16th September 1807
Reference Numbert18070916-94
SentenceDeath > respited

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630. EDWARD GILSON was indicted for that he on the 5th of August , feloniously, wickedly, and unlawfully did set fire to a certain house then being in his possession with intention to defraud the London Assurance company for houses and the loss of goods from fire .

Second count for like offence, with intention to defraud the said corporation.

Third count with intention to defraud Mathew Wilson , Major Rose , and Charles Hamlyn Turner .

Fourth count to defraud William Richards , and

Fifth count to defraud John Langfield .

The indictment read by Mr. Pooley and case stated by Mr. Fielding.

WILLIAM BUCKLOW - Mr Pooley. Q. You keep a public house in Boswell-court . - A. Yes, next door to the prisoner.

Q. The prisoner I believe keeps an eating house there. - A. Yes. On the 5th of August, about a quarter before four o'clock, I heard a woman of the name of Evans say to the watchman that there was a fire at the cook's-shop; I opened the window, I asked Mrs Evans if she said there was a fire, she said yes, the cook's-shop was on fire, I immediately alarmed the lodgers and servants that the cook's shop was on fire; I then ran down Clements-lane and tried to rush open the door.

Q. You say you went to the door in Clement's-lane, is that the front or the back door of the prisoner's house. A. It is the back door, I believe; he has an entrance in Clement's-lane and in Boswell court; I tried to force the door, I could not; I returned to Boswell court, crying at the same time Fire and Watch; I went to the front door and got admittance; I then saw at the door in Boswell-court that the stairs were on fire. About this time a watchman came running up Boswell-court, he sprang his rattle, that brought the neighbours around us in a moment; neighbour Stentiford came down with two children; he fetched two pails of water; he forced the door open; I assisted him; he knocked in the pannels of the door with his staff, he went in, and Stentiford and I jumped over the door; he asked for an axe to chop down the stairs.

Q. Who provided an axe. - A. Some person, I believe his name is Coombes; he began to chop down the burning stairs, they were burning behind; the moment the door opened the flames burst through the stairs. As soon as the stairs were taken down, I desired somebody to go down and examine where the fire began; Crawford and Stentiford went down; they called Bucklow; then I went down.

Court. Was there another part of the house on fire. A. Yes; after we got the stairs out we went down stairs.

Q. Did you observe another part of the house in flames. - A. Yes, in the coal cellar I observed a candle burning in the joists, there were three candles placed, but two of them were gone out, under the floor; I have got the things that the candles were standing on (producing them); this is a piece of coal, and a potatoe standing on it; there is a hole in the potatoe in which the candle might be placed; these candles were gone out, the tallow was running over the coals, and the floor over it was scorched very much, but not burnt through. The candle that we found alight had burnt through the floor; we have got the piece of the floor here.

Mr. Pooley. How soon after you broke in the house did you see the prisoner. - A. In about a quarter of an hour; we had put out that fire on the stair case when the prisoner came down. From the time of our bursting open the door till we had extinguished the fire on the stairs, I think it was a quarter of an hour.

Q. Had you during that time made a great noise. - A. Yes; I called the prisoner and his wife, supposing she was there, and I called his lodgers; I made as great noise as I could.

Q. And he did not make his appearance till you had put out the fire in the stair case. - A. No; when he came he seemed desirous of going into the cellar; I took hold of his arm, and asked him how this could happen; he could not speak, but seemed desirous of going down stairs.

Q. Had you described to him what was in the cellar - A. No, I had not been down.

Q. Did you let him go down stairs. - A. No, Mr. Crawford went down stairs, and I followed him and Stentiford.

Q. When he was attempting to go down did you prevent him. - A. No, I do not know that any body prevented him; he did not go down.

Jury. You say you took hold of his arm and asked him how this could happen, did this prevent him from going down. - A. I do not know that prevented him; he was so he could not speak; he seemed to want to go down; Crawford went down, and pointed out these three candles, and he called out Bucklow.

Q. How soon did Gilson come down in the cellar. - A. I never saw him in the cellar, I never saw him but in the shop near the stair case, where the fire was put out.

Q. You saw these candles in the cellar, what other place besides the stairs was on fire. - A. None as I saw.

Q. Was there any other marks of fire in any other place. - A. Yes, in a little place from the stairs, on a plank; it seemed to be a separate fire from the stairs; the firemen tore the board up; the end of the plank is burnt.

Q. Could you see from what part that fire communicated. - A. It appeared to me that some laths which were hanging down from the plaster, there was tallow on them.

Q. Were these laths hanging down when you saw the search on the boards. - A. Yes, between that and the stairs.

Q. Could you tell whether one fire had communicated with the other. - A. By appearance I do not think it could.

Q. Was it in your judgment a separate fire. - A. I think so.

Q. Where was the candles alight in the cellar. - A. In the coal cellar, rather higher than I could reach; I got on a stool that was standing in the cellar, and took down the candles and the coals; the coal was standing on a beam.

Q. How far was the coal from the floor. - A. About six or seven inches; the stool was in the coal cellar, just under the place where the candles were placed.

Q. Did it require a stool to get all the candles. - A. They were all of one height, and near together.

Q. Did you see any thing that laid near where the candles were. - A. I did not; there was about a bushel of coals in the cellar.

Mr. Fielding: Now, gentlemen, it will be more satisfactory to have the immediate pot pointed out where the candles were found (a model of the premises produced.)

Mr. Pooley. How long have you lived where you reside. - A.(Bucklow.) About five years and one month.

Q. How long has Gilson inhabited the house that was on fire. - A. I think in September last.

Q.What did his family consist of. - A. His family consisted of a son, a wife, and two servants.

Cross-examined by Mr. Knapp. When you came into the house you observed the house was on fire. - A. I saw it before I saw the flames then.

Q. And you say the prisoner came down towards the cellar, and appeared agitated. - A. Yes, very much indeed.

Q. Did it occur to you as any thing exceeding extraordinary that a man should be agitated when his house was on fire. - A. No, it was most likely.

Mr. Fielding. Have you seen the model before. - A. Yes, I think it is exactly like it.

Q. Who made the model. - A. John Harrison .

JOHN HARRISON . - Mr. Fielding. Take this model in your hand, give the jury the specific description of all the parts - first of all the ground floor, hold the Boswell-court front to the jury. - A. This is the Boswell-court front; this is a sash over the door, that was broke.

Mr. Bucklow. That is the door that Mr. Stentiford and I got in by, we got over the bottom part of the door.

Mr. Harrison. These stairs that are represented black here, are all down; some of the bottom steps were part burnt, and one of them burned through.

Q. How many stairs Mr. Harrison does there appear altogether burnt. - A. There were six of them down; I cannot say how many were burnt.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. Mr. Harrison, when was it when you first saw it, how soon after the fire. - A. On the 5th of September.

Mr. Gurney. The model was not made till then, that is just a month.

Mr. Fielding. Q.(to Bucklow.) You understand the description of this model likewise; these stairs were burnt. - A. Yes.

Q. Now be so good as to look at the place where the laths were broken down below with the tallow upon them. - A.(Witness pointing to the place).

Q. How far was that from the other fire. - A. A very few inches, two inches.

Q. From the second fire. - A. No more.

Q. Now Mr. Bucklow describe the spot exactly where you saw the candle burning, when you got down into the coal cellar. - A. The three candles were placed here, upon the top of that partition; the vacancy between the wall was the height of these rafters, about the heighth of six or seven inches, as I said before, there were three of them burning here, in the coal cellar, about twelve seat from the fire on the stairs; two of them were burnt out, and one was burning; I took it down.

WILLIAM CRAWPORD . Mr. Pooley. Where do you live. - A. I live at No. 4, Boswell-court, about twenty yards from Gilson's door.

Q. On the morning of the 5th of August was you alarmed. - A. Yes, by a terrible noise, I heard the alarm of fire in the street; I came down into the court; I fetched some water to Gilson's house, when I first went down into the court, I saw the smoke come through the two pair of stairs window of the prisoner's house, that is the first I saw; the windows were shut; after I assisted in carrying water, I got into the prisoners house, the door was broke, as it is in the model, by the assistance of Mr. Stentiford and another man; they broke the other part of the door. Mr. Stentiford went in first, and I went in.

Q. In what state did you find the stairs. - A. In flames These stairs that are marked black were in flames; then Mr. Bucklow's lad was coming across the shop with a lighted candle in his hand, Stentiford said somebody go down and see whether there is another fire; I took the candle out of his hand and went into the cellar. That is the cellar (pointing to the model), this part is lath and plaister that, is not. I went into this part and saw a candle burning, that is where the candle was burning where my finger is; there are two pieces here where there apparently had been two candles more burnt; there were three pieces of potatoes with coal under them; the coal stood here (pointing to the model,) with a potatoe and a candle burning; I thought it was burnt an inch and a half, but when the board was taken up I saw it was burnt through, and three or four other places were burnt on that spot; it was burnt with a candle, and I saw the fire at the stair case.

Q. Did you see a third place, did you observe any laths broken down. - A. Yes.

Q. What was upon the laths. - A. That I cannot say, till I saw them with the fireman afterwards; then I saw a piece of tallow grease sticking on one end of the laths. The fire in the cellar was four yards from the stairs.

Q. How far was the fire from where the laths were burnt - A. I saw no laths burnt, the beam was burnt where the laths were hanging down; I suppose that was about a quarter of a yard.

Q. As far as you can judge from the appearance of that fire, where the laths were, and the beam was burnt; was there any apparent communication with that on the stairs. - A. I cannot say; there was a light fixed here, where the stairs was burnt.

Q. How soon was it that saw the prisoner after you first went to the house - A. I saw Gilson in about ten minutes, as near as I can guess. The fire was got under before ever I saw Gilson; I saw him after I had been in the cellar.

Court. Did you hear any person call out for Mr. Gilson, before the fire was put out. - A. That I cannot say.

JOHN SPRATLEY STENTIFORD . - Mr. Fielding. Where do you live. - A. I live at No. 14. Old Boswell-court, next door to Mr. Gilson. On the 5th of August last, a little before four o'clock, I was alarmed by the cry of fire and a knocking at the door, saying Stentiford get up or you will be burnt; I immediately went up and fetched two of my children down four pair of stairs. I brought them cut into the street and returned into my own cellar and got two pails of water.

Q. Is there any pump in the court. - A. There is about two yards from his house I went to the door which the watchman was forcing, he forced the glass and the shutters of the prisoner's door in; I threw in the two pails of water on the fire, seeing it on a blaze; I directly called for a hatchet and cut down the stairs which had a communication to my house; formerly it was one house I stood throwing water on to extinguish the fire. Mr. Crawford that brought me water, said he would go into the cellar and see what is there; hearing him call Bucklow, I ran down and perceived a light burning. This

is the light that was burning (producing it); it is a candle stuck upon a potatoe, upon a piece of coal, just as you see it now.

Q. Show us where you saw that candle burning. - A. I saw the potatoe with the candle between this joist (pointing to the model) that hole was burnt the wood was quite red at that place, the other was only burnt. The other two candles were both gone out and had run down what it rested on. There were two laths hung down, they found some grease upon them, seemingly as if a candle had been stuck there and above it, it was burnt to a round hole, seemingly through the board.

Q. Where that round hole was burnt how far was it from the stairs. - A. Ten or twelve inches, as well as I can say.

Q. Was there any communication between that fire and the fire on the stairs. - A. There was no communication whatever, it was clear and distinct from that.

Q. Was that fire in your judgment where the laths were compleat and distinct from the stairs. - A. It was, to the best of my judgment, from the appearance that I saw. I saw the prisoner coming through the door of the shop from Clement's-lane as I was descending into the cellar, I saw him come about half way in the shop, he did not go into the cellar, as I understood; he was upon the top of the cellar stairs when I came up.

Q. When you saw him, when he came up from the cellar, what did he do. - A. He was standing looking at it, I said, I should take him in custody on suspicion of setting fire to his house. He had his clothes on, I think he had his apron in his hand, but I cannot say whether he had or not; he was compleately dressed in other respects only without his hat. From what I saw I immediately gave him in charge of the watchman on suspicion of setting fire to his house.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. I believe that after the alarm was given first, the prisoner at the bar came as soon as he could from the situation he was in. - A. I do not believe it; there were several people there before he came.

Q. That may be, he but came. - A. Yes.

Q. At the moment you saw him you said you would take him in custody. - A. No, never till I saw the candle burning.

Q.He was in the house then. - A. He was in the house, and he went half way along from the back door to the cellar stairs.

Q. You have described that there were two other candles burning. - A. There were

Q. Can you take upon you to swear that they had been burning that night. - A. I can swear it, the grease was running down, and the boards were hot at the time, the place was hot; at the time where the two other candles were, it was extinguished, and the boards over it were warm.

Mr. Fielding. When you first saw him you did not say you would take him in custody. - A. No, I was sorry for the man, it was on suspicion of seeing the candle burning and nothing else.

Jury. How high is the house. - A. Four story high; he came down from off his own leads, through a back door.

Court. He cannot tell how he came dow stairs.

THOMAS FRENCH . - Mr. Pooley. Q. Where do you live. - A. I lived then at that time in Boswell-court, No. 1.

Q. On the 5th of August were you alarmed by fire. - A. Yes, about four o'clock, I went down to Gilson's house, I found the door forced open, I staid there for two hours, or an hour and a half.

Q. Before you got there, was the fire on the stairs extinguished. - A. Not quite.

Q. Did you see Mr. Stentiford and Bucklow there. - A. Yes; after it was extingiushed.

Q. After it was extinguished did you go down stairs. - A. No, not till we returned from the watchhouse; then I went down into the coal cellar, I got up upon a bench and saw were the candle was burning, but there had been candles placed in four or five places, the candles had been placed between the second and third joist. I found a bundle of chips and paper, there were several potatoes cut in two, but one with a hole in it which I produce. It was exactly over the dust hole, which is under the cellar stairs, and the cellar stairs are under the stairs that were on fire; it was a little black, it appeared to come from a candle, but there was no grease there.

Q. How soon did you see Gilson. - A. I saw him as soon as some gentlemen and Mr. Bucklow come out of the cellar and called for him to be secured; I turned round Clement's-lane and met them and went to the watchhouse.

Q. How was Gilson dressed. - A. He had all his cloaths on; I believe his apron was across his arm.

Q. Was his waiscoat buttoned. - A I think it was.

ELEANOR SHEPPERD . - Mr. Fielding. Were you servant to the man at the bar. - A. I was, I had been there very near three months.

Q. He was a married man was not he. - A. He was.

Q. Was the wife in the house on the night when the fire broke out. - A. She was not at home that night.

Q. Had she during the three months you lived with them laid out of the house before that night. - A. No.

Q. Did you know of her going away from the house that day. - A. No, not till after she went my master told a gentleman that she was going to Bow and would not return till the next day; I saw her back go out of the door; I did not see what she had in her hand.

Q. Your fellow servant is Martha Davies . - A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember when your master told you to go to bed, on that night at about what time. - A. Past eleven o'clock.

Q. Before that time did you happen to go into the coal cellar. - A. Yes, to carry a red dish down; it appeared the same as usual, I did not stop a minute.

Q. Was there any light burning. - A. I did not see it.

Q. How high do you sleep. - A. Up two pair of stairs; I went up stairs to bed first, my fellow servant next, and my master with the till under his arm; he seemed to go into his own room, and I bid him good night. In the morning my master knocked at my door, and said for god's sake get up, we are all on fire, and you will be burnt. I got out directly; opened the door and saw my master; and was going the right way down; but he stopped me, he said the place was all in flames, we must get on the leads as fast as we could: we must go the other way down in another house.

Q. When you saw him at the door how was he dressed. - A. He was dressed as he does his work with, his apron on, a drab jacket, and worsted stockings; he was dressed the same as he was all day; my fellow servant and me got upon the leads and dressed ourselves.

Q. When you was upon the leads putting on your clothes, where was your master. - A. I missed him all at once; he went down and got my box and my fellow servants, and returned to me on the leads with the boxes almost directly.

Q. When he had come upon the leads to you did he give any alarm to the neighbourhood. - A. He hallowed out as loud as he could, and told the watchman to spring his rattle, or we should all be burned. Then I was very much alarmed, I set down and put my things on. I do not know what became of him then.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. At the time you were putting on your clothes he went down the other house. - A. Yes, and I lost him, I did not see him any more. I went down that way.

MARTHA DAVIS . - Mr. Pooley. Were you a servant to the prisoner. - A. Yes, on the 5th of August I had been with him between six or seven months.

Q. Had your master a wife. - A. Yes.

Q. Any children. - A. No.

Q. On the night before the fire happened, what time did you go to bed. - A. About half past eleven.

Q. Did your master go up to bed the same time as you did - A. Yes, he had his till under his arm.

Q. During the time that you had lived at your master's house, had your mistress ever slept out. - A. No.

Q. Did she sleep at home on the night of the fire. - A. She did not, she came home in the morning after the fire.

Q. Were you alarmed by any knocking at your door. - A. My master knocked, Eleanor Shepperd opened the door; I saw my master, I got up out of bed, and went up sairs; my master was dressed in the same dress exactly as he was the over night; my fellow servant went down stairs, but my master sent her up again. I was frightened and went to the top of the house.

Q. How long was it before your master come to the top of the house. - A. About ten minutes.

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. You are sure it was ten minutes. - A. Yes.

Q. He did not say any thing on the leads, I dare say. - A. He called out fire to alarm the neighbourhood

ELIZABETH ROLFE . - Mr. Fielding. You are an inhabitant of this neighbourhood. - A. I live at No. 5. opposite the prisoner's house; I saw the the prisoner stand upon the leads, about a quarter before four. On the 5th of August, as I looked out of the window, the watchman sprang his rattle, I saw a smoke and a man upon the leads, at the top of the house; he was going by the side of the chimney; we begged of Gilson to come down and open the door, he said he could not come down, the stair case was on fire; he had a night cap on his head, and his jacket on. I saw him come out of his own door, that comes into Clement's-lane, with a sack on his left shoulder, and a box under his arm, he staggered very much, as if he had got something of great weight; he pitched the sack and the box on the ground next door to Mr. Bucklow's and I saw no more of him

Cross-examined by Mr. Gurney. Do you mean to say you saw him come out of his own house or the next door. - A. It was the house that comes into Clement's-lane.

Court. It was his own house adjoining. - A. Yes.

GEORGE HEATH . - Mr. Pooley. You are a fireman. - A. I belong to the Phoenix fire office; these are the pieces of wood that I took from the house, where the prisoner resided (producing them.)

Q. Did you take them down. - A. No, they were laying on the ground before I came there.

Q. to Stentiford. Did either of you knock down that wood. - A. I did, with the axe; these are the bearings of the stairs; this is the plank that was taken up from the vacancy, it lay across the kitchen stairs; that plank went over the place where the candle was, with the laths. This end was close against the joist, over against where the laths were broke; this place was on fire; that candle had been alight, there is the scorch of it where the candle candle went out; the hole that was burned was quite warm. These are the laths that I took down, where this board had been taken off, there was a great deal more grease upon them at that time. I noticed the things that were in the house, and I made an inventory of then. I attended the churchwardens on the 5th of August. This is the copy of the inventory of all the goods in the house at the time, except a jack.

Q. What do you think they were worth. - A. Under forty pounds.

Q. Had any of these things been taken of the premises before your examination. - A. Not to my knowledge.

Mr. Bucklow. I was at the house; none of the things were taken away to the best of my knowledge.

WILLIAM FORD . - Mr. Fielding. You know the prisoner at the bar. - A. Yes.

Q. Did you know where he lived. - A. Yes.

Q. Did you receive any box from the prisoner's wife at any time. - A. Yes, I am not in possession of the day of the month, it was the next day after the fire in Clement's-lane I believe; she delivered the box to me in the house; where the fire was, it was brought there from another house; while I was there a friend of hers had the key, Mr. Hobert, he produced it; the box was opened in my presence. The box contained some money and various papers. The box is at my house.

Q. Why did not you bring the box. - A. I did not know it was necessary.

Q. Look at these papers, they have your mark on them have they not. - A. Them two papers have both my mark, they came out of the box.

JOHN BICKERSTAFFE. - Mr. Pooley. You are clerk in the London Assurance office. - A. Yes.

Q. Now look at that piece of paper, look at the number, can you tell whether that you now hold in your hand is a receipt of a premium, to the London assurance office. - A. The number corresponds, it is doted the 11th of June. 1807.

JAMES ALEXANDER . Q. Look at that receipt. - A. This was taken out of the box, it was produced by Mr. Ford; this is the paper the last witness spoke to.

Mr. Martin. I produce the books of the fire office, I produce the charter of the London Assurance company.

Q. to Mr. Ford. How long have you know the prisoner. - A. About two years.

Q. Where did he live before he came into Boswell-court. - A. At the Golden shears public house, wood-street, Cheapside; it is a year since he came into Boswell court this day.

EDMUND EDWARD AUSTIM . I am acomptant to the London Assurance office.

Q. Is that the corporation seal. - A. Yes.

Q. Is that duly executed. - A. Yes.

Q. There is the name of Edward Austin there. - A. Yes, that is my name, I am the attesting witness; there are two directors names on it. (The removal of the policy read.)

WILLIAM RICHARDS. I live in Bowling-green-lane, Clerkenwell.

Q. Have you any houses in Boswell-court. - A. Yes, two in Boswell-court, each of them run back into Clement's-lane.

Q. Did the prisoner at the bar rent either of these houses of you. - A. They were leased to Mr. Langfield, they are my houses; I receive my rent of him; he paid me in Mr. Langford's name. I received rent twice of him. Gilson was in possession of them.

Mr. Knapp. Mr. Langfield is your tenant. - A. I always considered him so.

JOHN LANGFIELD . I live in Rose-street, Covent Garden.

Q. Do you occupy any houses that belong to Mr. Richards. - A. I did, the house that Gilson lived in; when I quitted the premises Gilson succeeded me.

Q. Did you insure the houses. - A. No; I insured my property for two hundred pound.

Prisoner's Defence. In taking these houses I was informed the houses were not insured; I went to my landlord, he told me he never insured the walls of the premises, if any accident happened he should expect me to rebuild them; I took my friend Mr. Bucklow to the Phoenix insurance office, Charing Cross; there I insured the houses for four hundred and fifty pounds each; that was the instigation of my insuring them.

The prisoner called six witnesses, who gave him a good character.

GUILTY - DEATH, aged 48.

On the first and second Counts.

Not Guilty of the third, fourth, and fifth Counts.

Judgement respited .

First Middlesex jury, before Mr. Justice Heath.

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