Betty Buck

(1843 – ?)

If working class fathers died, widows and children could have a tough time making ends meet to avoid the workhouse. They had to take any opportunity to make a few pennies, and hope for the best. Betty Buck found herself in a difficult situation, but was unusually strong — she didn’t let her poor background get in the way of justice.

Betty was the eldest daughter of Robert and Betty Buck. She had two brothers, who died in infancy. Robert was a carrier at one of the Settle inns, transporting goods by horse-drawn trailer. Before the coming of the railways he would have been a busy man. Robert died when Betty was young, so she and her remaining sister, Agnes, would have been living on the bread line with her mother, who worked as a street pedlar.

When Betty was 18 she met a well-respected elderly man called Henry Snell, who lived at The Folly. Perhaps he offered to pay her to help with a few jobs or perhaps it was more straightforward? Betty became pregnant. Unlike some other men in this situation, Henry didn’t offer to marry Betty, probably because he was from the wealthier classes and Betty was a pauper. Henry, a widower, was 71 at the time.

Henry was a successful tailor and the land agent for the Duke of Devonshire. He was a churchwarden at Giggleswick church and a pioneer in the Total Abstinence Temperance movement, insisting that people shouldn’t drink any alcohol at all.

Despite this, Betty, with her sister as a witnesss, took Henry to court to get maintenance money — a ‘bastardy order’. Henry’s defence questioned Betty’s ‘character’ and how a charge of so gross a nature had been brought against ‘a man of Mr Snell’s years and apparent station’. However, Henry was found guilty and made to pay Betty’s midwifery fees and maintenance. Sadly the child, John Robert Buck, died aged 6 weeks. Betty and her mother and sister moved to Carlton, near Selby.

Both Betty and her sister Agnes had a couple more illegitimate children before marrying.