Sunday, 4 May 2008

The Old Bailey Chronicles 1



The Old Bailey is now officially called the Central Criminal Court but generally still known as the 'Bailey'. It is London's historic and principal criminal court. Now it is a murder and terrorism factory but in former days tried all manner of cases. Like every jobbing barrister, I like larging it the Bailey on my occasional visits. It is impressive as a building, the cases are the most serious and the food in the bar mess is actually good (as opposed to disgusting at just about every other court). Very recently the proceedings of that court from 1674 to 1913 were put online. The site was so popular that it instantly crashed but is now up in action again. It is fascinating and I suspect I'm going to keep dipping in. The most striking thing is the brutality of the criminal justice system in the middle distant past. Of course I knew this in general terms, but to see the specifics can still pull me up short. This case happened on today's date in 1733 and features a mother and daughter found with equipment for coining (forgery). This is a part of the proceedings from the original text - the evidence of the informant (clearly a woman on a mission):
...
'Alice Dearing . I have known the Prisoners eight Years, but never was concern'd with them till July last was 12 Month, when one Sunday, Elizabeth came to my Lodging, and ask'd me to go out with her next Day, but said nothing upon what Account. I agreed, she came on Monday, between 2 and 3 in the Afternoon. We went out together. Crossing Lincoln's- inn -fields, she gave me 6 d. (I thought it was a good one) to buy some Gingerbread; the Man said it was not. I told her of it; she curs'd me for a Fool ; gave me another to fetch a Pennyworth of Silk; I pass'd it, and brought her the Change. You Fool you, says she, you may do this as well as my Daughter Molly, if you'll give your Mind to it, and you shall have half what you get. After this I put off several in the same Manner, and we always shar'd whatever Goods I bought, and the Change out of the bad Money. They then lodg'd at Mrs. Mason's, a Chandler, against the Chequer Alehouse in King's-street, and there I saw Elizabeth cast Money in these Frames; but how she fill'd them, or what Metal she us'd, I can't tell; but she put a Tobacco-pipe with some Metal in it in the Grate, and when it was melted, pour'd it in here, and opening the Frame, threw out a Shilling; she turn'd the Frame another Way, and made a Six-pence; she put the Six-pence in my Hand, and it burnt me, and so I saw her make about 20 Shillings, and as many Six-pences. Her Daughter, Mary, at the same Time cut off the Tails with a Pair of Scissars, scrap'd the Edges round with a Knife, and then fil'd them. After this, the Mother went to Ireland, and left me and her Daughter Mary, and Ann Knight (her Daughter by another Husband;) I was taken up for passing a bad Six-pence in Lombard-street, and this Day 12 Month I was brought to have a Detainer till next Sessions, Mr. North being ill, I was sent from hence to the Compter, and at next Sessions was try'd and acquitted; but I was ruin'd by being 7 Weeks in Confinement: I was big with Child, and forc'd to sell my Bed, and they all kept from me under this Misfortune, and would not so much as send me any Thing for my Relief. I said to my self, If ever I find 'em in the Kingdom, I'll give the King an Account; and 3 or 4 Months ago I was inform'd they were come to London. The Mother sent for me, in the Name of a Gentleman, to come to Mr. Garvey's, at the Bull-head in Prince's-street; when I came to her, she said she was sorry to hear of my Trouble. About 5 Weeks ago I inform'd Mr. Ashton of this, and about a Month ago I told Mr. North, and Mr. North assur'd me there was no Reward to be given in such Cases. I made it my Business to enquire out their Lodging, and having found it, I sent Word to Mr. North last Tuesday, and he came and took them'
...
And what the mother said...
'Eliz. Wright. I don't know what to say for myself, but my Child is innocent; spare her, and do as you please with me.

The Jury found them both guilty . Death '.
Now as coining was considered to be treason, the form of execution was burning at the stake.
It is not recorded how young the daughter was. It could be that she was a child.
The picture is Hogarth's The Bench (1758)
And here is the link to Old Bailey Online http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/oldbailey/

6 comments:

Julie said...

Goodness - how harsh.

I can see many hours of interesting reading ahead!

Android said...

Such an awesome idea with the Old Bailey's transcripts!

B.E. Earl said...

That's interesting.

The only thing I knew about the Old Bailey prior to this was from the comic-book (and film) V for Vendetta.

Law Minx said...

Old Bailey=beautiful building, really REALLY worrying past/present/future.....

elizabeth said...

OOOH! LOVE IT. I think that means I should seek (more) therapy - but very cool.

lotus07 said...

Death for forging coins.....ouch. This raises the issue of deterrance. I wonder how many folks actually got convicted of this. There might be a few less slugs and fack bank notes floating around if the conterfeiters were hanging from yard arms.