14th December 1785
Reference Numbert17851214-5
VerdictGuilty; Not Guilty

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5. THOMAS HARRIS and THOMAS LAYTON were indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 13th day of November last, five ewe sheep, value 50 s. and one wether sheep, value 10 s. the property of William Ginger the elder.

(The case opened by Mr. Garrow.)

WILLIAM GINGER , Jun. sworn.

I live at Stanwell with my father, I counted the sheep on the 6th of November, in the field, there were nine score and four, I did not count them again till the 13th, then there were ten missing, seven ewes and three wether sheep.

Have you seen any of these sheep since they were missing? - Yes, I found them on Clapham Common, in the possession of Mr. Lane, on the 7th of December.

How many did you see? - Seven, six ewes and one wether.

Were these sheep that you saw on Clapham Common your father's sheep? - They were, I knew them by their make and features.

Had they any ruddle mark? - Very little.

What country were they? - Some from Hounslow, and two from the west country.

Court. Let us know a little how long you have been acquainted with the features of these sheep, how long have you had them? - I bred them all but two, I bred five of them.

Do you keep your father's sheep? - I follow them at all opportunities I have.

And out of nine score and odd that you have, you can speak with certainty to the features of particular sheep that you have lost? - Yes.

Are you sure of that? - Yes.

Are there no marks to have known them by if you had not known their faces? - No.


You used to attend these sheep of your father's? - Yes, there were nine score and four; I did not count them till the 13th, I missed ten, there were six ewes, two wethers, and two lambs.

You missed these on the 13th? - Yes.

How soon after did you see any of these? - Not till the 7th or 8th of December, I think the 8th, I saw them near Clapham Common, in the possession of George Lane .

Did you know these sheep again? - Yes.

Were they your father's sheep? - Yes.

How did you know them? - I knew them by their countenances, by following them and attending them ever since they were lambed.

You have a perfect acquaintance with their faces and make? - Yes.

Have you any doubt now of their being some of your father's? - I am positive that they are.

Could you have picked them out of a flock of strangers? - I have been used to sheep these twenty years.

The fact is, that you are so well acquainted with their faces that you can swear to them any where? - Yes.

Court. There is one thing that I have observed both you and the last witness have said, that you did not miss them till the 13th, till you counted your sheep? - No.

Now, if you had so perfect an acquaintance with the faces of all the sheep, I should have thought you might have missed them without counting them; as if a number of men come to a place every day, you might miss two or three without counting them? - We do not so strictly look over them every day as that.

Now for instance, a captain of a company who sees all his men every day and knows all their faces, will miss four or five of his men without counting them? - I was not constantly with them every day.

Were you with them between the 6th and the 13th? - Yes I was, but it was towards the dusk of the evening, a lad that we have to assist was with them, a little lad, so that I did not see them much within that time.

Do you know either of the prisoners? - Yes.

Who was Layton, did he live in your neighbourhood? - No, about four or five miles off, he was a labouring man ; Harris lived at Staines, that may be two miles or better, he was a shepherd , I believe hey kept sheep of their own.

WILLIAM GINGER , Sen. sworn.

I saw these sheep that my sons brought

from Lane, I knew them, we have had them so long and put them up, I am positive they were the same sheep, some of them were four teeth and some six teeth, I knew them to be my own, I have no doubt but they were my own.


Where did you get these sheep that this good man found in your possession? - I bought them at a public fair at Kingston, on the 14th of November, of Layton, I turned them upon the common, I gave eight shillings and sixpence apiece for them, I bought seven, and gave three pounds for the lot, which was six-pence over, he said he brought them from Sunbury Common.

Did he tell you whose property they were? - No, I did not ask him, I told him where I was going to bring them to; I have no other sheep.

Did you ever keep any sheep before? - I never kept but two before, and them I lost; I am no great judge of sheep, I dare say a great many people may know them, and many may not.

Was Isaac Burbidge with you when you bought them? - Yes, I believe I was an hour a buying them, they stood so much on price, I paid the money to Layton.


What are you? - I am a labouring man, I saw Lane at the fair, I saw him about them, he bought seven, six ewes and a wether.

Who did he buy them of? - Thomas Layton , I helped to drive them out of the fair, that was on the 14th of November.

How far is Kingston from Stanwell? - About nine miles.

Did you see Harris there? - Yes.

What was he doing? - He was about the penns, I heard him say nothing.

Have you seen the sheep since? - Yes, at Stretham Common, I believe they are the same that Mr. Lane bought at the fair.

Are you much used to sheep? - Yes.

You are a shepherd? - Yes.

Can you swear to the faces of your flock that you have bred? - Yes.

Is there any difficulty in knowing them? - Yes.

You would know your own sheep better than you would know my face to-morrow, would not you? - Yes.

Court. This was at a public fair? - Yes.

There were plenty of people about the penns as well as Harris? - Yes.

Court to Lane. What became of these sheep you bought of Layton? - They are gone home to Mr. Ginger's, I gave the youngest son and Burbidge leave to take them home; they were the same.


I had sheep to fair, and this gentleman, the other prisoner, asked me if I had any sheep to fair; I told him I had some few of my own, and he said he had a few, and he asked me to tell them for him, which I did, and gave him the money; I have evidence of it.


I was at the fair at the time they were sold, and before they were sold; when I went to the fair, my brother or Mr. Layton had just sold our sheep; and there came up a gentleman and asked the price of these seven sheep, and Layton told him nine shillings; and Thomas Harris stood opposite to him, and he beckoned to him what he asked the price; and he asked him what he must take for them, and Harris said eight shillings; and if he could not get that, they must go home again.

Do you know where they brought the sheep from? - No.

Did you see any sheep of Layton's there before? - None but what was my brother's and husband's there were three, I fancy he sold them for my brother, he has sold my husband's several times, he has sold for Mr. Collins, and Mr. Ballinger, the two capital farmers.

Mr. Garrow. Isaac is your brother-in-law? - Yes, the sheep were in different pens hurdled off, I saw the sheep at Justice

Taylor's, I do not know who took them, I cannot say whether they are the same I saw at the fair, my brother helped to drive them away, I thought I knew them again, I think they were the same by looking at them, as I have been about among them.

A man who had bred them and tended them would be more likely to know them again than you, would not he? - Very like, Harris asked Layton what the gentleman bid, and he told him nothing, then Layton asked Harris what was the price if he sold them, and he said if he could not get eight shillings apiece he was to go home again.


I bought them of a man, and this man took them to the fair for me, I had them of a young man in the neighbourhood this day five weeks, I know him, he brought them to me to have to the fair, but I was so lame I could not go with the sheep, so I got Layton to sell them for me.

Who was the man you took them for? - One Robert Merrick , he lives at Stanwell, I do not know where he is, I had nobody to go for him, Merrick was in custody of the officer and got away.

Was he taken up on your information? - Yes.

Prosecutor. Harris said he never sent any to Layton to sell, nor he knew nothing about them.

How came this other man to be taken up? - This other man went to Layton when he was in the Round-house, and said to Layton, for God's sake do not say where the sheep are gone to, with that I suspected him, and a warrant was sent for to take him up, but they could not find him, he is got off, Harris said he had not them of that man, he said he knew nothing of the sheep.


I was present when Harris was examined, he said he knew nothing of the job.



Tried by the second Middlesex jury before Mr. RECORDER.

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