Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.2, 23 February 2018), December 1732, trial of William Roberts (t17321206-39).

William Roberts, Theft > burglary, 6th December 1732.

42. William Roberts was indicted for breaking and entring the House of Henry Fry , and stealing 150 Yards of Saggathy, Value 10 l. 90 Yards of Duroy, Value 5 l. 80 Yards of Serge, Value 6 l. and 50 Yards of Kersey, Value 7 l. 10 s. December 1 , about 7 at Night .

Henry Fry. I live in Packer's Court in Coleman-Street . I came home about seven in the Evening, and saw a Man turn into the Court just before me; but seeing me go up after him, he turned back. I went in, and found the Window of my Warehouse (which is on a Ground Floor) open, I knock'd at the Door, look'd in at the Window, and saw a parcel of Goods piled up ready to be carried off. Looking farther, I saw the Prisoner in the Room, there is a Lamp faces the Window, I am sure it was he. As soon as he found I saw him, he said, Damn ye, if ye don't desist and go off, I'll shoot ye. He stept up to the Window, in order to get out, I laid hold of him there, and pulled him down; he gave a spring to get from me, but I held him fast; and after a small Struggle on the Ground, he surrender'd, and begged me to let him go. I cr'ed out Thieves; my Wife and Maid came to the Door, and the Neighbours came to my Assistance. One of them went for a Constable, and I did not let the Prisoner go till the Constable came; and yet when he was carried before Sir William Billers , he denied that he was the Man. After he was secured, I found that a Pane of Glass had been taken out of the Casement, and so it was unhasp'd. And he had broke 10 or 12 other Panes with struggling, when I pull'd him out of the Window.

Court. Was your Window shut after it was dark ?

Fry. My Wife and Maid will give an Account of that, for I went out at Exchange Time, and did not return till about 7. I had Shutters belonging to that Window, but my Wife having lately lain in, her Maid going away that Evening, and a new Maid coming, the Shutters were left unshut till I came; none of my Goods were carried off, but were only moved from the Shelves to the Window.

Prisoner. Had you no Servants that might mislay these Goods. Fry. I left the Key with my Wife. Prisoner. Did any Body but your selfsee when you laid hold on me first? Fry. No.

Mrs. Fry. My Spouse knocked and cried Thieves. I was frighted, and came down, and when I opened the Door, he had the Prisoner by the Collar; he begg'd my Husband to let him go, or to go with him to a Tavern, for he said he had taken nothing. I saw the Casement shut half an hour past 6, when I came down to let my new Maid in. The Key of the Warehouse was left with me, I left the Goods in their proper Place on the Shelves at half an Hour past 4 that same afternoon; I double lock'd the Door, and it was not open'd again till after the Prisoner was taken, and then I went in, and found several Parcels remov'd from the Shelves to the Window, ready to be carried away. The Window Board was made like a Table, to turn up and down for shewing Goods; there was 5 Sagathys of 30 Yards each, 4 Serges, 4 Duroys, of 24 Yards each, and 1 Kersey, besides another Kersey that lay upon the Ground, which I suppose the Prisoner dropt upon his being surpriz'd.

Mary Wilson . I came to Mr. Fry's Service December first, in the Evening, the Porter who brought my Box, set it down at the Door and went away. There being a Lamp, I looked at the Window, and saw it was safe. My Mistress let me in, and I went directly up Stairs, and look'd at the Clock, and it was half an Hour past 6; before it struck 7, my Master knock'd, and cried Thieves! My Mistress and I went down, and saw my Master have the Prisoner by the Collar. The Casement was open, and a Pane of Glass taken out of it near the Hasp; so that a Man might put his Hand through and unhasp it, and each Side of the Window was likewise broke. There were Lights brought into the Court; I saw the Prisoner plainly, and am positive he's the Man, for my Master held him, I believe, one fourth of an Hour, till the Constable came, and I stay'd all the while; I would not swear it if I was not certain, for this is the first Oath I ever took.

Court. How came you to observe the Window when you first came?

Wilson. There was a Lamp in the Court, and the Window faces one as one goes up.

Prisoner. What Apparel had I on? Wilson. I think it was a brownish Suit; you had not that great Coat you have now, nor that Wig. It was not so good a Wig, nor quite so light.

Calch Lane. I was called to assist Mr. Fry, who had taken a Thief. I called my Man too, and then went my self for a Constable.

Prisoner. What Apparel had I?

Lane. A darkish Coat with a Boot Sleeve, but no great Coat; and you had, I think, a darkish Wig.

Pris. The Maid says it was a light Wig.

Court. She said it was not so light as that you have on now. But however, as their Evidence seems a little to vary as to that Particular, the Court will take notice of it to the Jury.

Tho. Knight . My Master [Lane] called me to assist Mr. Fry; when I came I saw Mr. Fry have hold of the Prisoner.

Pris. What Cloaths had I?

Knight. A dark Boot Sleeve Coat, a dark Wig, and Buck-Skin Breeches.

Court. Are you sure that's the Man at the Bar?

Knight. Yes, I took a Candle, and look'd in at the Window (which was open) and saw several Pieces of Sagathy, Serge Duroy and Kersey lying on the Window Board, and the Print of a Man's Foot that was wet. There were 7 or 8 Panes of Glass broke, and one Pane was taken out of the Casement. As Mr. Fry held the Prisoner, the Prisoner said to him, Sir, whatever Damage I have done I will pay you for. And Mr. Fry said, I don't know what Damage is done yet, because I don't know what is missing, but the Windows are broke. The Prisoner offered to pay for them, and desired Mr. Fry to go with him to a Tavern, or into his own Warehouse, but Mr. Fry refused till the Constable came, my Master being gone to fetch him.

Robert Mitchel Constable . I was sent for a little after 7, and found Mr. Fry holding the Prisoner by the Collar. When the Prisoner was carried before Sir William Billers , his Defence then was, that he went into the Passage to ease himself, and that Mr. Fry finding him there seized him.

Prisoner. I had been drinking at the three Mariners in Coloman-street, and having occasion to ease my self, I went under the Arch; while I was there, two Men came out of the Court, and run by me. The Prosecutor then past me, and went up the Court; and returning presently asked me what I did there? I told him I was easing my self. Says he, my Warehouse is robb'd, and I suppose you are he that did it; but however, I'll keep you till you give a good Account of your self. I told him, I would do that willingly, I have a Witness in Court that was by at the same Time.

Hannah Malden . Last Night was a Week, as I was going along Coleman-Street, I heard a Disturbance up the Court, and went to see what was the Matter; there was a Man holding the Prisoner; the Prisoner said, What do you hold me for? And the Man said, My Window is open, and I believe you broke it; but whether you did or did not, I'll hold you till you give a Character of your self. Then more Mob beside me came up, and they sent for a Constable. The Man had hold of the Prisoner's Collar; he held him thus, as I hold this Gentleman. Give me leave, Sir, I won't hurt you.

Mr. Fry. I neither said these Words, nor any thing of that Nature, for I took the Prisoner in my Warehouse. He offered to give me half a Guinea for breaking my Windows, and said, if I'd go to a Tavern, or take Coach with him to the other End of the Town, he would make me any Satisfaction. He fell on his Knees, and said he hoped he had not damnified me. I told him I did not know yet what Damage was done besides breaking my Windows.

Court. Where do you live? and what Business do you follow? [to Malden.]

Malden. I live in little Moorfields, and go a washing and scouring. I had been at a Dyer's in the Old Jary, and was going home when I saw this.

Juryman. Did you know the Prisoner before? Malden. No.

Jurym. Did he ask you your Name then, and where you liv'd? Malden. No.

Jurym. How came you then to be an Evidence?

Malden. I went for a Pennyworth of Ashes at a Packer's in Coleman-street, and there they were a talking about it, and said, he was a good likely young Man, and that he was sent to Newgate. When I came Home, I spoke of him among my Neighbours, and told them what I had heard the Man say to the Prisoner, and they advised me to go to Newgate, and let the young Man know it.

Edward Wilcox . I have known the Prisoner 11 or 12 Years, he served his Time with Uncle Pet a Jobbing Smith, and he worked Journey-Work with Mrs. Morris a Smith in Eagle Court in the Strand. I don't believe any Body can stain his Character. His Name is William Hampton .

Mr. Mitchel. He was called up yesterday n + William Green's Trial, and a Woman swore he was the Man that brought the Goods, that Green was tried for stealing, to Green's House; and she said his Name was Hampton.

+ See the Trial of William Green, above.

Mr. Fry. He told the Justice's Clerk, that he was a Gentleman, and that his Trade was worth 100 a Year to him. He was committed by the Name of Roberts.

William Hadley . I have known him two or three Years, he was Prentice to a Smith, and makes Locks, when he has nothing else to do. I worked with him at Mrs. Morris's, and he lodged with me.

Court. What is his Name?

Hadly. I don't know whether it is Hampton or Roberts ; some call him by one Name, and some by another; I believe Hampton is a Nickname that People have given him.

Elizabeth Morris . He has worked with me 9 or 10 Months, I never knew any thing dishonest by him; I was amazed to hear he was taken up. His Name is Roberts.

Prisoner. I had two Fathers; my Mother's first Husband was Roberts, and the second Hampton, and so some call'd me by one Name, and some by another.

Ann Page . I have known him these 5 Years; he lodged 10 Months at my House in Eagle Court; my Husband has worked with him at Mrs. Morris's, when the Prisoner's Wife came to tell his Mistress, that he was got into Exile. We went to the Alehouse where they were, before he was carried before Sir William Billers , and there I heard the Prosecutor say, that he could not be positive whether he was the Man or no that entred his House, but he met him in the Alley, and being the first Man he found, he would hold him till he brought somebody to his Character. I never knew any Name he had but Roberts, but he came out of some Country, and I believe they gave him a Nickname from that Country.

Mr. Mitchel again. I was in company all the time the Prosecutor and Prisoner were at the Alehouse, and I heard no such thing.

The Jury found him guilty of the Indictment. Death .