STRANGELY for a woman determined to vindicate her reputation, Mary Hooper absented herself from court when she brought an action for breach of promise.

Hooper was said to have gone to America and her case at the High Court which sat in Winchester in 1833 was presented by Sergeant Coleridge.

The daughter of a Wiltshire farmer who rented land at West Lavington, she moved to Bighton farm, near Alresford, and it was in Winchester that she met a tea vendor called Allies and fell in love.

Her mother, Sarah, told Mr Justice Park that a year after they began courting, she asked him about his "intentions" towards her daughter.

"He expressed himself as her ardent lover. I took this mean he would take her as his wife as soon as he could dispose of his tea walk and move into another line of business."

That very month, however, she became pregnant and he abandoned her.

"He discontinued his visits and subsequently declined to fulfill his engagements. My daughter received several letters from him which she rejected."

Mrs Hooper said those she had read were filled with terms of affection and confirmation of them marrying.

She then produced one which read: "Mr Dear Mary, At the time of writing this, you will be enjoying a sound sleep. I hope you will enjoy health, happiness and content."

Allies, who defended the action, cross-examined her at great length with a view to proving she was not married to her husband, and her daughter had been acting "improperly" with people in Southampton and Winchester.

However he could not call any witnesses about her alleged loose character and declined to address the jury at the end of the evidence.

It prompted the judge to tell jurors that the plaintiff had won her case and it was their task simply to quantify the damages.

Following a short retirement, they awarded her the not inconsiderable sum of £150.