported her in any way. Replying to prisoner, witness emphatically declared that he took £10 from her at Barrow and also that she was alone and did not speak to him when she saw him in Boar Lane, Leeds.

Frederick Poulter of Willeden, near Bradford, brother of Mrs. Coghill, proved having been a witness to her marriage to prisoner. On July 6th, 1904 prisoner came to work at where witness was employed a farm where witness was employed and remained a fortnight. Since the 20th of that month witness had not seen prisoner until that morning.

Ellen Kell of Sedgefield, Durham, deposed to having gone through the form of marriage with the prisoner at the registrar’s office, Sedgefield, Durham, on October 2nd, 1909. She was a widow when she “married” prisoner. He was known as Harry Mortimer and described himself as a bachelor. Witness lived with him at Trimdon Colliery, County Durham, up to August 31st 1914, when he joined the army. He came home on furlough in the New Year of 1915, and in the following May was sent to France. She saw him on August Bank Holiday 1916 at Castleton House military hospital and again on November 1st, three days before his third “marriage” when he went with her and her mother to see relatives in Burnley. In consequence of something she heard she wrote to prisoner at Chatham on December 18th and received a letter (handed to the bench and not publicly read) from him.

Prisoner (to witness): What happened between 1915 and August 1916? – Witness: That has nothing to do with this case.

The Magistrates’ Clerk (to prisoner): What do you mean?

Prisoner: Ask the lady; she will tell you.

Witness: I refuse to answer.

The Magistrates’ Clerk told the prisoner that he should put some definite questions to the witness and then said, “I will wash it out, sir.”

In giving evidence of the third “marriage,” Charlotte Tattersall she met prisoner in August 1916 at Castleton auxiliary military hospital. She commenced to keep company with him, and on November 4th 1916, he obtained a special licence and went through the form of marriage with her at Greenbank Wesleyan Church. He described himself as a bachelor and gave his name as Harry Mortimer. While keeping company with him she asked him if he was married and he said he was not. After staying with her a week he left, stating that he was going to see his sister Nellie at Durham. Subsequently he went to Chatham, and a month later he returned and stayed with her another week. In consequence of information she received she wrote to him on December 20th 1916, and received a letter from him (which was handed to the magistrates but not read publicly). After that she wrote him that he must not come near her again, and she reported the matter to the police and took out a warrant on January 24th.

Martha Tyrell, wife of John Tyrell of Greenbank Road, a witness to the “marriage” with Miss Tattersall, also gave evidence.

Detective Sergeant Sutton, who received prisoner into custody from the police at Chatham) where he was serving as a sergeant in the Royal Engineers) and charged him with bigamy, said he made no reply. Witness had since charged him again in view of the discovery of his first marriage, and he replied “I have nothing to say”.

This concluded the case for the prosecution, and the prisoner said he had nothing to say in regard to the “marriages”. He admitted them, but he denied his wife’s allegation that he had £10 or any money from her at Barrow. He also said that while he was in France from May 15th to July 18th 1916, Mrs. Kell had a child.

The Magistrate’s Clerk: What has that to do with this case?

Prisoner: Nothing, I suppose.

He was committed to trial at the Assizes at Manchester in May.

Prisoner applied for bail, and the Chief Constable said he should not object to it being granted if it was fixed at a substantial sum.

The Magistrates, however, refused to grant bail.


Rochdale Observer May 9th 1917. 


At the Manchester Assizes yesterday before Mr, Justice M’Cardie, Henry Coghill (alias Harry Mortimer), 35, a sergeant in the Royal Engineers, who had been twice wounded at the front, was charged with having committed bigamy at Sedgefield in 1909, and again at Rochdale on November 4th last.

It was explained that the prisoner deserted his wife a few months after marriage in 1903. He did the same to the woman he subsequently married. Having rejoined the colours on the outbreak of war he was sent out to France and was severely wounded. During his treatment for a second wound in a hospital at Rochdale he met a woman named Tattersall, and went through the form of marriage with her by special licence.

The prisoner pleaded guilty, and in sentencing him to 18 months’ imprisonment the Judge said the letter from his commanding officer giving him a good character in the army had saved him from penal servitude. It was time to stop the practice which seemed to have grown up regarding bigamy as a light offence.


Rochdale Observer April 13th 1918. 


In the Divorce Court yesterday, before Mr. Justice Horridge, Mrs. Ada Mary Elizabeth Coghill petitioned for a divorce from her husband on the ground of his bigamous marriage with Miss Charlotte Tattersall at Rochdale. There was no defence.

The petitioner said she married respondent in October 1903 at Hunslet and they lived in Leeds. She was present in May 1917 at the Manchester Assizes when Mr. Justice McCardie sentenced her husband to eighteen months hard labour for bigamy. Miss Charlotte Tattersall said that in November 1916 she went through a form of marriage with Henry Coghill, who called himself Hy. Mortimer, at the Wesleyan Church, Greenbank Road, Rochdale. She afterwards lived with him.

His Lordship granted the decree nisi with costs.