William Brister, James Page, Theophilus Watson, James Roberts, John Potbury, William Billingsly, Henry Gadd, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 5th December 1744.

Reference Number: t17441205-34
Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Not Guilty; Guilty
Punishment: Death

+ 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54.

William Brister , James Page , Theophilus Watson , James Roberts , John Potbury , otherwise Jack the Sailor , William Billingsly , otherwise Gugg , and Henry Gadd , otherwise Scampey , were indicted (together with William Lippy , Richard Morris , and Samuel Bannister , not yet taken) for assaulting Joseph Underwood on the King's highway, putting him in fear, &c. and taking from him a silver watch, value 50 s. two brass seals, value 2 s. a stick with an ivory head, value 3 d. and a hat, value 4 s. the property of the said Joseph Underwood , August the 24th .

Joseph Underwood . On the 24th of August, I went with my sister, and two other ladies, to Bartholomew fair, and between nine and ten o'clock in the evening I was assaulted between the George Inn and the Swan .

Q. Who assaulted you?

Underwood. I can't swear to the prisoners.

Q. What number were there of them?

Underwood. I compute the number to be about nine or ten, but I can't tell the number because it was dark.

Q. Can you say there were seven or eight?

Underwood. There were seven or eight at the least, but there were more to be sure, because there were a great many about me.

Q. Were there any women among them?

Underwood. I did not see any.

Q. Were there any boys?

Underwood. Yes, there was one boy, who hit me prodigiously about my back and sides.

Q. What did he hit you with?

Underwood. I believe it was with a bludgeon; it was a pretty heavy weapon, - it was a stick.

Q. Did you see that it was the boy that struck you?

Underwood. I turned about, and saw a boy who was prodigious busy with a weapon.

Q. What did they take from you?

Underwood. They took my watch, hat, a stick, and a handkerchief.

Q. You say there were two or three ladies with you, did they see this?

Underwood. I don't know; one of the ladies was hit a prodigious knock (as I believe) with a bludgeon?

Q. Were the ladies surrounded by them?

Underwood. No.

Q. When did you first give it out that you was robbed?

Underwood. I told the ladies of it then.

Q. What became of the people that robbed you?

Underwood. They turned off towards the cloysters.

Q. Did the boy go with them?

Underwood. I think he did.

Q. Did you see your watch, or any of your things afterwards?

Underwood. I saw my hat afterwards - at a gentleman's house in Long-lane.

Q. How were you informed of it?

Underwood. I was informed of it by Mr. Jones the City-Marshall, about three months afterwards, - I believe I can swear to the hat, I had it but 2 or 3 days, I know it partly by the putting on of the button. - I think this is the hat, but I can't swear to it, I bought it of Mr. Huntley the hatter.

Q. Did they take any money from you?

Underwood. To the best of my knowledge they did not take any?

Q. Look at the Prisoners, and see if you know any of them?

Underwood. I can't swear to any of them; the boy was much about the size of Gadd. - I am cook to the Duke of Montrose.

Ann Wells . I was with Mr. Underwood at Bartholomew fair, but I can't say on what day of the month, but it was between nine and ten at night; he was between his sister and I, handing me cross a channel; there were several fellows came, and parted us, and pushed us into the crowd. - I believe there were seven or eight of them.

Q. Was there a boy among them?

Wells. I can't say whether there was or not; when Mr. Underwood came out of the crowd, his head was broke in a terrible manner, - he was in a bloody condition.

Q. Mr. Underwood, you did not mention that, were you knocked down?

Underwood. They knocked me down and broke my head.

Wells. When they had got Mr. Underwood into the crowd, I squawled out, and one of them gave me a blow across my back, but they did not hurt me; whether it was done designedly or no I can't tell. There were several gentlemen came to our assistance, but none of them would go to Mr. Underwood's, there were so many of the fellows.

Q. Had he any hat on when he came out of the crowd?

Wells. He had none, I think he had his wig in his hand when he came back.

Q. What did he say then?

Wells. He said, they had robbed him of his watch and hat - that he mentioned directly, and some time after he mentioned his stick and handkerchief.

Q. Had he a watch when he went out?

Wells. Yes, he had; he looked what it was o'clock, just before he went out - I don't know any of the Prisoners.

William Harper *, the accomplice, sworn.

* He went among his companions by the name of Old Daddy, and sometimes Old Man; on account of his being more grave in company than the others. He is twenty-six years of age.

Prisoner Watson. Did not the thieftakers after you were taken up, threaten to hang you if you did not make a discovery of such and such things; and you said then you did not know any thing of them?

Harper. No; they never threatened me about any thing: only they brought a man to swear a robbery against me, and I never saw the man before in my life.

Watson. Please to turn Mr. Lloyd and Mr. Boddy out of Court.

Harper acquainted the Court with the names of all the Prisoners, and distinguished their persons.

Harper. - I have known Roberts about six or seven years, Billingsly about four years, Page six or seven years, Brister six or seven years, Gadd about four years, Theophilus Watson about four years, and Potbury about four years.

Q. What sort of knowledge had you of them?

Harper. Billingsly and I were old acquaintance, and went picking of pockets together for about four years; and sometimes Potbury and I used to go picking of pockets by ourselves.

Q. Where was you born?

Harper. I was born in London.

Q. Give an account where you was last summer.

Harper. Billingsly, Potbury, and I, lived in St. Giles's, and the others lived in Black-boy-alley; we used to go and see them, and they used to come and see us - I lived at one Spencer's in Thomas-street; Billingsly and Potbury did not live in the same house with me; they lived in Cross-lane.

Q. Where did you live before?

Harper. I lived in Black-boy-alley, before I went to St. Giles's. Jack Neaves and Popes had the house, and let it out to us; Billingsly lived at Pope's, and Potbury and I lived at Giles's.

Q. Did you lodge with Potbury?

Harper. Yes.

Q. How came you to move to St. Giles's?

Harper. And please you, my Lord; I went there to live with a young woman, I am almost ashamed to speak, but that was the occasion of my going there.

Q. Now give an account what you know of robbing Mr. Underwood?

Harper. It was in Smithfield, the first day of Bartholomew fair.

Q. Was there any appointment made among you to meet there?

Harper. No, we met by accident; when I went there I found Potbury and Billingsly together.

Q. What time did you go?

Harper. About four o'clock in the afternoon - I met them about dusk, and then I met Roberts and Page.

Q. What time did you meet them?

Harper. About the same time - we met in the street.

Q. Who did you meet besides?

Harper. I met Bannister, Morris and Lippy (who are not taken) Brister, and Theophilus Watson - and I believe there was Gadd; there were ten besides myself, and I made the eleventh, that robbed this gentleman.

Q. When you were got together, what did you do with yourselves?

Harper. We walked about the fair, hitting people over the head, and picking of pockets, till eight or nine o'clock; and then a little on this side the George Inn they were coming along, and two or three of them took hold of a gentleman.

Q. Did you talk of what you were to do, or of robbing people, before they attacked that gentleman?

Harper. No, not that night.

Q. Now give a distinct account what you know of the gentleman.

Harper. I think I should not know the gentleman again, because it was in the dark. They all got round him, Billingsly got hold of one arm, and Bannister and Morris took hold of the other arm, and Potbury took his watch out of his pocket.

Q. Did they take any thing else from him?

Harper. When Potbury took his watch, the gentleman went to catch hold of the person, who he thought took it; and they fell a laying him over the head with their sticks: in the skirmish the gentleman's hat came off, and Roberts took the hat and stick up, and run away with them.

Q. What did Gadd do?

Harper. Only laid the man over the head with his stick, as the others did.

Q. Where did you go after that?

Harper. Into Smithfield Rounds, stealing of gingerbread, &c. and staid there till I believe eleven o'clock at night; then Billingsly, Gadd, and I, went to St. Giles's.

Q. What did you do with the watch?

Harper. One William Turbutt , who is in custody, bought it of us for twenty eight Shillings - he lived in Sharp's-Alley by Cow-Cross.

Q. What is he?

Harper. He is a pick-pocket, as well as we, he used to buy things of us.

Q. Did he buy all the things you got?

Harper. No, there were some Jews used to buy of us sometimes.

Q. Who was the disposer of these things?

Harper. Potbury and Billingsly were.

Q. Where was the watch sold?

Harper. In Cross Lane towards St. Giles's.

Q. How came you to go there?

Harper. Because we were always complaisant to one another; sometimes they came to us, and sometimes we went to them.

Q. Who had the hat?

Harper. Billingsly had the hat for four shillings.

Q. How did you divide the money?

Harper. Ten of us had three shillings a piece, but they would not give the man with the scratched face [Page] any thing - the overplus was spent among us.

Q. Had the boy Gadd 3 s.?

Harper. Yes.

Q. How came it that Page had not any part of the money?

Harper. They made a fool of him, and would not let him have any.

Q. What did he say to that?

Harper. He was a little angry at first, but he went away, and did not make much noise about it.

Q. Should you know the hat again?

Harper. That is the hat, I really believe, but I can't swear to it.

Prisoner Billingsly. Had the watch a chain, or a seal?

Harper. I don't know that, though I saw the watch opened - the outside and inside cases were silver.

Prisoner Billingsly. If he knows the man lost a watch, he must know whether it had a chain or a seal.

Harper. If we got any watches with chains or seals, Billingsly and Potbury would take them off, and cheat us of them, so I could not swear to chains or seals.

Q. Who were the chief managers?

Harper. Billingsly and Morris used to do what they would. I always had my fair Part, but they used to cheat Page.

Q. How often was Page with you?

Harper. Never but twice.

Q. What business is Billingsly?

Harper. I believe he is a lamp-lighter , but he has not been so these three years; his father is a shoe-maker.

Billingsly. Was there a chain or a string to the watch?

Harper. I can't say which.

Billingsly. What time o'night was this?

Harper. About nine o'clock, as near as I can guess.

Billingsly. I ask you, whether you did not say in the Compter, that Mr. Broomer and others would put you into the cells, and would not give you either victuals or drink, if you would not turn Evidence?

Harper. I never said such a word.

Billingsly. Did not you say that Mr. Boddy, &c. made you swear what you knew nothing of?

Harper. No. I did say that Mr. Boddy and the thief-takers, brought a Man to swear a robbery against me, that I knew nothing of.

Q. What robbery was that?

Harper. A man came to swear that I robbed him of a silver mounted pistol.

Q. What is the man's name?

Harper. I can't tell, 'tis a tall man* who came to take the boys out of Black-Boy alley, and they cut him terribly.

* Alexander Forfar a headborough, who last sessions indicted Thomas Wells , Theophilus Watson , Joshua Barnes , Thomas Kirby and Ann Duck , for robbing him of a pistol &c. on the highway, and has this sessions indicted Ann Collier for the same robbery. See trial 431. to 435. p. 229.

Prisoner Watson. You say the outside and inside cases of the watch were silver, what was the number of it?

Harper. I should not have known the number if I had seen it, for I can neither write nor read.

Watson. Can't you tell whether it had a string or a seal?

Harper. I can't tell, and I am sure I would not say a false thing.

Watson. Was I ever in your company, or in any of their companies?

Harper. You never was much, unless it was now and then: for the others thought themselves above you, and would not admit you into their company.

Watson. I never was in his company at all.

Q. How came he to be in Company this night?

Harper. Because he was picking pockets with the rest in Bartholomew fair.

Q. Did he use to drink with you now and then?

Harper. Yes, we drank together now and then.

Q. When were you taken up?

Harper. I was taken up on Lord Mayor's day, at the end of Queen-street in Cheapside, in the crowd.

Q. Who was taken up first?

Harper. The little boy [Gadd] was; and James Roberts was in Bridewell when I was taken up. Billingsly, Morris, and I, hearing that Gadd and Roberts were in custody, went on board a ship at Shadwell Dock, which I believe is a privaseer. I came from on board the ship, and left those two there. I staid there about two days, and there was a man coming on shore, and he said, I might come on shore with him: I thought they wanted to get rid of my company, so I came on shore on Lord Mayor's day, the very day that I was taken.

Q. Who took you?

Harper. Long Charles and Bob Maycraft , and those that get their bread that way.

Q. How long after you were taken up, did you give this information?

Harper. Lord Mayor's day was on the Monday. and I gave my information on the Tuesday night - of this, and several other robberies.

Billingsly. Ask the gentleman whether it was the first or second day of the fair, that he lost his watch.

Harper. You know it was the first day, for you was afraid of going to the fair the second day, and we went to the other end of the town, and robbed a gentleman of a gold watch.

Watson. Was not you put into the cells the first day, and confined in order to make you give evidence?

Harper. I was put into the cells to be sure, but I don't know that it was to make me give evidence; I was not above two or three hours in the cells, and then, I was carried before two magistrates in Newgate, and gave this information before them.

Watson. Why did you not give your information the first day, after you were taken up?

Harper. Because I was charged with a thing I knew nothing of, and therefore I hoped to get off - I was carried to the Counter on Monday night, and the next day before the Alderman at Guild-hall, who committed me to Newgate.

Richard Huntley . I am sure this is a hat I sold, for I put the lining in my self, I believe this is the hat that Mr. Underwood the father bought of me. - He bespoke it of me, and I took measure of his son's head.

Underwood Senior. I bespoke the hat of Mr. Huntley.

Underwood Junior. I had the hat of Mr. Huntley, by my father's order.

William Broomer . I am a constable, I had the hat of Billingsly at Guild-Hall, before the sitting Alderman: Billingsley had the hat in his hand.

Billingsly. I borrowed the hat of my brother.

Prisoner Roberts. Ask him why he did not put me in his first information?

Harper. My lord, I did.

The examination of William Harper taken the 30th of Oct. 1744. by Sir Robert Ladbroke and Sir William Calvert Knights, was produced: wherein Harper says, that himself, Brister, Page, Bannister, Potbary, Roberts, Gadd and Theophilus Watson went to Bartholomew fair, and husled a gentleman up, and took his watch from him, and in the fray the gentleman lost his hat.

Q. to Underwood. When did you hear of these people being taken up?

Joseph Underwood . I think it was last friday, I saw it in the news papers, I did not know any thing of it before; I went the next morning to Mr. Jones, and enquired about it.

William Brister . I never saw the evidence before in my life.

Harper. He was with me in another robbery besides this.

Q. to Underwood. Did you strike any of them?

Underwood. I collared one of them, and called people to my assistance.

Q. to Gadd. What age are you?

Prisoner Gadd. * I am between ten and eleven.

* The evidence Harper says, he is fourteen years of age.

Gadd. What he says of me, is all said wrong, for I never saw him, before I saw him before the Alderman.

Q. What did you use to do before?

Gadd. I used to sell rabbits about streets .

Q. What, for yourself?

Gadd. Yes, I used to buy them in Clare market - I lived in Hedge lane with Mr. Wright - he is dead - he has been dead about a year and an half. I lived afterwards with a woman by the New market, she sells fowls and ducks about streets - I don't know where she is.

Q. Why does not she come?

Gadd. She won't come.

William Cromarty . I know Billingsly, I took him out of a ship, which lies along side the Bridget, when he made his escape from the officers.

Richard Webb . - I am a basket-maker, I live in Turn-again-lane by the Fleet-market - I am a housekeeper, I have a wife and child, I have lived in the parish 20 years. I have known Billingsly from a child, and never knew any harm of him - he used to light lamps, I can't say how long he has left it off, I have often seen him in the neighbourhood - I can't say that he has been in a settled way of life lately - I cannot pretend to say much to his character.

James Page , Acquitted . Brister, Watson, Roberts, Potbury, Billingsly and Gadd. Guilty Death .


View as XML