This Day in History: 1732-08-20

On 20th August 1732, Solomon Dupier died. Dupier had been a member of the Spanish garrison at Gibraltar in the early 18th century and is believed to have colluded with English forces when they launched a successful attack on the Rock in 1704 and afterwards moved to England, settling in Pontefract. Some years after his arrival in Pontefract his wife and three daughters contracted smallpox and he vowed that if they recovered, he would build a covered market cross in Pontefract to protect the women who came in to the town on Saturday mornings to sell their dairy produce. Albeit all four did survive it is believed that all were blinded. Dupier left money in his will to his widow to erect a Buttercross in fulfilment of his vow; £150 (nearly £24,000 today) was to be given to the building of a market cross to be completed within two years of the death of his wife. The Buttercross was built in 1734 with a flat roof which was replaced by the present hipped roof in 1763 at a cost of £46-3-10d (£6,500 today). In 1776, John Nutt brought his wife to the cross and sold her to a Mr Ryder for 5 shillings (£29 today). In 1815, another wife was auctioned for 11 shillings (£34 today). Then, it was accepted that a wife could be sold to another man with the sale constituting a legal divorce; in one instance, a woman produced a receipt in court for her sale to prove she was not committing adultery