IT was hush money. Fearful she would be boycotted by her influential customers, a shopkeeper bribed her young needle worker into silence, knowing her lecherous husband had debauched the teenager against her will.

Or had he? Had Louisa Knolles, who the defence damned as licentious, willingly succumbed to the philanderer's advances?

Irrespective, she fell pregnant and her father Benjamin sued Mr Compigne in a civil action at Hampshire Assizes in 1835 for seducing the teenager who in the words of his lawyer had been "affected by a series of more disgraceful practices that had ever been submitted to a jury."

The reporter for the Hampshire Independent was evidently taken by Louisa as she stepped into the witness box to deliver her damning evidence. "A very interesting looking young woman," he unabashedly declared of the eldest of 14 children, born to a Winchester miller and his wife.

The teenager described how as a 14-year-old, she began working for Mrs Compigne who ran a flourishing business as a milliner and mantua maker in Winchester, earning as much as 6s a week. It was not long after moving in with the couple that her husband - whose Christian name was bizarrely never recorded in the press report - began to "take liberties" which she firmly rejected. "One evening, she had gone to bed and I was nursing their child when he came and kissed me. I scratched his face and the marks were visible for about a fortnight."

Daily Echo: Painting of Winchester in 1830.

That, she maintained, did not deter him and after he had twice more abused her, she complained to his wife who promised to scold him and begged her not to tell her parents. A month later, the couple went to London for a few days and the teenager agreed to look after their children. Significantly, Mrs Compigne warned her they would return home independently and if her husband arrived first, she must leave to stay with her parents. "But she did and told me that he had been drinking all the time he was in London because he had not had his way before they went."

The needleworker went on to detail a series of events which included Compigne forcing his way into her bedroom, despite his wife reassuring her she would have a lock fitted on her door but the work was never done. Eventually, as she came out of her bedroom one afternoon, he "accomplished his purpose," the weekly journal suppressing what happened as being unfit for publication.

The teenager said his wife knew he had violated her. "I cried out and I believe Mrs Compigne must have heard me. I met her on the stairs and told her what had taken place. She begged me not to say anything about it and she would give me a great reward."

Daily Echo: Needlework.

Inevitably, she could not keep her pregnancy a secret and when she told her father, he threatened to kill her but on her confinement "he behaved towards me with the greatest kindness and compassion."

William Shenton, owner of the Abbey Mills in Winchester where her father worked, told the court: "He has been in my services for 25 years. He is now a very different man from what he was before this unfortunate transaction. He always appears in great trouble. He has been a kind and faithful servant and brought up his family in a manner highly creditable to himself."

Addressing the jury, Knolles's lawyer said no amount of money could compensate him for his wounded feelings as a parent and the disgrace which had been brought upon his family and the potential impact on the prospects of his other children.

Daily Echo: An old-style sewing machine.

Mr Crowder submitted: "In the whole of my professional life, I have never met with more disgraceful transactions than those from which the present action originates. The defendant, a married man and the father of a family, forgetful of his duty as man, citizen, a husband and a father, basely attempts and succeeds in debauching a young girl and inflicting disgrace and misery on a whole family. His wife was conversant with the attempts which her husband had made on the virtue of this young woman and assisted him in effecting his purpose. Her conduct is such that it ranks her with the basest and vilest of her sex."

But Mr Earle, defending, urged jurors to be cautious about accepting the teenager's unsubstantiated evidence, smearing her as "licentious" as her false accusations discredited the good name of his wife whose customers were among the most respectable in Winchester.

"Could you, on her bare and unsupported testimony, believe her guilty of crimes, improbable in themselves and revolting to human nature? Could you believe the mother of five children would have pandered to her and her husband's disgrace? She was a consenting party and instead of discouraging the advances of the defendant, she in all probability encouraged them. She was pleased and not offended with his conduct.

Daily Echo: 8 June 2013 - Residents in Colebrook Street Winchester who are angry at plans to turn Abbey Mill

"Could it be supposed for one moment Mrs Compigne would be a party to the seduction of the plaintiff's daughter or that she would be willing to destroy her belief in the fidelity of her husband and encourage him in his licentious and adulterous course at a time she was bearing him child after child."

But the jurors were not swayed. After retiring for an hour, they found in favour of the plaintiff and awarded him £100 in damages.