15th September 1784
Reference Numbert17840915-66
VerdictNot Guilty

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843. WILLIAM STEVENSON was indicted, for that he, (with one William Forsyth , not in custody,) not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, upon the 1st day of August last, with force and arms, in and upon Sarah the wife of Samuel Scott , in the peace of God and our Lord the King, then being, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did make an assault, and with a certain blunderbuss, value 5 s. which he the said William Stevenson then had and held in both his hands, charged with gunpowder and two leaden bullets, against the said Sarah Scott , feloniously and wilfully did shoot and discharge, and with the said leaden bullets so discharged and shot off, by force of the gunpowder aforesaid, from the blunderbuss aforesaid, in and upn the face, near the left eye of the said Sarah, feloniously, wilfully, and of his malice aforethought, did strike, penetrate, and wound, giving her, the said Sarah, in and upon her face, near her left eye, one mortal wound of the width of three inches, and of the breadth of two inches, of which the said Sarah instantly died .

He was also charged with the like murder on the Coroner's inquisition.

Mr. Garrow, Prisoner's Council. I beg the witnesses may go out of Court before the Gentleman opens for the prosecution.

Mr. Peatt, of Council for the Prosecution, thus opened the Case:

May it please your Lordship, and you, Gentlemen of the Jury; this is an indictment against the prisoner at the bar, William Stevenson , for the crime of murder! you have heard the charge read to you from the indictment, and I shall stare to you the principal circumstances that led to the unhappy fact, which is the subject of the present enquiry, in order that you may form a judgment of the matter with more ease and facility. Gentlemen, on the 1st of August, about six in the evening, there was some disturbance in the prison of Clerkenwell by the prisoners, concerning the distribution of their provisions, which were either detained longer, or not given at the usual place; the deceased was a prisoner, committed I think for six months, about half of which was expired, and was standing at a wicket gate within a partition wall of the prison. It is very material for you, Gentlemen, to consider the situation of the prison itself: there is a partition wall that separates the men from the women; there is a gate that differs very materially from the outer gate, and I mention this, because it is very natural to suppose the defence will be, that the prisoners were endeavouring to get out; but whatever this noise or disturbance might be, it was not likely to affect the safety of the prison, when it was not made in an apartment contiguous to the outward gate; so the fact is stated to me, that it happened in a gate in this partition: Gentlemen, there were soldiers in the prison, how they came there I know not, and they refused, at the instance of a Mr. Forsyth, whether he is the keeper or no I cannot tell, they refused to fire; but the prisoner at the bar, who is a watchman, snatched a blunderbuss out of the hands of one of the soldiers, and levelled it at this woman, and instantly shot her dead: the deceased, as I understand, has two children, and was gone seven months with child; but this I mention as a circumstance rather to be lamented, than as a matter for your consideration. These, Gentlemen, are the outlines of the case, as stated to me in my instructions; the law undoubtedly will afford every kind of support to the ministers of Justice, and persons employed as their assistants, let them be of what description they may, provided they exercise that power with moderation and humanity; on the other hand, we all very well know that prisoners are committed to the care of persons who are uninformed men, and in the habits of ferocity and coertion; an English Jury, therefore, will certainly examine into the conduct of such men. Gentlemen, what the real complection of the business may be, I know not, the facts will be before you, and the law that attaches to those facts will be explained to you by the learned Judge; you will then be in possession of the true means to enable you to form a verdict, consonant to your oath and to public justice.


Examined by Mr. Peatt.

I am a bricklayer and a soldier, I was at Clerkenwell Bridewell on the 1st of August, at six in the evening.

What happened then in your presence? - I went up to the gate, and knocked at the gate, one of the turnkeys opened the gate and said, soldier, come in.

Court. How many were there of you? - Me and two more, when I got in I went to the lodge, there was one Ann Charnock at the lodge, very much disguised in liquor, they were ironing her, Brown was assisting them; the woman was used very ill, they were pushing her down.

Court. What business had the soldiers there? - I went to see a comrade's wife there, one Mrs. Harding.

Then you was not sent for as a party of soldiers? - No, my Lord, not at all; then Brown, the turnkey, unlocked the place where the fire arms lay, and gave me and my two comrades a blunderbuss each; he says, soldier, go backwards, in the mean time, as I was going out of the lodge, the prisoner Stevenson catched the blunderbuss out of my hand, and immediately I took my

bayonet up and went backwards with them, I went first, and Stevenson the prisoner followed me, and my two comrades followed him, we went to the women's gate.

Mr. Peatt. Where is the women's gate situated? - At the upper part of the yard, beyond the men's.

How far is that from the outward gate? - As nigh as I can guess it is four or five roods, but to say the truth, I cannot resolve the question.

Is it the length of this Court? - About the length of the boards before the bench to the door of this Court.

Is that gate in a partitioned wall? - Yes, it divides the partition wall between the gate and the passage that goes to and fro to the prisoners, the women's gate is at one part of the yard, and the men's at the other, there is a free passage between them.

Court. Then the women's gate is on one side the passage, and the men's on the other? - It is a common yard, the same as you may go up any other yard, the doors are both on one side: we went up to the gate, there was some women knocking with their hands at the wicket of the women's gate, the wicket was shut.

Court. Do you mean a woman prisoner that was knocking? - I believe there was nobody but the women prisoners there, but I cannot resolve the question for certain.

What happened then? - Some person opened the wicket, I cannot say who it was.

Some persons within? - No, my Lord, without-side, it was some person belonging to the party that was with us; when the wicket was open, some person said, soldier, why do not you fire; I cannot say who said so.

Mr. Peatt. Did it appear to you that there was any danger of the walls being beat down, or any thing of that sort? - No, only women talking together, like a couple of companies talking in a tap-room, gathered together, not as any ways riotous at that time, in the mean time the person, after he had said, soldier, why do not you fire, made an uncommon expression to mention before the Court, he said, if we would not fire he would; he repeated them words twice, and I said, for God sake do not fire on them; he made the expression, with the same oath, that be would fire immediately up the women's yard, and immediately turned it round, and presented it right at the body of Sarah Scott , she stood by herself; when I saw his intent, I caught hold of the blunderbuss, to draw it from the wall as far as I could, to prevent his firing and doing any mischief.

Did you succeed? - I did not, he immediately at the same time pulled the trigger; I had the blunderbuss in my hand at the same time, and after he pulled the trigger, the body of the deceased stood but a very trifling time, and fell, and a couple of girls caught her, she was all over a gore of blood, as if you had poured water; she leaned her head on two women near her, I said to him you have killed the woman; he said, I do not care; immediately he returned to the lodge, and the other two soldiers; I gave the bayonet to the turnkey at the women's gate, and asked him to let me go in among the women, he let me in, and I went and saw the body lay all over a gore of blood on the ground, she was soon after moved up the yard; I saw as much blood and brains lay after they had removed her, as would fill the crown of my hat, it lay in such quantities.

Did any thing material happen after that? - Nothing at all that I saw, the prisoners were very quiet at the time, and as far as ever I saw afterwards: the woman was with child, I saw her the day before.

Mr. Silvester, one of the Prisoner's Council. Now you have told us the whole? - Yes, Sir, as far as I know.

Exactly as it was from the beginning to the end? - Yes.

You had been there the day before? - Yes, Sir.

You was not acquainted with this Sarah Scott ? - No.

When you came there the gaol was perfectly quiet? - All but this woman that was drunk at the lodge.

Then did not you think it very odd that they should put arms into your hands? - Yes, Sir, I supposed there was some riot, but I found none; I had the arms from the lodge.

Did not they tell you why they gave you the arms? - No.

Nor you did not ask any reasons why? - No.

Nor they never told you? - No.

And every thing appeared to you perfectly quiet? - Yes, I saw no other.

What is this man? - I do not know, they said he was one of the watchmen of the street.

Was not he one of the turnkeys? - Not that I know of.

Was he called in to assist? - I do not know, he was there when I came in.

What did they say when they came in? - Nothing at all; Mr. Brown, said, soldier, come in, this is Ann Charnock . I never saw any stones thrown, nor did not perceive any thrown at the time; what was done before or after I cannot resolve.

Nor the men upon the wall endeavouring to make their escape? - I never saw any thing of the kind, as God is my Judge.

Nor none of the men had got into the women's apartments? - I never saw any thing of the kind.

Then your business was merely to see Mrs. Harding? - Yes, Sir, I went from her husband, he was in New Prison gaol, for having some words with a man.

Then you mean to say there was no riot or disturbance or any remarkable noise in the gaol? - Not in my presence, no further than this, Ann Charnock .

How came you not to ask some of these turnkeys? - I supposed it to be such, by giving us arms, but I found none.

You say Stevenson ordered you to fire? - No, Sir, I beg your pardon, I said somebody ordered me to fire, somebody said soldier, why do not you fire? we made answer, we will not fire.

What did they say fire at? - They did not mention at any thing at all, they said, soldier, why do not you fire; the door was shut, but the wicket was open.

How came it open? - Some person on the outside belonging to the party we were with opened it.

Did you see them open it? - I saw some person open it, who it was I do not know.

Did he open the gate? - No, Sir.

Will you upon your oath say it was not forced open by the prisoners on the inside? - Yes, if required I would at that time, what happened before we came in I do not know, and as to asking me questions I cannot answer, is of no use, for I think I have a just God to answer to when I go into another world.

You know many of the gentlemen that reside in that prison? - No, Sir, only by sight.

You did not see them that day? - Yes, I did.

Were they in the women's apartments? - I believe Mr. Hopkins was, but who else was I cannot say; I do not say clearly that there was not, or that there was; I saw some man, but whether he was a prisoner or not, I cannot say.

Was he in irons? - No, Sir, there was no man in irons as I saw.

Can you tell us how many men were there? - I cannot; there were people to see their acquaintance as well as me; I saw the men prisoners walking to and fro in their yard, their wicket was open.

Then this blunderbuss did not go off till you had got hold of it? - I had hold of it up to the muzzle, in order to prevent it.

Not to list it up? - No.

How could you see him pulling up the trigger so easily? - Because the man had it in his hand.

Do you mean to swear that he pulled the trigger? - No, Sir, I swear that he had the blunderbuss in his hand; I tried to pull it back, but I could not, at that instant it went off.

You never saw any thing of a stick poked through the wicket? - No.

Was you the man that washed your hands

in the blood; or who did? - Upon my soul, I cannot resolve the question; I never saw any thing of the kind acted.

Gently, gently, soldier, was you there when the justice came? - That is the gentleman that came in and looked at the body.

Aye, was Hopkins or any of the witnesses there then? - I cannot say.

Did you see any man run his hands into the blood of this poor woman, and say, this is delightful work, I will sleep in these hands? - I did not.

Will you say it never did happen? - I never saw it happen, and more than that, that gentleman said it was too partial to fire on them as soon as they did, he said, they need not be so hasty as they were.

How came you not to knock it up in the air? - I know the nature of a blunderbuss and firelock too well, I tried as far as my endeavours lay to prevent it, I tried to pull it back but I could not; those fire arms will not go off with a shake.


Examined by Mr. Peatt.

What are you? - A brasier.

Where was you on the first of August? - I was a prisoner for debt in Clerkenwell-bridewell,

Was you there at six in the evening? - Yes.

What happened? - There was a riot by women making a noise, they used to have their allowance of provisions down at the inside gate, and it was upon that account that they made the noise, because they would not let them be served as usual.

Where was this? - At the women's gate.

Did the clamour appear to rise from any other cause? - No.

What happened then? - After that there was one Ann Charnock , who is a very bad woman indeed, she was taken before Mr. Forsyth and Mr. Woodward, he is turnkey, she was taken out of the woman side, and I heard her irons rattle, then there were three soldiers came in, to see acquaintances as I heard them express, I did not know it otherwise, then there was a blunderbuss delivered to each of their hands, by Mr. Brown, one of the turnkeys, then they were ordered to go down the yard to quell the disturbance, for the women did make a good deal of noise, and calling the turnkeys names; afterwards, this Stevenson the prisoner, snatched the blunderbuss out of one of the soldiers hands.

What is this Stevenson? - He is a watchman at the outer gate, as I was informed; I never saw the man before to my knowledge, and he snatched the blunderbuss out of Rickwater's hands, a soldier; when the soldiers came in first, the gate was opened and Rickwater came down the yard, he had something in his hands, but whether it was a stick or a bayonet, I cannot be positive.

Court. What gate was open? - The second gate from the street, the lodge is between the outer and inner gate, then Rickwater and the prisoner, and two soldiers went down the yard near to the women's gate, then I saw the prisoner point a blunderbuss up to the women's yard; Mr. Forsyth ordered him to fire.

Court. Forsyth is the person that takes care of the people to hard labour? - Yes.

Were those women kept to hard labour? - Yes, some of them; then I heard the prisoner say, that he would fire, then I heard a woman's voice say, well if you will fire you must fire, just after that, the piece went off in about a minute after.

Who fired the piece? - Stevenson.

Court. You saw him, did you? - Yes.

Mr. Peatt. What happened then? - Then Mr. Forsyth said, now, soldier, point up one to the men's gate.

What direction had the piece that was fired? - To the place.

The remainder of this Trial in the next Part, which will be published in a few Days.

Old Bailey Proceedings front matter.
15th September 1784
Reference Numbert17840915-66

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THE WHOLE PROCEEDINGS ON THE KING's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the CITY of LONDON; AND ALSO The Gaol Delivery for the County of Middlesex; HELD AT JUSTICE HALL in the OLD BAILEY, On Wednesday the 15th of SEPTEMBER, 1784, and the following Days;





Printed for E. HODGSON (the Proprietor) And Sold by J. WALMSLAY, No. 35, Chancery Lane, and S. BLADON, No. 13, Pater-noster Row.




KING's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the CITY of LONDON, &c.

Continuation of the Trial of William Stevenson .

Was it levelled at any person or thing? - He held it strait before him till I heard a woman in speak, it pointed to the left, at the woman's gate through the wicket.

Was the wicket open at that time? - Yes.

How came the wicket open? - I believe the women beat it open with their fists.

Did you see it when it flew open? - Yes, I saw it fly open, there was a little staple that only confined it.

Was any body near it on the other side next to you? - No, Sir, not near me.

Near the wicket, I ask you, when it flew open? - Not that I recollect; after Mr. Forsyth ordered the soldier to fire up the men's yard, Mr. Barnett that was there a prisoner, said, for God's sake, do not fire among the men, for they are all as quiet as lambs.

What happened then? - Then this Mr. Stevenson run away to the gate, and called out for more ammunition, he said, he had done one, and he would do another, after that I saw no more of it.

Mr. Garrow, another of the Prisoner's Council. How long have you had the misfortune to be in prison? - I went in the 2d day of July.

You was a debtor? - Yes.

And you had permission to come into the lobby? - Into the lobby, I was between the common and the inner gate, that takes into the lodge.

You was not in the lodge? - No, Charnock was in the lodge.

Then you looked over the wicket? - No, Sir, I looked through the holes, there are holes you may put a pint pot through.

You was one of the Coroners Jury? - I was.

Do you remember seeing Mr. Rickwater when the prisoner called for more ammunition? - No, I cannot recollect it.

At the same time he pointed his blunderbuss near the wicket, you were none of you near enough to prevent his firing? - Rickwater was close to him, I could not hear what he said, he was on the left of him, so I could not see.

Could not you see him at all? - Not to see him go to do any thing, I could see his coat.

If he had done any thing, do you think he was in such a situation to see him? - I do not know.

You say the women were very riotous at this time? - Yes, they did make a great noise.

In consequence of this Charnock was ironed? - Yes.

That did not appease them, I take it for granted, that made them still more riotous? - Yes.

In consequence of which they abused the turnkeys, and used them extremely ill? - They did call them very bad names.

Did you see any stones thrown? - I never saw but one piece of stone or brickbat, but whether from the men's side or women's side I cannot tell, that fell just by the water tub, which is almost before the governor's window.

Did it fall near the turnkeys? - No, not near them.

What was the purpose of throwing it? - I cannot tell.

Did they throw it at one another? - That I cannot tell, I was not on their side.

You do not know whether it was thrown at the turnkeys or not? - I do not know, the order that was given, was to arm and to go down the yard and quell the riot, and after the soldiers had been desired to fire, the prisoner said, he would fire if they forced him to it, he said, he would fire, I heard one woman say, if you will fire you must.

During the minute, from the time he said he would fire to the time he fired, they were perfectly peaceable? - Yes.

There was no riot in the gaol at the time? - No.

When was it they first broke through the wall? - That I believe was on the Saturday.

That had furnished them a tolerable quantity of materials to batter with? - I cannot tell.

Was all the materials and rubbish moved? - I cannot tell.

How often had you seen Rickwater there before? - Never, to my knowledge, he came with some of the soldiers to visit some of the prisoners, and they were not called in by the turnkeys originally.

They were the persons to whom the turnkeys thought proper to give fire arms, to quiet them? - I suppose so.

The prisoner was a watchman at the outer gate, and he was ordered to fire by the turnkey? - Yes.

Court. Do you know whether Stevenson was called in by the turnkeys or either of them? - No, Sir, I do not.

You have never seen him before? - No, Sir, not to my knowledge.

How long have you been there? - Ever since the second of July.


Examined by Mr. Peatt.

Where was you on the 1st of August? - At Clerkenwell Bridewell to see an acquaintance.

Who did you go to see? - George Thorpe .

What is he in prison for? - I cannot justly say, he was a fine.

You can I fancy give us a little account of his crime? - I cannot, I was in the country the time he was put there, I returned to town only on Saturday night, and this was on the Sunday I went to see him, it was the first time I had been to see him, I was with him and Mr. Woodward, and Mr. Woodward went down to the gate to serve the sines, and I was in the first yard among the men prisoners.

Court. Have not you heard that this man was committed as a rogue, and for having pistols about him? - My Lord, I did not hear what it was for, I was in the country when he was committed.

What happened further? - The fines would not take their victuals at that gate, but they would have it at the gate they used to have it.

Who said so? - All the women, Mr. Woodward took the victuals back, and said, they should have none; they came out again and knocked against the wicket, and said, they would have it at the usual place, and the other said, they should not.

Court. Which did they say was the usual place? - At the lodge gate.

Then they were to be let out from the wicket gate I presume to that gate? - Yes.

How far is that from the wicket gate? - A dozen yards; as they were kicking and shaking the gate, in came three soldiers, and to each of these three soldiers they gave a blunderbuss, they desired them to go forwards into the yard, the prisoner came and took a blunderbuss from one of the soldiers by force, the soldier drew his bayonet and went to the women's gate, and the prisoner followed him, and the two soldiers followed him.

What did he draw his bayonet for for? - In case any thing should be wanting, but he did not know what the disturbance was till he came up to the gate; the prisoner went up to the gate, and put the blunderbuss up to the grate, and said, he would fire, the soldier with the bayonet laid hold of the blunderbuss, and hindered him from firing.

How do you mean hindered him? - He took hold of it, and said there was no need of firing.

Was there no firing? - Yes, I saw him fire, he pointed up the yard, afterwards he saw the deceased's left hand, and he pointed round to her, and killed the woman.

Mr. Silvester. Pray Mr. Ash what are you? - A glazier and painter, in St. John's-street, I work for Mr. Sanders in Oxford-road.

Where did you live about a month ago? - In the same place I do now, No. 70, St. John's-street, I lodged there for a twelvemonth, I lodge there now.

Where was your other lodgings? - Down at Northfleet, near Gravesend, I have been there three months, I kept my town lodgings on then.

When did you go into the country? - I cannot say.

Was it in June or July? - The beginning of June, before my friend was committed to gaol.

What might be your employment there? - Painting a house, near Northfleet town at Esquire Watman's, I did not know Thorpe was committed till I came to town, we were pretty intimate, I was apprentice to his father, I did not ask him what he was there for, I had not an opportunity.

Then you think it was a secret in the gaol? - No.

I should have thought the first question would have been, how came you here George? - I did not.

You did not, nor do not now know what he is there for.

Do you mean to say, that all the time he was in gaol you never knew what he was in gaol for? - I did not know, I heard he was taken upon the road.

Why Mr. Ash you seem to be so well acquainted with the technical terms, you have been there yourself? - I never was in there.

What do you mean by a fine? - He was in for six months, I do not know that he committed a robbery of any sort.

Court. Consider with yourself how far that is credible, that you should not have had the curiosity to ask, what are you here for, old acquaintance? because you was apprentice to his father? - Yes, I was.

It's a strange thing you should have so little curiosity.

Mr. Silvester. Did you ever hear the word dubbs; I can talk with you in the technical way? - What do you mean by dubbs?

Things for house-breaking; you know that he had not got the darbies on though? - I do not know what you mean by darbies.

Did you never hear whether they were not little bits of iron that they put round a man's legs? - He had no irons on.

There was a disturbance? - Yes.

And the soldier drew his bayonet to defend himself, then he was afraid? - He might do that, there was not much noise, there was a knocking and kicking at the gate.

Were no stones thrown? - I saw no stones, I could not see in at the wicket, I was very near him, I could see him turn his face, the women were at the upper end of the yard.

Did you hear the stones? - No.

Nor they were not found there afterwards? - Not any that I saw, I went up along with my friend, I went up by myself, no other friends of mine were in that gaol.

Why, what prison were they in? - I have no other friends to see in a prison.

Court. You said, if I did not mistake you, that the prisoner went to the gate, and put the blunderbuss through the gate? - Yes, through the hole of the gate.

Then he took it out again and came back? - He did not come quite from the gate.

So he fired that blunderbuss in at that hole? - He did.

How far was you distant at that time? - About three yards.

When he put the blunderbuss in the hole of the gate, was there any noise made? - A very great screaming with the women, who ran out of the way as fast as they could.

Was there any man in the women's apartments? - I saw two men come out, one is in the prison, the other came in to see some of the women, I never saw him before.

When he put the blunderbuss into the gate, was there any great disturbance then? - There was knocking and kicking against the gate, and calling the keeper, and using a great deal of bad language a little while.

Did not the man call out to them to be quiet? - Not that I heard, he shut the gate and left them directly.

If they had come out to this gate to take their victuals they would have had an opportunity of making more disturbance? - I cannot tell.

If all these people had come out, I suppose the prison would have been in a good deal of danger? - I cannot say.

What do you think of that? - They had nothing to defend themselves with.


Examined by Mr. Peatt.

Where was you on the 1st of August? - In Clerkenwell Bridewell.

What time of the day was you there? - All the whole day.

Was you there about six in the evening? - Yes, I was a prisoner there for an assault, the women were not served their fines at the usual place; Mr. Woodward, the head turnkey, whether he was out of humour, or what, I cannot say, but he would insist on their not having their fines at the usual place; they thought their privileges were abridged, and it caused a little disturbance, and the consequence of this was, he took the fines back.

Do they call their allowance fines? - Yes, they were taken back from their own wicket, where they have their beer and other necessaries, in consequence of that, there were some pieces of tubs thrown over the wall by the women, to the best of my recollection.

Over what wall? - Over the women's wall: in consequence of that, there was one Rickwater, a soldier, came to see a friend, and two more soldiers, the first with a drawn bayonet in his hand, that was Rickwater, the prisoner at the bar, and two soldiers, I do not know who they were, went down to the wicket, and I saw the prisoner at the bar present the piece up the yard, and there was an altereation took place between Rickwater and the prisoner, and I saw the prisoner take the blunderbuss and point it up the yard, when he had pointed it, he was desired not to fire by the soldiers, he uttered an oath, and said he would, and that instant, Sir, he fired.

What direction had the piece when he fired? - Oblique, towards his left hand.

Was it pointed at any particular object? - I cannot tell, it was between the gates, I saw the flash of the pan, and heard the report of the piece, and I heard a sudden shriek, and I heard the woman was shot.

Mr. Garrow. Mr. Jones, pray of what profession are you? - I am a watch-maker by trade.

That is when you are out of gaol? - No, Sir.

How then? - I get my livelyhood as honestly as I can.

That is exactly what I thought; honestly if you can, but if not? - Dishonestly you may suppose, but I do not say that.

You was in for no harm? - No.

What unrighteous set of men was it that sent you there for no harm? - My wife.

It is not the first unrighteous woman that has sent her husband there; by whose help did she send you there? - I cannot tell you, you must ask her that; I was sent from Hick's-hall; they would not let me speak there, here I am before an honourable Court, she could produce no marks.

You half murdered her, and they convicted you? - The sentence was one month's imprisonment and two ball in ten pounds each, and myself in twenty pounds for my good behaviour for twelve months; I laid there eight weeks, I was in three prisons in three weeks time.

Now I recommend to you to take care you do not get into Newgate? - I have escaped that.

You have, have you, why that is a pretty strong prison too? - I am an honest man.

I believe in the third prison you was so bad a fellow, that the keeper himself got some of his own people to bail you, to get rid of you, and in order that you might not corrupt the whole gaol? - Right, Sir! very right, Sir! very right, Sir!


Examined by Mr. Peatt.

You are a prisoner in Clerkenwell Bridewell? - I am.

What was you committed there for? - A misdemeanor, for breaking out of that gaol.

Court. For breaking out of that very gaol! What do you know of this matter? - About five or six o'clock I had occasion to go to the women's side; there was an interruption at the women's gate, they did not choose to receive their fines at that place; I came back to the gate again, there was a parcel of people there, I got about twelve yards up the yard on the inside, a woman told me to take care, for God's sake, for they were going to fire, I cannot tell what woman it was; I replied to her, what can they fire at? I had not gone above three yards further before I heard a piece discharged.

Was your face towards the noise or from it? - From it.

Then you only heard the noise of the piece? - I did, upon which I turned my face and saw a woman lay on the ground.

Do you know the woman? - I have seen her before.

Did she appear to you to be with child? - I cannot say.

What more do you know? - I went and found some slugs and a ball had entered her left eye, at which the brain issued; she was dead.

Did the prison appear to be in such a state as threatened disturbance? - Not at all, I have seen a great deal more disturbance when the people wanted beer or any other article.

Was there any other noise? - They kept beating at the wicket about half an inch thick.

Mr. Silvester. You have told us all, I suppose? - As far as I can recollect.

Nothing more that is particular or any ways remarkable passed as you can recollect? - I will repeat it, if you please.

No, but I should be glad to have a little of your history too, Mr. Hopkins? - You may relate it, if you know better than me; I was convicted first for a misdemeanor, they told me they found implements upon me.

Then they convicted you upon that? - Possibly they might.

You will not be positive? - Yes.

Implements of what kind? - They tell me they were implements of house-breaking, may be you may be a better judge than me.

Name some of them. - I cannot take upon me to name them all now, I recollect two or three, there might be two or three pick-lock keys.

No such things as pistol, powder, or ball? - No.

And no crow? - No.

What did you drop it at the time; was that all? - There was a dark lanthorn.

And a little flint and steel. - I do not recollect any such thing.

A few matches? - I do not recollect any such thing.

Come tell us all man? - I have no occasion to tell you what you do not ask me.

You remember your making your appearance in this Court? - Yes, I have on such a cause as this.

That was for murder? - Yes, once, the other time was not.

How often in your life have you been here? - I cannot recollect.

Cannot you, why I can recollect three or four times. - Very likely, it is more than I can.

Why three times I remember; now for instance, in the year 1776. - Very possibly I might.

Will you swear you was not here? - I will not swear either one or the other.

In the year 1777, you was here again. - I cannot tell that I was or was not, it is not possible for me to tell, I do not remember so many years back.

Do you recollect being convicted and sent to the Thames? - Yes, I do recollect that.

Court to Mr. Peatt. You would do well not to bring such witnesses as that.

Mr. Peatt. My Lord, I know nothing of the case nor of the witnesses.

Mr. Silvester. You are the man that washed your hands in the woman's blood? - No, Sir, I did not wash my hands.

Did not you foul your hands in it, did not you poke your finger in her eye? - Upon my oath I did not.

When you was told, for God's sake to be more solemn, you said, no, I rejoice in such hands as these. - He begged me not to paw him, I told him I only wished to see justice done.

There were no men on the wall? - Yes, there was a person upon the wall.

What was he doing? - Nothing, I believe his name was M'Carty.

How high was the wall? - I cannot say how high the wall was.

Cannot you guess? - I should imagine it is ten feet.

It is about eighteen feet high. - I thought about twelve.

Is that the wall that you got over? - That I got over is a considerable deal higher.

Was the wall as high as that gallery? - No.

What was he doing? - Only looking over as a spectator.

What was there to see? - A parcel of women making a noise.

Were not they throwing stones? - Not as I observed, I saw none thrown; there was a wall broke.

Who broke the wall? - I do not know, I was not there.

You say positively you did not rejoice at this? - Far from rejoicing.

You was one of the Jury? - No, Sir,

Who were? - One Wagstaffe, he is a prisoner for a misdemeanor, it is for receiving goods belonging to other people, goods that have been taken in pledge, work unfinished, not receiving them knowing them to be stolen; there is one Young, he was for a bastard child; Mr. Vincent was one, he is a publican; there were six gaol birds, and six of the outsides: Mr. Penrose was one, he is in on an execution for debt.

Court. Prisoner, what have you to say in your defence?

Prisoner. I leave it to the Council and the Court.


Examined by Mr. Silvester.

I was a turnkey at this prison, there was a disturbance, I think it was on Friday; on Friday night I let the women down as usual to serve them their fines, but there was a great disturbance, and I thought proper on the Saturday to serve them through the hole, as well as the men, and that would keep them from the men, and so I did, it was very quiet; on the Saturday, the men had broke a hole through their wall into the women's wall; we were obliged to set up all night, and have workmen all night to mend that hole up again: on Sunday evening, about six o'clock, I went to serve the women as usual, and thought they would take it quietly again; when I came to bring in the basket, Ann Charnock , one of the women, began to blaspheme and swear that they would have it down as usual, I expostulated with them that it was the Governor's orders, which I must obey; I thought within myself, if I let her down the rest will be quiet, and take their fines as usual; she slew at me and drove

me from the gate, the rest began to swear they would have the gate down: Forsyth, another servant of our's, came to my assistance, and she began to sly at him, however between us we got her into the lodge, we told her we must punish her for her impudence, and we put her on a small pair of irons, to cool her and calm her; she caught me by my coat; and I did not see them take the arms.

Whilst you was in the lodge was there a great noise and disturbance in the gaol? - Undoubtedly.

Did you hear any thing particular? - I heard nothing particular, I cannot say what kind of noise it was.

Was there any stones, or any thing else thrown? - There were stones thrown whilst I was in the yard, undoubtedly, plenty, a great many.

Where did they get them from? - Pulling the wall down, and pulling up the pavement, here are some of the stones.

(A quantity of stones almost as big as a man's head produced.)

Court. Who proves that these stones were picked up there? - Charles Price .

Cross-examined by Mr. Peatt.

You saw stones thrown? - I saw stones thrown.

There were undoubtedly stones laying in the yard? - These were gathered up in the yard.

Have you any reason to believe now that there were that quantity of stones thrown? - Yes, I have.

Is there no rubbish in the place? - Yes.

How can you to take upon you to say, that you thought the prison was in danger from the clamour of the women? - Upon my word, I cannot tell what to say.

Had you any serious apprehensions arising from the clamours of the women about the victuals? - I could not tell what their intentions were, people that are of a riotous disposition, I do not know what they might have done, if they had burst that door open.

Was there any man upon the wall? - I did not see any.

Would you have conceived it justisiable to commit so cruel an act, as firing at any one of the women in consequence of the clamours of the women? - Undoubtedly I should not, if I could have quelled it any other ways.

Should you have thought such a situation demanded such coercive measures or acts? - I cannot tell what another man would have done.

Whether under all the circumstances of the state of the prison, you think, upon your oath, there was any serious danger? - God knows what would have been the consequence if that had not happened; but to be sure it stopped it immediately: if this firing had not been, I make no doubt but the door would have been burst open immediately.

But the door you speak of was the door of the inner prison.


Examined by Mr. Garrow.

What are you? - I was one of the servants to the keeper of this gaol.

The first of August? - Yes.

Tell the Court and Jury what passed on the Sunday; in what state was the gaol at that time, was it perfectly quiet? - No, they were kicking up a very great row.

That is, in plain English, making a very great riot? - Yes, Woodward was serving their provisions to them, and after he had served the men he served the women at their own gate, without letting them down into the yard; they did not like that, they would come down as usual: Mr. Woodward let one Ann Charnock down, and thought the rest would be quiet; she knocked him down and behaved very ill, they put on some irons, that made them worse; they came and threw stones and brickbats, and

tried to drive the broomstick into my eye; I gathered up some of these stones that lay there.

Can you take upon you to say that these were some of the things that was thrown at the gate? - Yes, I can.

Had there been any mischief done to the wall? - Yes.

What was it? - They had made such a hole, that there was room enough for a man to get through; they had repaired that on the Saturday night.

Did you see any of the men out of their proper place? - I cannot recollect that I did, either upon the wall or elsewhere.

Whether from the situation of the prison at that time, as to the state of the gaol to security, you believe it was necessary to resist them by the force that was used, in order to prevent their escape? - It was; they were kicking and knocking, and they said they would set my master's house on fire; there was great danger that they would escape.

Mr. Peatt. Which side of the gate was you when the noise happened? - On the opposite side to the women.

Did you see the stones thrown? - Yes, and more than that, one of the stones hit me over the head, I cannot say who threw them, but I saw them thrown.

Did you open the wicket of the women's apartment? - No, Sir, I tried to keep it shut; I saw no otherwise than the wicket was broke open by main force: the men were all quiet.

You conceived yourself to be in very great danger from these clamorous women? - Yes, Sir, I did.

You say it was usual to bring down the fines? - Yes.

Did you conceive the prison was in danger from the scolding of these women? - Exceedingly in danger, in great danger, when they were heaving stones fit to knock our brains out.

I thought there were two outward gates? - Yes.

Did you think these scolding women, who had not their food in the manner they were accustomed to have it, endangered the gaol? - They said they would set the house and prison on fire, and break the gates and the prison down, if they did not let them out.

Did not they say that to receive the provisions? - No.

Would you yourself have shot one of these unhappy devils, or thought it necessary to do so on such an occasion? - I would.

Mr. Garrow. I believe your prison is not stronger than Newgate was before it was burnt? - No, Sir; nor near so strong.

Court. How far is the Governor's house from the women's gate? - About nine or ten yards.

They had but a little way to go then if they could have had fire? - No, Sir, they had not.

Sir Robert Taylor . The moment they are out of the women's yard they are upon the house directly.

Court to Witness. Is there any partition between the gate and the Governor's house? - None at all.

Mr. Peatt. Your Lordship and all the world knows, that women's tongues will say every thing when they mean to do nothing.

Court. I do not know that, but I know that stones in women's hands, and firebrands in women's hands, will do as much as in the hands of men.

Court to Jury. The rule of law is, as in the case of Huggins and Bambridge; the Courts are very properly watchful over the conduct of the gaolers and the persons employed under them: to their prisoners they are not to behave with the least degree of unnecessary cruelty, that is clear; and they are responsible to the public for the lives of those that are under their care: that doctrine which common humanity speaks, is most fully and clearly explained in those authorities; but there is a maxim of law for the interest of the commonwealth, that the prisons should be in safety, and in order to preserve them so, the law invests the gaoler with all necessary power, to be conducted as prudence, necessary prudence, requires;

then here are abundundance of women sitting up a law for themselves, who are under the proper control of their keeper, the master of the gaol, and insist upon it, notwithstanding the reason that has been given, that they will have their provisions at such a place; the Governor of this gaol, for the safety of that prison over which he presided, thought it imprudent and improper to let these women out in the usual course of indulgence that had been observed to them before, and he had two objects in view, the one safety, the other reformation; he might think, that by a strict and rigid confinement, he might bring these women to a state of conduct and regularity: why against this prudent and wise measure of the gaoler do these women rebel? by force they broke open the wicket, then they insist on breaking open the gate, they threw their missile weapons, the stones, in great abundance, and one of them struck one of the people over the head; they threatened to commit an actual felony, they said they would burn the prison and the Governor's house, which is nine yards from the gate: now under these circumstances, supposing them to be the facts, I for one am of opinion, in point of law, that they had a right to resort to this extremity: I never had a doubt of it in my life; if, that were an actual felony is committed, or upon the point of being committed, persons are authorized by law to repress that by every possible means; I wish that had been understood a little earlier in those terrible riots, I believe a great deal of the riots would have been prevented: this is my idea of the law; I am sure I am quite open to have any mistake I may have fallen in corrected. It seems to me there is no grounds for proceeding further.

Mr. Peatt. In consequence of what your Lordship has said on the law of the subject, with respect to these persons that are committed for safe custody, it is certain discretionary power resides with the keeper to repel force by force; but should the meanest and lowest of his servants exercise the discretion of taking away the life of an individual, when there is any noise in the gaol, tha does not amount to such a riot.

Mr. Justice Gould. You are right, I have watched very closely to this evidence, I did not hear of this felony and riot being threatened.

Mr. Peatt. I have no wish about it, but the common interest of humanity.

Mr. Justice Gould. I have the happiness to be assisted by the learned and worthy Recorder of the City of London, I should be glad to know whether he concurs with me in opinion.

Mr. Recorder. I am clearly of opinion, that all persons, not confining it to those in custody, with a special authority have a right to resist and oppose, even if it is indispensibly necessary to the endangering the lives of those that are attempting to commit, or in the act of committing a felony; and I am clearly of opinion, that a gaoler having in his care and custody numbers of prisoners of a dangerous description, has a right, not only for the security of the public, to repress tumults and disorders in that gaol, by every degree of force that may appear to be indispensibly necessary; I intirely concur in the law laid down by the learned Judge; and here it is a question of fact, whether the degree of force used was in that case necessary, as the only probable means of quelling the riot, if so, I conceive that the law admits no possible doubt in the case.

Mr. Justic Gould. Gentlemen, you have heard the opinion of my learned brother and myself as to the law, the fact is for you to decide upon; if you please I will sum it up to you, but if you are satisfied from your recollection of the evidence that has been given, perhaps that will be unnecessary; you will please therefore to tell me whether you wish me to recapitulate the evidence to you?

Jury. We are sufficiently informed, my Lord.


Tried by the second Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice GOULD.

Old Bailey Proceedings front matter.
15th September 1784
Reference Numbert17840915-66

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THE WHOLE PROCEEDINGS ON THE KING's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the CITY of LONDON; AND ALSO The Gaol Delivery for the County of Middlesex; HELD AT JUSTICE HALL in the OLD BAILEY, On Wednesday the 15th of SEPTEMBER, 1784, and the following Days;





Printed for E. HODGSON (the Proprietor) And Sold by J. WALMSLAY, No. 35, Chancery Lane, and S. BLADON, No. 13, Pater-noster Row.




KING's Commission of the Peace, Oyer and Terminer, and Gaol Delivery for the CITY of LONDON, &c.

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