Archive for October 25th, 2017

1704: “French Peter”

Add comment October 25th, 2017 Headsman

A thief named Peter Bennet was hanged at Tyburn on this date in 1704 — alone since “Two Men and Seven Women were try’d for several Felonies and Burglaries; and being found Guilty, they did all of them receive Sentence of Death accordingly. But Four of the Women, who were found with Quick Child, and the other Three, with one of the Men, through the QUEEN’s especial Mercy being Reprieved; One only, viz. Peter Bennet, is now order’d for Execution.”

That’s from the hang-day tract by Newgate Ordinary Paul Lorrain, who having leave to focus both his ministrations and his column-inches on the one soul and exulted at some length in one of his celebrated (albeit not uncontroversial) conversions.

While the patchy Old Bailey documentation of this early date doesn’t appear from a search of oldbaileyonline.org to preserve the record of Bennet’s trial, there’s a man of the same name and nickname (“French Peter”) sentenced to branding in 1698 — and although Lorrain does not comment on any such mark, it would seem to corroborate our fellow’s confession to a life of viciousness.

Peter Bennet, alias French Peter, alias Peter Flower, the only Person now order’d for Execution, said that he was about 25 Years of Age, born of honest Parents at Niort in the Province of Poictou in France, and brought up in England, whereinto he came very young;* and that his first Employment was the Silk-Weavers Trade, of which he work’d about two Years in Spittlefields, and then went into the late King William‘s Service; in which, and in Her present Majesty’s, he had been (both at Sea and Land) for these several Years past, and was actually in the Second Regiment of Foot-Guards, under the Command of Lieutenant Colonel Bradocke,** when he was apprehended. He own’d himself to have been a very ill Liver, and formerly one of Moll Raby‘s Gang; and he did (with bitter Reflection upon his vicious Conversation, almost through the whole Course of his past Life) freely declare, that he had committed all manner of Sins that cou’d be nam’d or thought on, Murther only excepted; and said that though he earnestly desired to live, that he might lead a new Life, and give sensible Tokens of his Change and Reformation to the World; yet he was willing to submit to the Will of God, and the Stroke of Justice, by which he was appointed to be cut off from the Land of the Living: wherein he had done so little Good, but so much Harm. He confess’d, that he was justly brought to this Condemnation, who had no better improved the Mercy he receiv’d before, when under such another; and that he was guilty not only of the two Facts lately proved, but of all the Seven Indictments then preferr’d against him in the Old-Baily: And 1st, That he, together with Thomas Hunter, (who not long since was executed at Tyburn) and another, whom I shall forbear to name here (because I desire not his Confusion, but his Conversion) broke open, and robb’d the House of Mr. Annis, on the 19th of April last, taking thence 60 Yards of Crape, 90 Yards of Serge, 66 Yards of Holland, and 12 pair of Stockings; which Holland and Stockings they divided among them three; and as to the Crape and Serge, his Companions dispos’d thereof, he does not well know to whom; but he remembers, they had Nine pound for them, and he Three pounds for his Share out of that Nine pound. 2dly, That he, with the other two beforemention’d, and one Sebastian Reis, a German, that was hang’d with Hunter in June last, did likewise in the said month of April, break the House of Thomas Abbot, a Quaker, and took from thence 25 Dozen of Handkerchiefs, and an old Scarf, which they sold for Four Pounds to a Woman that keeps a Brokers Shop at the Golden Ball in High Holbourn: but as for the Guinea mention’d in that Indictment, to have been at the same time with the other Goods, taken out of the forenamed Abbot’s House, he said, he knew nothing of it. 3dly, That they did, in May last, break the House of Mrs. Margaret Christian, and take thence a Cheshire-Cheese, about two or three Quarts of Brandy, and some Sugar Cakes; which Cakes and Brandy, they did eat and drink among them; and for the Cheese, himself, who was carrying it away, when pursu’d, threw it down, and left it to whomsoever would take it. 4thly, That they in April last, broke another House, which he supposes might be Mr. Sapford’s, mention’d in the fourth Indictment, but had not an Opportunity of carrying any thing out of it, being prevented therein by the Watchman that was then going the Rounds, 5thly, That in the same Month of April, they broke the House of Mr. Palmer, and took from thence four Silver-Spoons, a Napkin, an Old-Sword, and a Spice-Box, with a small Silver-Spoon in it, & some other things, of little or no Value. The 4 Silver-Spoons, he said, Mr. Palmer had again; the Napkin he took to himself, and the Box they left in the Fields; but what was in it, and the Sword with the small spoon, he can’t well tell what his two Companions did therewith. 6thly, That towards the end of the said Month of April, he, and the other two first mention’d, broke the House of Mr. Gibbs, and took from thence 8 India-Curtains, 4 Vallance, a Squob, and a pair of Sheets; which Sheets he kept for himself, and one of them took the Curtains, Vallance, and Squob to his own Use, and gave him three half Crowns in Consideration thereof, and their other Companion had also some Money given him upon that account, by him that kept those Curtains, Vallance, and Squob. 7thly, and lastly, That they three went and broke open the House of Mr. Bird, and took thence a Ham of Bacon, (which the Owner had again) and 5 Bottles of Cyder, and two Papers of Tobacco, which they spent among themselves. He added, that he (as he does in general remember, but has forgot the Particulars) had committed several other Robberies and Burglaries, in company with the forenamed Tho. Hunter, and Sebastian Reis, and the other Person whose Name (as I said before) I will now spare; and that this last, in particular, did with him one Night (he can’t well tell how long since) break and enter by the Backside, into a certain House in a pav’d Court in Fetter-Lane, and robb’d it, taking thence 24 or 25 Guinea’s, about 5l- in Money, a Silver-hilted Sword, a Long-Perriwig, a Silver-Salt Seller, with some Silver-Spoons and Forks, and a Hat; which Hat, he said, he wore now, and was not worth restoring. As for the Sword, they flung it into a Cellar, in Fee-Lane, and for the Plate and Perriwig, his Companion sold them to one William Buxton (an Harbourer of ill People, and a Buyer of stoln Goods) living in Church-Lane between White-Chappel and Gravel-lane. This is the ample Confession he made to me, and declared, that (to his Grief) he was not able to make any Restitution or other Reparation to the Persons he had thus wrong’d; but heartily pray’d that God would bless them, and they would forgive him. He freely acknowledg’d himself a grievous Offender, and repeated again, that he had committed all manner of Wickedness, but Murther; that he was the vilest and the worst of Sinners, and had exceeded in Sin, even those that had first brought him into it: some whereof, he said, had deservedly suffer’d a shameful Death, and others are still living; and these he earnestly intreats to be wiser than himself had been, and take due Warning by him, who now finds his Folly in not having done so by others, that is, by the Punishment of those that went this way out of the World before him. He seem’d to be very sensible that his Neglect of God’s Service, prophaning the Lord’s Day and Name, Swearing, Drinking, Gaming, Whoring, &c. were the great Causes of his Ruine; and therefore out of that Charity which he owes, and now has for all Mankind, he (in the Words of a Dying Man, that has done with the World, and now speaks without Disguise, by his own woful Experience) admonishes all to avoid those, and all other Vices; that they may prevent their own Destruction both of Body and Soul. Thus he appear’d as one who had great Reason to abhor Sin, and who wou’d fain perswade others to abhor it too.

The Day of his Execution being come, he was carry’d in a Cart to Tyburn, where I assisted him to the last; earnestly exhorting him to clear his Conscience by a further Confession, if he had any thing more to say, and stir up his Heart and all the Affections of his Soul to God. Upon which he said, he had nothing more to discover, but heartily pray’d God to forgive him his Sins, and be merciful to him for Christ’s sake. Then I pray’d and sung a penetential Psalm with him; and afterwards he spoke to the People to this Effect, I suppose there are some here that have been engag’d in ill things. I know there are. I beseech them to amend their Lives, and I beg that all that see me here, would take Warning by me. I am a very young Man, but a Lad, not above 24 or 25 Years of Age, but a grievous Sinner, and I am now to die for my wicked Life. Pray Gentlemen, take Warning by me, and pray for me, that God would have Mercy upon my poor Soul. And the Lord bless you all and prosper you. Then he lifted up his Eyes to Heaven, and said, Lord have Mercy upon a miserable Sinner. O call me not to mine account. I am not capable of answering thee. Sweet Jesus have Mercy upon me! Lord, open me thy Gates, and let me enter in! When he had done speaking, I discours’d him again, and made him rehearse the Articles of our Christian Faith, and I pray’d again, and sung another Psalm; and having commended his Soul to God, I left him to his private Devotions, for which he had some time allotted him. Then the Cart drew away, and he was turn’d off, whilst he was calling upon God in these and the like Ejaculations, Lord forgive me all my Sins! O God, I come, I come: Reject me not. O do not abhor my Soul! Lord, save me, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit.

* French Huguenots escaping a religious crackdown in the late 17th and early 18th centuries bolstered London’s emerging Spitalfields weaving industry.

** Bennet/Lorrain appears to refer here to the Coldstream Guards; if so, his c.o. “Bradocke” was the father of General Edward Braddock, notable for his New World command (and death) during the French and Indian War. That later Gen. Braddock’s aide, 23-year-old colonel and future American Revolution leader George Washington, made some fame for himself during the disastrous engagement that killed Braddock as the “Hero of Monongahela“, for helping to orchestrate the retreat.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Public Executions,Theft

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