Posts filed under 'Counterfeiting'

1620: Thomas Dempster condemned

Add comment April 20th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1620, Thomas Dempster was condemned by a Scottish assize to execution for counterfeiting. No documentation specifying the execution date appears to be available but such sentences were commonly implemented almost immediately — either directly from the courtroom or within a couple of days.

The Dempster family of Muresk were baronial landowners who owed both privilege and surname to the hereditary rank of dempster. This curious office of “dooms-man” connects etymologically with judging (“deem”), the successor to a Gaelic position called the judex that once projected royal authority into the courtroom.

Over the centuries-long term, this pre-Norman holdover was on a downward trend towards obsolence; the dempster transitioned to being the pronouncer of the court’s sentences and “ultimately became the common hangman.”* (Source)

Nevertheless, in our man’s time the Muresk Dempsters had estate enough to squander, and the quarrelsome Thomas did yeoman work in that respect, blowing the family fortune on clan feuding that extended even to a violent rivalry with his own son, James.** The assize record would note him “altogidder sensles of that his miserable cairage, nawayis being movet thairwith, bot rather resolveing to rwn heidlongis in all godles and cruiket courses.”

Having been found in this degraded state guilty of forgery, he was condemned by the court “to be tane to the Castell-hill of Edinburgh, and thair his heid to be strukin frome his body; and all his moveable guidis and geir pertening to him to be escheit to his Maiesteis use, &c.”

* The office of the dempster was abolished in 1773.

** James and his team ambushed and injured the father in a rivalry over a woman, driving James to a life of banditry. Another son — James’s younger brother, confusingly also named Thomas Dempster — was snatched away from this noxious family atmosphere by a kindly uncle who gave him a continental education; this other better-favored Thomas Dempster grew up to become a noted ecclesiastical historian.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Beheaded,Capital Punishment,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Nobility,Pelf,Public Executions,Scotland,Uncertain Dates

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1818: Five from the Lancaster Assizes, “most dangerous to society”

Add comment April 18th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1818, four hanged at Lancaster Castle for uttering forged notes, along with a fifth hanged for burglary and horse theft — all casualties of the latest Lancaster Assizes. For the account, we excerpt Jackson’s Oxford Journal of May 9, 1818; the footnotes are from that source as well.

LANCASTER ASSIZES, April 13.

Address of Chief Baron Richards, on passing sentence of Death upon the prisoners capitally convicted of forgery, and of uttering forged Bank of England notes.

Wm. Oxenham*, convicted of uttering a forged Bill of Exchange, was first placed at the bar.

Chief Baron — “William Oxenham, you have been convicted of uttering a forged Bill of Exchange, well knowing at the time you uttered it that it was forged. The crime of which you have been convicted, on the most satisfactory evidence, by a most intelligent Jury, is a crime the most dangerous to society, and which loudly calls for the highest punishment the law can inflict; for no man, in a commercial country like this, can, by any care, effectually protect himself from such attempts. If there should be any disposition at the foot of the Throne to extend its mercy towards you, I shall rejoice: but of this I can offer no assurance; and if there should be any mitigation of your sentence, it will only be on condition of your being forever removed from this country.” — His Lordship then passed upon him the last sentence of the law in the usual terms.

The following prisoners were then placed at the bar: — Wm. Steward†, Thomas Curry†, Margaret M’Dowd†, R. Wardlaw†, R. Moss, Hannah Mayor, and J. Vaughan, convicted of uttering forged Bank of England notes; and G. Heskett†, convicted of burglary and horse-stealing.

The Chief Baron, addressing by name the first seven prisoners, thus proceeded, —

You have been severally convicted of uttering forged Bank of England notes, knowing them to be forged: the law has affixed to this crime the punishment of death, and it is an offence which, on account of its injurious consequences to society at large, requires the infliction of the highest punishment.

It is a practice which must be repressed; and if this cannot be effected by other means, it must be done by visiting it with the utmost severity of the law; for the negotiation of forged notes is the strongest and most extensive mode of plundering the public which can be resorted to, and it is one against which no care or prudence can be an effectual protection. I had, the last Assizes, the very melancholy duty, in this place, of passing the sentence I am now about to pass upon you, upon a number of persons convicted of this offence, and which sentence was carried into effect with respect to most of them: but I do not perceive that this sad example has been attended with any advantage, or that it has produced any diminution in the number of offenders of this description; you have not taken warning from it; for I observe that your offences are all subsequent to the last Assizes. It is, therefore, necessary that examples should still continue to be made; and it is my duty to tell you that some of you, nay, that most of you, beyond all question, must suffer the full sentence of the law.


* This prisoner was so unwell, that he was obliged to be supported into Court, and placed in a chair, until sentence was passed upon him.

† The prisoners thus marked were left for execution, and suffered the sentence of the law on Saturday se’nnight [i.e., Saturday, 18 April 1818], at Lancaster.

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Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,Mass Executions,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft,Women

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1725: William Dickson, collared

Add comment April 13th, 2018 Headsman

Original Dublin broadsheet via James Kelly’s Gallows Speeches: From Eighteenth-Century Ireland:

The Last Speech, Confession and Dying Words of William Dickson

who was Try’d and Condemned, for High Treason against his Majesty King George, for Counterfeiting the current Coin of Great Britain, at the General Assizes holden at Ardmagh, the 23d of March, 1725, and was Executed, Tuesday the 13th of April, for the same; with an Account of the Coller he had to save himself, as it was taken from his own Mouth in the Gaol, &c.

Good Christians my time being very short, expecting a Reprieve from Dublin, this morning, it did not come according to Expectation I did not loose any Time in preparing my self for the World to come, and hopes that I shall Reign with my Blessed Redeemer.

First, I Recommend my Soul to Christ, my Lord and Saviour, to forgive me my manifold Sins and Wickednesses which I have committed from Time to Time, in not Obeying his Laws, nor taking my dear and beloved Parents Advice, in what they would have me to do, which I hope will be a warning to all Men, as I am a Dying Man, this Day, the Truth I will declare before God and the World, to whom, and through his great Mercy, I hope to merit Salvation.

I William Dickson was Born of very good Parents, and come of an honest Family and Married one of the Richisons, whom God preserve and keep them from all Danger Ghostly and Bodily, and all their Enemies. I am aged to the best of my Knowledge, about 29 Years of Age, and in all that Time, I thank my God, I never was guilty of any ill Vices in all my Life, nor, did any harm to any Body till I went to Live with Mr. Alexinder Hurdman as Overseer, near Kilalee in the County of Ardmagh, and in a little while, he sent me to lay out Five Guineas for him, but they were returned back again to me, the first Time I saw James Dunbar was at his House.

The first time that ever I saw any of the Molds was at Drum, where I went to get a Cavesson that I lent to James Glass [sic], and they told me he was in the Garden, where I found the said Dunbar, James Gass, and Robert Gass, and when they saw me they thrust the Mold into the left side Pocket of Robert Gass, that I might not see it. The next Morning going to the Smiths Shop, and coming back again, I met Robert Gass in the Wood, and he told me that James Gass was going for Mettle and Fire, desiring me to stay till I saw them try the Mold. Soon after the said Gass cast two Crowns, and would have given one of them to Robert Gass for a Pocket Piece, but he would not receive it for fear I should discover them on him, he melted them down to Dross, and hid it in the Moss. As I answer before God and a dying Man, I never had any thing to do with the said James Gass in the whole course of my Life, nor did I ever Coin tot he value of six pence in all my Life, nar had I any Moulds for that Use. As for James Gass that has sworn my Life away wrongfully, and not only so, but has most barbarously Murder’d me, and has been the occasion of making the best of Wives loose a Husband; for which I do not doubt, but the Lord of Heaven and Earth will do us Justice and Revenge my Cause.

As for Mr. Francis Scott who was Accus’d &c. I never knew any thing by him in all my Days. And likewise John Hurdman. I hope the World will not Reflect on any of my Friends for Dying this Untimely Death, I not being Guilty of what is laid to my Charge, I do desire my good and loving Wife, (that Lives in the Parish of Kildree in the County of Tyrone) to take good Heart and not to Pine for me, for I hope with the Assistance of my blessed Saviour to be with him in a very little time, which is better than this Worldly Wealth, for there is nothing in it but Trouble & Sorrow. And my Daughter whom I leave my Blessing, take heed to mind your Redeemers Commandments, and your Mothers Orders, and then the Lord will bless and prosper you in all your Doings, be sure to mind the Church and keep Gods laws, and every thing will prosper that you take in Hand, Likewise I begg all good People may not reflect on my Dear Father and Mother, that lives in Carinomoney in the Parish of Baleniscron in the County of Derry, brought me up in the fear of God, and gave me a good Education, may the Lord Prosper Them, and when they depart this Life, they may have Life Everlasting, and that the Lord May Crown them with a Crown of Glory.

O dear Brothers, mind to shun Bad Company, which was my Overthrow in this World and be Upright and Just in all your Dealings before God and Man, and you need not fear Living in the World. Mind your Father and Mother’s Advice. My time is almost spent, and having no more to say, Sweet Saviour open thy Arms of Mercy, look down upon me, O Lord, and Shut not thy Gate against me, but take me to Thy Self, into Thy Heavenly Kingdom, where I shall rest in Peace, and all you who are Spectators of this my unfortunate and Tragick Scene, lift up your Hands and say, Lord, receive my poor Soul.

I die a member of the Church of England.

An Account of a Collar he had about his Neck to save his life

As the prisoner was going to the place of Execution, the Sheriff and High Sheriff, perceiving he went very stiff, the[y] wonder’d what was the matter, but they never minded him till they came to the place of Execution, and when the Minister had done with him, then he went 4 or 5 steps up the Ladder very fast, but the Sheriff and High Sheriff perceiving his Neck very thick, desir’d him to come down, on searching they found a Collar of Iron well fix’d about his Neck, they call’d to the Gaoler to take it off upon that the Executioner took it off, it weighed about three pound, there was a Hinge in the middle and 3 hooks to it, one before and another at each side, it Clasp’d together, like a woman’s Clasp for Shoes, with a Girth Web, before and behind which went between his Legs.

We testify the above is True, as Witness our Hands

Terence O’Neill Sub-Sheriff
Will. Watts Head Sheriff.

Tomorrow will be publish’d the Last Speech of a Woman Cook Maid to the Bishop of Londonderry, who was Burnt alive at Derry for the murder of her own child.

Belfast Printed and Reprinted in Dublin by C.C., 1725.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Ireland,Pelf,Public Executions

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1663: Alexander Kennedy, forger of false bonds and writts

March 13th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 1663, Alexander Kennedy was hanged at the Cross of Edinburgh for forging false bonds and writs, whose particulars we discover in The Records of the Proceedings of the Justiciary Court, Edinburgh, 1661-1678.


Edinbr. 24 feb. 1663. Deput Cuningham pt.

Alexander Kennedy, sometimetime Porter in the Castle of Edr., now prisoner, dilated and accused for the crime following, viz. for that notwithstanding of the common, municipall Laws and constant practise of this kingdome, the forgers, Counterfeiters and Devisers up and Users of false Bonds, obligations and other Writts, are to be punished be tinsell of their lives and moveable estate and especially by the 22d Act, 23 Parl. Ja. 6, it is statute and ordained, that whosoever makes any false writ or is accessory to the making thereof shall be punished with the pains due to the Committers of falsehood, which by the constant practise of this kingdome is the pain of Tinsell of Life and moveable estate, and that it shall not be but that after Tryall of the Writt quarrelled it be found false the passing from or Declaration of the Party that he will not use the same shall no ways free him from the punishment due to the committers of falsehood as at more length is contained in the said Acts whereupon it is subsumed that the Pannell has forged, feinzied, counterfeited and made up the six Bonds, Obligations, and Contracts under written, four of the which Bonds are alledged granted by the decast John Renton of Lamberton, therein designed Constable of the Castle of Edinbr., to the deceast Dame Agnes Renton, Countess of Levin, all dated 17 Octor. 1648, by each of which four Bonds, the said umq John Renton granted him to have borrowed (here follows the contents of the Bonds as they are made payable to the Lady and her Daughter, then follows the tenor of a Contract made up by the Pannell betwixt himself and Lamberton, be which he is obliged to pay 3000£ to the Pannell upon his delivery of him of the forsaid six Bonds by the Lady Leven’s warrand, and Alexr. upon receipt of the forsaid sum is obliged to deliver tye Bonds and the Lady’s warrand, and subsumes that the Pannell is the forger of all these Writts, or airt and part, and that the Lo: of Session has found so by a Decreet of Improbation, dated 22 July last, and finds that the Pannell is an infamous and perjured person, and has remmitted him to be criminally tryed, and ordained the King’s Advocate to process him, which being found by an Assize, he ought to be punished with the Tinsell of Life and moveables, to the terror and example of others.

Mr. And. Birnie, Pror. for the Pannell, alledges the Dittay is not relevant, because it does not condescend wherein the Pannell is forger of the Writts lybelled, whether in the Subscription of the principall party, granter, or Subscriptions of the Witnesses, or date, or some other substantiall head. 2d. Nonrelevat accessory or user because by the Act of Parliat. the User of a false Writte unless he byde by it is not liable to the punishment of falsehood. Neither is Accession relevant unless the way of his accession be condescended upon, frae which Condescendance a Defence may result. 3d. The Lybell non relevat in so far as it concludes Tinsell of Life and Goods, because the Act of Parliamt. lybelled on does not express the Punishment, but referrs to prior Acts, and it is clear both from K. Jas. the 5th and Q. Mary‘s Acts that the Punishment is restricted to Imprisonment, Banishment, etc. which is placed in Arbitrio Judicis.

My Lo: Advocate to all this oppones the Dittay as it is lybelled, and the Act of Parlt. whereupon it is founded bearing the punishment of falsehood to be inflicted on such as are forgers and users of false Writts, or art and part thereof, and both the Act of Parliament and custom of the Justice Court has determined the pain to be loss of Life and Moveables.

Duplys Birnie to the last part of the Advocate’s Alledgiance, that it is to be understood only as to falsifying Writts that can proceed only from authority, and oppones the Act of Parliament.

The Justice Depute ordains the Dittay, notwithstanding of the Answer, to pass to the Tryall of an Assize. The Assize being sworn, the King’s Advocate produces the Lo: of Session’s Decreet of Improbation per modum probationis, and thereupon the Assize finds the Pannell guilty as art and part, accessory and user of the false Writts mentioned in the Dittay, conform to the Decreet of Session. Vide sentence 12th instant.

I repeat here my Observe which I made on Birnie’s sentence day of 1662. [I’m unsure what this alludes to -ed.]

Edinbr 12 March 1663. Deput Cuningham.

Alexr. Kennedy convict ut supra of falsehood, sentenced to be hanged at the Cross of Edinburgh.

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Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Pelf,Public Executions,Scotland

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1693: Five at Tyburn

Add comment March 8th, 2017 Headsman

A True Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Last Dying Speeches Of the Criminals that were Executed at Tyburn, On Wednesday the 8th, of March, 1693.

On the Lord’s-Day, in the Forenoon the Ordinary preacht on the 16th. Verse of the 24th. Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, viz. And herein, I exercise my self, to keep always a Conscience void of offence toward God and Men. From which Words, The Doctrinal Observation was, that it is the Duty and Priviledge of every True Christian, to get aud retain the Integrity of Conscience. For the Explicating of this Four General Heads were inquired into, and Stated.

First, What is Conscience? It is a Mans Judgment of his Souls Estate and Actions, as these are subjected to the Judgment of God in his Revealed Will. The Lord hath placed Conscience in all Men to approve of what is Right with Complacency, and to disallow what is Evil with Grief, Shame, and Abhorrence. It is a Spy and Register in the Bosom of Ungodly Men, that they cannot Sin, in quiet. Conscience makes a Judgment and Determination. How we have observed the Rule of God’s Sacred Law, or swered from it, accordingly, it Acquits and Comforts; or, Condems and Terrifies.

Secondly, What is essentially necessary to constitute your Conscience Morally Good and Comfortable. First, It must be cleansed and sanctified by Renewing Grace, that it may be conformable in all Things to the Law of God. Secondly, Because its exactest Obedience is defective, therefore it must be spingled with the Propiatory Merits of Christ’s Bloodshed. Thirdly, From the Virtue of Christ’s death, there must be exprest, the lively Fruits of an Holy Conversation, with a constant Reliance on Christ’s Intercession to preserve the Integrity of Conscience, under the Violence of all Temptation to Sin, and to support its Comfort, under the deepest Tryals of Affliction.

Thirdly, What Influence doth the Practical believe of the Judgment Day.

What doth the Exercise which preserves a Good Conscience include? It signifies, to be train’d up, under the Discipline of Christianity, so as to be confirm’d in an Holy Conversation against all Contempt and Opposition. So dare be openly Good and Strict in the Practice of all Christian Virtues, when the present Age is most degenerate. It is to make True Religiion our Recreation, and to promote its Aymiableness, in the Uniformity of our Obedience. Righteousness toward Men, Severe[d] from Piety toward God, is veiled Ath[e]ism; and Holy Exercises toward Him, with the neglect of Relative Duties toward men is demure and glittering Hypocrisie. Therefore the Charitable Testimony of others, cannot comfort the Conscience, under its presumptive Groundles Hopes, concerning its Renewed State. This is Infallibly known to God, altho’ Conscience may make a false Report, by Self-flattery, and the Sinners deep Security. Therefore, let us Summon our Hearts, to a strict Account, what preparative Dispositions are formed in us, which may present us before Christ’s Tribunal, with Approbation. But such, who carry their unpardoned Guilt and unrenewed Nature, to the Judgment Seat of Christ, shall have Convulsive pangs of desperation in their Conscience, and shall be rejected by Christ, with the Greatest Abhorrency. After several Rules and Directions, how to get and preserve a Good Conscience, The Conclusion was thus directed to the Condemned Criminals. How may St. Paul‘s Example in the Text, reflect a sad Aspect on your Consciences. These you have defiled, by prostituting them to the Infamous Lusts of your Fleshly Minds. Have you not striven to rase out the Dictates and Sentiments of common Equity? when your Convictions have been troublesome, you have flattered Conscience, with Carnal Reasonings. How have you deafed it to Divine Instructions. By Wordly Diversions, and have drowned the Cries thereof in sensual Pleasures, and thereby, brought the sly Artifices of Sining, unto a destructive Maturity. You have sinned in despight of all Admonitions, and the Examples of Publick Justice. Notwithstanding, when your Consciences shall be arm’d with God’s Commission, they will be active to Condemn you, though cast at present, into a Lethargy of Stupidity. You cannot deny, that you have been great Sinners, yet, there is pardoning Mercy to be obained, by that Satisfaction Christ’s death hath made to God’s offended Justice. This applied by Faith unfeigned, purifies the Heart in Obedience to all Divine Commands. This Renewed Frame, by sprinkling the Merits of Christ’s Bloodshed on the Conscience, turns his Tribunal of Strict Justice, into a Throne of Grace and Mercy. So shall we (at last) be presented to God the Father, not only void of Offence, but in a perfect State of Holiness to all Eternity.

I proceed to give an Account of the Behaviour and Confessions of the Condemned Criminals.

I. Mr. Best, Condemned for High-Treason, in Clipping, Filing, and Diminishing the Current Coyn of England. He is Aged 50 Years. Was Educated at School in Hertfordshire. His Father sent him to in Cambridge, where, he continued his Studies, till he took the Degree of Bachelor in Physick. Afterwards, he practised in that Science, and might have lived comfortably upon it. But by Degrees, he neglected to follow his Profession; and was drawn into Bad Company, of which he now Repents. He denied not, that he had been a great Sinner. I enquired into the Particulars of his Evil Conversation, it being a necessary Duty, to unburthen the Conscience of a Load of Sin, by a free discovery, of it, that so, Serenity of Mind, may be obtained. Besides, there is great difference betwixt Person lying on a sick Bed whose Sins are more secreet, and who may recover to a longer Space of Repentance. Such, are not so strictly obliged, to confess their particular Enormities. But for those, who by Notorious Crimes have given Publick Scandal to the Christian Religion, and brought themselves under the Sentence of Death; such ought to make Publick Acknowledgment of their Excesses in Sinning, that their Repentance may be as Exemplary, as their Conversation hath been Vicious upon this, Mr. Best, was better convinced of his Duty. And freely confest, that he had been Guilty of most Sins, Murther only excepted. Saying withal, that he doubted not the Truth of his Repentance, and that God was reconciled to him, in Christ. I replied, that the Heart of Man is very deceitful in Judging its Spiritual State Godward, especially when Persons have contracted a Custom in Sinning, and thereby hardned their Hearts, to persist therein. To this he replied, that Naturally Man’s Heart is inclined to Self-flattery, but he hoped, the Spirit of God had so sanctified this distress, that his Heart was thoroughly broken for and from the Love of all Sin, chiefly, as an offence against God, who might have justly cut him off, by an untimely death, for his younger Excesses in Sinning. But, said he, I would not be Reclamed, by a more gentle Rod; therefore God now compells me, by greater Severity, to turn to him, and Blessed is the Man, whom the Reproachful stroke of Death, makes (tho’ late) a Partaker of God’s Holiness. I replied, that I was glad, he was convinced of his sinful State, and in some Preparation, to apply the Promises of Salvation. But, it is safest, to be poor in Spirit, and thereby, to Magnifie the All-sufficiency of God’s Grace. He replied, that he endeavoured to be Self abas’d in as much, as the Omniscient, Heart-searching God, would not be Mockt, and could not be deceived with semblant Flourishes in Soul-Concernments.

II. James Steward, Condemned for Breaking the House of Elizabeth Thorne. He is Aged 24 Years, or thereabout. His Father placed him forth, to the Employment of a Chyrugeon. He said, that his Father was of the Roman Religion, and bred him up, in it, so that he knew not well how to quit it. I replied, that we are not obliged to live and d[i]e, in the Religion of our Parents, not grounded on the Purity of God’s Word. And endeavoured to convince him of the Hazard and Danger, in Adhearing to False Principles in Religion, in as much, as these have Influence on an Immortal Conversation. He replied, that he had so much Knowledge, as not to believe the gross Errors of the Romish Church. He also said, that be could not have wanted this Severe. Yet, Just Dealing of God with him in as much, that now he is thoroughly awakend from his Security, and Hopes, that God will turn this distress, into a means of his Conversion; and then, he shall not be troubled for his Reproachful Death. I Stated to him, the Nature and Effects of True Saving Faith and Godly Sorrow for Sin: To which he was attentive and seemed to comply with my Advice, that he might be prepared for Death. He said, that if he had followed his Wives Good Counsel to have been content with an Honest Employment, he had not fallen into this Shameful and Untimely End.

III. Elizabeth Wann, Condemned for Robbing Frances Coguer of a Gold-Chain, Value 8 l. being stopt, the Neck-Lace was found in her Mouth. She is Aged 16 Years. Had Good Education, but was Disobedient to her Mother. Whereupon she left her Family, and entered her self a Servant in London with a Mistress, who employ’d her, most what in Needle-work; but she soon left that Service. Then she grew idle and kept bad Company. She confest, that not Poverty, but only her wicked Heart, inclined her to commit the Crime she did not observe the Sabboth days of later time, and when she did pray, (which was seldom) she performed that Holy Part of Worship, very carelesly. She denied not that she had been a Great Sinner, but being Reprieved, as with Child she promised, that she would not absent her self from the Publick Worship of God, but would endeavour, to beg of Him, firrm Resolutions of Amendment.

IV. David Shammel, Condemn’d for Felony. He is Aged 33 Years. He said, that he was bred up, to Husbandry, and continued that Employment for some length of time, but leaving it, and betaking himself to an Idle Life, he became Poor, and so adventur’d to commit this Felony. He was willing to make an Acknowledgment of his Evil Life. and in particular accused himself of Sabboth-breaking, neglecting to pray that God would keep him, from the wicked incliantions of his own Heart, and the Mischiefs of bad Company. He wept, yet complained of the Hardness of his Heart. Saying, he prayed earnestly, that God would make it thoroughly Contrite, that upon the Change of it, and being made Holy, he might be in a fit Frame to die.

V. John Noble, Condemn’d for Felony and Burglary in Breaking the House of William Cook together with others, not yet taken. He is Aged 53 Years. He said, that he had used the Employment of a Seaman for 38 Years. That he had been Master of a Ship, some time since, but of late, he serves King William in the Fleet. That he had escaped many Perils at Sea. That in great Distresses, he made several Vows to God, that is he would preserve him, his Life should be Reformed. But he forgot the sparing Mercies of the Lord, and return to his former Evil Course of Life, which is now, a greater Trouble to his Mind. He said, that God was Righteous in bringing him to Shame and Punishment: But he prays, that this may work upon his Heart, to make him thorouhgly sensible of all his Sins, that the Lord may Pardon them and in Mercy, save his Soul, when he shall undergo the Pains of Death. I hope he was Penitent.

VI. Philip Mackqueere, Condemned for Robbing John Lacey Esq; in the High-way. He is Aged 28 Years. Was born in Ireland of Protestant Parents. They educated him with Religious Instruction, but he now grieves, that it made not that Impression on him, which they expected. For, he was not obedient to them, as he ought. Upon that, he left them to Travel into Spain and Portugal, after that, into the West-Indies when he returned into England.

He entr’d into Sea-service, under King Charles the II. He said, that he was entertain’d in a large Ship of War last Summer, and was Engaged in a Sea-Fight: But he left that Employment, and thereupon, joyning with bad Company, fell into many Excesses in Sinning. He said, it Repents him, that he did not take Warning by former escaping the Sentence of Death. But since his last Confinement, he hath endeavour’d to get his Heart made sensible of all his sins, which now lie as an heavy Burden on him. He was attantive to the Exhortations given him, to prepare for Death. He promised that he would endeavour to the utmost, by God’s Assistance, to improve his Time, for the getting his Heart into a more penitent Frame, that he may make his Peace with God, and be fit for his Appearance at Christ’s Judgment Seat

On Wednesday the 8th. of March these Five Prisoners were convey’d to Tyburn, viz.
Josiah Best (who was drawne in a Sledge) Phillip Mackguire, James Steward, David Shammell, and John Noble. Mr. Best Confest that he had been Educated at the University of Cambridge, and there took the Degree of Batchelour in Physick; though now he had unworthily declined his profession; which was a great trouble to him, he desires the Ordinary to come to him in the Sledge, which he did, where he told him that he had great hopes of Salvation through the Merits of Christ, and that he was very willing to Dye, though he had sometimes some doubts and jealousies upon him as to his Eternal welfare: Yet now he was Composed, and so did continue to the last, in an humble Frame, after a Devot manner; Joyning in Prayer, and Pray’d to Almighty God in a very sensible manner with Contrition; acknowledgeing that God was Jnst and Righteouss.

David Shammell, was very Ignorant as to to the concerns of his Soul, but was willing to hearken to Instructions; desiring all he Spectators to take warning by his untimely end, and particularly to beware of Whoredom, evil Company, and breach of the Sabbath.

James Steward, and Phillip Mackguire, Declared that they Dyed in the Roman Catholick Religion, (tho’) when they were in Newgate, they always came to the Chappel. Steward at last spake to this effect; Gentlemen, I am but a young Man, and by my sins, I have brought my Body to be Exposed before you, but I hope God will have Mercy upon my soul: I desire that all young Persons would take Example by me, that they may not be Disobedient to their Parents; I run from mine, and would not be ruled by them, they Indulged me and gave me Money, which spoiled me, I had good Education, and might have lived honestly, but Pride and Lastness hath brought me to this shameful End, and now God is just; I spake this that all Parents may take heed, and breed their Children well; and in the fear of God, and that all men may be warned by my fatal End.

Mackguire said but little, only desired all Men to take timely Warning by him; acknowledging that God had justly brought him to such severe Punishment.

John Noble, behaved himself a little unseemly, being very unsensible, of his latter End; would not be perswaded to hear good Counsel, he seemed to be disturbed in his Brain.

This is all the Account I can give of this Sessions.

Samuel Smith, Ordinary.
Dated the 8th. March, 1693.

Advirtisement

There is lately Published a Book Entituled, Conversation in Heaven: Being Devotions consisting of Meditations and Prayers on several considerable Subjects in Practical Divinity; Written for the raising the Decay’d Spirit of Piety; very proper to be Read in the time of Lent: By Lawrence Smith, LL. D. Fellow of St. John’s College in Oxford. Price Two Shillings.

Printed for Tho. Speed, at the Three Crowns near the Royal Exchange in Cornhill.


Whereas a Picture was lost some time since being the Representation of Flushing, one of the Provinces, or a Town in Holland, with a Sea incompassing it; a Packet-boat under Sail, a large Ship under Sail: and a little above the Ship it was torn about eight Inches, and but corsely swen up. At the Bottom, near the Frame, there is a yellow Streak, whereon was inscribed Ulisingen: It had a gilt Frame, and fit for a large Chimney-Piece Whoever gives Notice of it to Edward Paige, Surgeon, in Goat-Court upon Ludgate-Hill, shall be rewarded, and if bought their Money returned, and gratified for their Trouble.

LONDON, Printed for L. Curtis, at Sir Edmundbury-Godfrey’s-Head, near Fleet-Bridge, 1693.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ordinary of Newgate.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 17th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Diminished Capacity,Drawn and Quartered,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Mass Executions,Pelf,Public Executions,Theft

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1764: John Prince, dissembler

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The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, of Five Malefactors, Viz.

John Prince for Forgery, Who was executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday, March 7; Anne Baker for a Street Robbery, Peter Robins for a Burglary, and James Rocket and Timothy Stewart for a Robbery, near the Highway, Who were executed at Tyburn on Wednesday, March 28, 1764.
Being the Fourth and Fifth Executions in the Mayoralty of the Rt. Hon. William Bridgen, Esq.
Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Number III. for the said Year.

LONDON, Printed for J. COOKE, at Shakespear’s Head, in Pater-noster Row, and Sold by all Booksellers and News Carriers. Price 8d.

The Ordinary of Newgate’s Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words, &c.

The Introduction to the tryal and conviction of John Prince having been published in the foregoing account of six malefactors, Numb. II. need not be recited here.

1. John Prince was indicted, for feloniously forging and counterfeiting a certain bill of exchange, for the payment of 125l. and publishing the same, well knowing it to have been forged, with intent to defraud Robert Mackoun, July 8.

The steps, by which this well-known offender was brought to justice, are remarkable: He was apprehended, about the 12th or 13th of September, on account of a fraud only, at the suit of Mr. Richard Marshe, Hosier, near Temple Bar, for obtaining from him a parcel of silk hose, by false pretences. It was no easy task to lay hold of a man long practised in much greater frauds, and yet evading the hand of justice. Prince (who always flattered himself, and looked on his own actions in the most favourable light,) told me, he had not fair play on that occasion. At least he was inclined to think so, because the consequence of his being taken up for this fraud, brought to light a worse crime, which proved fatal to him. He said Mr. Marshe had taken out warrants against him, and way-laid him in three or four counties, as well as the city of London; that about this time he was seen casually passing through Fleet Street, by Mr. Marshe, who pursued him, with an hue and cry of stop thief, and was taken in a publick house under that character, where he stepped in for shelter; whereas, said Prince, he had no right to consider me as a thief, but only his debtor. However, he was taken before Sir John Fielding, and being examined, was committed to the Gatehouse, Westminster, September the 13th last, for obtaining from Richard Marshe, by false pretences, silk hose to the value of 13l. and upwards. By this time the transaction of the forgery began to be looked after by the injured party, and, like a mine, was ready to be sprung, and involve the miner in its ruin. Prince was now advertised to be re-examined the 15th, at the very time Mr. Mackoun was meditating how to prosecute this forgery; who seeing the advertisement in a news paper, which he took up in a coffee-house, attended at Sir John’s, and produced this bill. Prince being examined on it, said, Bricklen (the supposed drawer of the bill,) was gone into Yorkshire. It now probably appeared before the Magistrate, by the same evidence, afterwards given on tryal, that Prince had told the prosecutor two different stories about the drawer of this bill; the first was, that Bricklen and Co. were great Distillers and Brandy-merchants, living near the watch-house, in Moorfields; that they served Orcherton, the accepter of the bill, who then kept the Rose Tavern, in Cursitor Street, with rum and brandy. This being proved false, on enquiry, no such persons as Bricklen and Co. to be found, and Orcherton gone aside; the second story was, that Bricklen in truth was an outlawed smuggler, but was worth three or four thousand pounds, and the bill would be paid when due, and that he lodged in some lane or alley near Moorfields. This was equally true with the former; and now, being urged by the necessity of the case, to produce this drawer of the bill, he said he lived in the country, and was gone into Yorkshire. The bill was to this purport:

London June 3, 1763.

Three months after date pay to Mr. John Prince, on his order, the sum of one hundred twenty five pounds sterl. and place the same to account of,

Sir, your most humble servant,

G. Bricklen and Co.
To Wm. Orcherton, at the Rose Tavern, Cursitor Street.

Accepted, William Orcherton.

This bill had been passed by the prisoner to the prosecutor, instead of 100l. cash, payable by way of deposit to bind a bargain and sale of an estate, near Long Ford, Middlesex, in the Windsor Road, about 15 miles from London. The terms of this sale had been agreed upon in a memorandum, of which the seller had given the buyer a copy, signed by him. On discovery that the bill was bad, the former would have returned it to the latter, on condition of recovering his memorandum again; but this was wilfully and obstinately refused by Prince, who insisted on his bargain; for that he had friends who would raise him the money when the bill became due. The bill was now due nine days before this examination, as appears by the date in the face of it; and yet neither he nor his friends had paid it, otherwise we should probably have heard nothing of this prosecution. This is here mentioned to demonstrate the audacious temper and effrontery of this prisoner, who persisted, after his conviction, to assert, “that it was no forgery, but a good bill, and would have been paid had it been demanded when due; and that it never was demanded;” which is contrary to the whole tenor of the evidence on trial. But if this assertion had any appearance of truth, it was a mere fallacious evasion; if it was not demanded, it was because none of the parties, by whom it was payable, could be found. On this issue the prisoner himself put the affair at the time of this examination, when he pretended that Bricklen was gone into Yorkshire, and desired five or six days might be allowed him till he should return, or be found. Sir John granted him eight or nine days, and also proposed, if the prisoner would give him an account what part of Yorkshire he was in, he would send an express for him, at his own expence; for, as he told the prisoner, it was a matter that nearly concerned him; this kind offer was not accepted, because it could not be complied with. At this examination Orcherton, the keeper of the Rose Tavern, in Cursitor Street, was produced. Some words dropt from him, which caused him to be secured as an evidence at least, if not an accomplice in the forgery; he set forth, that he had known the prisoner only since May last, that he wrote the body of that bill of exchange, and accepted it with his own name; but G. Bricklen and Co. was not on it at that time, nor did he ever remember to hear of that name, till he saw it on the draught with Mr. Mackoun’s Attorney; consequently, that he had never dealt with Bricklen and Co. for brandy and rum, as the prisoner had pretended. Orcherton also now opened the pretences, by which he was drawn in by Prince and his associates, to write this, and some other bills of the same nature, to the amount of 500l. which was, to raise money for Prince to purchase the house Orcherton then lived in, being advertised for sale, and, when purchased, it was to be mortgaged for money to pay off those bills. This was to be for the use and benefit of Orcherton, to prevent his being turned out of the house. Prince was remanded back to the Gatehouse for further examination; but would not yet be persuaded to think, or seem to believe, that his case was any way dangerous. In conversation between Prince and Orcherton, as they were carried in a coach together, a kind of dispute or quarrel arose; Prince charging Orcherton with giving evidence too severely against him, and the other insisted it was the truth: And charged him with having been the occasion of great losses to him, by which he became a bankrupt; adding, that he “would not think much to be banished, for the satisfaction to see him hanged.” Prince, forward to catch at any thing that might break the force of so pointed an evidence, considered this hasty and vindictive expression, as sufficient to invalidate his testimony; and therefore had subpoena’d witness to prove it on his trial. But Orcherton having, of his own accord, acknowledged it in his cross examination, and accounted for it by a sudden passion he was put in, for being sent to prison on account of these notes, which Prince induced him to write, and also explained himself, that he did not mean to have him hanged unless he deserved it, the objection seemed to lose its weight.

Prince being searched when charged with the forgery, a paper, teeming with secret practices and dark deeds, was found upon him, which, as it tended to confirm Orcherton’s evidence, in relation to the company that used to frequent his house with Prince, and their practices, was also read at the close of his evidence on the trial, to the purport following:

An agreement between Samuel Fisher, Edward Hart, George White, and John Prince, concerning dividing the money that should be raised by a bill, or bills, drawn by the prisoner, and the expences how to be paid.

An occasion will offer itself, in the course of this account, to compare some names in the aforesaid paper with another curious piece dictated by Prince, and by means of which his respite of three weeks was obtained.

On his next examination before the Justice, no Bricklen, no drawer of the bill being found or traced out, and the presumption of a forgery rising proportionably higher, he was committed to Newgate toward the latter end of September; when the gaol being sickly, he caught the distemper, which occasioned his trial to be put off, he being reduced so low in health that it was believed he could not live to be tried. During this interval, there was no opportunity for me to know or converse with him, he being either disabled by sickness, or (like the bulk of the other prisoners) disinclined to think of his duty in the chapel, till after trial and conviction. His trial at length came on in January sessions. Beside what has been said, it was proved, that all possible enquiry was made for Bricklen and Co. but they were not to be found by the prosecutor, or his clerk; and it was proved positively, by an old inhabitant, of twenty years, near the watch-house, Moorfields, that no such person was in that time known to live there. The prisoner only said in his defence, that he lived in an alley beyond the watch-house, and produced two witnesses, to prove they had seen the prisoner in company with a person of that name, above a year since, and that he was a dealer in horses; and one of them believed the signing of the bill to be like his hand. But this did not come up to the point, nor prove such persons as Bricklen and Co. to exist under the description and character given by the prisoner, of the drawers of the bill, and therefore it was determined he had forged the person; and no such person appearing, he was found guilty.

Thus the charge against this prisoner, with its proof and issue, has been briefly collected and laid before the reader. His behaviour after conviction, together with the means used to bring him to a repentance proportioned to his crimes and course of life, have been also in part represented to the publick, with that of his other eight fellow-convicts; two of which, James Anderson and Thomas Thompson, have been executed Feb. 15, and six respited.

So long as there is any hope of the reformation of criminals in the character of penitents, and while there is life there is hope, all possible patience, and forbearance, and tenderness should be exercised towards them: But when their lives are forfeited, and the forfeit paid for the warning of other hardened and presumptuous offenders, and the safeguard and protection of the honest and industrious; the best use should be made of their subtile schemes and evil conduct, to answer those purposes for which criminals are punished.

And first, it is a desperate and most provoking degree of hardness in guilt, for any surviving criminal to encourage himself in his wickedness, and persist in his evil courses, because he sees or hears of a dying criminal making a decent exit at the place of execution. This is a most fallacious sign, on which there is no dependence. We are, indeed, in general obliged to perform the best offices of piety and charity we can, and they are capable of, for the worst of dying sinners and criminals; but the success is wholly unknown and uncertain to us; it is deep involved in futurity, and the divine counsels. There is no judging, by present superficial outward appearances, of their true spiritual state at present, nor of the judgment that will pass upon them for their eternal lot hereafter. ‘Tis impossible for us, for any but the Searcher of Hearts, to know how far these seeming penitents have complied with the terms of salvation. Whether they have outsinned their day of Grace and Salvation, or are still objects of it? Whether they strive earnestly in prayer, that a true repentance, a lively faith, and all the graces requisite for their condition may be granted to them? or whether it is too late to sue for them? For however presumptuous and ignorant men may flatter themselves, and each other, that it is never too late to repent (and tho’ perhaps this may be true of a sincere repentance) yet we are assured, by the highest authority, that the hope of the hypocrite shall perish; that there is a time when these good things are hid from mens eyes, and the door of mercy is shut. And the reasons and causes are assigned, which bring things to this desperate pass. When men hate knowledge and do not chuse the fear of the Lord; when they refuse his calls and disregard the stretching out of his hand; when they set at naught his counsel and will hear none of his reproof; then will he also laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh; — when their fear cometh as desolation, and their destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon them. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me, saith the supreme Judge. [Proverbs 1:22-28 -ed.] We know, and are witnesses, that these causes and symptoms too generally prevail among obdurate sinners, within and without our prison-doors, whether at large or in chains. How then can they escape the inevitably connected consequences? Have we not invincible arguments, to make us expect and dread them all in the worst sense? It appears to me the best good office which humanity and good-will can do such men, to set these things strongly before their eyes, ere it be yet too late, for ever.

We know, and are witnesses, that in general the apparent repentance of convicts in chains seems to be merely forced upon them by their present fears and miseries; for they too frequently prove this, by putting it off as long as they can, and relapsing as soon as they can, i.e. on the first opportunity.

These reflexions naturally rise from the long course of frauds and misconduct which the convict now in view had run thro’, and the little sense he seemed to feel of his real case and danger. For tho’ he attended the chapel almost daily after conviction, yet he acknowledged he had never been there above three or four times in so many months that he was a prisoner before it: And now that he came, the point he seemed to have most at heart was to deny his guilt, plead innocence, and consult with me how to escape this death? rather than ask and learn how he should obtain eternal life; for this was the convict hinted at in the former Account, (No. II. p. 9.) who desired a private conversation on this subject; but being then respited, was not named. This is the convict, there also unnamed, who mistook the Commination for the Communion Office, after some weeks instruction and preparation. For it appeared from his conversation, from his incapacity to read common English with propriety, or write a plain hand, that he was of a more ignorant and low-bred class than he found it his interest to assume in the several scenes he had gone thro’. From his being known to have been a Draper on Ludgatehill, or a Warehouseman in Bread-street, one would form an idea of a man of suitable birth and education. And this pretence he still endeavoured to support; for being asked one day, whether he had served his time to a Draper? he answered no, he had learned it by being bred up and travelling among the woollen manufacturers; that he was born in Wiltshire, and there educated with his father, came to London at the age of eighteen or twenty years, and having lived sometime among the principal Drapers, to whom he was sometime a rider , he then set up the business on his own account. The truth is, he came to town a raw country young fellow, about twelve years ago, and was first employed in a considerable Print-shop kept by Mr. O–v–n, facing St. Sepulchre’s church, as a menial servant, and acted as footman and porter to carry out parcels, and used to ride journeys with his master, to carry his portmanteau. In this service he was thought to be rather heavy and stupid, than capable of those pranks, which he has since had a part in playing off. When he had lived here about a year, he got another place at a Draper’s and Sale-shop in Houndsditch, and from thence he moved to a like place in Drury-lane, much in the same capacity. In these two latter places he learned so much of the business as to open a shop for himself on Ludgate Hill, which much surprized all who knew him from his beginning; and puzzled them to account, whence the capital should arise to enable him to venture on such a house. But this blaze, having served his turn, was soon extinguished, and the house shut up in darkness. This is said to have been about the year 1760. His next step was to remove to Godalming in Surrey, where, out of the spoils already picked up, he dealt in corn and flour to London, having purchased a mill for that purpose, and was getting money apace; this held on for about eighteen months, and he told me he might have done well here, and continued so, had not some of his former companions, ever restless, and seeking whom they may devour, found him out, and came down to extort a sum of money from him, or threatened to blow him. He not answering their large demands, they exposed him as one who had been a bankrupt and in gaol, &c. He was soon pointed at by his neighbours and others (with whom he had hitherto kept up his credit) as one who had been so and so in London, and was now come down to cheat the country. This obliged him to sell his mill and decamp; and he added, that 90l. of the price was still due to him, which he hoped they would pay his wife. Of her he always spoke with tender concern, and, to aggravate his sorrows, said they had three children; the last of which died of the gaol distemper, caught by being with his mother to visit him in the prison. It is known, and generally believed, that this convict had been too frequently and deeply concerned with several persons (some of them before named in the paper found in his pocket when taken) in sundry frauds and forgeries to procure goods, to get possession of effects and estates on counterfeit securities, and then raise money upon them. One of their most successful methods was to put on the guise of considerable dealers and persons of property, to strike a bargain, pay down some cash in hand, and give bills for the rest, which, on enquiry, proved much like the bill for which he was convicted. This he seemed conscious of, when he endeavoured to account for his conviction on other principles than those of justice and law; for he insisted on being innocent of any forgery in this case; but, said he, I was unfortunately connected with a set of bad people, and had but a light character, and it was determined that some one must die, and I am singled out to fall a sacrifice. By whom and what number of men this was determined, he did not explain; but often hinted, that a person concerned in his prosecution was no better than he should be. Several exploits in their way are reported of this sett of confederates. Prince had agreed with a principal for an Oyster-meter’s place at Billingsgate. He would have paid down 100l. cash, and 400l. more in bills: But this latter part not being approved, broke off the bargain. When he dealt as a Draper, he took a journey into the West Country with his ingenious accomplice F–r, under the stile and title of F-sh-r, Esq; of F-s-r hall in Lancashire, where, by offering a good price, they dealt with a clothier for the value of 1500l. in pieces of cloth, then lying in a great warehouse in London, for which they paid down 600l. in cash, and gave bills on supposed Merchants for 900l. They had the pieces delivered to them by order; but when the bills became due, the persons by whom they were payable were not to be found. The two accomplices were secured, on an affidavit or oath made by the creditor, or prosecutor, and sent to prison; their attorney found, or pretended to find, a flaw in the affidavit, trumped up a prosecution for perjury against him, which, it is said, terrified him so, as to induce him to give the defendants a general release, and 400l. more by way of composition.

It is well known, that Prince and his companion aforesaid were fellow-prisoners in Newgate for a fraud in March 1761, in obtaining several pieces of superfine cloth by false pretences. A little before they were to be tried for this fact, the prosecutor was prevailed on to make a debt of it, by their paying down some little money, and giving him some large promises to pay the rest. They were detained as debtors in Newgate five or six weeks, till F–r first, and Prince in a week after, moved themselves by Habeas Corpus to the King’s Bench prison, from whence, in less than a year, they were both cleared by the compelling clause in the Act of Insolvency. They were well known in each of these prisons on other occasions.

On the day that Prince was convicted, some young gentleman was seen to give him a quarter guinea, for his present relief; and said, at the same time, that his father had lost 1000l. by him. For that and the like purposes, he and his accomplices had taken a house in Bread-street, facing the Three Cups Inn, the better to give a colour to their transactions.

When men have long turned their whole thoughts, and laid out their talents on such deep schemes of fraud and villainy, they may truly be said to have sold themselves to work iniquity; their heart is perverted, and become callous to every good impression, which they have long resisted and stifled. There is a root of bitterness in them, which it were impossible for human strength or means to change or extirpate; and if ever they are changed so as to be saved, it can only be by the mighty power, the extraordinary grace, the exceeding great love and mercy of that God, to whom nothing is impossible. But let sinners take heed how they presume upon these perfections, and dally with divine patience and goodness. It is for this very reason, because there is mercy with him, therefore he is to be feared.

These thoughts are occasioned by a sudden change in this prisoner, which flattered us with hopeful appearances of a good work begun in him, on January 25, the festival of the Conversion of St. Paul, when the Psalms, the proper lessons, and other offices of the day were explained and applied to the prisoners, teaching them that the same heavenly light and grace which had converted Saul from being a persecutor, a blasphemer, and injurious, to be a most zealous Apostle and Preacher of the Gospel, was most surely recorded, and still shone bright in the hearts of all who were open to receive it, and that for this very cause he obtained mercy, to be a pattern to others, who should hereafter be convinced. After service he came, of his own accord, and spoke to this effect; first, that he was sorry for some refractory misbehavour he had been guilty of yesterday in the chapel, and also that he was now glad he did not die of the goal distemper before his trial, (for he said he was, indeed, very wicked when first put in gaol, but hoped he was now spared to repent,) tho’ he should die a shameful death; that he had not an opportunity of attending chapel above two Sundays during his confinement, before trial, having been ill the best part of three months; that he had been drawn in and connected with bad men, but now saw his folly, for they were his ruin; he added, that a friend who supported him, promised to use his endeavours to save his life, but he would make the best use of his time, and not depend on it. He was in the same cell with another convict, who could read well, and had several proper books lent them, which they promised to make good use of.

One of these bad connections is little known or spoken of, viz. that which he had with John Perrott, his neighbour on Ludgate Hill, who was executed at Smithfield, November 11, 1761, for concealing his effects as a bankrupt; not long before which was the failure of Prince, with some similar causes and circumstances. This connection was carried so far, that it is said F–r, at least his associate, if not Prince himself, was concerned in a scheme to rescue Perrott out of gaol a few days before his execution; which was indeed then apprehended, and guarded against. (See page 12, 13, of the Account of John Perrott and Samuel Lee.)

The respite of Prince, the night before his fellow convicts were executed, has been mentioned in the preceding Account; as also that the reasons and means of that respite seemed unknown even to himself; but this was owing to his dissimulation with me, and perhaps shame also to avow the real means and motives by which that respite was obtained. To conceal which, when asked, a few days after, how this respite came about, he amused me with the following blind stories; that he was visited Feb. the 14th, the evening before execution, by a gentleman of fortune from Spitalfields (his name being forgot;) he asked him a few questions, and going away left two shillings for him at the lodge; when he heard this, he revolved in his mind, why should two shillings be left for a man who is to die to-morrow? He conjectured, therefore, this respite was obtained by his means, thro’ the interest of a noble Lord and some gentlemen, for whom he once procured a sum of money, as a broker, on some goods and an estate, for which he gave a bond. And as the estate is now vested in him, it must be forfeited if he dies: To prevent this, he would seem to suppose he was respited. He added, that he had suffered much by law and imprisonment on account of that affair, as the parties believed he had defrauded them of a large sum, but at last cleared himself, and believes they are satisfied of his innocence. The real story he alluded to, is thus reported; that he advised a certain N-b-n, who applied to him in necessity for ready cash, to take up goods from a manufacturer in Spitalfields, to the value of 2000l. which being put into the hands of Prince, when he had raised a proper sum on them, he returned three or four hundred pounds to his employer, and sunk the rest. This was an expedient he was well practised in, the raising of money on goods, however obtained, of which there are numberless instances. This is one of those abuses of trade and credit, which perverts this practice into one of the worst species of robbery; and is common among that obdurate set of enormous criminals, who live luxuriously upon the spoil in our prisons under the name of debtors. For it must be allowed, that in proportion as the right use of fair trade and well-grounded credit is beneficial to society, and is, in fact, the support of millions in these nations and dominions; so the abuse and perversion of either, or both, is detrimental and destructive to numbers.

But so long habituated was this criminal to the use of false pretences, that he could scarce divest himself of them to his dying day. Whatever pretences he had made use of to conceal the real occasion of his respite from me, the true state of it was first hinted by another, and in due time fully cleared up; and it was thus. He sent his wife to a compassionate Gentleman, in the Commission of the Peace for Middlesex, to inform him, that John Prince, her husband, was able to make some material discoveries for the publick utility, she herself making an affidavit to that purpose, and that he was ready to give his information to proper persons. This was on the 14th of February, the day before he was to suffer. Proper application being made above, by the Gentleman aforesaid, in a few hours a respite, for three weeks, was sent down. And the next day, Prince being examined in an apartment of the prison, gave the following Information.

MIDDLESEX. The Examination of John Prince, now under sentence of death in Newgate, taken this 15th day of February, 1764.

THIS Examinant says, that he knows Ed—d H–t, late of the Seven-dials, Cheesemonger; T—s G–ff–h, a Cabinet-maker; J–n W–ms, late a Change-broker, and who now lives near Grosvenor, or Hanover-Square; George White; who lately died in Newgate; Ch–s Wh–e, brother to the said G–e, who is now at large; J–h H–mm–d, and S–l F–r: Says, that about last Spring he frequented H–ll’s, at the Wheatsheaf, in Purpoollane; that he there saw the aforesaid Ch–s and G–e W–te, who told him, that they lived by picking of pockets; that he also then and there saw, in company with the said two Wh–s, two lusty country-looking fellows, who the said Wh–es informed him, lived by robbing on the highway, and by committing other robberies, but does not know the said last mentioned two persons names, but that they use L–l–y’s, in Golden-lane; says that about nine months ago he was sent for to the Royal Oak, as he believes at Mile-end, by G–e Wh–e and Ed–d H–t, who informed him they had a good job for him to do; says they did not then inform him what the job was, but appointed him to meet them at the Angel at Islington, at five o’ clock the same evening; says he met them there accordingly; says he stayed some time there, when and where they told him, that money must be had, and that if he would go along with them, they had a scheme to get it that night; says they set out from Islington, and proceeded together on horseback to the Halfway-house in the bottom of Finchley Common, where they had some brandy; from thence went to Whetstone, and put up their horses at the Green Man there; from thence went to Barnet to the Green Man there, where they drank; from thence went to the White Lion at Kitt’s Inn, put up their horses there, and after staying some time returned towards London, till they got on to Finchley Common: says they then took across the Common towards Southgate, when they told him they had come out on purpose to rob the Mail: says they staid together on horseback till they saw the Mail cart come along from London; when they desired this informant to go and rob it, and at the same time told him, it was a very rich Mail on account of Chester fair: says he refused robbing it, clapt spurs to his horse, and rode away to his lodgings, opposite the Royal Oak at Mile End aforesaid: says that about twelve days afterwards the said W–te and H–t again called upon him at his lodging, and that they drank together at the Royal Oak; that they then took him into the fields, and told him they had robbed the Mail at the time they wanted him to rob it as aforesaid; and that W–te then gave this examinant a black pocket-book, now in the possession of T–s M–r, Esq; in which was sixteen or eighteen Bank notes of different sums, all which, they told him, they had got out of the aforesaid Mail: says they desired this informant to put the notes by, but not to put them off without their knowledge: says he kept them about a month, and returned them to them again at the Royal Oak aforesaid: says that a few days afterwards they gave him a thirty pound bank bill, which he, in his way from Ascot-Heath races, put off to a Butcher in the morning, who lives opposite the White Hart at Slough, who is a lusty man; that H–t and White told him the said note was taken out of the aforesaid Mail: says he afterwards put off a bank bill, at Bury St. Edmund’s, to G–e M–n, an Attorney, of 20l. which he also had from W–te and H–t, and which they told him they got out of the Mail in manner aforesaid: says H–t told him he buried his share of the bank notes and other papers, which were taken out of the said Mail, in his cellar, near Lombard Court, Seven-dials: says the widow of G–e Wh–e now lives at Matthew Fr–h’s, at Coney, and verily believes that she now has concealed, either in a trunk or in two boxes, papers taken out of the aforesaid Mail. Says, that at the time the said Mail was going to be robbed, as aforesaid, he rode a bay mare, fourteen hands high, which he hired in Red Lion yard, Clerkenwell; that G–e Wh–e rode a brown horse of his own, which at that time stood at the first inn on the left hand going down Old-street; that H–t rode a little black horse, which was hired of C–kst–e at Mile-end, where he this examinant then lodged; that Wh–e was dressed in a brown suit of cloaths, all of the same; but at that time had in his saddle-baggs, a dark grey coat, a black shag waistcoat, and leather breeches; that H–t was dressed in a brown coat and waistcoat, and leather breeches; that he had an old brown great coat tied before him, but that Wh – e had no great coat: Says J–ks-n was a sailor, but now dealt in horses; is a short thick man, and used to pick pockets.

JOHN PRINCE.

It was observed by one well versed in these matters, that after this information was known to be on foot, it was designedly or incautiously kept by the prisoner for twenty-four hours; in which time notice for escape and secreting the effects might be given to the parties, and so the design be defeated. That in consequence of it search warrants were issued, and several parties taken up, but nothing was to be found, or proved.

It was also humanely observed, with due concern, by a Magistrate, that the matter of this examination did not come before the Magistrates in a due and regular channel, by confession made, in a serious hour and frame of preparation, to the proper Minister of the prison, by whom it might have been laid before them, that they might judge whether it deserved the extraordinary favour of a reprieve sine die, and not merely serve the turn of a short, because ill-founded, respite, by which the unhappy convict underwent the dreadful vicissitudes of hopes and fears, and was at length disappointed, to the great disturbance of his mind, and interruption of the regular progress of his preparation. But whom had he to blame for thus undertaking what he could not perform? But there have been like cases of others, who, when sinking, will catch at these twigs.

The matter of this information being referred from authority to three Magistrates, to consider and report whether the case merited a farther respite, it was agreed and concluded to send a written message to Prince, to acquaint him, that his discoveries hitherto were of no service to the publick, and for the most part known before; therefore not to flatter himself with farther favours, unless he could better fulfil his promise; this being signed by the aforesaid three Gentlemen, was sent to him by the hand of his wife, at least nine or ten days before he suffered. Yet he thought proper to keep this whole transaction a secret from me, nor did it come to my knowledge till communicated thro’ an authentic hand after his execution: Insomuch that it now seems unaccountable, how he could amuse himself and me with the appearance of hope, without truth or reason, to the last day; sometimes affecting to expect to know more in a few days; again, insinuating that he was sold by those who better deserved the same fate; then to suspect the intercepting or suppressing some paper of intelligence, which he obscurely hinted at by the application of some bank bills; and dropping other half sentences then unintelligible to me; but which, I now conceive, he must know to be impossible to be true, unless he suspected his wife, or could doubt his own eyes in the answer she brought him. And yet it is well known, she was unwearied and importunate in her applications, and strained some points, at her own peril, to save his life.

As he was frequently warned by me not to build too much on the renewal of this respite, he assured me he would not; for which he gave an instance; that while he was shopman to a draper in Drury-lane, he was picked out as an expeditious rider, to ride post with a respite for a convict in a distant county for six weeks, which was renewed from time to time for six months; and yet at last he suffered.

In the interval of this respite, Prince was far from being composed, but seemed rather fretful and captious. Some ignorant visitor having told him that his life and character was published, much to his disadvantage, being no other, I presume, than the Grub street half-penny speech, he or his friends absurdly took it in their head to suspect, and at last to accuse me, of doing him this ill office. It greatly shocked me, that in the midst of all the best offices I could do him, he should imagine me capable of so much inconsistency. However, considering his ignorance, and the torturing suspence he was in, I patiently gave him all the satisfaction I could, that I never had seen that paper, nor knew what he meant. Still he, in his resentment, seemed unsatisfied, and brought and returned me all the pious and proper tracts I had lent him for his better instruction and preparation. Being calmly asked, how he could do without them? he answered, he had other good books of his own. He still attended the chapel, except an odd day, when in a sullen fit. The last Sunday he had to live, two persons, having desired leave, happened to come with me to go to the chapel; he outrageously attacked one of them, a working Printer, with hand and tongue, seizing him by the collar, was ready to choke him, and using the bitterest imprecations against him, for having published his life; and swore, if he went up to chapel, he would tumble him down stairs. The man assured him (as, I believe, he well could) that he was quite innocent, and an utter stranger to the affair: Prince answered, It was you, or that parson there! Luckily, I had gone first up to chapel, and was not disturbed with this outrageous fray, till after service being ended, and returning to the press-yard, I reproved the man, with some warmth, for neglecting to come up to the service. He then explained the matter, and pleaded his fears of Prince, as a very reasonable excuse. This matter was quickly made known to Mr. A-k-n, who with temper and prudence undertook to set Prince right. By his means he was convinced of his rash judgment and gross misbehaviour, and when visited next day, relented, asked pardon, and expressed sorrow for his fault, of abusing a person who had spoke favourably of him in the account that was then published. And in truth, none of those papers, so offensive to this unhappy man, ever fell under my eye, tho’ enquiry was since made to procure one of them. And considering that those ill-timed and ill-natured invectives, against a man in his critical situation of doubt and fear, might lessen his hope of farther mercy, his resentment, tho’ foolishly misplaced, admits of some sort of excuse. The two last days he employed chiefly in writing notes and sending messages to some officers of the Mint and the Post-office; one from each of which came, and had private conferences with him, by which he seemed to expect a renewal of his respite: But, in fine, he was told, they could do him no service. On these occasions, he only told me in general, that his mind and conscience was not easy, till he had opened what he had to say to those gentlemen before he suffered, which, he told me, was a discovery concerning the robbery of the Chester Mail: But said nothing of his conversation with the Gentleman from the Tower. And as to his discovery concerning that robbery of the Mail, it is strongly surmised, for good reasons, that it was all hearsay evidence, which he had learned in conversation from his fellow-prisoner, G. White aforesaid, who died in Newgate, and is believed to be the person, or one of them, who committed that fact; for neither Prince nor his wife, when closely examined, could ascertain the time when it was committed. He told me it was above a year ago, while his examination makes it only three quarters of a year; and she, from the circumstances of her husband’s returning home in a morning, would have proved it to be in June last: whereas it appears, from the Advertisement, to be on the 7th of September last, between three and four in the morning, by two footpads, the one rather a tall man, pitted with the small-pox; the other rather a short man, in a sailor’s jacket and a check shirt, &c.
He seemed to become very serious and attentive the two last days, in the chapel, when I explained to him, from the chosen Lessons of Isaiah the fifth and St. Luke the sixteenth, and other places, the necessary distinctions between moral good and evil, virtue and vice, obedience and disobedience, and their inevitable consequences; and also the certainty and eternal duration of two opposite states, from the Parable of Dives and Lazarus. When visited the evening before he suffered, several proper and affecting prayers were offered up, in which he humbly and heartily joined. He was very thankful, and expressed his gratitude in the tenderest manner, seizing my hand and kissing it, and shewing great sorrow that he had ever distrusted my care and fidelity, and wished he had placed that confidence in his minister which he put in others.

The Morning of Execution.

Having saluted him with a blessing of Peace, and asked him how are you? he said, As well as can be expected. He had two books in his hand, which I lent him a second time the preceding evening. He was asked, have you made good use of those books? He answered, he had, as long as light was allowed him, which was but an hour after I left him at six. Had you any sleep? Yes, he said, he lost himself for about two hours, and then returned to his thoughts and exercises proper for his approaching change.

At Prayers and the Administration he behaved with humble and attentive devotion, only seemed too little acquainted with his part of the office, unless directed. After which, he was reminded, to keep in his heart this surest and highest pledge of the love of God, and in his passage to meditate on the articles of the Christian Faith, and these two petitions — Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven: And to comfort himself with the hope that this chastisement is a mark and proof of God’s love to his soul, intended by a right use of it to save him from worse, infinitely worse, hereafter. He seemed very thankful, and promised he would comply with these directions. He went down directly, and passed thro’ the operation of having his irons knocked off, and his hands and arms bound, with great resignation. He said, indeed, one thing which had better been spared, “That he might have saved his own life had he put others in his place; but this he did not chuse to do.” This speech, compared with what has been before related, seems to prove he was not yet purged from the dross of all dissimulation and false pretences. This was his weak side.

When put in the cart, he appeared intent on his book, and regardless of any thing that passed around him. There were few spectators here in comparison, and fewer at the place of execution; this execution being scarce known, or expected by the public.

When brought to the tree, he seemed calm and chearful; and being asked, said he was very easy. Also, Whether he now acknowledged the justice of his sentence? he answered, there was no fraud intended, nor forgery committed; but as his King and country had found him guilty, he submitted. He added, that nothing lay heavy on his conscience, nor had he any concern, but that dear, worthy, good creature he left behind him; to whom, he assured me, he was married, whatever malicious report may say to the contrary. The usual proper devotions being performed, in which he joined and also the surrounding people, he looked round with a calm countenance, but seemed to want words; he then said, “The peace of God be with you all; I wish you more grace than I have had, and not to come to this sad end which I have brought myself to.” Then having received the last benediction, he quietly resigned his life and suffered his sentence.


An Account of the Behaviour of Anne Baker, Peter Robins, James Rocket, and Timothy Stewart.

BY virtue of the King’s commission of the peace, oyer and terminer, and gaol-delivery of Newgate, holden for the city of London and county of Middlesex, at Justice-hall in the Old-Bailey, before the Right Honourable William Bridgen, Esq; Lord-Mayor of the city of London ; Sir Henry Gould, Knt. one of the Judges of his Majesty’s Court of Common Pleas ; the Honourable Mr. Baron Perrott; James Eyre, Esq; Recorder , and others of his Majesty’s Justices of oyer and terminer of the city of London, and Justices of gaol-delivery of Newgate, holden for the said city and county of Middlesex, on Wednesday the 22d, Thursday the 23d, Friday the 24th, Saturday the 25th, Monday the 27th, and Tuesday the 28th of February, in the fourth year of his Majesty’s reign, five persons were capitally convicted and received sentence of death, for the several crimes in their indictments set forth, namely, Anne Baker, Peter Robins, James Wharton, James Rocket, and Timothy Steward.

1. And on Friday the 23d of March, the report of the said malefactors was made to his Majesty, by Mr. Recorder, when James Wharton, for the robbery of Anne Curtise of 2s. on the King’s highway, was respited, and the other four abovenamed ordered for execution, on Wednesday March 28th, and were executed accordingly.

2. Anne Baker, spinster, was indicted, for that she, (together with Anne Hill, James Doleman and John Wright, not taken,) in a certain alley, near the King’s highway, on Thomas Porter did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and violently taking from his person one guinea and twelve and six-pence in money, numbered, his property, January the 8th.

The prosecutor, Thomas Porter, a seafaring and lighter-man , who then lodged on Snow-Hill, drinking a pint of beer at the Bell in the Old-Bailey, fell into this ill company, and had a quarrel raised against him, for speaking a word to save the prisoner from the stripes of a rattan; he went out to avoid them; and the two women, mentioned in the indictment, followed him close, under pretence of getting some persons to see him righted. They got the two men abovementioned. They decoyed him from one alehouse to another, between Fleet-Market and the Old-Bailey, from seven till twelve at night, and then the women persuading him to see them home to White-Cross Street, they led him round through Chick-Lane, to Black-Boy Alley, where the prisoner, by a frightful whistle which she blew, had him surrounded by five, in a moment. The four now mentioned, struck and wounded him terribly, saying, they would have his money, life, and clothes; and then dragging him by the legs along the street, they held him down, rifled his pockets, cutting one of them out with a knife; this made him cry out, Murder, help, mercy. The prisoner said, Blast him, murder him, &c. Some door opening at that instant, they fled. He caught Wright and hauled him up Chick-Lane; a watchman said, he dared not to assist the prosecutor, among such a number of thieves as are in that lane, for fear of being murdered; and he was advised to let go the robber, which he did. The prisoner was taken the second night after, by a warrant from Sir John Fielding, and by help of some of his men, at the said Bell ale-house. Having denied the charge as long as she could, with great impudence and imprecations, she at last confessed it, and impeached her accomplices, saying, she and Anne Hill had 6s. each, and the two men 12s. each; that they lay together that night; and she was an unhappy woman. All which is confirmed by several other witnesses.

Being convicted, she, with the other two Protestant convicts, attended the chapel, February the 26th, and before prayers heard an exhortation suited to their sad case, with which they seemed deeply affected. On Tuesday afternoon, the 28th, they received sentence of death. After this they were daily instructed in a manner suited to their gross ignorance, and evil habits, and taught to join in the service, with which they seemed little acquainted. Baker could not read, and required the more labour to be laid out in teaching her. She said she was only nineteen years of age, the daughter of a Printer, of the name of Craddock, born in St. John’s Square, Clerkenwell; the name of Baker being that of her husband, a sailor, now abroad; that while her father lived, she got a little instruction, and could read; but he dying, left her poor mother a widow, with five children, about four or five years ago; in her tenth year she had a fever, which hurt her eyes, so that she was blind nearly for a year, and so lost her reading. When recovered, and at a proper age, she was put out by the parish of St. Bride’s, to a man in Rosemary-Lane, to learn the business of closeing shoes, and dealing in old cloaths ; here, she described her treatment to be so very bad, that she ran away, and made her complaint to the parish officers. They passed her back to Whitechapel parish, in which her master lived, to whom she was compelled to return, and was then treated worse than ever; for she said, he was the first that corrupted her, and used to lock her up, and force her to yield to his wicked purposes. She then fled from him entirely, and went and hired herself at the Blue Ball and Crown in Black-Friars, a publick house, where she lived for two years. But being seduced by some unhappy young girls like herself, she then went to a house of ill-fame near Fleet-ditch, begun to walk the street, and has been in these wretched and detestable courses for some years, so that she now seemed languid, distempered, and decayed, at an age when youth and virtue would have ripened her into blooming health and strength. She was free to confess she had lived in several bad houses, partly as a servant, and partly as a guest. She owned she was in company with the prosecutor, and the other men, who frequent those houses, and go a thieving; but denied the most odious and cruel parts of the charge against her, pretending she knew not the men had robbed and abused the prosecutor, till she heard him cry out murder, and then she ran away. They were duly warned not to dissemble and hide their sins, but to repent of them all without reserve. After the Death warrant she seemed so far convinced of this duty, that she humbly and heartily opened several acts of theft she had been guilty of; such as going off with a guinea now and then, of a guest, which was entrusted with her to change; and once she stole three guineas of a sick man, whom her mother was a nursing. She was also concerned in the robbery of a man at the Turk’s Head Bagnio, in Catharine-street, near the Strand.

While the Death-warrant was delayed, she and her-fellow convicts seemed to forget their condition and to relapse into bad habits and filthy conversation; but when she found she must die, she wept and lamented much; was filled with sorrow and shame for her past sinful life, and became more thoughtful and serious than ever.

By help of the plain instructions which were daily given them, she endeavoured to prepare herself with all the requisites for receiving the holy communion; and after careful examination and repeated instruction, was admitted to it the day before she suffered, not without hope and comfort.

3. Peter Robins, Charles Galliher, and Jane Godfrey, otherwise Simonds, spinster , were indicted, for that they, on the 16th of January, about the hour of one in the night, the dwelling house of Christian Watts did break and enter, and steal one large silver salver value 5 l. one silver apple scoop value 2 s. two silver tea spoons value 2 s. one silver table spoon value 6 s. two silver dessert forks value 3 s. one pair of cotton stockings value 2 s. one pair of worsted stockings value 2 s. one canvas bag value 1 d. and 20 s. in money numbered, the property of the said Christian, in her dwelling house.

This burglary and robbery is the more aggravated, as it was perpetrated against a lonely gentlewoman in years, at Staines, Middlesex, afflicted with deafness, and unguarded by any company in her house, which stands alone in the Hampton Road. In the morning of the 16th or 17th of January, she found the glass of her window had been broke, the sash of the staircase unscrewed, her chamber door broke to pieces, which had been fastened with a lock and bar, her pocket taken from under her head, emptied, and thrown in the passage; five locks broke; the several things mentioned in the indictment missing, besides a feather-bed thrown out of a window into the garden. Three of her neighbours, being called in, were eyewitnesses of the damages, to which they gave testimony. Mr. Bolt, by applying to Sir John Fielding, and advertising the particulars, traced the affair to the prisoner Robins, who was stopt with the salver, on Sunday the 22d of January, by Mr. Hebbleswaite, a Watch-maker, in New-Street, St. Martin’s in the Fields, and given in charge to Mr. Sheffield the Constable. He said first, it was a family piece of plate, that belonged to his mother. Then, before the Magistrate, that it was thrown at him, by a man galloping by his door, with several other improbable falsehoods, till at last the prosecutrix coming to town, and swearing to the property, he declared the truth in all its circumstances, discovered his two accomplices, and that he had sold the rest of the plate at Mr. Master’s, a Silver-smith, in Coventry-Street, where they found it.

Jane Godfrey was taken in the street, and Galliher in his bed at Egham: She swore against a fourth person, who being taken up, and examined, was set at liberty, being thought innocent. She would have turned evidence, but was not judged, by Mr. Bolt, sit to be credited.

The prisoner in his defence denied no part of the evidence given against him, but rather confirmed it, by admitting he first named the person to be robbed, in very abusive and opprobrious terms; which terms expressed more vengeance against the injured prosecutrix, than a sense of his own guilt, or the least remorse for it at this time. Bad symptoms, indeed! which glared so strong against him, that they probably contributed to countervail all the powerful interest since used to save his life.

There being nothing found on the other two accomplices, nor no evidence against them, but that of the prisoner; they are acquitted and let loose. But let them be warned, by his fate, how they intangle themselves again.

For some time after conviction Robins said he could not read, but stood silent in the chapel, and took no proper books to assist him in the cell: For this reason, perhaps, Wharton, his fellow convict, was put in the same cell to read to him, till they disagreed in about a week, and were parted; when it came out that Robins could read a little tolerably, and having books put into his hands, began to apply himself to it, both in chapel and in private. His case and condition having been strongly and frequently represented to him, he seemed really affected; he began to look serious, dejected, and terrified, and to give more earnest heed to instruction. He was naturally of a good spritely countenance, about twenty-four years of age, well-made, of a middle size, seemed strong and active, and capable of doing much good, or evil. It should have been mentioned before, that when first questioned, what he was convicted for? he put on a piteous face, and said it was for robbing a house, but he was never in it, nor near it. This was gross prevarication, after all that he had confessed, and was proved against him. He was reminded, that he was now in a situation, where the hiding of his guilt could be of no service to him, in the presence of him to whom his heart, life, and actions were open and visible; to whom if he denied his guilt, it was not only vain, but must seal his destruction. On this he was silent for the future about his innocence; and only insisted that this was his first fact; and from this he never departed. His meaning in the former assertion he explained to be, that he was not one of those who broke into the house, but only stood at the window and received the goods, and, to his cost, sold them too.

On his insisting that this was his first and only fact, he was told it was otherwise believed and reported by those who knew him at Staines. He seemed surprized, and appealed to his character there; and pleaded the common excuse, that he was in liquor when he did this.

He told me he was born in Northampton, that his father was a plumber and glazier; which business he had not thoroughly learned, but used to work at house-painting at Staines, and sometimes at London; that he used also to break and ride young horses. He did not mention, what I heard from others, that he was some time in the light horse , and of Lord Albemarle’s troop; which being reduced, he was discharged. Also that he could earn 20s. a week as a plumber .

He was married to a young woman of a decent family at Staines, by whom he has left issue. His wife and brother are said to have been very active in applying to get his sentence mitigated, and some great personages spoke for the same favour, but could not prevail.

He, with the other convicts, had relapsed into a scene of very indecent conversation about the 18th of March, while the sword of justice seemed suspended; but being reproved, and the danger of so hardened and desperate a temper set before them, they seemed to relent, and behave better the few remaining days.

After the Death-warrant he was remarkably composed, and said he expected no other, and hoped he was on a good foundation. On expressing his preparation and desire, he was admitted to communicate. Wharton also, who is respited, humbly and devoutly joined with them in this duty, the day before and the morning they suffered.

On the 25th, being the last Sunday they had to live, the nature, end, and institution of the holy communion was summed up to them a-new, before prayers. The prisoners in general were serious and attentive, and the convicts behaved with deep humility and sorrow. Then followed the morning-service. From the first proper lesson, Genesis chap. xxxix. the two very contrary characters of faithful Joseph, and his lewd, perfidious, and vindictive mistress, were contrasted and set in opposite points of view. The blessing and prosperity of Joseph sprung hence, that the Lord was with him, and preserved him in purity of heart and integrity of life; while they who forsake God are left to themselves, to work their own ruin. The epistle for the day, Ephes. ch. v. proved exactly suitable to warn and reprove these backsliding convicts, and other prisoners, for their bad habits and conversation, which was therefore opened and applied to them. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God: The conscience and experience of sinners joining to convince them, that (without repentance) the punishments are and will be inflicted, as sure as denounced. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God on the children of disobedience. In the afternoon they were farther instructed from the ixth chapter of Jeremiah, and the xiith chapter to the Hebrews, and from other proper portions of Scripture on different occasions.

4. James Rocket, otherwise Price, and Timothy Steward, were indicted, for that they (in company with Joseph Redmond, sick in gaol) in a certain footway, near the King’s highway, on John Pennington did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and violently taking from his person a metal watch, value 3l. three metal seals, value 12d. a brass watch-key, value 1d. three guineas and five shillings in money numbered, his property, November 20.

This fact was brought home to the two prisoners, on the evidence of one of their accomplices, Joseph Lowther, (there being five of them concerned) supported by the prosecutor’s swearing to both Rockett and Steward; and also by Henry Jacobs, son of a Jew Silversmith in Wapping, to whom the said two prisoners sold the watch and seals for a guinea, and the property of which was also sworn to by the prosecutor. He was first cruelly knocked down with a poker by one of this inhuman gang, who is now a respite in Newgate. Pennington being somewhat in liquor, and a stranger about those parts of Nightingale-lane and East Smithfield, had enquired his way of them, and was making home through Chelsea to Battersea, where he lives, and is a Slater, Plaisterer, and Painter. These five seafaring men were prowling about, and had formed a scheme to rob a Chandler’s shop of the till, while one of them was buying some bread and cheese: This being prevented by the people being on their guard, they were looking out for some other prey when they met with this unlucky man, whom they marked out, followed, and beset, till they treated him in the manner described. ‘Tis well the knot is broke!

James Rockett told me his true name is Lockart, that his father was a Scotchman and belonged to the army, and his mother an Irish woman; that he was born in the English camp, then in some part of Germany; he pretended he was but sixteen years of age, but it proved afterwards he could not be less than twenty-two or twenty-three years old, for he was said to be an old offender, and companion to Steward, who owned himself to be about that age. They were often invited to attend our service, but refusing to come, they were warned not to trust in any other means of salvation without true repentance, and an entire change of mind and manners. They had enlisted themselves under a different persuasion, and would give little account of their past life. They were both illiterate, and very ignorant.

Timothy Steward was born at Knightsbridge, where his father lived some time, and, as he said, was one of the Gardeners of Kensington gardens, which employment, I was told, he quitted for that of a Coal-heaver in the river, and about Wapping, in which neighbourhood his mother now lives. This lad served his apprenticeship to the sea in a vessel out of Scarborough, in the coal trade , and was afterwards in his Majesty’s service for two years. When asked what religion his parents professed? he answered, he knew not, for they taught him none, nor ever made him go to any place of worship, to which he and his companion were strangers. No wonder, will the serious reader be apt to say, they were brought to this untimely and shameful death! Their religion being to chuse, and they incapable of making any distinction, it was said in the prison they chose the church of Rome, on account of some emoluments allowed them. These two behaved careless and insolent till they found themselves included in the Death-warrant, when they appeared more thoughtful and humble.

On the Morning of Execution.

Ann Baker and Robins, when visited, were found in a composed and hopeful temper, as they were left the day before. Baker said, she had asked pardon of her mother for all her disobedience and rude behaviour to her, and had taken leave of her mother and sister in peace. Robins confessed nothing farther. The usual good offices in the chapel were performed for them, and they seemed well supported and resigned. About nine these two were put in one cart, and Rockett and Steward in a second; one of the latter, viz. Rockett, behaved with levity, dancing in the cart, and calling out to some sailors in the crowd, What ship, brother? He was in a different temper at the place of execution, where he confessed, “he was in the company that committed this robbery; but had deserved this death for other facts more than this; that he would not take warning, though he had been transported from Hicks’s-hall, but returned from the Havanna in a King’s ship, and fell again into bad company at Saltpetre-bank.” Steward denied “he had been long in these courses, but was foolishly drawn into this fact.”

Robins was very easy and calm; both he and Baker behaved with great devotion, and were prayed for by the surrounding multitude, at their own request. They warned others to beware of bad company and bad courses; to which purpose Baker repeated this couplet:

Take heed ill company and vice to shun,
Lest soon like mine your glass may run.

When prayers were ended, and I had parted from them, she fainted, and was only supported by the cord; after which they quickly suffered their dreadful sentence.

This is all the account given by me,

STEPHEN ROE,
ORDINARY of Newgate.

Part of the Themed Set: The Ordinary of Newgate.

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

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1554: A false coiner and a masked dummy

Add comment September 29th, 2016 Headsman

From the diary of Felix Platter, a Swiss youth studying in Montpellier, France. It is not completely evident from context (“afterwards …”) whether the masked dummy was “executed” on the same occasion as the coiner, or whether that effigy was punished on a different day.

On the next day [after a September 28 execution] a false coiner was hanged in the same place. The gibbet was not vety high and had only one arm.

Afterwards a masked dummy was brought on a hurdle, and was laid on the cross and its limbs broken, as I have described. This dummy represented a Greek who had studied at Montpellier and had been accounted one of the keenest blades of the town. He had married Gillette d’Andrieu, a girl of doubtful reputation, who had neither beauty nor fortune. She had a very long nose, and her lover could scarcely manage to kiss her on the lips, especially since he too had a nose of respectable size.

The Greek was insulted by a canon, Pierre Saint-Ravy, who taunted him, at the moment when he was about to relieve himself, of having had intercourse with his wife. The husband at once stabbed the canon and fled; he could therefore be executed only in effigy. His wife continued to live in Montpellier, and was often in Rondelet’s house she was a relative of his.*

She often came there to dance, and one day I danced with her, all booted and spurred, on my return from Vendargues. As I turned, my spurs entangled themselves in her dress, and I fell full length on the floor. Some tablets I had in a breast pocket were broken into pieces, and I was so stunned that I had to be helped up.

* Guillaume Rondelet was one of Platter’s instructors, a professor of medicine. He had been friends with Rabelais and has the distinction of appearing in Gargantua and Pantagruel under the name Rondibilis.

Part of the Daily Double: Felix Platter’s Diary.

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Entry Filed under: 16th Century,Broken on the Wheel,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Death Penalty,Executed in Effigy,Execution,France,Gruesome Methods,Hanged,History,Known But To God,Murder,Not Executed,Pelf,Public Executions

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1806: John Docke Rouvelett, malicious prosecutor

1 comment September 3rd, 2016 Headsman

From the Newgate Calendar:

John Docke Rouvelett, alias Romney

After maliciously prosecuting a Woman he was executed at Ilchester, at the Summer Assizes, 1806, in Somersetshire, for Forgery

JOHN DOCKE ROUVELETT, a notorious swindler, was well known at Bath, where he passed for a West Indian of considerable fortune and family. He was about forty years of age, and had the appearance of a creole. He lived with a woman of the name of Elizabeth Barnet, who passed for his wife. Having been arrested for debt, he was occasionally visited by this woman in the Fleet Prison, and was afterwards removed, by habeas corpus, into Somersetshire, on a charge of forgery.

Conscious that Elizabeth Barnet was the only witness against him, by whose evidence he could be convicted of the forgery, as well as of perjury, another case also pending — Rouvelett having falsely sworn a debt against Mr Dorant, of the York Hotel, Albemarle Street — he had her taken up for a supposed robbery, and charged her with stealing his purse in the Fleet Prison, containing forty guineas, half-a-guinea, and a valuable diamond.

This case of singular atrocity came on at the Old Bailey, Saturday, 5th of July, 1806. The young woman was fashionably attired, and her appearance excited universal sympathy. Rouvelett was brought up from Ilchester jail, ironed, to prosecute on his indictment. An application was made to put off the trial, on the affidavit of the prosecutor, which stated that some material witnesses at Liverpool had not had sufficient notice to attend. The object of this attempt was to prevent the woman appearing against him on his trial for forgery, and also to prevent her becoming a witness against him in the case of perjury, as already mentioned. The recorder saw through the transactions, which he described as the most foul and audacious that ever were attempted. He ordered the trial to proceed.

Rouvelett, who called himself a gentleman, stated that the prisoner was with him on the 11th of June, 1805, when he drew half-a-guinea from his purse and gave it to a messenger; after which he put the purse containing the property as stated in the indictment into the pocket of a surtout coat, which was hanging up in the room, in which was the ring, worth thirty pounds. There were no other persons in the room but the prisoner and himself, and in twenty minutes after she was gone he missed his property from the greatcoat pocket. He concluded that the money was safe, as the prisoner had gone to Dorant’s hotel, Albemarle Street, and he did not suppose her capable of robbing him. She, however, absconded, and he never saw her again until she was arrested at his suit, jointly with Dorant, in an action of trover for twenty thousand pounds for deeds, mortgages and bonds, bearing interest, for which bail was given. He had no opportunity of bringing her to justice for the alleged robbery, being himself a prisoner. (The recorder here remarked that the prosecutor could find the prisoner for a civil suit, although he could not find her for the criminal act.)

On the cross-examination of the prosecutor he said he was born at St Martin’s, in the West Indies, and had been at most of the islands in that quarter. His uncle was a planter in the West Indies, and he lived on such means, whilst in England, as his family afforded him. He was brought up in Amsterdam, at the house of Mr Hope, banker; after which he became a lieutenant in the British Army (the 87th Regiment). He knew Mr Hope, of Harley Street, Cavendish Square, and Mr Hope knew him to be Mr Rouvelett, of St Martin’s, for the two families had been closely connected for a hundred years. He lived in England on remittances from his uncle, in goods or bills, but he had no property of his own. Messrs Stephens & Boulton used to pay witness his remittances at Liverpool, but he could not tell who paid them in London. The recorder observed that the witness should not be pressed too far to give an account of himself, as he (the prisoner) stood charged with forgery. Being asked if he, the witness, had not said he would be revenged on the prisoner, as she was intimate with Dorant, and charge her with a felony, he answered that he did not recollect having said so; but the question being pressed, he partly acknowledged it. The purse, which was empty, witness acknowledged was found under the pillow, on the 12th of June, the day after the alleged robbery, by his room chum, a man of the name of Cummings. The prisoner was with him in prison after the 12th of June, although he had said she had absconded.

The recorder did not suffer the cause to be further proceeded in, and directed the jury to acquit the prisoner; he also observed this was the most foul charge he had ever heard of.

The disgust of the persons in court as the fellow retired was manifested by hisses and groans in such a manner as baffled the efforts of the officers of justice for some time to suppress.

The trial of this malicious offender, who was thus happily disappointed in his views, came on at Wells, on Tuesday, 12th of August, 1806, before Baron Thompson, and excited uncommon interest throughout the county of Somerset.

The prisoner, John Docke Romney alias Rouvelett, was indicted for having feloniously and knowingly forged a certain bill of exchange, dated Grenada, 10th of November, 1804, for four hundred and twenty pounds sterling, payable at nine months’ sight to the order of George Danley, Esq., and drawn by Willis & Co. on Messrs Child & Co. in London, with the forged acceptance of Messrs Child & Co. on the face thereof, with intent to defraud Mary Simeon.

Mr Burrough entered into the details of the case, which were afterwards substantiated by the evidence.

Mr Philip George, the younger clerk to the Mayor of Bath, stated that the bill in question was delivered to him by the Mayor of Bath, and that he had ever since kept the bill in his own custody.

Mrs Mary Simeon, dealer in laces, at Bath, deposed that in April, 1805, she lived at Bath. The prisoner came to her house on or about the 16th of March 1805; he looked at several articles in which she dealt, bought a fan, paid for it, and said he should bring his wife with him in the afternoon. He accordingly did so, and brought Elizabeth Barnet as his wife, Mrs Romney. He asked whether Mrs Simeon had a Brussels veil of a hundred and fifty guineas’ value. The witness answered she had not. He then bought two yards of lace, at four guineas a yard, and went away. This happened on a Saturday. The following Monday he came again, accompanied by his wife, looked at a lace cloak, at veils worth five and twenty guineas, and other goods, but did not buy any. In the course of the week he called again, and proposed to purchase a quantity of goods from the witness, if she would take a bill of a long date, accepted by Messrs Child & Co., bankers, in London. Witness answered she had no objections to take a bill accepted by such a house. He returned in two or three days and purchased articles to the value of about one hundred and forty pounds, which, with other goods afterwards bought, and with money advanced by her, made the prisoner her debtor to the amount of two hundred and ninety-nine pounds. He bought all the articles himself, unaccompanied by his wife. In the month of April, between the 20th and 24th, the prisoner proposed paying for the different articles, and he brought his wife to the house, when a meeting took place between them and the witness, and her brother, Mr Du Hamel. He said: “I am going to London, and I should like to settle with you. This is the bill I proposed to you to take; it is accepted by Child & Co., bankers, in London”; and, turning over the bill, he added: “The endorser is as good as the acceptors.”

The bill was here produced, and proved by Mrs Simeon to be the same which the prisoner gave to her in April, 1805.

The witness then took the bill, and her brother, Mr Du Hamel, paid to him, for her, thirty-five pounds, which, with the articles previously bought, made the whole of the prisoner’s debt to her two hundred and ninety-nine pounds. In her presence he wrote on the bill the name of John Romney, as his name. He afterwards went to London by the mail. She sent the bill to London the next day.

The conversation which passed between her and the prisoner, in the presence of her brother and Elizabeth Barnet, was entirely in the French language. He left his wife at her house, where she slept. While he was absent the witness received intelligence from London that the bill was a forgery, and she instantly wrote a letter to the prisoner, informing him of it. He came to Bath in consequence of the letter, late on a Sunday night, and a meeting took place then at her house with him, his wife, herself, her brother, and her solicitor, Mr Luke Evill, of Bath. The conversation then passed in English. Several questions were put to the prisoner by herself and by Mr Evill. Mr Evill asked him whether he had any business with W. A. Bailey, the endorser, which induced him to take the bill. He said Mr Bailey had sold some sugar for him. She asked him if Bailey lived in London; he replied at some inn or coffee-house, the name of which she did not recollect. He was then asked in what island or islands Mr Bailey’s property was situated. He mentioned two or three islands in the West Indies, but he did not know in which of them Mr Bailey was at that time. The prisoner then inquired where the bill was. Being informed by the witness that it was in London, he said she must write to get it sent back. She, however, declared that such an application would be unavailing, and the prisoner pressed her to go to London herself. She refused to go alone, and he entreated Mr Evill to accompany her, saying that he would give Mr Evill twenty pounds to defray the expenses of the journey, which he accordingly did. She set out at ten o’clock that night, accompanied by Mr Evill, and obtained the bill from Messrs Sloper & Allen, in whose custody it was, by paying three hundred guineas, which was all the money she then had at her bankers’. She brought the bill back to Bath, having stopped but one day in London; but the prisoner was not at Bath when she returned. He had left some property at her house with his wife, who had removed from Sidney House, with his clothes, etc. The bill remained after this in her custody about a twelvemonth, and was given up to Mr Evill by her brother. Mr Dorant paid the whole of the debt due by the prisoner on the 6th of May, 1805, a few days after the prisoner finally left Bath.

Upon the cross-examination of Mrs Simeon, it appeared that she considered the prisoner and Elizabeth Barnet as man and wife. It was not until May, 1806, that she appeared before the Mayor of Bath against the prisoner, whom she knew to have been in the Fleet Prison. She did not go before the magistrate at the solicitation of Mr Dorant, nor did she at any time, nor on any account, receive any money from Dorant, but what was actually and fairly due to her by the prisoner.

Mr Du Hamel, brother of Mrs Simeon, corroborated all the principal facts stated by his sister.

Mr Whelan deposed that he was a clerk in the house of Messrs Child & Co. He had filled that situation for about nine years, and, from his knowledge of the business, was enabled to state their manner of accepting bills. The house had no correspondence whatever at Grenada by the name of Willis & Co., and the acceptance which appeared on the face of the bill was not the acceptance of Messrs Child & Co.

Elizabeth Barnet was next called. She deposed that she became acquainted with the prisoner in the month of September, 1804, when at Liverpool. About a fortnight after she first saw him she began to live with him, and continued till the 6th of June, 1805; during all that period she passed under the name of Mrs Romney. She left Liverpool in the month of January, 1805, and came to London with the prisoner. They then took lodgings at Mr Dorant’s hotel, in Albemarle Street. The account he gave of himself to her was that he was a West Indian planter, and that he had estates in Martinique and St Kitts. They remained between two and three months at Mr Dorant’s hotel, during which time they were not visited by anybody except a Mr Hope, whom she remembered seeing with the prisoner. This Mr Hope was not represented to her as coming from Holland. She accompanied Mr Romney to Bath, and on their arrival there they lodged at the White Hart Inn for about a fortnight previous to her lodging at Madame Simeon’s. Soon after their arrival at the White Hart she went along with the prisoner to Madame Simeon’s to look at some laces and a black cloak. None of these articles, however, was purchased at that time by the prisoner, they being afterwards bought when she was not present. She heard the prisoner state to Madame Simeon that he would give her a bill of exchange, accepted by Child & Co. of London. She did not then see any bill in his possession, but saw him writing one three days afterwards, when he sent the witness for some red ink. Two or three days after the prisoner gave the bill to Madame Simeon he was much disturbed, and on being asked the reason he said he would be hanged. He asked her to fetch him his writing-desk, which she did. He then took out a large parcel of papers and burned them. She had no opportunity of seeing what those papers were. She said to him: “Were the papers any harm?” He said: “Yes; and there was a paper which must not be seen.” She never lived with the prisoner after the 6th of June, 1805. She, however, remembered visiting him in the Fleet Prison. She was soon afterwards arrested at Bath, at the prisoner’s instance, for the sum of twenty thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds, and carried to Winchester jail, and afterwards removed to the King’s Bench. She saw the prisoner on this occasion, and again at the Old Bailey, when he was examined as a witness against her on her trial. He then charged her with having robbed him on the 11th of June, 1805, of forty guineas and a diamond ring, when he was in the Fleet Prison. This charge was totally without foundation, as was also the alleged debt of twenty thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds. She never had any transactions in her life to which such a charge could refer.

On her cross-examination she deposed that her real name was Elizabeth Barnet. She was the daughter of a farmer in Shropshire, from whom she had had a plain education. She left her father when nineteen years of age and went to Liverpool, where she lodged with a Mrs Barns. She lived in Liverpool about nine or ten months. After she had left off seeing Mr Rouvelett in the Fleet she lodged at a Mr Fox’s, in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, for seven or eight weeks. She afterwards went to Berry Street.

To some additional interrogatories by Mr Burrough this witness further deposed that the prisoner Romney sued out a writ against her for twelve hundred pounds, exclusive of the sum before mentioned. This was after she had ceased to visit him in prison and had gone to reside at her father’s, and it was also previous to the arrest for the twenty thousand, three hundred and twenty pounds already taken notice of. No demand was made against her by the prisoner when she visited him in the jail.

The jury, having consulted for a few minutes, returned a verdict of guilty of forging the acceptance, and of uttering it knowing it to be forged.

The trial lasted nearly twelve hours, and the court was filled in every part. Among the audience were the first characters in the country. This notorious offender was executed at Ilchester, pursuant to his sentence, on the 3rd of September, 1806. He was dressed in a blue coat with metal buttons, striped trousers, green slippers, and a fur cap.

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1756: Owen Syllavan

Add comment May 10th, 2016 Headsman

Colonial counterfeiter Owen Syllavan (Sullivan) was executed in New York on this date in 1756.

An Irish runaway, Syllavan followed an indenture to the North American colonies and wound up enlisted in the army during the French and Indian War. As a militia armorer, he picked up the smithing skills with which he would later turn out plates to to clone the colonies’ bills of exchange.

Anthony Vaver, author of Bound With An Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America, tells the charming crook’s story on Vaver’s blog Early American Crime; click onward to find out whether Syllavan’s gallows appeal for his 29 confederates to get out of the currency fraud game saved their necks.*

* Anthony Vaver has also guest-blogged for Executed Today.

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1770: King David Hartley, Yorkshire coiner

Add comment April 28th, 2016 Headsman

On this date in 1770, the King of Yorkshire counterfeiters hanged (along with one of his subjects) at York’s Tyburn gallows.

Hartley was the chief of a band of currency manipulators who achieved surprising success and longevity operating from the haunting moors of England’s north.* Known (in order of least to greatest geographical specificity) as the Yokrshire, or West Riding, or Cragg Vale coiners, their operation was a straightforward shaving precious metal from coins but found its edge — so to speak — in their lair’s remoteness from the capital.


Illustration of the coining tools for Portuguese money seized from King David’s band, from The Yorkshire Coiners, 1767-1783. (Portuguese coins, a Cragg Vale specialty, were in active and legal circulation in England at this time, along with other continental coinage.)

According to this public domain volume about the criminals, the first recognition of their activities by law enforcement occurred in 1767, when a coin-clipper named Greenwood “confessed who learnt him the art of clipping in your neighbourhood” — which makes it sound like those artists were already both numerous and practiced. The next year, a man named Joseph Stell hanged for the crime, but the Leeds Intelligencer editorialized in 1769 against “the number of Sweaters and Filers of Gold coin [who] still continue to infest the Western part of this County with impunity” because “if they are suffered to go on a few years in this public and daring manner, it is supposed the current gold coin of the nation in general will be reduced a fifth part.” (A parliamentary inquiry in 1773 found that the overall weight of the country’s coinage came up a full 9% short of its face value: certainly not entirely the work of Cragg Vale, but an alarming state of affairs.)

The business had an undeniable appeal despite the occupational hazard of the gallows. With England awash in the whole world’s specie as the dominant mercantile power, the West Riding became a veritable Silicon Valley for currency entrepreneurs. It’s thought their number might have ranged into the hundreds.

Gold Coin, which has heretofore been so scarce among us as to command a large Premium against Bills of Exchange, flows in upon us with great Rapidity from all parts of the Island; and by the Hocus Pocus Touch of a Number of experimental Philosophers and Chymists (not by an addition to its weight, but by an ingenious Multiplication of its Numbers) is so greatly increased, that all Payments in Paper will soon be at an end … [they] are in a fair Way of drawing Half the Gold in the two Kingdoms into this happy Country … If you wish to be rich, and can sacrifice a few nonsensical Scruples to that Deity, make haste hither, and you may soon be instructed in these Mysteries, which, (with great Ease and Pleasure) will enable you to convert a thousand of your old-fashioned Guineas into Twelve Hundred, and, with a moderate Industry, to repeat the Process every Week.

-Letter from Halifax, July 14, 1769

This letter reflects an alarming situation: not merely the extent of the operation but the degree to which it had become normalized, winked-at, and even integrated into Yorkshire’s economic circuits. “It had become a common practice of the moneyed people — the merchant and manufacturers of the Parish of Halifax — and of those by which that Parish was surrounded, comprising a large portion of the West Riding of the County of York, to carry on a somewhat lucrative business with the Coiners,” one observer wrote. “The central body, if such it may be called, with, for a time, ‘King David’ at its head, was constituted into a kind of Banking Company, with whom certain capitalists deposited large amounts in the shape of guineas.” After all, this bank could offer steady guarantees of investment return.

But bubbles are blown for the bursting, and however many Yorkshiremen had been looking the other way while chymists multiplied guineas, it was about this time that officers of the law started putting the screws to the Yorkshire coiners. (Needless to say, the illicit bank’s merchant customers weren’t handled quite the same way.)

Confrontation came into the open with the 1769 arrests of our man David Hartley (nicknamed “King” for self-evident reasons) and at least a half-dozen others. York Castle’s bowels began to fill up with coiners and collaborators, courtesy of a crown excise officer named William Dighton (or Deighton). Dighton bgan rolling up the gang in a very modern way: starting with bribes to obtain informants and then using their information to smash through the cells.

But so vaunting were the Yorkshire coiners that David Hartley’s brother Isaac put up a £100 reward for the murder of William Dighton — and two guys duly ambushed him in a dark lane in Halifax in November 1769 and shot Dighton dead. This gambit by Isaac was much more loyal than it was wise, for the effrontery to murder an agent of the state invited a ferocious counterattack. (It also didn’t help David Hartley in the least: there was no plan to break him out, only vindictiveness against his persecutor.) the Marquess of Rockingham — the once (1765-66) and future (1782) Prime Minister — was dispatched to the scene to avenge the murdered Dighton, and had 30 coiners in custody by Christmas.

The coiners were done shooting back by this point, and the remaining tales form a tissue of outlaw desperation — flight from manhunts, maneuvering to mitigate death sentences, informing on one another. (Its particulars, and the evidence marshaled against various coiners, can be read in detail at the public domain history already cited.) David Hartley was brought up on capital charges at the next assizes;** his former comrades, including the assassins of Dighton, were hunted to ground. Soon, such counterfeiters as might still be found were reduced to their customary posture, in hidey-holes leaching a few dank groats from the neglected plumbing under the economy, rather than as retail concerns with banking ledgers and armed toughs.

But they left countless others besides — passive co-conspirators, whose wealth their shaving and filing had enlarged and who like King Charles‘s regicides could never fully be brought to book. And they’re not done to this very day: a coiners’ museum is reportedly in the works to capture a few tourist dollars, too.

* Wuthering Heights takes place in Yorkshire, and the Cragg Vale outside of Halifax is within a tormented moonlight ramble of the real locations that inspired its settings.

** Death sentences came down liberally at the assizes, but were (almost) as liberally reprieved — including, for the instance at hand, all of the following: “Thomas Harrison and Benjamin Smith, for Burglary; Benjamin Parkinson, for returning from Transportation; Richard Whitfield, for stealing Linen Cloth from a Bleaching Field; William Dalby, and Robert Moor, alias William Moor, for Horse-stealing; William Owen, George Carr, and John Tunningly, for Cow-stealing; and Robert Allerton, for Sheep-stealing.” (London Public Advertiser, April 13, 1770.)

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Counterfeiting,Crime,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,Organized Crime,Pelf,Public Executions

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