Monday, 21 April 2014

R is for Ruth Pierce

Here are the local dialect words starting with the letter R.  Do you know what a remlet is? What is a rigget? What is a revel?  The answers are at the end of this post.
The incident I'm going to tell you about today took place in Devizes, a market town about 11 miles east of Trowbridge.
Ruth Pierce, a widow,  lived in Potterne which is a small village just outside of Devizes.  The incident in question is her sad death on 25th January 1753 which is recorded on the Market Cross in Devizes, now called the Ruth Pierce Memorial. (it's quite difficult to read in this image so I've transcribed it below)
The plaque states that:
The Mayor and Corporation of Devizes avail themselves of the stability of
this building to transmit to future times the record of an awful event
which occurred in this market place in the year 1753; hoping that such record
may serve as a salutary warning against the danger of impiously invoking Divine
vengeance or of calling on the Holy Name of God to conceal the devices of
falsehood and fraud.
On Thursday the 25th of January 1753, Ruth Pierce of Potterne in this County,
agreed with three other women to buy a sack of wheat in the market, each
paying her due proportion towards the same. One of these women, in collecting
the several quotas of money, discovered a deficiency, and demanded of Ruth Pierce
the sum which was wanting to make good the amount. Ruth Pierce protested that
she had paid her share, and said, ‘She wished she might drop down dead if she
had not.’ She rashly repeated this awful wish; when to the consternation and terror
 of the surrounding multitude, she instantly fell down and expired, having the
money concealed in her hand.
The inquest into her death was held the next day and was presided over by the Coroner, John Clare of Devizes who was paid the princely sum of £1 for his services.  In his report he said, "Ruth Pierce late of Potterne: from the visitation of the great and almighty God in a great quarrel was struck dead with a lie in her mouth."  At the time, it was noted that there were no marks of violence on her body.  It is now thought that she had a fatal stroke or heart attack, possibly brought on by the stress of the accusation against her. 
It is also interesting to note that there is no mention of her holding any money in the contemporary reports of the incident but is an embellishment to the tale which was added at a later date.  Could it be that she was innocent and one of her accusers was the guilty one?
Here are the answers to the dialect words: 
  • remlet - a remnant
  • rigget - a woodlouse.
  • revel a pleasure fair, an outside gathering
Hope to see you again tomorrow for the letter S.


  1. That's such a gruesome and mysterious story.

  2. Your photography is amazing. Just looking through some of your other posts. Do you do this as a profession? Just wonderful!

    1. Thanks for your comment, it's cheered me up! No, it's a hobby. I'm a music teacher.

  3. So glad I found you through the AtoZ Home Page's Letter R post. This is an amazing story and tribute of both thoughtful and thoughtless events of everyday history. Great photo as well.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

  4. Yikes! The things we do to each other in the nsme of God. Or attribute to his punishment.

    I am enjoying the time periods of your stories - they take me back to the Scarlet Letter and Salem witch hunt days of early US history.

  5. I am dying to visit the UK and see all these places for myself. The amount of history blows my mind - so many tales of craziness, intrigue and foul deeds that you've been sharing that are recorded on plaques and gravestones for everyone to see! Love it :)
    I've heard about some of the craziness that went on for the glory of 'god.' But to see actual proof like this on a casual walk through the village must leave a bitter taste in the mouth! To answer your question, I think everyone who ever died in the 'name of god' was innocent!

  6. That was a sad story! I have to agree, had to be a heart attack or stroke, but how terrible to be accused of a false hood, trying to say you weren't and then drop dead right there. It is good that there is a plaque detailing the events of her demise though.