The Mystery of Sarah Garrow

BBC’s Garrow’s Law is a great piece of drama. And Lady Sarah contributes to the fun of the story. Lyndsey Marshal is intriguing as Lady Sarah. I wouldn’t want to change a thing. 

In an historical drama, such as Garrow’s Law, the writers must create fiction – putting words into characters’ mouths. Situations are created to carry out historically accurate themes.  Real characters, with new words and created situations, become morphed into new creatures. And the new creatures become remembered as the authentic ones. Known or knowable facts sometimes get in the way of a good story, and are quickly overlooked and forgotten. 


Much mystery surrounds the real Sarah. And yet much is known about her. Her name was Sarah Dore. She had a serious relationship with Sir Arthur Hill. They had a child, named William Arthur. By all accounts Sarah was an elegant lady. This is made clear by her portrait by John Russell, which is a part of the Rothschild Collection at the National Trust estate at Waddesdon Manor. She is thought to have had an aristocratic Irish background, and colorful stories have been passed down the subsequent generations of her extended family. 

However there are some awkward facts that are overlooked in the “Garrow’s Law” dramas.

Garrow started working as a barrister in the Old Bailey in early 1784. Yet by this time Sarah had birthed the child by Sir Arthur Hill. A son, William Arthur Dore Hill, was born sometime in 1778. It is interesting to note that the father, Sir Arthur Hill, upon the death of his of his own father, Wills Hill, became the 2nd Marquis of Downshire, and soon became one of the richest men in England.

But Sarah’s relationship with Arthur Hill did not last and an early relationship with William Garrow was begun. David William, her first child by William Garrow, was born on 15 April 1781 while Garrow was studying law. Her second child by Garrow was Eliza Sophia, born 18 June 1784, during the first year of Garrow’s practice as a barrister in the Old Bailey, and certainly ordered before he started his practice there. What is true is that there was an ongoing supportive relationship between Sir Arthur Hill, and his son, William Arthur Dore Hill, with the son being supported as a gentleman by the Hill family throughout his entire life – with Sarah in the middle between the Garrows and the Hills. The facts of a case are sometimes just as intriguing as fiction.

This all gets personal with me. Sarah was my great great great great grandmother. And I am intrigued by both Sarahs – the one played by Lyndsey Marshal in Garrow’s Law, and the one that comes down through family stories. In addition to being an elegant lady in both version of the story, Sarah was a good mother, raising healthy productive children, and was a much respected member of her community in Pegwell.

But mystery remains. She is buried in the St. Margaret churchyard near Darenth, Kent. Resting next to our Sarah  Garrow is Elizabeth Strutton Munn (1693-1741), Margaret Munn Dore (1714-1801), and George Dore (1745-1805). This appears to be a clue into the family background of our Sarah. Who are these people? I am hoping that some competent genealogists will be challenged to discover Sarah’s family background. Was she Catholic? Was she Irish? Was her background truly aristocratic? Please help all the fans of our Sarah with answers to these mysteries. 

 Richard Braby

20 Replies to “The Mystery of Sarah Garrow”

  1. Margaret Munns married William Dore in 1738, Kent. They christened a daughter Sarah in 1740 at Dartford, but according to Familysearch, she died the same year. They also had 2 sons: William, in 1742 and George in 1744, both christenings at Dartford.
    Elizabeth Strutton married Thomas Munns in 1712 at Gravesend, Kent.

    1. Hi Susan. I have thought that this is the family of Sarah, and that she was the second child named Sarah. Sir William Garrow was the 3rd son of his parents named William, the others did not live long. Our problem is that we need the record of the birth… We can go back a ways on the Munn line, but how about the Dore line… is this the line that leads to Ireland, or is that a myth.

  2. A quick check suggests that Margaret Munn(s) may have been the daughter of William Munn, baptised at Darenth, Kent on either 22 June or 2 July 1717 (

  3. Check for a second daughter named Sarah – it was very much a custom to name a second child after a first child which had died. If Sarahhad a child in 1778, you would more likely to be looking for a birth date around 1750-55, not earlier

  4. Sarah is as much a mystery to me.
    William Garrow was my 2nd cousin 7 x removed.
    I have been searching for further information on Sarah for years.
    The information that Susan & Anne have is much what I have.
    I will go back through my notebooks and see if I have any more information. Nothing seems to be set in concrete and really need citations to prove the details.

    1. Hi Jane… Yes we need citations…. Sarah was known withing the family record as a good “horse women” – good with horses… it suggests an interesting family background.. I hope that with the new interest in Sarah we will be able to connect her to her past….we all appreciate your help.

  5. No online reference to a second Sarah that I can find tho’ can’t rule out mis-transcription as Ancestry has Garrow’s daughter’s birth as Garren. Best hope is to look at the actual Darenth register. I can see no evidence for a marriage to Sarah Dore and Arthur Hill’s Will refers to their son in language (and size of legacy) typical for an acknowledged illegitimate child. My interest is a distant relative who was taught by William Garrow’s father, and whose son was son involved in a case William Garrow defended.

  6. I have juet watched the last episode of Garrows Law. Did william Garrow marry Lady Sara Hill after the court case’

    1. I am a descendent of Jane the sister of William Garrow who married William Monk.
      William Garrow married Sarah Dore at St.George the Martyr Holborn on 17th March 1793. Sarah was never Lady Sarah Hill as there is no evidence of a marriage to Sir Arthur William Moyses Hill their illegitimate child was named William Arthur DORE-HILL not Samuel’. Sir Arthur also has two other illegitimate daughters from another dalliance – in fairness to him his Will sopported them all including children following his marriage to Mary Sandys.

      At the time of William Garrows marriage to Sarah they already had a son and a daughter, aged twelve and nine years old. Everything , it seems, was done out of order!!!!

      1. And if Sarah had been married to Arthur, she wouldn’t have been called “Lady Sarah,” unless she herself was the daughter of an Earl or higher ranked peer. Arthur’s wife in 1788 (when Sarah bore his son, before he came into his other titles) would have been called Lady Kilwarlin, as he was Viscount Kilwarlin until 1789. 🙂

  7. Hi
    I have been researching one of my family who was defended by William Garrow and wondered if his files were kept and if so if I might be able to find a little bit more about who was at the trial and his 6 witness, my ancestor name was Matthew Kearns but he was known by Murty Cairns he stole 6 salad plates.
    grateful for any help just pointing me in a direction.

    1. Sandra

      The best place to start looking would be the Old Bailey Proceedings website:

      We would be interested to hear what your findings are – there are so many cases in the archives we are relying on individuals such as yourself to bring them to our attention when there is something of note.

      Kind Regards

      The Admin

    2. Hello Sandra, I must be a distant cousin. I descend through Matthews daughter Mary, who married Robert Thurston and then through their daughter Mary Ann who married Michael Lahy and then further down the line. I would love to discuss Murty Cairns with you. Have you seen the actual documents of James Webb’s testimony, signed by notary Townsend? Sounds like he got in first turning King’s evidence against Kearns, Lomas and Beezer. Hope we can make contact. Willing to share.

      1. Hi Greg
        I would love to see that info you have on James Webb.
        They were a very interesting bunch,
        best regards

  8. Anne, Found this site when I became interested in the history behind the series Garrow’s Law. I wanted to thank you for the reference to FamilySearch, it has aided tremendously in my research into my family tree.

  9. Hi, I also found Garrow’s Law on tv very interesting and the back story of Lady Sarah.
    Is there a book on them only?

  10. Hi, I also found Garrow’s Law on tv very interesting and the back story of Lady Sarah.
    Is there a book on them only?

    1. The only book in print which has any information about Garrow’s life is Sir William Garrow: His Life, Times and Fight for Justice. This contains quite a lot of information about his real family life, including Sarah, and goes way beyond what has so far been told in Garrow’s Law (which although an excellent production uses artistic license and departs from the true history).

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