HISTORIAN Lucy Whitfield is searching for the family or descendants of Wiltshire woman Harriet Wigmore, who Lucy believes may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Lucy, from Chippenham, a tutor and assistant librarian at St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon, is researching the untold stories of women, through her project called The Women Who Made Me, which seeks to bring the lives of real women from the past into focus, against a family history background traditionally populated by their male contemporaries.

She discovered in archived local newspapers the extra-ordinary story of Harriet Wigmore and Mary Ann Saltar.

Lucy continued her research into records and archives and put together the fascinating and tragic story.

Mary Ann was a single Chippenham woman, born in the early 1850s, who discovered she was pregnant in 1883. She had been working in London but returned home to Chippenham complaining of 'indigestion.'

Her mother took her to see a herbalist in Calne, Harriet, who at this time was in her early 40s. On Mary Ann’s first visit to Harriet, she was supplied with some liquid and powders to take to cure her indigestion.

Later Harriet went to visit her patient in Chippenham for further treatment, but sadly Mary Ann died from inflammation of the womb and peritonitis and Harriet was arrested.

Harriet protested her innocence but was found guilty of manslaughter by the jury. Her words on hearing the verdict were:

"I am not guilty. I am entirely innocent. It is only a vile conspiracy on the part of (Mary Ann’s mother) and her friends. Oh, my lord, I knew no more of her true condition than you did. Oh, my poor children, don’t take me away from them."

She was jailed for ten years for manslaughter, and sent to Woking prison, many miles away in Surrey. Her husband remained local to Calne and Chippenham, bringing up their children. Seven years into her sentence Harriet was declared insane and taken to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.

In 1893, when her original sentence ran out, Harriet was taken to the Wiltshire County Asylum at Devizes where she remained for 23 years past the end of her original sentence.

"I would love to find descendants or family members of the women," Lucy said. "Harriet had children, and there were Saltars living in the Butts in Chippenham.

"I would like to give them the full picture. There may be descendants of Harriet and they may like to know why she was locked up. I want to bring the story out. This sort of case could be looked at and reassessed, perhaps for a posthumous pardon."

You can find the full story on Lucy's website thewomenwhomademe.wordpress.com. To contact her, email tellmeaboutyourgranny@gmail.com.