Wagstaff scandal

James Poole Wagstaff 1842-1903 – bigamy scandal.

At the Russell Easter reunions I, Carolyn, was told that there were only two George Wagstaff Russells (father and son) as there was a terrible scandal and the Russells wished to distance themselves from the Wagstaffs.  Those who knew the secret of James Poole Wagstaff’s bigamy scandal obviously felt superior to the rest of us!

  • Thomas Wagstaff m Susannah Foskew had about 10 offspring including
    • Elizabeth Wagstaff m Thomas Bane
      • DNA confirms their descendant Allan ajpdep
    • German Wagstaff  1766-1815 m Mary Salt 1770-1821 had 6 offspring including
      • Susannah m Jacob Russell – Russell line continues DNA confirmed
      • James 1809-1874 m Elizabeth Poole 1802-1892
        • James Poole Wagstaff 1842-1903 m Dorothy Josephine Jallard nee Burns 1862-?
        • Daughter died in infancy

At one time there was an excellent article about James Poole Wagstaff on the Potton History Society’s website but it has been removed. Now this article is the best source available online. Cut and pasted below:

Otago Witness , Issue 2768, 3 April 1907, Page 22

The Witness began in Dunedin in January 1851 as a four page, fortnightly newspaper. It became a weekly in August that year. At this time illustrated weekly newspapers were a popular and important form of publication in New Zealand and the paper continued to be published until 1932.


ROMANTIC WILL CASE. LONDON, March 27. Mr Justice Kekewich has given judgment in favour of Mrs Jalland under Wagstaffs will. Mrs Jalland was convicted of bigamy in January last. An absorbing drama of love and fortune lies behind a charge of bigamy preferred against a wealthy woman named Dorothy Josephine Wagstaff of Elm plaoe, Kensington, and Manor Park, Potton, Bedfordshire, who was remanded at the West London Police Court on November 20. This lady astonished the officer in chage at the Kensington Police Station, High street, by walking in, accompanied by her private secretary, and calmly stating that she wished to give herself up for bigamy. To the officer she said: ”My second hueband, who is now dead, knew my first husband very well, and knew that he was alive. He persuaded me to do it.” Mrs Wagbtaff is 45 years of age, and her action in surrendering herself on the present charge hinged on a lawsuit pending in the courts respecting the will of Mr Wagstaff, who died some time ago. Her father was an Indian officer, but her upbringing was left to friends in Dublin.’ Whan a little, over 20 she met a medical student, Alfred Gibson Jalland, to whom, in 1884 she was married at All Saints’ Church, Manchester. This marriage apparently was not a happy one, and the wife resolved to earn her own living, becoming; a nurse and gradually working her way up to the position of matron. Fourteen or fifteen years ago, as the result of a romantic meeting in the West End, an acquaintanceship sprang up between the pretty Irish nurse and Mr James Poole Wagstaff, a wealthy London landowner, and ultimately the couple went through the form of marriage at St. George’s Church, Hanover square. Mr Wagstaff was then 50 years of age, a Fellow of the Geographical Society, deputy-lieutenant and sheriff of the county of Bedfordshire, and a justice of the peace. From his father, Mr James Wagstaff, who died in 1874, he had inherited a fortune of £170,000, which he himself by judicious investments increased. His town house was Grandsen Lodge, Highbury, now the electric railway station, and his country residence Manor Park, Potton, Sandy, Bedfordshire. Dying in 1903, he left estate sworn at £174,722, and probate of his will dated March 31, 1897, was granted in October, 1903, to his widow, Mrs Dorothy Josephine Wagstaff to whom practically the property was left in trust during her widowhood, the property then to revert to the children of his cousins, John and William Hardwood Wagstaff. The former nurse now found herself in possession of an income of between £10,000 and £12,000, and proceeded to act as a fairy godmother to the poor of the neighbourhood. For three years she enjoyed this income and took her place as lady of the manor. But all this time she was aware that her first husband was alive; the secret leaked out in the village, and finally reached the ears of persons interested in the estate. An action at law was commenced by Mr Berners Shelley Wagstaff, of Highbury Lodge, Highbury, eldest son of the testator’s cousin, John Wagstaff, who claims the estate on the simple grounds that, as the then holder of the property, Mrs Dorothy Josephine Wagstaff had committed bigamy, who had never been a wife, and consequently could not be the widow of the testator, and that, therefore, she was not entitled to the property, which under the terms of the will ought to pass to him, being the issue of the cousin John Wagstaff. On November 5 the grant of probate of the will was revoked, and Mrs Wagstaff found herself merely in possession of a sufferance allowance of £500 a year pending the trial of the action. She defended her claim to the property by urging that the fact of her first husband being alive at the time of her second marriage was known to tho testator, who himself persuaded her to commit bigamy.