John Bristed, Rector of Lewes St. Anne
Jane Spinage
(Abt 1699-1770)
Joseph Foot, M.D.
Nathaniel Bristed, Rector of Bishop's Caundle
Hester Foot
Hester Bristed


Family Links

Benjamin Bowring of Dorchester, Gent.

Hester Bristed

  • Born: 12 Jun 1773, Sherborne, Dorset, England 1
  • Christened: 10 Sep 1773, Sherborne, Dorset, England 1
  • Married: 12 Oct 1815, Stinsford, Dorset, England 2
  • Buried: 8 Jan 1852, St. Andrew, Laverstock, Wiltshire, England 3

  Research Notes:

In 1810 Hester Bristed received £2,000 from her late father's Will.

In 1819 Hester the wife of Mr. Benjamin Bowring was a beneficiary of her mother's Will.

Writing his Will in December 1819, James Redit of St. Andrew Holborn, gent., bequeathed to his sister-in-law Mrs. Hester Bowring his cocoa-nut sugar basin, and her choice of his wife's jewels and trinkets left in his possession.

In 1832 Mrs. Bowring received a silver pot from the Will of her late sister Jane Bristed of Dorchester, spinster.

In 1837 Hester Bowring was a beneficiary of her late husband's Will.




A Commission De Lunatico Inquirenda was opened on Friday morning, at the White Hart Hotel, in this city, before Mr. Commissioner Barlow, to inquire into the state of mind of Mrs. Hester Bowring, widow, formerly of Dorchester, but now of Laverstock Asylum, near Salisbury.

A respectable jury of yeomen (Thomas Waters, Esq., foreman) having been sworn,

The learned Commissioners addressed the jury on the nature of the inquiry, and observed, that, as no Counsel were employed in the case, he should give them an outline of the circumstances attending it. The unfortunate lady who was the subject of the present investigation was the relict of Mr. Bowring, of Dorchester, who died in 1837. Some years previous to his death—namely, in 1828, Mrs. Bowring evinced symptons of insanity, and in consequence, in August of that year she was placed in the establishment of Dr. Finch, of Laverstock, where she remained in 1830. Here she became so completely restored to a right state of mind, that she was enabled to return to her husband, with whom she continued to reside until his death. About four years after that event, Mrs. Bowring again showed symptons of unsoundness of mind, which induced her relatives to place her again at Laverstock. The delusions under which she laboured would be established in evidence. She was now upwards of 70 years of age, and had never borne any children ; but she imagined she was the mother of 14 or 16, and was constantly in the habit of making up child-bed linen, under the idea that she would give birth to others. She also considered the proprietor of the asylum, Dr. Finch, to be her husband, and fancied herself a lady of high rank and title. The property of Dr. Finch, at Laverstock, she considered to belong to her. It would also be proved that her conversation was occasionally very incoherent, and her conduct at times extremely violent.

Previous to the examination of the witnesses, Mrs. Bowring was brought into the room and took her seat near the Commissioner. Her deportment was quiet and correct, and she appeared to understand fully the questions put to her. The only infirmity was partial deafness.

Mr. Christopher Arden, surgeon, Dorchester, deposed that he had known Mrs. Bowring upwards of 30 years, and had attended her professionally at Dorchester. In 1841, he attended her during an attack of illness, and when she became convalescent, she was not in a sane state of mind. Fourteen years before, witness had brought her up to Laverstock Asylum, and had placed her under the care of Dr. Finch. She recovered subsequently, and again lived with her husband until his death. In 1841, her insanity was again manifested by her discharging her most favourite servants very suddenly, under the impression that they robbed and persecuted her ; and one female servant, who had won her regard by paying particular attention to her during her illness, she turned out of her house at ten o'clock at night. In April, 1841, two young ladies, friends of Mrs. Bowring, went to visit her for a few days, under the impression that she was perfectly sane ; but on the 12th of that month, one of them came in a state of great excitement to witness, and said that Mrs. Bowring was so violent, that they felt alarmed for their personal safety. At this period, Mrs. Bowring insisted upon having a tray constantly in the parlour, laden with refreshments, which she said she kept prepared for a gentleman who was to come in a coach and six, and carry her away. She accompanied witness very willingly in a carriage to Dr. Finch's Asylum, but would not take her food from any other hands but those of witness while he remained near her.

In answer to questions from the Learned Commissioner, Mrs. Bowring denied that she had prepared a tray, as given in evidence : she also said it was false that she ever conducted herself with violence. In reply to the question, whether she had any family, she answered that she had a great many children, but not by Mr. Bowring ; her children were by her first husband, whom she did not know at the time ; but now she knew very well who he was. Her children had been all taken from her as soon as they were born. She had seen some of them since : she saw the two youngest about two years ago : they were very fine boys : saw them from her window. She declared in positive terms that all this was true ; but she would not tell the name of her first husband : she would show that a woman could keep a secret.

In reply to a question whether she expected to have any more children, Mrs. Bowring said she expected to have many more : she was in the family way now, and had been making baby linen as far as she had materials.

Do you not call Dr. Finch your husband? — I do : he is my husband.

Dr. Finch examined.—Received Mrs. Bowring into his Asylum on the 13th of April, 1841, where she has remained ever since. She was much in the same state of mind as when witness received her into his care in 1828. She was at that time under a strong delusion that she was in the family way. She fancied that she had had, by witness, 16 children, and two miscarriages. She also fancied that witness's property belonged to her. She imagined witness was Dr. Finch at one time, and General Horsley at another. Her language was very improper at times. She imagined a treadmill was placed under her bedroom, and that it was kept going throughout the night ; and she fancied that the persons who were undergoing this punishment appeared before her.

[The witness put in various papers in Mrs. Bowring's hand-writing, in which she claimed the Laverstock property, and warned various members of Dr. Finch's family to quit. Another paper contained a promise of £1000 to Mr. Hewson, the surgeon of Dr. Finch's establishment, if he would quit Laverstock with his wife.]

R. Fowler, Esq., M.D., deposed that he had frequently seen Mrs. Bowring at Laverstock : had seen her within a month : found her labouring under a delusion with respect to her rank in society : she imagined that she was a duchess.

Mrs. Bowring—Duchess! No : Countess of Dorset.

Dr. Fowler, in continuation, corroborated Dr. Finch's testimony as to the delusions of the patient respecting the number of children she had given birth to. She occasionally exhibited great signs of anger against Mrs. Finch, whom she appeared to consider as an interloper between herself and Dr. Finch. He (witness) had observed that Mrs. Finch was very kind to her ; indeed, she was one of the kindest persons, in her treatment of the patients, that he (Dr. Fowler) was acquainted with. The whole establishment was remarkably well managed. He considered the present case to be one of monomania ; the delusions extending only to the rank of life and number of children of the patient : he had found her conversation quite rational on other subjects.

In reply to another question from the Learned Commissioner, Mrs. Bowring said that she was perfectly comfortable at Dr. Finch's.

When it was intimated to her that the jury wished to examine the Rev. J. C. Bristed (her brother,) she expressed a decided objection to meet him ; and, wishing the Jury good morning, retired from the room.

The Rev. J. C. Bristed deposed that Mrs. Bowring was his sister, and she was born on the 12th of June, 1773 : she was married several years back to Mr. Bowring : she had never been married to any one else : never had any children. She was maternally descended from the old family of Horsey, in Dorsetshire ; and in 1828 she laboured under a similar delusion to that now exhibited, of having been married to a gentleman of that family.

The Jury expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with the evidence they had heard, and unanimously agreed upon a verdict that the deceased [sic] was of unsound mind, and had been since the 13th of April, 1841.

The Western Flying Post, Sherborne and Yeovil Mercury, Saturday, 9 Dec 1843, p. 8


Hester Bowring of Asylum died aged 82 years (burial record). Age overstated by 4 years.

  Marriage Information:

Hester married Benjamin Bowring, son of Benjamin Bowring and Sarah, on 12 Oct 1815 in Stinsford, Dorset, England. (Benjamin Bowring was born about 1769 in Dorsetshire, England, christened on 28 Mar 1770 in Church Knowle, Dorset, England, and was buried on 24 Feb 1837 in Dorchester, Dorset, England, aged 68 years.)

  Marriage Notes:

Benjamin Bowring of the parish of Stinsford, gentleman, and Hester Bristed, spinster, of the parish of Stinsford

Married by Licence

Witnesses: Ann Pitt, Rob: Henning


1 Sherborne Dorset Parish Registers, Births & Baptisms.

2 Stinsford Dorset Parish Registers, Marriages, p. 5, no. 13.

3 Wiltshire Burials Index 1538-1990.

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