1728: Joseph Barret

1 comment February 12th, 2020 Headsman

January 17, 1728:

Joseph Barret, of St. Giles’s in the Fields, was indicted for the Murder of James Barret, (his Son, aged 11) by flinging him down, and giving him a mortal Bruise on the left Side of the Head of which he instantly died. He was a second Time indicted on the Coroner’s Inquisition for the said Murder; to both which Indictments he pleaded Not Guilty.

Thomas Belcher depos’d, That he saw the Deceas’d on the 29th of Decemb. about Noon at the Vault, that going in, his Father, the Prisoner followed him, and the Deceas’d having shoul’d himself the Prisoner kick’d him, and call’d him Dog and Son of a B – h; and going up Stairs the Deceas’d followed him, and then the Prisoner turned, and kick’d him on the Head without Provocation, repeating it again at the Stair-Case. The Prisoner desired this Deponent might be ask’d, If he did not know the Deceas’d followed bad Courses? To which be answered, He only heard of this once staying out all Night.

Elizabeth Nichols depos’d, That she saw the Deceas’d in Bed some Time before this happen’d, and that he was without a Shirt, and his Arms were beat black and blue; that he got out of Bed, and would have made use of the Pot, but his Father would not suffer it, saying, he should go down, which he did, and returning, his Father said, he had foul’d himself before he got to the Vault; that the Prisoner then shov’d him, that he fell, and he then kick’d him on the Head; that this Deponent then said, The Boy is dying, the Prisoner said, he is only fallen, and taking a Cat of Nine Tails, he hit him two or three Slashes as he lay on the Ground, that after the Prisoner kick’d or stamp’d on him he never spoke more, but gave 14 or 15 Breathes, and then departed.

This was likewise confirm’d in every particular by another Evidence, they both agreeing that the Deceas’d was very weak, and could scarcely creep up and down Stairs.

Mr. Rainby the Surgeon depos’d, That he being desir’d by a Neighbouring Justice to examine the Body, he observed it to be bruised in several Places, particularly the Head: for dividing the common Teguments, a Confusion, with a small Tumour without a Wound, appeared on the Left side, extending from the sore, to the back Part; the Skull being laid bare, there was no Fracture nor Depression, which he said might probably to owing to the Tenderness of the Bony Fibres in so young a Subject, and taking off the upper part of the Cranium, and dividing the external Membrane of the Brain, a great Quantity of extravasated Blood lay between this and the Membrane that immediately covers it, which must have been occasioned by some Violence, and very likely the same that produced the external Contusion, and was undoubtedly the Cause of his Death.

Some witnesses appeared in Behalf of the Prisoner, to prove that he had before this Time been a very loving, indulgent Father to the Deceas’d: But the present Fact appearing plain, the Jury found him Guilty. Death.


Ordinary‘s Account, February 12, 1728:

Joseph Barret, (as he said) Forty-two Years of Age, of honest, but poor Parents, who gave him little Education, for he could not Read much, and knew but little of Religious Principles. When of Age, he was not put to any particular Trade, but wrought at Husbandry, or any thing he could get to do in the Country. Afterwards he past some Years at Sea, in Station of a Marine, and when he came Home and Married, he serv’d as a Labourer to Plaisterers, and such Tradesmen.

And said, that he always liv’d Soberly and work most Laboriously for his Family; that the Son, of whose Murder he was Convicted, was of a first Marriage, and turn’d most Extravagant in wicked Courses of any Boy of his Age; for some Weeks before he Died, staying out Night after Night, and sometimes coming Home in the greatest Disorder imaginable; adding that he beg’d, or got Money from People and bought Gin with it, drinking till he appear’d worse than a Beast, quite out of his Senses; and that he was a most notorious Lyar, and withal, that he was of an obstinate Temper, and Disobedient to his Parents. Upon these, and such like Accounts, he was forc’d to use the Rod of Correction against him in an extraordinary Manner, and for that purpose, prepar’d a Cat of Nine-Tails for his Chastisement, as not being in any Danger of breaking Bones.

I told him, that he had certainly been too Severe upon the Boy, and that gentler Methods might have been more proper for reducing him; the way of Correction he us’d, being the Punishment inflicted upon Men of Age and Strength, on Board of Ships. He said, that he never intended harm, but only to reclaim him (if possible) from his wild Courses; and that any excessive Correction was given him, proceeded from the Instigation of his Wife, Mother-in-Law to the Deceas’d, who (it seems) did not Love the Child, and for the spite she bore him lost her Husband, and Ruin’d her Family.

He reflected upon the Witnesses, as not having Sworn true, in the Points of Fact, for which he was Convicted; particularly, that he did not Kick nor Strike the Child down, either below, or as he was coming up Stairs, and that he did not stamp upon his Head with his Foot in the Room. He believ’d, he had treated the Child too Severely, by Advice of his Wife, without any Malice or Thought of wronging him.

I told him, how Barbarous it was to beat the Child, till his Arms and parts of his Body were in a manner Corrupted with the Blows, when he saw him Indispos’d, and scarce able to rise from the Bed. He said, that he was so Sullen as not to tell him that he was Bad, and that he knew nothing of it. Upon the whole, he acknowledg’d that he had been Cruel in his Chastisements; that he remember’d not his Kicking him on the Head with his Foot, which was the immediate Cause of his Death; he could not deny but that the Evidence had Sworn the Truth; only but said, he had never corrected the Child but three Times in an extraordinary Manner, but that whatever Misfortunes happen’d, he had no Evil Intention.

I exhorted him to Repent of all his Sins, and particularly, that unnatural and brutish Sin of killing his own Child. He appear’d to have been a very Ignorant, illeterate Fellow, and, as appears from the usuage of his Child, of a Cruel, brutish Temper. He complain’d upon his Wifes going into the Country, and doing nothing for him, after she had expos’d herself and two young Children to the greatest Hardships, by her foolish and inconsiderate Advice. He declar’d himself truely Penitent for all his Sins, particularly the great Misfortune of Murdering his Son; that he believ’d in Christ his only Saviour, and Died in Peace with all the World.

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1733: Henry Neal, for shoes and breeches

Add comment January 29th, 2020 Headsman

That life is often cheap is Executed Today‘s stock in trade and few hanged cheaper than Henry Neal on this date in 19733.

Two bare entries at the Old Bailey Online constitute, we suspect, something close to the entirety of the documentary trail civilization holds for this soul.

Working backwards in time, we begin with the customary account of the Ordinary of Newgate, James Guthrie, of the twelvefold Tyburn hanging on January 29, 1733:

Henry Neal, Twenty Years of Age, his Father a Porter at Billingsgate died, and left him young, and his Mother being a poor Old Woman, could give him no Education at School, after he was Four Years Old; since which time he was forced to Work for his Bread at One Shilling per Week, and as he advanc’d in Years they gave him more. He commonly serv’d the Carters and Scavingers, till about Seven or Eight Months ago a Cart run over his Leg, which disabled him for Work. He own’d the robbing of Mr. Graves’s House, as was Sworn against him, but with a variation of Circumstances; for he said, that he only took the Hat, Breeches, and some small Things; but as to the Rings, the Guinea and a Half, he never saw them, as he said. He said, that he kept the Church, and was not very wicked, neither did he know the vile ways usually practis’d by such wicked People; and that what he did was merely for poverty and want, he having been disabled for Work, having fasted for three Days, and every body refusing him Charity. This is the Account he gave of himself, but as to the truth thereof, we leave it to others to judge thereupon. He was a poor ignorant Fellow, and knew but little of Religion. He declared himself Penitent for his Sins, that he believ’d in Christ his only Saviour, and that he died in Peace with all the World.


Here’s the preceding trial record that got him the noose, with testimony by those he robbed (the last of them seemingly written progressively to capture his distinctive accent):

Henry Neal, of St. Giles’s Cripplegate, was indicted for breaking and entring the House of William Graves, and stealing a Pair of Breeches, a Hat, a Pair of Shoes, 2 Gold Rings, a Guinea and a Half, and 2s. 6d. the Goods and Money of Richard Sims, and a Pair of Leather Breeches, the Goods of Tho Cecil, November 16, about ten at Night.

Richard Sims. I look after the Dog-house Bar. About six at Night the Prisoner came into the House, and desired me to let him warm himself by the Fire, for he said he had been with a Cart to Edmonton, and was very cold. He beg’d an old Pair of Shoes, upon which, I took Notice that those he had on were very bad; but I did not give him any. He staid till eight o’Clock, and then went away, and I shut up the Door as usual, and went to Supper at the Green Man on Windmill-Hill, and after Supper I returned to the House at the Bar, and went to Bed: Next Morning the Taylor came to mend my Breeches, which I had left in my Room overnight before I went to Supper, and there was two gold Rings, a Guinea and a half, and 2s. and 6d. in a brass Box in the Side-Pocket. I look’d for my Breeches but could not find ’em, and at the same Time I mist my Hat and my Shoes. Searching farther I found the Prisoner’s old Shoes, which were tied with Packthread, at the Door, and the Cellar Door was split in two. The Shoes made me suspect the Prisoner. Next week I met with him. He confess’d that he broke the Cellar-Door with a great Stone, and then thrust the wooden Bolt back, and got and took the Goods; that he had pawn’d the Hat in Golden-lane for 6d. and the Breeches in Turnbull-Street for a 1s. He went with me to those Places, and found them there. He had my Shoes upon his Feet.

– Thompson. I took the Prisoner in Coleman-street. I knew him before, and had heard there was a Warrant out against him. He had pilfer’d some Things while he had work’d with me there. I tax’d him with robbing Mr. Sims. He at first denied it, but afterwards own’d that he broke the Cellar-door open with a Stone, and had pawn’d the Hat and Breeches, but said he was drunk when he did it.

Tho. Cecil. I do keep the Dog-house-Bar for Mr. Graves, my Lord-Mayor’s Huntsman. My Breeches did hang up where I did lye, but being Zick, I was vorced to go home and leave’m there, and he have got ‘en on now.

Court. Go and look on ’em.

Cecil. Yes, these be they, I can zafely zwear to ‘n.

The Prisoner made no Defence, and the Jury found him Guilty. Death.

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1709: Thomas Smith, Aaron Jones, Joseph Wells, and John Long

Add comment December 16th, 2019 Paul Lorrain

(Thanks for the guest post to Paul Lorrain, the Ordinary of Newgate and a pioneer through these ordinary’s accounts of true crime printed ephemera. -ed.)

The ORDINARY of NEWGATE his Account of the Behaviour, Confessions, and Last Speeches of the Malefactors that were Executed at Tyburn, on Friday the 16th day of December, 1709.

AT the Sessions held at Justice-Hall in the Old-Baily, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, being the 7th, 8th, and 9th instant, Eight Men, who were found guilty of Death, received their Sentence accordingly. Four of them are now order’d for Execution: The other Four are respited from it by HER SACRED MAJESTY’s most gracious Reprieve, which I hope, and here heartily intreat them, that they will take care to improve to the Glory of God, the Benefit of their Neighbour, and their own Temporal and Eternal Good.

While they were under this Condemnation, I constantly visited them, and had them brought up every day, both in the Morning and Afternoon, to the Chapel in Newgate; where I pray’d with them and instructed them in the Word of God, and in the Duties of Christianity; which they had so much neglected. They seem’d to be very serious and attentive to what I then deliver’d to them, for their Instruction and the Comfort of their Souls.

On the Lord’s Day the 11th instant, I preach’d to them and others there present, both in the Morning and Afternoon, upon part of the Epistle for the Day, viz. 1 Cor. 4. the former part of the 5th Verse; the Words being these, Therefore judge nothing before the time, untill the Lord come; who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the Counsels of the hearts.

Which Words, with their Context, I first explain’d in general; shewing, That by them the Apostle do’s not mean, that no Judgment should be pass’d upon the open Actions of Men; for it is plain, from Reason and the revealed Will of God, that Evil-doers are to be judged and punished by the Magistrate, according to their wicked Deeds, when they come to be known and prov’d by sufficient Evidence. But for those things that are hidden and secret, and of which it is utterly impossible for such as do not know the Hearts of Men, to make a Judgment, they ought not to be meddled with, nor Sentence pass’d upon them by Men, who are absolutely ignorant of them. And therefore they must wait for the time which God has appointed for the bringing forth those hidden Things of Darkness both to Light and to Judgment, when He shall think fit to judge the World; which He will certainly do one day; and that too, in Righteousness, by that Man (i.e. Christ Jesus) whom He has ordain’d; whereof He has given assurance unto all Men, in that He has rais’d Him from the dead; as the Apostle speaks, Acts 17. 31.

Having enlarg’d on this, I then proceeded to discourse upon these two Particulars.

I. The Necessity and Certainty of a Judgment to come.

II. The Strictness and Severity of that Judgment, which shall be most terrible to impenitent Sinners.

And to these I added some Directions how Men (by Faith and Repentance) might provide against the severity of that Judgment, and avoid their final and eternal Condemnation.

In the Conclusion of both these Discourses, I apply’d my self with particular Exhortations to the Condemned; and then dismiss’d them for that time, with a Prayer, That God would be pleas’d to seal those Truths upon their Souls, which in his Name, and by his Spirit, I had deliver’d to them; and that He would render them effectual to their everlasting Salvation. This I mention to satisfie those inquisitive Persons who are often asking, What method or means I use, or can be us’d, to bring those sorts of Men to Christ, and dispose them for Eternal Life.

As I publickly taught these poor unhappy Creatures, how they might be made happy, so I had some private Discourses with ’em, wherein such of ’em as are now appointed for Death, made the following Confessions to me, viz.

1. Thomas Smith, condemn’d for a Burglary by him (and others with him) committed in the House of the Right Honourable the Earl of Westmorland,* and taking Goods from thence to a very great Value, in October last. He confess’d that he was concern’d in the Robbery, but not in the Burglary: That indeed he was in the House, but did not break it open; for it was so before he broke out of the Goal at Chelmsford in Essex, where he was a Prisoner. This is all he would confess as to this particular Matter. But as to the general Course of his Life, he acknowledg’d it to have been very bad indeed, though perhaps not so bad as some have represented it, and the generality of the World believ’d it to be. For he had never robbed any House in his Life (saving that Honourable Lord’s above-mentioned) and, That he never did wrong any Person (as it was so-much reported) at Highgate, or Hampstead, or any other Place thereabouts; but all the Facts that he ever was guilty of, were committed in London, Southwark, and Westminster: And, That those Facts were only the taking off Boxes, Trunks, & suchlike things, from behind Coaches or Wagons, and Handkerchiefs, &c. out of Peoples Pockets in the Streets: Of which sorts of Facts he had committed many; so many that he could not remember them all; neither was it (said he) necessary for him to name them, as being of no use to the Persons he had thus wrong’d, to whom he could not make any Amends or Satisfaction, but by asking their Pardon, which he did. He further said, That he was a Cooper by his Trade; That he was born at Highgate, and was now about 33 years of age; the most part of which time he had spent very ill, though his Mother and other his Friends and Relations (who are very honest) were not wanting in their giving him good Advice, which he did not follow; and for that he is now to suffer; the Providence of God having justly brought him under this Condemnation for the punishment of his wicked Deeds in this World; which Puuishment he pray’d might not be extended to the next. He added, that he had served the Crown at times for some years past, both by Sea and Land ; and that by that Service, and his Trade, (which was not a Bricklayer, as some would have it, but a Dry-Cooper) he might have maintain’d himself, and lived comfortably, had he been honest. He wish’d, that other ill Livers might take Warning by him, and be wiser and honester than he had been. He said, he was sorry he ever injur’d any Man, and now was unable to make any Reparation for those Injuries he had done to his Neighbour. He also declar’d, That he forgave all those that had been the Cause of his Ruin, and, That he dy’d in Charity with all the World. I asking him (as I was desir’d) how he made his escape out of the Goal at Chelmsford, he told me, That he broke the Ridge of the House, and so open’d himself a Passage, and went away by one of the Clock in the Morning on the 12th day of October last, unknown to any-body, and was in London on the 14th.

2. Aaron Jones, condemn’d for two Burglaries and a Murther; viz. First, for breaking open and taking by Night several Goods out of the House of Mr. John Moss at Hampstead, on the 30th of June last: Secondly, for another like Robbery committed in the House of Mr. William Heydon, on the 11th of October last: And Lastly, For the Murther of one Lamas, about Marybone, as he was walking that way with Mr. Moss the day after the first Robbery, i. e. the 1st of July, when the said Mr. Moss and Lamas there met with this Jones, and another Person concern’d with him, of whom mention shall be made hereafter, who were then (both of them) carrying away some of the Goods stoln out of Mr. Moss’s House the Day before. He deny’d both the Buglaries and the Murther, and seem’d to be very stubbon and obstinate in that his Denial; tho’ at the same time he confess’d, That he had formerly been guilty of small Thefts, as the stealing of Poultry, and such things; and, That he had been a very lewd and wicked Person; for which he asked God’s Pardon and theirs whom he had offended. He said, he was a poor Labouring-man , who came up some few years since to London for Work; That he was about 33 years of age, born at the Devizes in Wiltshire; and, That he once little thought he should ever come to such an End: But having forsaken God, God had forsook him, and left him to himself; and for his Neglect of Christian Duties, and following ill Courses, God had suffer’d him to fall by this shameful Condemnation.

3. Joseph Wells, condemn’d for the last-mention’d Facts of two Burglaries and Murther by him committed in conjunction with the aforesaid Aaron Jones. He (like his Accomplice) positively deny’d his being guilty of either of those Facts. But confess’d, he had not lived that honest Life which his good Parents had taught him; and, That he had sometimes (tho’ not in great Matters) defrauded and wrong’d his Neighbour; and (to his grief) could not make any manner of Reparation, but he was now severely punish’d, and he look’d upon that Punishment as inflicted on him by Almighty God for all his past Failures. He said, he was about 30 years of age, born at Cobley near Old-Stratford in Warwickshire; and, That he was a Black-Smith by his Trade, which he had follow’d pretty constantly both in the Country, and here. He outwardly appear’d to be very sensible of the Wrath of God upon Sinners, and cry’d for Mercy; but what his inward Thoughts were, God Almighty only knows.

4. John Long, condemn’d for assaulting and robbing upon the Queen’s High-way near Tyburn, Mr. John Nichols, and Mr. William Cure, taking from them, viz. from Mr. Nichols 36 Guineas, and from Mr. Cure 12 Guineas, a Silver-Watch, and several other Things, on the 19th day of November last. He deny’d these Facts at the first, and persisted long in that denial, and protestation of his Innocence in that Matter; but at the same time he confess’d, That though he was but a Young-man (not 20 years old) yet he had done many ill things, and been very loose in his Life and Conversation for which he craved God’s Pardon; being grieved at his heart, that he had been so wicked. He said further, That he was born of good Parents, at Leeks in Nottinghamshire; That he was a Stonecutter and Bricklayer , by his Trade, and, That he listed himself about a Twelvemonth ago. This is the substance of what he said to me before he went to Tyburn. Of which Place when I come to speak (at the end of this Paper) I will say more of him,

This Day being appointed for the Execution of these Malefactors, they were all carry’d from Newgate (in two Carts) to Tyburn, where I attended them for the last time. There I exhorted them again to stir up their Hearts to God in Faith and Repentance, and clearing their Consciences of all things they were to declare to the World, before they dy’d. I asked Jones and Wells, What they now said to the Robberies and Murther for which they were come to suffer in this Place; and, Whether they knew any thing (as I had asked before in Newgate) of the Murther of Mr. Dudley Carlton, or of any other Murther. To which they answer’d me, That they never were concen’d in the Murther of Mr. Carlton, neither knew who had committed it, nor any thing of it. As for the Crimes for which they were to suffer, Wells said, He was guilty of the Burglary, but not of the Murther of John Lamas. Jones (tho’ I press’d him much and long, to speak the Truth concerning those Burglaries, and that Murther of Lamas) he would not say any thing, but this only, That he would tell me no more Lies, and, That all he had to confess to Man, was, that he had been a great Sinner, and done too many ill things in his Lifetime. By which Answer he seem’d tacitely to own, that he had committed both the Burglaries, and the Murther, for which he was to die.

Then I asked Thomas Smith, Whether he still persisted in his Denial of the Burglary for which he was condemned, or would acknowledge it now (as it greatly concerned him to do). To which he reply’d, That he had nothing more to say in the matter than he had said already; which was, That the House was broke open long before he went into it.

Lastly, as for John Long, who had all the while deny’d the two Robberies for which he was condemned, he own’d them here; saying, That he was guilty of them, and pray’d God and the World to forgive him. He cry’d very bitterly, wished he had lived a better Life: And both he and the other three desired all Offenders to take Warning by them, and see that they do not by their wicked ways follow them to this Place.

After this, I pray’d for them all, and sung some Penitential Psalms with them, I made them rehearse the Apostle’s Creed; and when they had spoken to the Standers-by, That they would pray to GOD for their departing Souls; I returned to Prayer again; and having recommended them to their Creator and Redeemer, and to the Spirit of Grace; I left them to their private Devotions, for which they had some time allotted them.

Then the Cart drew away, and they were turn’d off; they all the while calling mightily upon GOD, to forgive their Sins, and have Mercy upon their Souls.

This is all the Account here to be given of these Dying Persons, by me, PAUL LORRAIN, Ordinary of Newgate .

Friday, Dec. 16. 1709.

ADVERTISEMENT.

Books set forth by Paul Lorrain, Ordinary of Newgate .

A Guide to Salvation, or the Way to Eternal Bliss: Being a Collection of Meditations and Prayers, suited to the Exercise of a Devout Christian. Printed for W. Meadows at the Fann in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1709.

The Last Words of the Lady Margaret de la Musse: And, The Dying man’s Assistant. Both Printed for, and Sold by John Lawrence at the Angel in the Poultry.

A Preparation for the Sacrament: with Moral and Divine Maxims. Printed for B. Aylmer at the 3 Pidgeons in Cornhil.

ROBERT WHITLEDGE, who formerly lived at the Bible in Creed-Lane, is removed to the Bible and Ball in Ave-Mary-Lane, near Ludgate, where all Booksellers and others may be furnisht with Bibles and Common-Prayers of all Sorts, with Cuts or without, Ruled or Unruled, Bound in Turky Leather or Plain. Mr. Sturt’s Cuts Curiously Engrav’d; also other fine Cutts fitted for all Sizes and Common-Prayers. The Welsh Bible, Welsh Common-Prayer, and Welsh Almanack. The Duty of Man’s Works of all Sizes. The Duty of Man in Latin. Latin and French Common-Prayers. Tate and Brady’s New Version of Psalms, with the New Supplement. Dr. Gibson on the Sacrament. The Statutes at large, in Three Volumes. Washington and Wingate’s Abridgment of them. The Lord Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion in Folio and Octavo. The New Translation of AEsops Fables. Also Bp. Beveridge’s Works, in 5 vol. And Dean Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, in 4 vol. All which Books and Cuts are likewise Sold by J. Baker in Mercers-Chapel, in Cheapside.

Lately publish’d for the Use of Schools,

Vocabularium Latiale; or, a Latin Vocabulary in two parts. The First being a Collection of the most usual and easie Latin words, whether primitive or derivative; with their signification in English, after the order of the Eight parts of Speech, giving a Specimen of each, and most naturally shewing the gender, increase, declension and motion of Nouns and Pronouns, with the Conjugation-Preterperfect Tense and Supine of Verbs both Simple and Compound. The Second, shewing the variation and declining of all the declinable parts, both regular an irregular. By Tho. Dyche, School-Master in London, Author of a new Spelling-book, entitul’d, A Guide to the English Tongue. Printed for S. Butler, at Bernard’s-Inn-Gate, in Holbourn, J Holland, near St. Paul’s Church-yard, and A. Collins, at the Black-Boy in Fleet-street. Price 1 s.

Memoirs of the right Villianous John Hall, the late famous and Notorious Robber. Pen’d from his Mouth some time before his Death. Containing the exact Life and Character of a Thief in General. As also a lively Representation of Newgate, and its Inhabitants, with the Manners and Customs observed there. The Nature and Means by which they commit their several Thefts and Robberies, and the Distinctions observed in their respective Functions. To which is added, the Cant generally us’d by those Sort of People to conceal their Villanies; and Rules to avoid being Robb’d or Cheated by them. Usefully set forth for the Good of the Publick, at the Instance of many honest People. The third Edition, with large Additions, and a Description of Ludgate, the two Compers, and other Prisons for Debt.

The wooden World dissected in the Character, of, 1. a Ship of War; 2. a Sea-Captain; 3. a Sea-Lieutenant; 4. a Sea Chaplain; 5. The Master of a Ship of War; 6. The Purser; 7. The Surgeon; 8. The Gunner; 9. The Carpenter; 10. The Boatswain; 11. a Sea-Cook; 12. a Midship-man; 13. The Captain’s Steward; 14. a Sailor. By a lover of the Mathematicks. The Second Edition, corrected and amended by the Author. Price bound, 1 s.

The Satyrical Works of Petronius Arbiter, in Prose, and Verse. In three Parts. Together with his Life and Character, written by Mons. St. Evremont; and a Key to the Satyr, by a Person of Quality. Made English by Mr. Wilson, Mr. Burna by, Mr. Blount, Mr. Brown, Captain Ayloff, and several others. And adorn’d with Cuts. To which is added, the Charms of Liberty; a Poem, by the late Duke of Devonshire.

All 3 Sold by B. Bragge, at the Raven in Pater-noster-row.

London Printed, and are to be Sold by Benj. Bragge, at the Raven in Pater-noster-Row.

* The Earldom of Westmorland still exists to this day and the same family as our crime victim here still holds it: it belongs now to Anthony David Francis Henry Fane, the 16th Earl of Westmorland.

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Entry Filed under: 18th Century,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Guest Writers,Hanged,Murder,Other Voices,Theft

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1615: Anne Turner

2 comments November 15th, 2019 Headsman

For Sommersett must love Essex faire wife
by wich his deerest servant lost his life.
losse upon losse, all things grow cleane contrary
and thus our sinfull times themselves doe vary.

From a 17th century libel

On this date in 1615, Anne Turner hanged at Tyburn for a shocking society murder remembered as the Overbury Affair.

Turner was quite a character herself, but her journey to the pages of Executed Today begins in the bedsheets of the nobility. In fact, events revolve around a marriage alliance between two families of notable beheadings, in the persons of Frances Howard — the grandsondaughter of Queen Elizabeth’s enemy Thomas Howard (beheaded 1572) — and Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex — son of Queen Elizabeth’s lover also named Robert Devereux (beheaded 1601).

‘Twas often that noble pairings were cynical, loveless expediencies but this union exceeded most in its deficiencies.

They married so young — 13 to 14 years old as they tied the knot — that they were initially kept apart to prevent them sleeping together but this failure to consummate developed into firm policy. Devereux was impotent with her — even though, per Francis Bacon’s investigation, “before and after the marriage, he hath found an ability of body to know any other woman, and hath oftentimes felt motions and provocations of the Flesh, rending to carnal copullation” — and Howard seemingly systematically refused him. (Devereux was elsewhere heard to note that his virility failed because his wife “reviled him, and miscalled him, terming him a cow, and coward, and beast.”)

By that time — we’re into 1613 here — the missus was also intentionally trying to force an annulment of the marriage, so that she could pursue love and power with the king’s young favorite, Robert Carr. Both spouses agreed that their union had never been consummated, a fact “verified” by a panel of matrons who inspected the wife’s bits to confirm the presence of the hymen. Frances was veiled during this humiliating spectacle to preserve her modesty and/or identity, as widely believed rumor held that she’d swapped in a ringer to pass the exam.

This maide inspected;
But fraud interjected
A Maid of more perfection:
The midwives did her handle,
While the Kn[igh]t held the candle
O there was a clear inspection!

While Frances was orchestrating all this, her lover’s close friend Sir Thomas Overbury was energetically counseling that youth against the match, going so far as to write one of the classics of Jacobean poetry, “A Wife”, expounding on the preferred virtues of such a partner in an apparent attempt to underscore to his chum Frances Howard’s conspicuous want of them, e.g.

Where goodnesse failes, ’twixt ill and ill that stands:
Whence ’tis, that women though they weaker be,
And their desire more strong, yet on their hands
The chastity of men doth often lye:
Lust would more common be then any one,
Could it, as other sins, be done alone.

Long story short, the mistress won the struggle over the valuable Robert Carr and her powerful family arranged to sideline Overbury by means of a royal appointment to Russia. When Overbury refused the post, the outraged King James had him locked up in the Tower of London for his impertinence; Overbury soon died there, and Frances Howard and Robert Carr tied the match before 1613 was out.

Carr should have listened to that poem.

It was no more than months ere that gentleman was being eclipsed in King James’s favor by George Villiers, and his eroding status licensed the interest of court enemies in the surprise death of Carr’s friend.

Suspicions of foul play soon appeared vindicated, and we come at last at this point to our gallows-fruit Anne Turner, a wealthy woman in the train of Frances Howard, for the evidence developed by Bacon indicated that Turner acted as Howard’s agent in arranging for Overbury’s guards to poison him off.

The affair was the ruin of her patron, who was convicted along with her prized new husband.* Both of these blueblooded types were spared, but no such mercy obtained for the four commoners who had been the Lady’s instruments.

Turner, who did a brisk business in saffron supplying the royal court its fashionable yellow accoutrements, arranged for “tarts and jellies” procured from a sinister chemist to be delivered to the men at the Tower for ministration to the imprisoned poet. Really it was just as Overbury had tried to warn Carr:

A passive understanding to conceive,
And judgement to discerne, I wish to finde:
Beyond that, all as hazardous I leave;
Learning and pregnant wit in woman-kinde,
What it findes malleable, makes fraile,
And doth not adde more ballast, but more saile.

She, the chemist, and both Overbury’s jailer and the governor of the Tower of London would all four suffer execution on distinct occasions for doing the Lady Howard’s bidding in this matter. Turner’s hanging at Tyburn had a classic dash of showmanship: both the victim and the executioner were pointedly dressed in the yellow saffron ruffles whose lucrative traffic had empowered Anne Turner with the werewithal to corrupt the king’s dungeon. The design fell speedily out of fashion.

Our intrepid assassin, however, had the consolation of a vigorous literary afterlife as her character became a fixture of the 17th century theater. (So did Overbury’s.)

The Overbury Affair’s rich text touching power, gender, commerce, revenge, social climbing, print culture, and murderous intrigue has continued to fascinate new audiences ever since then, intermittently refreshed by many new volumes both fiction and non-.

* Frances Howard confessed the plot — accurately, as it is generally understood. Robert Carr never did, and he’s often been read as a plausible naif, blind to his pretty new wife’s vengeful treatment of his former bosom friend.

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1769: Six at Tyburn, “most of them, sir, have never thought at all”

Add comment October 18th, 2019 Headsman

The sixfold Tyburn hanging on this date in 1769 — all six men condemned for non-homicide property crimes.*

The acquitted Giuseppe Baretti.

We notice them best for their proximity to an altogether more prominent trial: that of the Italian emigre and scholar Giuseppe (Joseph) Baretti, which would take place two days later, on Friday, October 20.** A society fixture whose gift to posterity was setting down (or inventing) that legendary murmur of the beaten-but-unbowed Galileo, “eppur si muove”, Baretti had lived in London for many years and was well-known to the local elites … but in these days he would fear for his stately neck on account of stabbing a man to death during an October 6 brawl in the Haymarket.

This street and the district to which it gave its name lay a quarter-mile to the west of Coventry Garden (op. cit.) and was part of the same vast zone of street prostitution and other underbelly delights. What the great linguist meant to get up to ’round “Hell Corner” will have to be guessed at but in the course of his business he smacked a woman — after, so Baretti said, “she clapped her hands with such violence about my private parts, that it gave me great pain.” Upon this outrage, several young toughs accosted him, and where the innocent reader might perceive chivalry, Baretti’s defenders asserted a common setup for calculated mayhem. “It is a common case there, I am sorry to say it,” a judge testified. “There is seldom a woman that attacks a man, but they have two or three men behind them, ready to pick your pocket, or to knock you down.” Baretti knifed one of this gaggle, mortally.

Joining the local magistracy in Baretti’s corner was fellow dictioneer Samuel Johnson, who presented himself at the Old Bailey to offer evidence on behalf of his colleague.

Doctor Johnson. I believe I began to be acquainted with Mr. Baretti about the year 53 or 54. I have been intimate with him. He is a man of literature, a very studious man, a man of great diligence. He gets his living by study. I have no reason to think he was ever disordered with liquor in his life. A man that I never knew to be otherwise than peaceable, and a man that I take to be rather timorous.

Q. Was he addicted to pick up women in the street?

Dr. Johnson. I never knew that he was.

Q. How is he as to his eye-sight?

Dr. Johnson, He does not see me now, nor I do not see him. [both men were nearsighted -ed.] I do not believe he could be capable of assaulting any body in the street, without great provocation.

Johnson, however, was sanguine about his timorous pal’s potential execution. The very eve the big trial — and the day after the hanging that provides the excuse for this post — Johnson plied his gallowsshadowing familiar James Boswell with this unsentimental appraisal of human fellow-feeling:

l mentioned to him that I had seen the execution of several convicts at Tyburn, two days before, and that none of them seemed to be under any concern. JOHNSON. “Most of them, sir, have never thought at all.” BOSWELL. “But is not the fear of death natural to man?” JOHNSON. “So much so, sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it.” He then, in a low and earnest tone, talked of his meditating upon the awful hour of his own dissolution, and in what manner he should conduct himself upon that occasion: “I know not (said he), whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between GOD and myself.”

Talking of our feeling for the distresses of others; — JOHNSON. “Why, sir, there is much noise made about it, but it is greatly exaggerated. No, sir, we have a certain degree of feeling to prompt us to do good: more than that, Providence does not intend. It would be misery to no purpose.” BOSWELL. “But suppose now, sir, that one of your intimate friends was apprehended for an offence for which he might be hanged.” JOHNSON. “I should do what I could to bail him, and give him any other assistance; but if he were once fairly hanged, I should not suffer.” BOSWELL. “Would you eat your dinner that day, sir?” JOHNSON. “Yes, sir; and eat it as if he were eating with me. Why, there’s Baretti, who is to be tried for his life to-morrow, friends have risen up for him on every side; yet if he should be hanged none of them will eat a slice of plum-pudding the less. Sir, that sympathetick feeling goes a very little way in depressing the mind.”

I told him that I had dined lately at Foote’s, who showed me a letter which he had received from Tom Davies,† telling him that he had not been able to sleep from the concern he felt on account of “This sad afair of Baretti,” begging of him to try if he could suggest any thing that might be of service; and, at the same time, recommending to him an industrious young man who kept a pickle shop. JOHNSON. “Ay, sir, here you have a specimen of human sympathy; a friend hanged and a cucumber pickled. We know not whether Baretti or the pickle man has kept Davies from sleep: nor does he know himself. And as to his not sleeping, sir; Tom Davies is a very great man; Tom has been upon the stage, and knows how to do those things: I have not been upon the stage, and cannot do those things.” BOSWELL. “I have often blamed myself, sir, for not feeling for others as sensibly as many say they do.” JOHNSON. “Sir, don’t be duped by them any more. You will find these very feeling people are not very ready to do you good. They pay you by feeling.”

* One burglar, one forger, and four highway robbers.

** The Old Bailey Online web page puts the trial date on October 18, which is flatly erroneous; it appears to be an algorithm’s conflation for a package of various proceedings spanning “Wednesday the 18th, Thursday the 19th, Friday the 20th, Saturday the 21st, and Monday the 23d of October.”

† A Scottish bookseller, writer and actor, Tom Davies introduced Boswell and Johnson.

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1732: Edward Dalton, brotherly hate

Add comment October 9th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1732, Tyburn groaned with 13 men (no women) hanged en masse for various crimes — the most eye-catching of whom per the account of the ubiquitous Newgate Ordinary is surely

Edward Dalton, 26 Years of Age, Born in London, [and] Brother to James Dalton the famous Robber and Evidence, who was Executed last Year, as was thought upon the false Evidence of the infamous Waller

We have previously met in these pages that villainous brother, James Dalton. Jemmy was a serial robber and highwayman as sure as hemp is strong, but part of the lethal charge laid against him came courtesy of this “infamous Waller” who made his bones as an unscrupulous thief-taker, offering testimony fit to swing other fellows in order to secure reward purses.

James Dalton even in acknowledging several other charges that were plenty enough to hang him took violent exception to the mugging alleged by John Waller — for the latter was

a Man of a vile Character, that he was a common Affidavit Man, and was but lately, before the time charg’d in the Indictment, come out of Newgate himself; that though he himself had done many ill Things, and had deserv’d Death many times, yet not for this Fact, he being Innocent of it; and said, the Prosecutor was as great a Rogue as himself, and there was never a Barrel the better Herring

About a year later — with the elder Dalton already in his tomb — the magistrates came to the same conclusion in a different case, convicting Waller for perversion of justice “for endeavouring to defraud John Edlin of his good Name, his Life, his Goods, and Chattels, by making before Mr. Justice Gifford, on the 28th of January last, a false Information in Writing, by the Name of John Trevor, charging the said Edlin and another Person with assaulting him the said Waller on the Highway.”

Waller was condemned to stand in the pillory as a result — a punishment that under the brickbats of the London mob could easily exceed ritual shaming and imperil life and limb. At least seven people died in the pillory in the 18th century. One of them was the hated Waller, upon whom Edward Dalton visited his brother’s revenge after the stool pigeon had stood exposed for only “about two or three Minutes.” That’s when, according to a witness, Dalton and a goon named Serjeant Griffith(s) (“very honest in all his Dealings, and never wrong’d any Body” but given to a “particular Pleasure in mobbing and pelting Persons appointed to stand upon the Pillory”)

got upon the Pillory Board, Griffith took hold of Waller’s Coat, and Dalton of the Waisthand of his Breeches, and so they pulled his Head out of the Pillory, and he hung a little while by one Hand, but pulling that Hand out they threw him on the Pillory-board. [William] Belt took him up and endeavoured to put him in again, but the hung-an-Arse, upon which Belt gave him a Knock or two over the Back, with his Hand, (for I can’t say that he had any Weapon) and I believe to get him into the Pillory, but the other two Prisoners and a Chimney Sweeper laid hold of Waller, and stripped him as naked as he was born, except his Feet, for they pulled his Stockings over his Shoes and so left them; then they beat him with Collyflower-stalks, and threw him down upon the Pillory-board. The Chimney-Sweeper put something into his Mouth, and Griffith ramm’d it down his Throat with a Collyflower-stalk. Dalton and Griffith jumpt and stampt upon his naked Body and Head, and kick’d him and beat him with Artichoke and Collyflower-Stalks, as he lay on the Pillory-Board. They continued beating, kicking, and stamping upon him in this manner, for above 1/4 of an Hour, and then the Mob threw down the Pillory, and all that were upon it. Waller then lay naked on the Ground. Dalton got upon him, and stamping on his Privy Parts, he gave a dismal Groan, and I believe it was his last; for after that I never heard him groan nor speak, nor saw him stir.

William Belt was acquitted in this affair, but both Edward Dalton and Serjeant Griffith went to Tyburn’s gallows on October 9, 1732.

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1791: George Dingler, proved guilty

Add comment September 19th, 2019 Headsman

“every man is presumed to be innocent till proved guilty …”

-Whig barrister William Garrow, coining a soon-to-become-foundational juridical catchphrase in his unsuccessful defense of wife-murderer George Dingler, who was hanged at Tyburn on 19 September 1791

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1679: Four at Tyburn

Add comment March 7th, 2019 Headsman

One of the oldest extant publications of the Newgate Ordinary gives us

THE Behaviour, last Speeches, Confessions, AND EXECUTION Of the Prisoners that Suffered at TYBURN On Fryday the 7th of March 1678/9

VIZ.

Thomas Coxe, and Charles Smith, Who were drawn thither on a Hurdle, for TREASON.

Mary Augur,For Murther.

AND

Anne Atkins, For a Burglary, her Husband being hang’d for the like Offence but the very last Sessions before.

With a true Account of their Carriage, and Discourses to Mr. Ordinary and others, both in Prison and at the place of Execution.

AT the last Sessions there were in all Nine persons received sentence of Death; Three men and Six women. (Not Six men and Three women, as a false and surreptitious Pamphlet, printed with the Letters D.M. did lately mention; which also said, there was Fourteen to be Transported: and several other notorious Untruths almost in every Line.) Of these unhappy Criminals one was respited for the present from Execution, being found by a Jury of Matrons to be quick with Childe: three other women and one man, the nature of whose Offences and Conversation had rendred them fitter Objects of Royal Mercy, obtain’d the favour of his Majesties gratious Reprieve after Judgment.

The other Four came now to suffer; their Names and Crimes being as follows.

Thomas Coxe and Charles Smith, each of them found guilty of Treason on several Indictments, both for Coyning and Counterfeiting, and also for Clipping of Money.

Mary Augur, for Murthering her Bastard Child; and Anne Atkins, for a Burglary, whose Husband, for the like Offence, was Executed, but the very last Sessions, and she then turn’d out of Newgate on the account of her Poverty, having several Children; but was no sooner at liberty, but she sell to her told wickedness; and ’tis believ’d seduc’d a person, now Condemn’d with her, but Reprieved, into this Burglary, for which she suffered. So difficult it is for people, when they are once come to make a Trade of sin, to forsake, it though they have the saddest and most near related Warnings in the world to reclaim them.

Coxe, in the hearing of the Ordinary, prayed very pathetically for himself; and being askt concerning what hopes he had of a future happy Estate, he declared, That the fear of Death was much abated, and as he trusted on a sound and firm foundation, because his sorrow for sin was more for offending God, and grieving his Holy Spirit, than for the dread either of that momentary Punishment he was justly to suffer here, or even for the fear of Hell and wrath to come. Adding, that if he were to live, he resolv’d and hopes in God’s strength that he should never run into such Extravagances as he had formerly been guilty of. For he did not onely freely acknowledge the Crime for which he was Condemned, but said, there was scarce any Immorality or Sin (except Murther) which in the debauch’d Course of his Life he had not stain’d and polluted his Soul with.

The Ordinary urg’d, that his Coyning counterfeit Money, was not onely a great Crime against the Kings Majesty, but an abuse to the whole Nation, especially the poor, whose wants could not be supplyed if they offered such bad Money in buying; so that the ill influence and consequences of his sin in this kind, would survive when he was dead, and the fraud he had knowingly put upon others, must needs in the loss or deceit, circulate to the prejudice of many innocent people. He replyed, that for that very consideration, his penitent grief was so much the greater; and being told, that he could not repent sincerely, if he made not restitution to his power, to such whom he had defrauded, He professed he would do all he could possibly on that account. by making distribution as far as able to the poor, because he knew not whom he had wronged in particular, nor now to send to any such. He expressed much grief, that he had omitted to observe the Lords day, and that he went not to the publick Worship, as also, that he neglected to pray Morning and Evening, for which remisness, he conceived the Lord justly left him to the temptations of bad Company, and in particular to be acquainted with a person, who drew him to the crime of Coyning, which he closed with, on a lwed principle, not being content with an honest Trade, viz. a Gun-smith , which he well subsisted by, being a single Man, but made hast to snatch at unlawful gain, that he might be at higher expences to gratifie his Lusts, which he the rather acknowledged, that it might be a warning to all others.

Smith, the other Coyner of false Money, was well educated, and it grieved him that he had not answered those good Instructions which his Parents gave him. He was put forth in Apprentiship to a Chandler , after he came to his own disposal, he lost the government of himself, for he profan’d the Lords day, which he said was occasioned by neglecting to repair to Gods publick Service, because he thought out of the pride of his heart, that his cloaths were not fine enough, so natural it is for one sin to beget another.

He bewail’d himself as a great sinner, and in particular very much lamented the Crime for which he was Condemned, which he said he ingaged in, out of a covetous disposition, but made not so much gain by it as some others; and that he had a resolution to desist from that wicked practise, not because it answered not his expectation of profit, but rather for the regret and trouble which he had in his Conscience concerning proceeding in it. He said that bad acquaintance first inticed him into it, and that he was justly by God left to the temptation, since he had neglected daily to guard himself by Prayer. He wisht had took the meanest lawful imployments, rather than so hainously transgresed against the Kings Majesty, and the Law of the Nation. But the Lord he said was righteous, in discovering his Crime, because he had lived securely in committing other sins; for had he not been apprehended as he was, there was provided for him an honest and creditable imployment. But (said he) the Lord in just in cutting me off in the prime of my years, that I might not proceed in a course of Iniquity; and if his Divine Majesty shall be gratiously pleased to sanctifie this stroke of death on my body, to bring me thereby to Repentance, I shall not dread to drink of that bitter cup, as believing the Lord will order it to my eternal happiness. He praid for himself very well in the Ordinaries hearing, and being questioned what hopes he had of Salvation, and on what foundation the same were grounded, he made such judicious answers, in a distinct difference of true Faith and Repentance from the false, as the Ordinary was well satisfied with the same, and doth verily believe, that his endeavours with him were blessed, to bring him as a Convert to God.

As for Mary Augur, she was very weak in body, not able to come on the Lords day in the afternoon into the Chappel; but the Ordinary several times attended her in her Chamber, and gave her many serious Exhortations: but her condition Etc. very much obstructed the good effects he hoped for from such his pains, so that we can give little farther account of her.

The other Woman wept bitterly, and very often, and seemed to be penitent for her sins, not denying the Crime for which he suffered, but seemed to have been bred up in a loose course of life, and very ignorant of the Mysteries of Religion, but the Ordinary took considerable, pains to instruct her therein, and it is charitably hoped God might bless his endeavours towards her.

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1595: Robert Southwell

Add comment February 21st, 2019 Headsman

February 20, 1594-5, [Father Robert] Southwell, a Jesuit, that long time had lain prisoner in the Tower of London, was arraigned at the King’s-bench bar. He was condemned, and on the next morning drawn from Newgate to Tyburn, and there hanged, bowelled and quartered.

-Chronicle of John Stow

Youngest child in a gentry household of Catholic-leaning Norfolk, Robert Southwell was for holy orders and martyr’s laurels from the jump; in 1576 at the tender age of 15, he made for Douai and its English seminary, noted for training missionary priests who would return secretly to Elizabethan England to court torture and death for the Word. Within a decade he was a prefect at the English College in Rome and a fully armed and operational member of the Society of Jesus.

In 1586, Southwell sailed for his homeland with fellow Jesuit Henry Garnet, who would one day go to the gallows for Guy Fawkes’s Gunpowder Plot.

For Southwell, the pen was mightier than such detonations.

“St. Peter’s Complaint” (Excerpt)
by Robert Southwell

Ah! life, sweet drop, drown’d in a sea of sours,
A flying good, posting to doubtful end;
Still losing months and years to gain new hours,
Fain times to have and spare, yet forced to spend;
Thy growth, decrease; a moment all thou hast.
That gone ere known; the rest, to come, or past.

Ah! life, the maze of countless straying ways,
Open to erring steps and strew’d with baits.
To bind weak senses into endless strays,
Aloof from Virtue’s rough, unbeaten straits
A flower, a play, a blast, a shade, a dream,
A living death, a never-turning stream.

Quietly nestled in as the house confessor to Catholic noblewoman Anne Howard, Southwell scratched out page after page to fortify the hearts of the beleaguered Old Faith — standard stuff like martyrology testimony concerning his brother priests, overt manifestos like An humble supplication to Her Maiestie, and literary bestsellers admired by Protestant countrymen like Mary Magdalene’s Funeral Tears and his verse collection St. Peter’s Complaint, and Other Poems.*

This last appeared posthumously. After three years’ imprisonment — “I am decayed in memory with long and close imprisonment, and I have been tortured ten times,” the imminent martyr said of his handling by notorious Catholic-hunter Richard Topcliffe; “I had rather have endured ten executions” — Southwell was brought to the bar on February 20, 1595, to answer as a traitor and put to the traitor’s death the very next day.

Though less widely familiar now, his literary output was well-known and highly regarded long after he died, and perhaps influenced many other writers including Shakespeare. The Catholic Church elevated Southwell to sainthood in 1970.

* A couple of Southwell’s epistles are preserved in the 1741 volume Memoirs of Missionary Priests.

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1723: Charles Weaver, John Levee, Richard Oakey and Matthew Flood

Add comment February 8th, 2019 Headsman

On this date in 1723, Tyburn was graced by a quadruple hanging.

Charles Weaver hanged on the occasion for stabbing a creditor to death as they argued about money crossing the Thames; his tragedy, we find from the Ordinary’s Account, compounded since “his Wife with Child, being kill’d about a Fortnight ago, by a Dray, or Cart that ran over her, in — as she was going to her Husband in Newgate.” He left a seven-year-old orphan.

The other three at the fatal tree — John Levee, Richard Oakey and Matthew Flood — were all part of the same circle of thieves, outlaws in a secondary orbit of the legendary crime lord Jonathan Wild.

Wild has already been profiled here, and in many other places besides; in fine, his racket was as London’s preeminent thief-taker to batten on that city’s vast traffic in stolen goods by acting as a sort of legitimate fence who would use the guise of policing to pretend to “find” the loot boosted by his own affiliates and return it to its owners in exchange for a cut. A great many of the city’s thieves in effect worked for Wild, an arrangement that Wild in his law enforcement guise could enforce by arresting criminals at his convenience and pocketing a handsome reward from the public purse into the bargain; over the years, his testimony sent something like 60 criminals to the gallows.

Here in the first weeks of 1723 the nature of Wild’s empire was not yet widely known, but the executions of Levee, Oakey and Flood were a little milepost en route to its discovery.

All three crooks had been members of a 30-strong gang centered around Irish highwayman James “Valentine” Carrick, a group that Wild had profitably busted up months before. One of their number, and a partner on the same highway robbery that hanged them, was one of Wild’s longtime cronies, a thief named Joseph Blake who was known as “Blueskin”. According to Aaron Skirball’s readable history of Wild’s rise and downfall, The Thief-Taker Hangings,

As a boy, Blueskin went to school for nearly six years, but he showed little propensity for education. Nevertheless, it was at school that he met William Blewit. Through Blewit, Blake was introduced to Jonathan Wild and entered the thief-taker’s junior league.

Young Blake picked pockets on London’s streets, focusing on pedestrians around Lincoln’s Inn Fields. By age fifteen, Blake knew the interiors of the city’s array of prisons and workhouses. But he was never more than an ordinary thief. For him, it was a matter of quantity. He sto.e plenty.

Blake grew into a ma of disheveled brawn. He was never a gentleman of the road, but rather a coarse, rugged, unkempt highwayman. On one occasion, after he stopped a coach from Hampstead and met with obstinacy from a woman in the carriage, who declared that Blueskin was sure to hang for the deed, he flew off the handle.

“You double Pox’d Salivated Bitch,” he said. “Come, no dallying, deliver your Money, or else your life must be a Sacrifice to my Fury.” Then he ordered the woman, a bawdy house operator named Mother Wybourn, to strip naked.

As the years passed, Blake robbed with Richard Oakey and John Levee and drifted into the Carrick gang. He amassed a pretty penny from his multitude of robberies, but apparently lost a great deal at the gaming tables with Carrick. Through it all, Blueskin remained interlinked with Jonathan Wild. In 1723, Wi9ld arrested Blake after a fierce struggle that left Blake with a saber gash. Yet, in prison Blake received from Wild an allowance of three shillings and sixpence a week, and the thief-taker picked up the bill to have him stitched up as well.

This allowance was a small price to pay in comparison to the hundreds of quid in rewards that Wild realized for having his accomplices hanged. Blake obligingly gave the evidence at their trial that doomed them all.

It’s difficult to trace Blueskin’s exact loyalties and motivations moment by moment here, but it’s clear that Wild’s pennies had not fully sewn up the injuries done to him: perhaps the further year-plus that Blake was obliged to cool his heels in prison before arranging his release in mid-1724 hardened him against the old boss. Once Blueskin got out, he joined forces with anti-Wild celebrity burglar Jack Sheppard in a caper that would see both those men to the gallows … but also bring down Jonathan Wild into the bargain.

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