SHE was a lady in distress, imploring a magistrate to save her from ruin.

"I am destitute" she sobbed - though 'destitute' in early Victorian days meant an inability to pay the train fare from London to the New Forest.

But behind her plea for help lay a sad story which was only slowly coaxed out of her. She had been cruelly conned over a marriage proposal.

Miss Rimington, the daughter of respectable parents from Lymington, had been lured to London and left penniless.

Clasping her hands in emotion, she cried: "He promised to marry me but has not done so. I have been deluded,"

Mr Yardley, the sole magistrate sitting at Thames Police Court, asked: "What does he do?" to which she replied: "He'a seaman."

He evidently held a low opinion of them: "Generally speaking, they are the deluded, not the deluders."

Rimington was certainly in a position to know. She had eleven brothers who were all sailors.

"How have you been living in London?"

Horror struck, she stoutly refuted the suggestion she had been living with him, fearful it would malign her reputation.

"No, no, no," she gasped. "He took me to a coffee shop where I had a room to myself for a few nights and I have since been staying with a few friends in Wapping who cannot maintain me any longer. I have no means of returning to Lymington. He went to sea last week. I would be so grateful if I could get home."

Yardley snapped: "You have been guilty of a very great imprudence in coming to London to marry a man who ought to have gone to Lymington and marry you there. All I can say is that I am very glad that although you have lost your husband, you have not lost your virtue. I hope you will not be deluded again."

Rimngton protested: "But I have known him three years and thought he meant to marry me. He has not done so. It is very cruel of him."

But that did not elicit any sympathy.

"You appear to be a very simple young woman. You have brought sorrow and discredit on your family by this imprudent step. London is the very last place you ought to be. I will send you back to Lymington. Will you friends receive you when you reach there?"

After she confirmed they would, the magistrate ordered an usher to provide her with food and the train fare from a sovereign taken from the poor box.

"Thank you," Rimington smiled and left.