Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 01 April 2023), April 1778, trial of GEORGE BARRINGTON (t17780429-103).

GEORGE BARRINGTON, Theft > pocketpicking, 29th April 1778.

415. GEORGE BARRINGTON was indicted for feloniously stealing a metal watch, covered with tortoise-shell, value 3 l. a silk watch string, value 2 d. and a glass seal set in metal, value 2 d. the property of Elizabeth Ironmonger , privately from the person of the said Elizabeth , March 15 .

As soon as the jury were charged with the prisoner, he addressed the court as follows:

Prisoner. My Lord, before I enter upon my trial, I shall beg leave to inform your Lordship that several articles, my property, are now in the hands of the constable. At my examination before the magistrate, who is I see sitting upon the bench, when I requested they might be restored, he assured me that after they had been advertised a few days I should certainly have them. They have been repeatedly advertised for these six weeks past, and they are now detained. Your Lordship will, I hope, previous to my trial, order them to be returned; they are my own property, and they cannot be produced as evidence against me.

Court. If you are entitled to them, you will have them again. We must wait the event of this prosecution.

Prisoner. No man, however innocent, can answer for the event of a trial.

Court. Who has them?

William Payne . I have them in my custody.

Court. Lay them on the table, till we see the event of the trial.

Prisoner. They will be returned to me after my trial, I hope?

Court. That will depend upon the event of the trial. You are now called upon here to answer to an indictment; you have pleaded Not Guilty; you are now to be tried.

Prisoner. With your Lordship's permission, and with all the respect and reverence due to a Court distinguished for its justice and humanity, I will humbly beg leave to offer a few words which I trust will deserve the attention of my jury. I believe it will be almost unnecessary to mention, what the news-papers themselves sufficiently witness, that every possible endeavour has been made use of, which the channel of a news paper can afford, to represent me to the public in a most infamous point of a view. The facts have been misrepresented and exaggerated, but I trust that sensible and impartial minds, such as I hope my jury are composed of, will not be influenced by news-paper invectives. They cannot but know that it is both cruel and unjust to from an opinion of a man by the character given him by mercenary hirelings; they cannot be ignorant that news-papers in general are white and black and black and white.

Court. This may be proper for you to say when called upon your defence; at present you must suffer the witnesses to go on; you will afterwards be heard as amply as you please when you come to make your defence.

Prisoner. I beg the witnesses may be examined separately.

Court. Have you any witnesses to call? because if you have, they must go out of court likewise.

Prisoner. I have none.


Was you on the 15th of March last at St. Sepulchre's church ? - I was. I went to hear the sermon preached for the Humane Society; it was between eleven and twelve o'clock in the morning; the church was very much crowded.

Did any thing happen to you in that crowd? - Nothing in particular.

Did you miss any thing from your person? - I missed my watch in the evening. I did not miss it before.

Did you see any person near you that you had reason to suspect? - There was a strange man near me, very attentive and very civil; but that man was not Mr. Barrington; but I did not find any thing particular from him; I never saw the prisoner in my life till he was at the bar before the justice's. I did not see him at the church, to the best of my knowledge.

Are you sure you had your watch when you went to church? - I had it in my pocket on Saturday night; I don't recollect any thing of seeing it on Sunday morning.

So you might, or night not have it at church that day? - I cannot say; I might or I might not. I keep it usually in my pocket; I don't wear it hanging loose by my side.

Did you wind it up over night? - No; I wound it up on the Friday night, but not on the Saturday night.

The watch only goes twenty four hours, I suppose? - Only twenty four hours. I looked at it on the Saturday but did not wind up.

Why did you not wind it up? - Because it was an hour too fast; it was to be regulated. I looked at it on Saturday night; I did not, to the best of my knowledge, see it on Sunday morning; I am not positive that I had it at church, though I believe I had. It was a metal watch, with a tortoise shell case, and it had a striped silk ribband to it, and a common seal; I believe the seal is white glass.

Cross Examination.

I understand that you had this watch loose in your pocket with your handkerchief and other things? - I might; I cannot say what I had in my pocket.

This church you went to I understand was extremely crowded? - It was.

Had you occasion oftentimes when in the church in the crowd, to put your hand into your pocket to pull out your handkerchief or any thing else? - I don't recollect particulars; I know I was very much crowded.

Whether in your judgement it was not very possible that in putting your hand into your pocket to pull out your handkerchief, you may not have dropped this watch? - I cannot disprove it; I don't know how I lost it.

It is possible you may have lost it in that manner? - I cannot say that it is impossible; I cannot say how I lost it.


I was at St. Sepulchre's church on the 15th of March.

Who preached there? - Dr. Mylne, I believe his name is. The church was very much crowded; I believe I was there about eleven o'clock, or rather before. In a quarter of an hour after I had been there, a person came up to me, and told me that Barrington was in the church; I looked about from place to place; I could not see him; presently another told me; in short, not less than four different people told me that he was in the church; in about a quarter of an hour I found him, and I followed him I believe for three quarters of an hour from one door to the other, and kept watching him; I hid my face from him when he happened to turn his head towards me, because I supposed he knew me as well as I did him. I saw him with his hand in a lady's pocket in the south aisle, but I could not see that he took any thing out.

Is the lady here? - I believe not.

Court. Confine your evidence to this fact. - My Lord, I had a man along with me, with the key of the watch-house, expecting that I should catch somebody, the place being crowded. He was with me all the time; he was watching the prisoner, and saw him as well as I did. In about half an hour, or near three quarters of an hour, I saw Mr. Barrington had got sight of me, he was pointing me out to another person that was along with him. I endeavoured to shun the other, that he should not see me; the prisoner took that opportunity, and got out at a different door of the church. I did not see him at that time; the man that was with me told me that the man I was watching was gone out of the church; I asked which way; he said down Snow Hill. I immediately went out, and just as I turned the corner to turn-down Snow Hill, I saw the prisoner; I pursued him, and catched him just at the end of Cock Lane. I determined to take him upon the attempt I saw him make upon the gentlewoman's pocket. I talked with that gentlewoman afterwards; she said she had not lost any thing, for she had not any thing in her pocket. When I came up to him, I took hold of the cuff of his coat sleeve, and said, Mr. Barrington, you must go along with me; he turned back and came with me to St. Sepulchre's watch-house, where I put him in, without any resistance. I don't remember that he spoke a word. I brought him up to the watch-house in company with that man that saw him go out of the church. After I got him into the watch-house, I searched him; the first thing I saw was a gold watch, which I took out of his fob. He said it was his own, I could not contradict him. I put him up stairs, where there is a place on purpose to lock up prisoners for safety. I went back to the church, and staved about half an hour; I came back again; I left Fletcher in care of him; I was in the room when somebody either bid him pull off his hat, or they pulled it off; Fletcher immediately said, here is a watch has fallen from his head; he picked it up, and instantly gave it to me.

You did not see the watch fall down? - No; I did not see it till Fletcher picked it up, and gave it into my hand.

Payne. When I found that this watch had dropped from his head, I concluded he had robbed somebody; then I searched him; I made him pull off his breeches; I believe he had three pair of breeches on, and somewhere about his breeches I found a purse with thirteen guineas, and a 10 l. bank note, and several other things, which are in a paper in court.

Did you ask him how he came by this watch? - I don't remember that he gave any answer at all. I think he said be should leave his defence till be came before a magistrate; I believe that was all he said.

How came Mrs. Ironmonger to know any thing of it? - I carried three advertisements on the Sunday, and they were all three inserted in different papers on Monday morning, and on the Monday morning, I think it was, Mrs. Ironmonger came to my house at about eleven o'clock. I advertised the other watch and other things three times after in other papers.

Cross Examination.

Is the story that you tell to-day the same story that you told on your examination before the magistrate? - I believe exactly; I don't know that I have missed a word.

Did you tell before the magistrate what you have introduced to-day, (knowing very well that it is not evidence) about this other lady? - I don't know that I did; I don't remember that I did.

[The watch was produced in court by William Payne , and deposed to by the prosecutrix.]

- FLETCHER sworn.

I am a constable of St. Sepulchre's parish. The prisoner was brought to the watch-house; I searched him; the watch dropped down at my foot; I cannot tell whether from his head, his hat, or sleeve; I was searching his breeches and stocking; I was stopping, the watch fell from above where I was searching.

Had you meddled with his head? - Somebody there said, pull his hat off; whether he pulled his hat off, or somebody else, I cannot tell; but then the watch fell while I was stooping.

Do you know who the man was that said that? - I believe one Bethell.

Is that the watch? - I believe it is; it is very much like it. I did not take particular notice; I don't remember any particular mark.

Did you see the gold watch taken from him?

William Payne . I took that from him before Fletcher came up into the room.


I am an undertaker. On the Sunday the Humane Society had the sermon preached at St. Sepulchre's church; the prisoner was about the church; Payne informed me that he had an information of such a person; I watched him from post to pillar; at last he went out of the church; I informed Payne of it; Payne followed him, and secured him, and took him to the watch-house; from thence he carried him into the upper room, and searched him. In about a quarter of an hour, a lady came in and said she had lost two guineas and two dollars. A gentleman desired that the prisoner might have his shoes pulled off and be searched, which Fletcher the constable did; during that interval I desired him to pull off his hat while Fletcher was searching his shoes; he pulled his hat off with his left hand, and a watch dropp'd down at his left foot; I did not see it drop, but I heard it drop.

You did not see any thing come from under the hat? - I cannot say I did; it fell down at his left foot; the watch fell at the same time that he pulled off his hat; the watch was in a tortoise shell case; I delivered it, I believe, to Mr. Hawes afterwards. This is the watch.


I have no occasion to mention that every possible art has been made use of to draw me before the public eye. The daily papers have been filled with paragraphs against me; they have loaded me with a liberality bordering on profusion, with the epithets of notorious, infamous, and abandoned; yet infamous and abandoned as they would have me appear, this is the second time of my being tried in any court, while offenders more attrocious, that have visited this and other bars often, have escaped without even these epithets so plentifully cast upon me. If hitherto I have unhappily fallen into the commission of a crime, it is not to be inferred from thence that I am now guilty, or must always be so; and I beg of you to consider, gentlemen, if I have offended the laws, I have likewise suffered the punishment they have inflicted, nor would they have been mitigated, if signs of reformation had not marked the unhappy object; good men will charitably suppose it to have been genuine; and not withstanding the present charge alledged against me, it is very possible that it might have been entirely so; some I know have put the worst construction upon it; yet surely it would be but consistent with their duty, as Christains and fellow-creatures, to have refrained from infamously prejudging a trial. I flatter myself their designs will be frustrated; nor would I think, even for a moment, that my life will be paragraphed away, or that my jury would cast me before I came into court. I have been visited since I have been in consinement by a variety of persons, some led through curiosity, others from feeling and compassion. I was informed that Payne the constable had boasted in his convivial hours that I could not fall into worse hands(alluding to himself); that he would certainly hang me, and boasting his influence with the citizens of London. You, gentlemen, are the best judges whether he has endeavoured to prejudice your minds against me. I am firmly persuaded that there is not a man among you but what will lay his hand upon his heart, and say, he is unprejudiced and uninfluenced. Gentlemen, I am convinced, from many circumstances, that this man would pursue me with the utmost rigour; however you will be guided with candor, and will determine agreeable to the language of your oath, according to the evidence before you.

My profession of a surgeon occasioned me a visit on Sunday morning from a person then under my care. In the course of our conversation he informed me that several eminent performers, and particularly two ladies, famed for their musical skill, were that morning to perform at St. Sepulchre's church, for the benefit of the Humane Socie ty. As I had from my infancy a taste for musick, I went thither; I found the church so full that I could not get a seat. In leaving the church I found the article in the indictment, a metal watch; I put it in my pocket, intending to advertise it. I then left the church; I had scarce reached Snow Hill, when two men, who were behind me, and who might have seen me pick up the article, insisted upon my accompanying them to the watch-house; a search ensued; Payne took my gold watch, and left the other; he also took from me a bank note, made payable to myself. I reflected that how innocently soever I might have obtained the article in question, that yet it might cause some censure, and no man would wonder, considering the unhappy predicament I stood in, that I should conceal it as much as possible. I did not put it into my hair, as has been insinuated. While he left me there, I reflected as I have told your Lordship. Payne came up in a short space of time, and brought a person who professed losing a considerable number of articles; I was searched afresh, and then the watch and purse were taken; I was that evening committed to the Compter; the next morning I was brought before a magistrate, where a lady deposed that the watch I had found was her property; her evidence was in effect the same which she has now given; I therefore think it unnecessary to animadvert upon it, but beg to make a remark or two upon the consistency of the evidence.

Payne deposes, that he found upon me the watch in question; so far he is right; but the other circumstances he has related slow from a black and cruel imagination: he thinks that the reputation of the Little English Carpenter, as he is pleased to stile himself, will not be complete, without he follows it with my conviction. His frequent appearance upon these occasions will not, I hope, entitle him to any degree of credit. Lost to every just and tender feeling, destitute of any means of sensibility, and destitute of any knowledge of the nature and the consequence of an oath; he kisses the book with as much apathy and unconcern as he would do any indifferent thing whatsoever. Little credit will be paid to a man noticed as a common informer: swearing has for many years been his practice and profession; but of these matters you, gentlemen, are certainly the best judges.

My Jury, I doubt not, will keep in mind that maxim of the English law, whose humanity would spare the lives of ten guilty persons, rather than run the risk that one innocent man should suffer: our laws permit a man to avail himself of a good character, but will not let him suffer by a bad one.

If I have said any thing improper, my situation, I hope, will plead my excuse. I have not falsely or maliciously endeavoured to depreciate the character of any man: I have confined myself to a notorious truth. I shall desist trespassing any longer upon the patience of your Lordship and the Jury, with a sincere hope that prejudice will be entirely laid aside, and that I shall enjoy the benefit of a candid, cool, and deliberate judgement.

Guilty of stealing the watch, but not guilty of stealing it privately from the person .

Prisoner. My Lord, permit me, before I leave this place, humbly to appeal to the feelings and humanity of your Lordship; after conviction it is not my intention to arraign the justice or impartiality of the Jury; but, my Lord, I am a young man, there was a time when I had as little reason to expect the distress and misery that I now suffer as any man's son in this place? nor need I to inform your Lordship that mercy has always been considered as the darling attribute of Heaven. I am a young man, I am by profession a surgeon, let me be permitted to enter into his majesty's service, and I will endeavour to discharge my trust with affiduity and attention: if that favour cannot be granted, let me be banished his majesty's dominions during my life.

Gentlemen of the Jury, I hope you will second my petition, and may your children and children's children, never experience the misery I now suffer.

Court. You very well know where to make your application for a mitigation of your sentence, if you think the circumstances will deserve it.

Prisoner. I humbly request that what trifling property has been taken from me may be restored to me: I had not the opportunity of enjoying the benefit of an act by which a person is enabled to dispose of his property previous to his trial. I hope that will be no impediment to my having it.

William Payne . I delivered all the money and the bank note to him in Newgate.

Court. Your property, now you are convicted, is no longer your own, but belongs to the king, the king has granted it to the City of London, and therefore the city and the sheriffs are the persons for you to apply to.

Tried by the First London Jury before Mr. Justice BLACKSTONE.

[Imprisonment. See summary.]