John Willson, Bosavern Pen Lez, Benjamin Launder, Breaking Peace > riot, 6th September 1749.

Reference Number: t17490906-4
Offence: Breaking Peace > riot
Verdict: Guilty > with recommendation; Not Guilty
Punishment: Death

480, 481, 482. John Willson , Bosavern Pen Lez , and Benjamin Launder , were indicted, for that they, together with divers other persons, to the number of forty and upwards, being feloniously and riotously assembled, to the disturbance of the public peace, did begin to demolish the dwelling-house of Peter Wood , against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, July the 3d .

Peter Wood . I live at the star in the Strand ; I saw these prisoners at the bar at my house, in the night betwixt the 2d and 3d of July; they came betwixt 12 and 1 o'clock; there were I believe about 400 of them; they came ringing a bell, and calling out, the host, the host; the watchman came running over the way, and said, Mr. Wood, they are coming, they are coming. About fifty of them pass'd by the door; I was in great hopes they would have gone by; I made them a bow and said good night, till such time as the bell came opposite my door; then they that were past my door wheel'd about and fell back towards George's coffee-house door, then they all surrounded the whole place ; the first stroke that was given, was at the lamp at my door . I advanced from the door directly and begg'd for mercy; saying, Gentlemen, if I have done any thing wrong, take me to the watch-house or any place of safety; then they all fell to breaking my windows; upon that I fell upon my knees, &c. they broke the shutters, sashes and the glass of my windows: said I, I'll give you 10 l. nay 20 l. if you will desist; with that they seem'd to stop a little: somebody amongst them called out here is 10 l. here is 20 l. offered; but upon this there was a grave gentleman came jumping from over the way.

Q. Do you know that man?

Wood . His name is Wrench*.

* The gentleman, whose Bill was found ignoramus at Hicks's-Hall

Q. Is he a man of credit and reputation?

Wood. He is. He said, my boys haul away, never mind it; upon that they said they would not stop; when they had laid all open, they then went into the parlour, they came in at the window.

Q. How many of them do you think came in?

Wood. Eight or ten of them; there were two of the prisoners , Willson and Pen Lez among them; they fell to breaking between the passage and the parlour. I saw the two prisoners break the partition with their sticks, and pulled the pieces out with their hands. All the furniture in the parlour was destroyed; they threw all into the street .

Q. Where was Launder at this time?

Wood. He was in the passage assisting to break the partition, this was the first of my seeing him. They broke down my bar, standing between the fore-parlour and the back-parlour.

Q. Did any of the prisoners break down that ?

Wood . Launder broke the window of it. with his stick; I was knock'd down with a stick on the stairs, and there I lay. Some of them call'd out , and said the man is kill'd; I hearing that thought I would lie a little longer, thinking by that to raise their compassion; then they went into the back-parlour; I cannot immediately say what they did there; then they went up stairs, I was on the stairs; Pen Lez and Willson said, You dog, are you not dead yet? They cried, all up, all up, all up; then I kneel'd down on my knees, kissed their hands and begged for mercy.

Q. Did you see Launder there?

Wood. No, I did not then, he was in the passage below.

Q. Where were your family and you at this time?

Wood . All down in the kitchen, excepting my wife; then came the guard with a drum beating, then they all took to slight; they without rang the bell and cried out, the guards, the guards ; so they went all away that could directly. Launder was taken up stairs.

Q. In what condition did you find the upper part of the house?

Wood. I went up immediately, and in the dining room, which had before in it a bed, pictures, chairs, a mahogany table and other furniture; every thing was gone out of the room except a little marble slab, which I had put in a corner of the room; the windows were all torn to pieces, the frames all pulled down; they had not meddled with any of the back part .

Cross examined .

Q. How many do you say walked by your door at first?

Wood . About fifty .

Q. Can you be positive that any of these prisoners were with them at the ringing of the bell?

Wood. Yes, Sir.

Q. Where was you at that time ?

Wood. Between the door and the window shutter in the street.

Council for Launder.

Q. Was Launder one of them at their first coming up?

Wood . I did not see him then.

Q. Did you see him any time before the guards came ?

Wood . Yes, I saw him in the passage .

Q. How long before the guards came?

Wood . About half an hour before.

Q. After the guards came did not the tumult cease?

Wood . Then they all endeavoured to make their escape.

Council for Willson.

Q. As to Willson, can you mark any particular thing that he did?

Wood . Yes, he broke the shutters , and after the place was laid open, I saw him come into the parlour.

Q. Did any others besides him break the shutters?

Wood. Yes, many .

Q. How come you to be so positive of the prisoners among so many?

Wood . Upon my kissing their hands.

Q. Did you kiss the hands of all three?

Wood . No, Sir.

Q. Did not you kiss the hands of others , as well as Willson and Pen Lez ?

Wood . No, Sir, I did not.

Q. How long have you lived in this house?

Wood . Six years, I rent it.

Q. Do you pay the scavenger and the taxes?

Wood . I do not pay the scavenger.

Q. Who pays that?

Wood. Mr . Thompson does.

Q. Is Thompson the tenant of this house or you ?

Wood . I am, Sir.

Q. Why does Thompson pay the scavengers rates?

Wood . It is a reason that I have.

Q. Please to give that reason to the court.

Wood . I pay 30 l. a year to George -

Q. Pray answer my question , why does he that is neither tenant or landlord pay the scavengers rates?

Wood. The reason of it is upon the account of what some people say, it is a disorderly house; he never paid it, although it was put in his name.

Q. What other rates does Thompson pay besides the scavenger ?

Wood. I cannot tell .

Q. What rates do you pay?

Wood. I believe there are some rates I do pay?

Q. Recollect them.

Wood. I pay the land-tax and the doctor's dues; I had some thoughts of letting Thompson have the house about half a year ago.

Q. Did you lett the house?

Wood . No, Sir.

Q. Who did the scavenger receive the rates of?

Wood . I believe of me.

Q. In whose name did you take the receipts?

Wood . In Thompson's name, Sir.

Q. Did you never say it was not your house but Thompson's?

Wood . I said I was going to lett my house to Thompson.

Court . That is not an answer .

Wood. I do not remember I did.

Q. Pray don't Thompson pay the duty of excise as the owner of the house?

Wood. The licence is in Thompson's name.

Q. Was it in his name at this time ?

Wood. It is renewed.

Q. In whose name was the licence at this time ?

Wood. I had then no licence, there was an information given against Thompson and me for retailing liquors, and I was obliged to pay twenty pound.

Q. Does Thompson live in this house?

Wood. He never did .

Q. Had he no share in the profit arising from the sale of the liquors ?

Wood . No, Sir, he has not.

Q. How could you distinguish Pen Lez, when you say you was knock'd down upon the stairs?

Wood . I was upon my legs when I saw him, there was nobody betwixt me and him, and I had hold of him by the hand two or three times, begging of him to desist; they cried out, they would destroy all the bawdy-houses in general. I believe he was a little in liquor.

Q. Did you see him before the guards came?

Wood . Yes, I did, Sir, I saw him at the begining of the riot at the outside.

Q. What is this Thompson?

Wood. He is a peruke-maker and lives in Gray's-inn-lane, he has work'd for me many years.

Q. Did he ever live in your house?

Wood. No, Sir, he never did.

Q. Has not he part of the profits of your business in that house?

Wood . No, Sir, I have all the profits of my trade , and I pay all the rent with my own money.

Jane Wood . On Sunday night the 2d or 9th of July, I cannot tell which, about half an hour after 12 o'clock at night, Willson and Pen Lez came in

at the parlour window, they had sticks in their hands; I went into the parlour to them, they knock'd me down, they fell to tearing down the wainscot and knocking it with their sticks.

Q. How many were there of them?

J. Wood. I believe there were about eight of them; I hung about their necks and begged of them to desist, and for that they threatened to murder me; they pulled so much as my cap off; I saw Willson and Pen Lez at different times; sometimes in one place , sometimes in another, breaking and destroying the things. I offered them 10 or 20 guineas, and begged they would take it; they seemed at first to be a little appeased ; there was one Irishman seemed to be inclined to hear it, but there was an elderly man came from over the way and said, pull away, my boys, take no money, down with the bawdy-houses , down with the bawdy-houses; then they cried out where are your whores; then they went into the bar and broke all the china, then into the back-parlour; there was a buroe and glass case, about 50 l. in money and a watch, they tore all to pieces and took all the money, and cried hurry, hurry down with it, my boys; the prisoner Lander I saw knocking at the clock with an oaken stick or great cane, then I got upon the stairs and went to put a handkerchief about my head, they took that from me, and shoved me about like any thing; they put their hands all over me, then they cried all up; then they went all up; I went up stairs to see for my husband , they were beating him on the stairs; Lander knocked me down, and I was beaten almost to a jelly; they broke a great sconce glass; they asked me, where is your money, we dare not whisper?

Q. How much might all the damage amount to together ?

J. Wood . I believe 300 l. will not make us amends .

Cross examined .

Q. What time did you see Lander in the house, was it before the soldiers came?

J. Wood. Yes, a good while, every thing was demolished before the soldiers came.

Q. Did you know Willson before this happened?

J. Wood. I did not, Sir.

Q. How came you to know him since?

J. Wood. I held him by the face and stroaked him, and begged they would desist.

Q. Did you say Pen Lez broke your windows?

J. Wood. The windows were all open before he came in; I seeing the windows broken, opened the door and said , come all in. Pen Lez broke the clock with a stick, and the inside partition in the entry .

Q. What did Willson do?

J. Wood. He did the same .

Q. Did Pen Lez say, where is your money?

J. Wood. I cannot say who, it was said by somebody.

Q. Do you know one Mr. Nixon?

J. Wood. No, Sir, I do not, I have not been married above half a year.

Q. Do you remember the scavenger coming to demand the rate of Mr. Wood?

J. Wood. I do not.

Q. Do you remember saying, the rates were due from Mr. Thompson?

J. Wood. I never said that.

Q. Has Thompson ever lived in the house since you came there?

J. Wood. No, never, Sir, but as he has come sometimes to cut the ladies hair in the parlour.

Q. Could you see the prisoners to distinguish them when the lamp was broke.

J. Wood. We had, I believe, ten candles brought and lighted.

James Reeves . I was at this house the night the affair happened, I saw the whole action, and I know the three prisoners very well. I used to do work for Mr. Wood ; I saw the mob a coming, so I ran and told Mr. Wood before they got there: the first man that came to the door was Pen Lez, he came in at the door, then he came in at the window, and was the first man that struck at the clock. I saw him break the window-shutter . When he came into the fore-parlour he began to pay away at the things, the glasses, the pictures; beat down the bird-cages; the partition that parts the entry from the parlour; he was there the whole time; he was the first man that went up stairs; he was the greatest rascal amongst them all: I saw Mr. Wood lying on the stairs, and heard Pen Lez say to him, You dog, are you not dead yet? I saw Willson in the parlour just as the settee bed was going to be thrown out; I saw him help to lift the bed out. I saw nothing done above stairs.

Q. Was Lander there?

Reeves. I saw Lander there about a quarter of an hour before the guards came; I saw him strike Mr. Wood over the head, as his back was towards him. I saw him push one of the partition boards down in the passage. I did not see him in the parlour ; I lighted the man down stairs, that took him in the three pair of stairs room; he had got in there to hide himself. I saw Pen Lez at the very first when they came; I cannot say I saw Willson at the outside of the house at all; I saw Lander at the door.

Cross examined.

Q. Did you say that Pen Lez was the first man that came in at the entry door?

Reeves . Yes, he was.

Q. Did you remain in the entry then?

Reeves . I was in the house then.

Q. Then how can you tell who it was that began breaking the windows ?

Reeves . We were first without, but found it was of no signification, so we came in.

Q. Where did you first see this assembly?

Reeves. Just beyond St. Clement's church.

Q. What time did you see Lander?

Reeves. I cannot say I saw him till about a quarter of an hour before the guards came, and that was in the entry, and never saw him do any farther mischief than with his shoulder.

Q. How long was Willson in the fore-parlour?

Reeves. He helped to lift out the bed; I saw him striking about ; he was there about a minute ; I was constantly with Mr. and Mrs. Wood.

Q. Did you see the lamp broken?

Reeves. Yes, Sir.

Q. What are you?

Reeves. I am a shoemaker, I live at Mr. Wood's , I am waiter or servant to him.

Q. How long have you been a servant to Mr. Wood?

Reeves. I was taken in from that time.

Q. Did you know either of the prisoners before ?

Reeves. I never saw any of them before I saw them there.

Q. How came you to suspect the people were coming to Mr. Wood's house?

Reeves. They came crying, Huzza, the star, the star .

Q. What had Pen Lez in his hand?

Reeves. He had a large stick, three foot and a half, or four foot long.

Q. to Mrs. Wood. What did Pen Lez break the clock with?

J. Wood. He had a short stick with which he struck it.

Q. How long was it do you think?

J. Wood. Not long enough to walk with.

John Nixon . I live opposite Mr. Wood, I collect the scavenger's rate. On April the fourth I applied to Mrs. Wood for the rate due; she told me, Mr. Wood had nothing to do with the house, and she would not pay to his name; then I open'd the book, and said, it is John Thompson here; then she paid me in Thompson's name; the sum was 7 s. 6 d.

Q. Do you believe Wood or his wife are persons to be believed upon their oaths?

Nixon. Upon my word, I think not ; for my part I would not hang a dog or a cat upon their evidence, they keep such a bad house and other things. They have threatened my life , and my neighbours are afraid to appear against him.

For Willson .

William Slege . I am a publican and live in Tooly street, and have known Willson many years; he is a journeyman shoemaker ; he dined with me the second of July, and staid with me till 3 o'clock in the afternoon; nothing of this kind was mentioned in my house: that day he came to me after divine service in the morning; I always reckoned him a sober, industrious man .

Mary Mealyon . I live at the sign of the bell in the Strand, my husband is ostler there; I have known John Willson about nine years; he served his apprenticeship where my father and mother lives; he came to see me the same evening, about nine o'clock, and acquainted me, he was going into the country; he went from my house alone about 11 o'clock at night, and said, he hoped to see me again next morning; I apprehended he was going to his lodgings in Black-friers; he never mentioned this riot to me: he was always reckon'd to be a very sober, honest man, and worked hard at his trade for a living .

John Lidon . I have known Willson about 18 months, he has lodged with me all that time, I never knew to the contrary , but that he was a very sober, honest man.

John Cave . I am a master shoemaker, I have known Willson about 18 months ; he followed his business as hard as any I know in the trade; I never knew him in riots or quarrels, or any thing like it .

John Hose . I have known Willson about a Year, he is a very sober fellow, and not ready to run into such sort of mischief. I could not have thought such a thing of him.

For Lander.

Michael Kelly . I saw Lander about 9 o'clock that Day, sitting at a door in Bridges-street; he went in with me, and went up stairs, and staid there in company with many more till 12 o'clock, there were more company in the room with us. When we went away, he went into the back-room with a Gentleman that is here, then it was about 12 o'clock; how long they staid I know not: there was no mention made of this riot all that time.

Mary Kelly . Lander came into my house, at the Globe in Bridges-street, about 12 at night; he said he was going directly to his lodgings, Mr. Ball, Edward Ryon and Mr. Kelley, were all in company with him.

Edward Ryan . Lander was in company with us before mentioned , at the Globe in Bridges-street, between 12 and one o'clock that night ; he and I was coming down towards Charing cross, we met with the guards, and ask'd them what was the matter ; this was between Cecil-Court and Round-court; we walk'd by the side of a Soldier, who told us, they were going to disperse a mob in the Strand, and that was the third time they had been doing it that night. He told us, he would be oblig'd to us, if we could get a pint of beer, saying he was very dry; says the prisoner Lander , if we can see a house open, we will give you a pint of beer; we saw a light in a cellar and call'd for a pint of beer, and Lander drank to the soldier, and desir'd him to drink it up. which he did. We went on fair and easy, till we came up to the house to see the affairs; the soldiers pursued the mob towards Temple-bar; and it seems the prisoner went into Wood's house, and I miss'd him there .

Cross examined.

Q. What time did you and the Prisoner come up to Wood's door?

Ryon. It was past one o'clock.

Q. Did the mob disperse at the soldiers coming?

Ryon. They went off when the drum beat , and Lander was there with me at the door .

James Ives . I was upon the guard that was detach'd on this Riot Sunday, July 2. I was very dry, going along, I ask'd a watchman, where I could get any water ? He told me, there was none in the way I was going. Presently, I saw this last witness and the prisoner Lander, whom I ask'd for a pint of beer; and as we came near Southampton-street, there was a cellar open; we went down and call'd for a pint of beer, the prisoner drank to me, and bid me drink it up, the other gentleman did not drink. I came up, and thank'd them, and followed my command, and over-took them near Somerset-house ; I saw him no more, till such time he was taken in the house; when we came there , the window-shutters were demolished. I being of the second party, which came into the house; we staid 2 or 3 minutes for a candle, when we came up 3 pair of Stairs; I saw the Prisoner Lander, he was coming down stairs; I took hold of his collar, and somebody said, here is one of the Rioters , so we brought him down stairs; said I, such Rascals as you cause us a great deal of trouble; said he, gentleman soldier, I desire you will give me leave to speak; he began to tell me the story of his giving me a pint of beer; the constable came to me, and ask'd if it was true ; then I ask'd the prisoner, on which side the way? He said, the left hand; said I, was it up stairs or in a cellar? He said, in a cellar. Said I, in company with any body? He said, one man, describing the colour of his cloaths. I knew this relation to be all true; I said, I'll do you all the justice I can. The Tuesday following, I went to Newgate to see him, and knew him at first sight.

James Ball . Lander is a very honest lad as ever was born.

Edward Cleyton . I have known Lander two years, he is a very honest man.

Andrew Steel . Lander is one of an unspotted character, for whatever I heard.

Dominick Fullam. I have known Lander some time, he is a very honest man.

For Pen Lez .

Michael Pierce . I have known Pen Lez about 14 years; he is a very honest young fellow; he is a Peruke maker ; his father was a clergyman. I don't think he is inclinable to riotous proceedings, but a very sober man. I was with him keeping a birth night, at the Horse-shoe, Temple bar, that very night , and left him about half an hour after eleven o'clock.

Robert Newman . I have known Pen Lez two years; he has been my journeyman upwards of 16 months; he is a very sober young man.

Humphry Jones. I have known him for 3 quarters of a year; he is a very honest man.

Robert Plank . I have known him two years; he is a very honest young man; I never heard of his keeping bad company.

Robert Black . I have known Pen Lez above two years; he always bore a good character.

William Keen . I have known him about half a year; he is a very honest industrious young man.

Thomas Lidal . I have known Pen Lez between 3 or 4 years; he is a very sober young man.

Thomas Karr . I have known him some time; he was my servant, from the beginning of April to June last; he behaved very well, no servant could behave better .

Willson and Pen Lez guilty, Death . Recommended to mercy .

Lander acquitted .


View as XML