10th December 1783
Reference Numbert17831210-19
VerdictGuilty > lesser offence

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19. JOHN HUDSON (A child of nine years old) was indicted for burglariously and feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling house of William Holdsworth at the hour of one in the night, on the 10th of October last, and feloniously stealing therein, one linen shirt, value 10 s. five silk stockings, value 5 s. one pistol, value 5 s. and two aprons, value 2 s. the property of the said William .

Court to Prisoner. How old are you? - Going in nine.

What business was you bred up in? - None, sometimes a chimney sweeper .

Have you any father or mother? - Dead.

How long ago? - I do not know.

Court. I wanted to see whether he had any understanding or no, we shall hear more of him by and by.


I live in East Smithfield , I am a chymist : On the morning of the 17th of October, about eight o'clock, the maid informed me we were robbed; we have parted with her since; I got up and went to a back dining-room and found the shutters secure, but on opening them I found the sashes had been thrown up to the top, the shutters were fastened within-side, I immediately went down into the parlour and found some glass on the floor, and one of the panes in a narrow sky-light on the top of the sash was broken, part of the glass had been carefully taken out, and laid on some leads; than other part had fallen down parlour, found upon the window shutter the marks of toes, as if somebody had slided down the window, in the inside of the shutters.

Court. Were they small toes or large toes? - They were small toes, I observed a table that stood very near the window, there I found the mark of footy feet, I saw a bar bent that went across the window curtain: I took the impressions of the foot and toes that were on the table upon a piece of paper as minutely as I could.

(The paper produced.)

Court. What reason have you to suspect the prisoner? - None, I did not hear till the next day any thing about him: We found the things were of the were mentioned in the indictment which were my property: On the next sent to the pawnbroker's: The boy the robbery till the time that his foot was examined by this piece of paper, acknowledged it.

Court. How do you apprehend the boy got out again? - He said there was another boy with him.

Court. I do not much like the confession of a boy of nine years old, I would rather do without it if I could. How high was your sky-light? - About three yards from the ground, it was impossible for him to get out by himself.


I lodge in East Smithfield at a shoe warehouse at Mr. King's, going down on Friday morning the 17th of October about ten into the yard, into a little place that belongs to the lodgers, I staid there about five minutes, and coming out I found the prisoner at the water-tub, which was too high for him to reach without getting to the edge of the tub, I asked him what business he had there, he said, he was going to wash himself; he was all sooty: I told him it was water we made use of for drinking,

and I did not chuse he should wash himself there; on putting him away; there is a place that formerly been a kitchen, and there are stairs that go up either into the street or into the lodging place; in this place where dirt is kept, I found a damask table cloth: I called to the boy, for nobody had been down but the boy and me, he said, he knew nothing of it: I found afterwards a parcel of silk stockings in the same place, I believe there were five tied up in a parcel: I then called in two men who found a parcel of things in the same place: Two aprons and a black silk stocking; upon the sink in the same place there was a pistol put in a thread stocking: One of the men going up stairs saw the prisoner coming out of the yard, and they fetched him back, and said he was the same boy: At first he said he knew nothing of them. Then Mr. King said, he would fetch somebody that would make him know, then the boy said, that there was another boy.

Court. That is threatening him, I cannot take a boy's confession after that.


I am a pawnbroker, on the 17th of October, the boy at the bar brought this shirt to pledge about seven in the morning; he said it belonged to his father, I asked him who sent him with it, he said, his mother, I stopped him.

(The shirt deposed to by prosecutor who saw his daughter making it: It had never been washed.)


I apprehended the prisoner.

Court to Prosecutor. What passed before the Justice, were there any promises or threats made use of? - He first denied it, and then he told the Justice that there was another boy with him, and that the other boy broke through the window and got into the room; after the foot was measured by the paper he then confessed he had been in the house.

(The pistol and stockings deposed to.)

Court. Did the boy seem to want understanding before the Justice? - He said very little.

Court to Bayners. Did he appear to you to want understanding? - No: the runners said it was the third time they had had him within ten days.

Court to Jury. The boy's confession may be admitted, in evidence, but we must take it with every allowance, and at the utmost it only proves he was in the house; now he might have got in after daybreak, as the prosecutor was not informed of it till eight the next morning. The only thing that fixes this boy with the robbery is the pistol found in the sink; that might not have been put there by the boy: his confession with respect to how he came there, I do not think should be allowed, because it was made under fear; I think it would be too hard to find a boy of his tender age guilty of the burglary; one would wish to snatch such a boy, if one possibly could, from destruction, for he will only return to the same kind of life which he has led before, and will be an instrument in the hands of very bad people, who make use of boys of that sort to rob houses.

Court to Prosecutor. Could the boy go through this hole without scraching himself? - The glass was taken perfectly out.

GUILTY. Of the felony, but not of the burglary .

Transported for seven years .

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice WILLES.

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