30th May 1781
Reference Numbert17810530-52
VerdictNot Guilty; Guilty > with recommendation

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353, 354, 355, 356, 357. JOHN ANDERSON , CHARLES THOMPSON , JOHN RUGLASS , WILLIAM MARSH , and SAMUEL WOODHAM , were indicted, for that they, in the King's highway, in and upon William Wilson feloniously did make an assault, putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and stealing from his person a silver shirt-buckle, set with stones, value 6 s. a cotton handkerchief, value 4 s. and 14 s. in monies numbered, the property of the said William Wilson , May the 15th .


On the 15th of May I went to see my mother. I had been gone sixteen years from home. As I was coming along, a man stood at the corner of Saltpetre Bank, in East-Smithfield , and asked me to drink part of a pot of beer: it was about half an hour after one o'clock in the morning. I had never seen

him before in my life. I told him I thought it was almost too late. Never mind it, says he; it is not so late: there is an alehouse just by: take a bit of a walk, and take part of it. I went with him. I walked up about 15 rod, and I espied a light out in the middle of Saltpetre Bank. There were about ten men, and one girl: they were drinking in the middle of the street, upon the pavement. When the man and I went up to them, there was a large gallon pot full of beer, and three quart pots going round among them. They asked me to drink. I took a pot of beer to drink. They immediately all rose upon me, and took the staff I had out of my hand, and knocked me down several times. I made a resistance, and tried to get away. They said, do not strike him again, but draw your knives, and let his puddings out. Then they all drawed their knives upon me.

Who said that? - Not one in particular. I believe they all mentioned the words; and I saw their knives all drawn. They said, if I made any resistance, they would let my puddings out. A gentleman hearing the noise, came up, and said, Sailor, come out of them.

What did they do, after they had drawn their knives? - They beat me about the head. When the gentleman came up, they left me, and went and beat him about the head, and beat a part of one of his fingers off. The prisoner Thompson had his hand in my pocket: they took all my money out; he hauled my pocket the wrong side out.

How much money did you lose? - Fourteen shillings, I had in my pocket: the rest of the prisoners were round me, and had their hands round my neck; they took off a cotton handkerchief, and a breast buckle out of my shirt: they tried to get this black handkerchief off; it was tied tight, and they almost choaked me: I cannot tell who did that: the gentleman halloo'd, Watch! watch! as loud as he could halloo. As the watch came round, the people scattered, and some went off.

Who was that gentleman? - One Mr. Probyn.

Do you know any of the other persons that were there, except Thompson? - Yes. I know the faces of every one that was catched.

Are you sure Thompson was one of the men? - Yes: he hauled my pocket inside out.

What opportunity had you of observing him? - They had a light; I saw all their faces distinctly, and knew them the next morning. Anderson had a cockade in his hat: he was captain of the gang; I am positive he was one: he had a cockade in his hat, which made me think at first it was a press-gang: he rose, and seized my stick, and knocked me down with it; he had a pot of beer in his hand, when I first came up: he struck, me over the head several times; I have the marks in my head now.

Do you know either of the others? - Yes, all three.

The boy, Samuel Woodham ? - I cannot call him by name.

Are you sure William Marsh was one? - Yes.

Did he do any thing? - Yes, he did as much as the rest; I believe they meant to kill me: I have seen forty-two pounders fly, but never was so much afraid of my life as then: Samuel Woodham had his hand in the gentleman's pocket.

Are you quite sure as to him? - Yes: I am quite positive; and I am as positive to the other boy, William Ruglass : he endeavoured to do as much as the rest; I was there about five minutes.

Did you observe the faces of these five so as to be able to swear to them? - Yes, I can swear to them any day in the year; the other five got off.

Should you know them again? - Yes, I should know them all, if I was to see them.

Had you ever seen any of them before? - I had not been on shore long.

Was not you thrown into confusion when they all got up and attacked you? - Yes.

Consider whether, in the situation you were in, with ten persons round you, and thrown into a flurry, whether you can take upon you to swear to the faces of five people? - Yes, I can. I am positive these five were there: they were taken up the same night. While I was endeavouring to get off, the watchman came and laid siege to them, and

took these five directly. They only said they were not there: the little boy said he had not taken any thing out of the gentleman's pocket; that was true enough, for he had his hand in the wrong pocket: that was the little shaver, Woodhouse.

Was your buckle found upon either of them? - No: it was not found.

Were they searched? - One or two of them was; Thompson was. The constable did not find any thing: they were not all carried to the watch-house.

Had these people any weapons? - No, only their knives; they had every one a drawn knife.

Was the man that took you to them taken? - No; he was not taken.

Cross Examination.

I think you seem to have got introduced into a good groupe of company. - Yes.

The other five were like the five that stand at the bar? - Yes, much the same.

What was the first thing you did, when you came up to them? - I took the pot and drank.

I should think the first thing you did, was to take notice of every one's face. - I did observe their faces.

At what time was it? - After one in the morning; I had just come out of my mother's house.

Do you recollect meeting with any body else, after you came out of your mother's house? - No; I never spoke to a woman since I came to London.

Do you recollect meeting somebody in the street who asked you the depth of your pocket? - No.

Do you recollect turning your pocket out in the street, and saying you had but sixpence? - No.

Was it light or dark? - There was a candle alight.

From that light you can swear to every man's person? - Yes, I do.


I live in the Green-yard. At a little more than a quarter past one o'clock, I was going along, at the top of Saltpetre Bank in Rosemary Lane. I heard an outcry. I went to see what was the matter. When I came down to the place, I saw a candle burning in the street, and a good many people sitting in a cluster together with some beer. I saw the prosecutor. He cried out, take your hand out of my pocket.

Were any of these people round him? - Yes, nine or ten, or more.

Had they any weapons? - I did not see any at the time: I put my hand out to the sailor, and called him away. Four or five of them immediately rushed upon me in a body.

What did you see them do to the man in the jacket? - I did not see them do any thing to him, at that time they came to me; and one of them put his hand into my pocket.

Did you see them do any thing to him afterwards? - Yes; they fell upon him, and beat him.

Which put his hand into your pocket? - Woodham. When I found his hand in my pocket, I catched hold of him, and said, Are you going to rob me? I will have you taken to the watch-house. Upon that, Thompson turned from the sailor, and struck me a blow, and knocked me round and round, and cut my cheek; then the other prisoners pursued with their blows, beating me and him at the same time.

Do you know any of the rest besides Thompson and Woodham? - Yes; all except Anderson: I do not remember seeing him there. I saw Ruglass there; he drew a knife upon me: he struck at me with the knife: I saw him coming up to me. I ran, and cried Watch! as hard as I could, and maintained my cry till I came to the watch-house door.

Did you see Marsh? - Yes; Marsh followed Thompson's blow when he struck me. Anderson I did not see at the time.

What opportunity had you to observe them so particularly? - Their pressing so near upon me, and there being a candle so near; it was a very large candle. As I was going away, one of them knocked the candle out with his hat.

Can you take upon you positively to swear to the four you have mentioned? - I can; I did not see Anderson till I went to alarm the watch: Anderson was sitting at the watch-house door with a quart pot in his hand, talking to a girl. I said there was a sailor would be killed; he said he would go to assist the poor sailor. The const able of the night, two watchmen, this Anderson, and a woman went back with me. When we were going up in search of the people, this woman went to run before. I said to Anderson, What woman is that that was with you? she is going to send the people away, that we should not find them: upon that he ran away after the woman.

Did he go after her as if he was going to bring her back? - No; as if he was going the same way with her. When I came to the corner of a passage, I found Anderson and the other four prisoners talking together, just above the place where we were attacked. All the rest were run away. I said to the watchman, Here they all are. Anderson returned upon me immediately, and put his two hands upon my breast, and said, Holloa, holloa, have you seen any thing of them? I made answer, Yes, I saw them now talking to you, and I see them running through there now; do not stop me. The watchman said, It is of no use to go seeking them through that passage, there are so many ways; they will be all gone. We all went into the passage after them; but they were all gone. Then the constable of the night said to Anderson, I have a suspicion you were concerned with them, by going to send them away: who are you? He said, what was that to him? he was a man. The constable took him into custody, and said he should give an account of himself on the morrow.

What became of the sailor? - We met him as we came up from the watch-house, crying, with his pockets out.

Did he take any notice of Anderson when the constable took him into custody? - Yes, he said he was one.

Did he say he was one before the constable took him into custody? - No, he had not seen him before. When we had got Anderson almost to the watch-house, these four came rushing out of the passage again. I saw Thompson the foremost, and laid hold of him by the collar, and said, This is the man that struck me on the face. The other two ran turning the corner to Ratcliff-Highway. Marsh was taken at the time I took Thompson, in Wellclose-square: they were surrounded by the watchmen and constable of the night. I could not see them distinctly as they rushed out: I knew them as soon as they were taken. The sailor knew every one.


I am a peace-officer, of St. John's, Wapping. On the 15th of May, early in the morning, Probyn came down to me, and desired me to come down to Saltpetre Bank, for he said some men were murdering a sailor. I immediately took a staff; and my two watchmen, and Davis and I, went with him. I saw Anderson at the watch-house door, when he came down for me, talking to a woman.

Did he say any thing? - Nothing at all. We went up to Saltpetre Bank, to find the people robbing the sailor. When we got half way up the Bank, we met the sailor coming toward us.

What became of Anderson? - I did not see what became of him then; he did not go up with us.

Where did you first see Anderson again? - When we came to the corner of an alley, where we expected to see the prisoners, there we saw Anderson again.

Was any person with him? - Nobody at all. Mr. Probyn was a-head of us. He said, here is one of them; and Anderson said, they are all gone through here.

Who made you first suspect Anderson? - I suspected Anderson, because the sailor said he was one of the gang.

Why did you take Anderson first? - He came into the watch-house after we took the other prisoners.

You did not suspect him before? - No.

How came you to take him then? - The sailor said he was in the gang, and was one that beat him; and then I took him.

Did the sailor know any of the other prisoners? - Yes, he knew every one before we took them in the watch-house.

You did not suspect Anderson, nor attempt to take him up, till after you had taken the other prisoners, and got them to the watch-house? - No.


I am a watchman. I heard the rattle. I came to the watch-house, to see what was the matter. The officer said we must go up to the Bank; there was a sailor robbed. We went up to the Bank, and saw Anderson there by himself. Probyn went up before us. I saw nobody with him. He followed us down: and we met the sailor. How came you to come back before you found any body? - We found Anderson: he said he would go down with us to the watch-house. Mr. Probyn said, the people were run through an alley.

Did not you meet the sailor as you were going? - No, as we were coming down back to the watch-house, half way down the Bank, we met the sailor: going down to the bottom, we met Thompson and Marsh. When we came up to Thompson, Probyn said, This is the man that struck me. The sailor, when he heard that, went over the way, and said, This is the one that took the money out of my pocket. We took them and Anderson to the watch-house. The other two ran away. Afterwards Probyn saw them, and gave the alarm; and we pursued them. They were taken about half an hour after.

Cross Examination.

Did the sailor say, as soon as Thompson was taken, That was the man that robbed him? - Probyn said, That is the man that struck you.


I am a watchman in Wellclose-square. Just as the clock struck two, Probyn called out, Watch! Woodham was running: I stopped him. The other was running on, and he was stopped by Probyn and the constable of the square.


Walking round the square, I heard the cry of, Watch! and was at the taking of Woodham and Ruglass.

Thompson. I leave my defence to my counsel.



I was coming along, at the corner of the Minories, between twelve and one in the morning: the man in the red waistcoat (the prosecutor) came and put his hand on my shoulder.

What day was it? - I do not know the day. The prisoners were taken the next day. He said, Holloa, ship-mate, where do you live? I said at Saltpetre Bank. I said no more. I went down to Saltpetre Bank. Then he said, Holloa, ship-mate, again; and a man said, Holloa, will you come over here to drink? He went down the Bank: there was a parcel of men drinking: he drank twice with them; then came over to me, and gave me 2 d. And then he pulled out 6 d. and pulled his pocket out, and said this was all he had got. He pulled some papers out of his waistcoat pocket. I bid him take care of his papers. He called me a bloody bitch. Upon that I went into my lodging, and saw no more of it.

Was it the same morning that the people were taken? - I believe it was: I am not sure to the morning.

Did you know the man that addressed you? - Yes, this is the man (pointing to the prosecutor): he turned out his pocket, and said, Feel if I have any more. I felt. I said, you may have no more that I know of. I went in, and he called me out again, and called me a bloody bitch. I was frightened out of my wits.

Can you swear it was the same morning the prisoners were taken up? - I cannot swear to the day: I believe it was.

(Thompson called nine other witnesses, who gave him a good character.)


I am a sea-faring man. I was down at Dartford. I came up that night. When I

came to East-Smithfield, I met a woman with a pot in her hand. I asked her where she was going? she said, to look for some beer. I said I should like some beer, and asked her to go to the watch-house, to ask if they knew of any house up. I went up to the watch-house, and knocked at the door. A man opened the door. I asked him if he knew any house up. As I was at the door, a man came down, and said a sailor on Saltpetre Bank was ill used. The constable made a noise with a rattle, and we went down to Saltpetre Bank together. I have no witnesses. I am just come from on board a ship.

Ruglass. I have nothing to say in my defence. I have no witnesses.


I lately came from on board a West-India-man. I had been to Blackwall, to see for a ship. It was too late to get into my lodging. I went to Saltpetre Bank to see for a lodging. The man said I was with them, and cried, Knock him down. I know nothing of it.


I was going along: they laid hold of me. I know nothing of it. I have no witnesses.



(They were humbly recommended, by the jury, to his Majesty's mercy.)

Tried by the Second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. RECORDER.

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