Lewd Women and Female Felons
Hampshire Archives Trust recently made a grant towards the funding of a play inspired by research in the Hampshire Record Office for the ‘crime’ of giving birth to illegitimate children 1789-1835. It is being put on by 2TimeTheatre which was founded in 2015. It is a small-scale performance and publishing company, presenting professional productions at venues in Winchester, Southampton, and elsewhere in Hampshire
The play was written by Cecily O’Neill founder and director of 2TimeTheatre and was inspired by research in the Hampshire Record Office, where the names and offences of these ‘Lewd Women’ are recorded. Several of the women and their babies are buried in the churchyard of St. Bartholomew’s, Hyde. The women’s names are known but not their circumstances, so the play tells their stories through ballads and folksongs.
Sentences of twelve months of hard labour for the ‘crime’ of having an illegitimate child were recorded. Set between 1789 and 1835, the play offers a glimpse of the social and financial context in which women were charged with the crime of Bastardy. They spent twelve months with hard labour in the New County Bridewell in Winchester.
Intended for lesser offenders and prisoners awaiting trial, the Bridewell was built in 1789 on the site of Hyde Abbey, the burial place of Alfred the Great. It was part of the 18th-century movement towards prison reform.
Supporting the production and performance of a play is a new and exciting venture for Hampshire Archives Trust and will bring archives to a wider audience.
There will be two performances at the NST City Studio in Southampton on 17 Feb at 6.30 and 18 Feb at 8 pm, tickets available here.
Running time: 45 minutes.
Age recommendation: 12+ and note performance contains infrequent strong language