Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 December 2023), February 1784, trial of GEORGE BARRINGTON (t17840225-6).

GEORGE BARRINGTON, Theft > pocketpicking, 25th February 1784.

235. GEORGE BARRINGTON was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 31st day of January last, one silk purse, value 2 s. ten pieces of gold coin of this realm, called guineas, value 10 l. 10 s. and one piece of gold coin of this realm, called a half guinea, value 10 s. 6 d. the property of Sir Godfrey Webster , Baronet , privily from his person .

(The Prisoner challenged William Jackson as one of the Jury, on which account William Corne was sworn in his stead.)


On Saturday, the 31st of January last, about half after ten o'clock, soon after the opera was over, I was attempting to get into the tea room, but there was such a prodigious number of people, and the room was so crowded, I could not get in without great inconvenience; I leaned against the door way; I had a new gold watch chain, which had caught on a lady's clothes, and I took it in my hand to put it into my fob, in doing which, I felt a silk purse in my pocket, which contained a fifty guinea note of Hamersley's and ten guineas and a half; a part of my hand rested slightly on this purse, and barely touched it; I felt in half a minute a person lean against my right shoulder, which was next the passage; that was the prisoner; I looked him steadily in the face, and while I was so doing I felt a gentle pulsation just above my right cuff; I thought it was singular that any body could be so cold to tremble at the opera; in a very few seconds after, I perceived my purse was gone; my Lord Westmorland was standing by me, and I told him I was robbed; that person that leaned against me had walked away.

Court. Did not you perceive your purse go out of your pocket? - No, I did not.

What was there in your purse? - There was a fifty guinea note of Hamersley's, payable at sight, and ten guineas and a half in gold; from feeling the purse in my pocket a very few seconds before that person leaned against me, and missing it a very few seconds after he walked away from me, and before he was out of my sight, I was thoroughly convinced he was the person that took it; had I known his name and his former character I should without the least hesitation have seized him on the spot, but his dress and his appearance put him externally so much above committing a crime of that sort, and not wishing to make a riot and bustle in a publick place, I resolved not to disturb the society at that instant, but to follow him; I followed him from the passage door where I stood by the outward lobby, between twenty and thirty feet to the outward lobby where the stove is, and where the money is received from people that come to the opera; he turned into the inner lobby that leads to the front boxes to the right; he there addressed himself to a little man in a dark brown, or a snuff coloured suit of cloaths; and I think laid hold of his arm, as I do of Sir Robert Taylor 's now, and said, is the carriage ready; whether that person made any reply to him or not I really cannot take upon me to say, he then turned short about, passed by me, and went into the outward lobby again; he then made a semblance of joining some ladies, who were going into the great hall where the servants were, he proceeded with them till he came to a slight of seven or eight steps which were very much crouded with servants who wait there, and as he descended the steps through a line of servants on each side, he rather raised himself a little as if looking for his domesticks, and cried, are my servants there; the door which goes out of the opera faces the upper of the three arcades; he went through the line of servants, but instead of proceeding strait forwards which he should have done, he deviated to the right and went out of the center arcade; I followed him without saying a word, or making the least gesture or hint of suspicion, at the distance of between four to six feet; when he came to the centre arcade, he took rather wider steps across the stag pavement, but he did not run; the moment he put his foot on the kirb stone of the pavement he set off, stooping under the pole of a carriage that had two bay horses, into the center of the Haymarket; I pursued him down the middle of the street through the carriages, as they were going on, to very near the bottom of the Haymarket, in Pall-mall, where he attempted to throw himself under a coach; I threw myself upon him and caught him by the skirt of his coat; finding I laid hold of him I believe he said, zounds, Sir, what do you mean, but however he said, Sir, what do you mean, I am a gentleman, or words to that effect; I said to him, Sir, it is an aukward thing to mention, but I think you have robbed me of my purse, or that you have stole my purse; he rather made some effort to get away; I took him by the collar and shook him, and said, Sir, do not compel me to be rough with you; a great concourse of people naturally got round us, and we were some how or other carried by the press opposite to Pinchbeck's, and a coach was called, which he was half way forced into, and my foot was on the step, I objected to going into the coach, and said, I should carry him to the Opera-house; I did so; and at the Opera-house and frequently after, he said, Sir, have a care, I am not the sort of person you take me for, you will get yourself into a scrape; pray Sir, do not expose me; take care what you are about; but whether he said it before we got to the Opera-house or after I cannot say.

Court. You had no knowledge of him before? - No, Sir, I never saw him before; when I took him to the Opera-house I asked for the constable, who seeming to be a a stupid ignorant fellow, and I had my doubts whether he was quite sober; I called to the corporal of the guard, as I wanted to find my buckle, which I had lost, and likewise to caution the company there; I think the corporal's name was Bridgen; I bade him be answerable for him as a military man, for me, a Member of Parliament; Mr. Breadhill offered to walk up with me to the Rotation-office; I returned to the corporal and said, can you spare me a couple of men to take this man up to the watch-house, he said, yes, and gave me a file of soldiers, and I went up with him to the watch-house; in the way to the watch-house he repeatedly said, Sir, have a care, you will get yourself into a scrape, I am not the person you take me for; I was rather irritated, and said at last, if you have any friends that can speak for you I do not wish to expose you, I will take you to a tavern or coffee-house, and you may send for your friends, but I will never quit you; upon his again repeating it, I said, to him, if I have done you any injury I will beg your pardon or do any thing you wish; I am the last man in the world to do a thing of this kind unoffended; he bowed his head and made no answer to that; when I conducted him to St. James's watch-house, I gave the soldiers something, and left him in the custody of the constable of the night, and at the same time desired him to tell me his name, which he did not refuse, but made a sort of waving his hand and a bow; when I had given in my own name, and he had declined giving his, I was going, not being used to transactions of this sort; but one of the constables said, Sir, would not you have him searched; the prisoner then walked up to me and said, Sir, I am sure you are a person of too much feeling and delicacy to have me searched by vulgar fellows of this sort, my dress and appearance do not make that necessary; but however, he was searched without the least scruple; they stripped him, and upon him were found a few shillings, some papers, and a lancet, which lancet I can swear to, and I think there were a small pair of compasses, and a box of Irvin's lozenges for a cold; he had on a white marcella quilted waistcoat, an under waistcoat, a new plain blue coat, black sattin breeches, and clouded silk stockings; he was perfectly well dressed, and there was a sort of bandage under his waistcoat: they searched him very minutely, even to his hair, but nothing of mine was found upon him; I went to Mr. Breadhill's house to get my hands and face washed, and a fresh pair of shoes, and a message came there to inform me, that the person who robbed me was George Barrington ; it seemed Sir Robert Taylor 's son coming home, came past the watch-house and knew him, I returned immediately to the watch-house, and there I found Mr. Taylor, Sir Robert's son, I then gave the deposition as nearly verbatim as I have to your Lordship, and swore to it; after the deposition was over they asked me when I should appear against Barrington; I said, Mr. Barrington, if that is your name, I do not wish to oppress you or any man; I do not wish to hurry or drive you; he made a bow and said, I think you Sir, your time is mine; I immediately said, on Monday; but on Monday morning a transaction happened, which, whether I am to narrate or not I cannot say; I shall certainly submit to the Court; it was a message I received from a Mr. Mitchell, whom the magistrate thought proper to bind over.

Mr. Chetwood Prisoner's Council. Will your Lordship hear that.

Mr. Justice Gould. If in consequence of that message you had an interview with the prisoner afterwards, it would be evidence? - I had not any further than seeing him at the office in Litchfield-street.

Court. You mentioned at the door of the tea-room there was a very great crowd? - Yes.

Was there any body within your touch, or near you, that you suppose could be guilty of a fact of this kind? - There was nobody near me; there were many people to the left; the room was as full as it could be; the prisoner leaned against me, which I thought so extraordinary a thing that I looked him full in the face; my left arm was to the room which was very full, my right arm was next the passage, I had a little gold chain doubled up in my hand, my purse was in my right hand pocket, I felt it not three seconds before that person leaned against me, and I missed it not three seconds after.

Court. There was no person near you but the prisoner on the left-hand side? - No, I fancy nobody within five or six feet, somebody might be standing behind him, or retired where I could not see them, but I saw nobody but him, and he leaned against me.

Mr. Chetwood. Pray Sir how long had you stood at the door of the tea-room before you observed any thing at all? - I fancy about a minute and a half, I had been at the other side of the house, the tea-room is the right-hand side.

Did nobody pass you in that time, Sir Godfrey? - I rather think not, I do not recollect.

They might, but nothing struck you? - Nothing at all.

You say Sir, you had wrapped up your chain? - No, I held it loosely in my hand, my hand rested on my pocket, and in putting my hand into my pocket, which I did when I went into the door-way, I felt my purse.

I think you said just now that you thought you felt your purse? - I said so then, but I mean to say now, I am sure I felt my purse.

Court. I took it so.

Mr. Chetwood. This person leaned against you? - Yes.

And you was going into the room, and was prevented by the crowd, may be you leaned against somebody? - No, I did not, there was a lady next to me, and I should not lean against her.

You did not observe him do any thing? - Yes, Sir, I felt five or six very slight pulsations over my right cuff, like a person shaking.

It was a very cold night? - Yes, but it was exceedingly hot in the room.

You was not in the room? - No, in the door.

Then in the passage the air draws; you saw him move off? - Yes.

Did you keep your eye upon him? - Certainly.

And you saw him speak to a person to ask him if the carriage was ready? - I did.

Did you ever see that person afterwards? - I never saw him before or since, I should not know him now, I saw the prisoner speak to him.

What I mean is, what you may understand, Sir, did you observe him give any thing to the man, or was it possible he could give any thing to that man? - I am perfectly well aware of the insidiousness of that question.

It is not an insidious question, Sir Godfrey; had you him in your eye all the way till he came to the door? - I did not see him for three or four seconds, I saw him go out of the door, and I did not see him for three or four seconds after.

Was you by when he was searched and nothing was found? - Yes.

From the time you missed your purse, had you him so much in your eye all the time, that it was or was not possible for him to deliver any thing to that person? - What he gave to this person in the snuff-coloured coat I cannot take upon me to say, I did not see him give any thing; he joined some ladies, I did not see how his hands were employed at all; nothing of mine was found upon him.

Court. You say you did not see him for a few seconds? - No.

Are you sure it was the same person? - I have not a shadow of a doubt, if I had I would not say it was the person, I am perfectly clear that was the person, perfectly sure of it.

James Mitchell called, but did not appear.

Court. If in consequence of the message received from this witness, Sir Godfrey had found where his purse was, it would have been evidence; but, as it is, if he was here I should not examine him, therefore I shall not estreat his recognizance.

Court to Prisoner. What have you to say?


May it please your Lordship, and you Gentlemen of the Jury: I had an opportunity to see the opera on this Saturday night, through the means of a performer belonging to the house, who received from me at the same time surgical assistance; when the opera was over, I had proceeded as far in my way home as the outward door, and I found the foot-way to the right and left so taken up with chairs, chairmen, and link-boys, that it appeared to me the best way to go strait across if I could; I had another reason for this choice; I had appointed to meet an acquaintance at the Orange coffee-house, it was a fine moon light night, a very severe frost, and the ground in the middle of the street as dry, or drier than on the foot pavement; I had got about half way across the street, when one of the many carriages which are assembled there on such occasions, driving very hard, obliged me to use my endeavours to avoid the danger of being run over, I proceeded some little way down the Haymarket, within about one hundred yards of the Orange coffee-house, when Sir Godfrey laid hold of me, I had never seen him before, and he charged me with having his purse; I did not make any resistance, or endeavour to avoid giving him every satisfaction in my power, I advised him to go into the coffee-house, and I hope I shall not offend in informing the Court, that he swore in the most violent manner that he would not be convinced; if I do not mistake, he damned his heart and his blood, and expressions of that kind, that he would not be convinced; I was brought to the watch-house immediately, and when I was there, previous to my being searched, I told him he was mistaken, he told me he suspected me, and if he was mistaken he would give me every satisfaction, he would fight me or any thing else; I was searched as you have heard, and neither his property, nor the property of any other person was found in my possession; you observe gentlemen, the prosecutor has not said that I ran till I reached the outward door; he has said, that after he had missed his purse, he followed me first in the inner lobby, then into the outward lobby, from thence down the large flight of stone stairs, and then through a large stone hall; he followed so close that he heard, or fancied he heard me say something about a coach or servants, expressions which might have been made use of by some gentleman that was there, and mistakenly attributed to me: You will perceive, Gentlemen, that in all this time of his following me, he did not accuse or molest me, thought it is evident, and I hope will appear to you evident, that he might have done it ten times over; I do not know whether you have been able to perceive the temper and disposition of the prosecutor; but this is certain, that he is fiery and hot, and of that I could give many convincing proofs; you will be the best judge, whether if his suspicions were well grounded, he would not have charged me on the spot, and taken me into custody; as to my running, I hope it may be accounted for, the coldness of the night, or a desire of being home by times, may induce a person to make more than ordinary speed; This is my case, and I most humbly hope that the Court will hear me with patience; it is not my interest or my inclination to offend any person in this honorable Court, and if I should happen to let drop any expression which may not be strictly proper, I trust it will not be construed into an offence, but that it will be imputed to arise from that anxiety and desire of vindication, which every man in my unhappy situation must naturally feel. Gentlemen of the Jury, if you were to be asked whether any rumour or report to my disadvantage had reached your ears, unconnected with the present, you would perhaps say yes; if you were asked again, whether you would suffer yourselves to be influenced in the smallest degree by such a rumour or report, I am sure you would with one voice cry God forbid! I trust therefore, Gentlemen, that no insinuations, or rumour, or suggestions, from what channel soever you may have received them, will induce you to deprive me of life, or to condemn me without clear and substantial proof; but as prejudice from such reports, will sometimes penetrate into the minds of the best and wisest, and make an impression before they themselves are aware, of it, you will do well, Gentlemen, and I most humbly and earnestly beg of you, before you determine your verdict on this occasion, to ask yourselves one question; would you on the evidence you have now heard, condemn any other person of whom you had never heard any thing before the present time. Gentlemen, my life is in your hands, and I do not address myself to your feelings, but to your candour and impartiality.

Court to Jury. Gentlemen, you have a trial that requires your very serious attention, and you will divest yourselves of all prejudice that might arise from any thing that you have heard before concerning the prisoner at the bar, and confine yourselves to the evidence in this case: Gentlemen, the prisoner is indicted for a capital offence, in privately stealing from the person of Sir Godfrey Webster a purse and money: the question for your consideration will be, whether, upon this evidence, you are of opinion that he was the person that actually took the purse or not, and whether there is sufficient evidence for you to be sure, and to conclude, that he was the person without any hesitation or doubt. The evidence for the prosecution is that of Sir Godfrey, the prosecutor only. [Here the learned Judge summed up the evidence and then added] Gentlemen, this is the whole of the case, and upon this evidence there is no pretence to say, that this purse was not taken privily from his person, therefore, it is either a capital offence or no offence at all: I told you before that you must divest yourselves of every circumstance that you have heard relating to the prisoner, you are to judge whether he was the person that took the purse or not; the evidence appears to me to carry presumption with it, but there is not such proof in a case of life as appears to me to be satisfactory: there is strong reason of suspicion, but you must be satisfied in your own consciences, that the prisoner at the bar was the person; it was a place crouded, it was at the Opera House, Sir Godfrey was at the door of a room full of people, there might be other persons behind the prisoner at the bar, on his right side; the prisoner was immediately pursued, Sir Godfrey the prosecutor had his eye upon him and observed him, and saw him shift no property to any other person, and the prisoner is searched minutely at the watch-house, and no property found on him: it seems to be such a sort of a case, that whatever your suspicions are, there does not appear to me sufficient grounds to convict him of a capital offence.


Tried by the second Middlesex Jury before Mr. Baron PERRYN.