Repelling infamous aspersions

Bondgate Hall, Alnwick.
Bondgate Hall, Alnwick.

In 2014, social-media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are often the source of rumours and also used by individuals to try to explain, apologise or clear their names.

Back in 1824, 190 years ago, these online outlets weren’t available, but an Alnwick woman, Mrs Carr, of Bondgate Hall (pictured above as it is today), took to publishing a pamphlet to try to clear her name after she was accused of being responsible for sending anonymous poison letters to various families in the town.

The title page reads: “Mrs Carr, of Bondgate Hall, submitting to her friends, a justification of her character; and repelling the infamous aspersions so recently and insidiously circulated against it. Alnwick, March 1824.”

It continues: “This town has the misfortune of sheltering a concealed pestiferous wretch, hackneyed in the vile practice of sending anonymous letters to all the best families; and filled with all the scurrilous malignity of remark on the family – its affairs – history and connexions.

“From the hand-writing, there appears to be little doubt that the writer (or writers, if there be more than one, for in those received at Bondgate Hall there is very material difference in the writing) is a female; and, from the remarks made in the letters, there is equal grounds for thinking that she visits in the best society of the place.

“It certainly is a most desirable thing, and would be a high gratification to the numerous families that have been so disgustingly annoyed, to detect, to full exposure, this night-prowling Vampyre, that fouls the hospitality which it shares in, and poisons the viands which it so unworthily partakes of.”

Some of the next 12 pages go onto explain how Mrs Carr found out, late in the day, that others who had received letters believed her to be the culprit.

It also includes input from her husband, John Carr, who concludes: “The detestable accusation has endeared her to me beyond any circumstance that ever before occurred; and while a shilling remains in my pocket, and a drop of blood in my veins, both shall be expended in support of her innocent and irreproachable reputation.”

The book can be found online by searching for Mrs Carr of Bondgate Hall.