Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 09 December 2023), June 1785, trial of DAVID ENGLISH (t17850629-65).

DAVID ENGLISH, Theft > shoplifting, 29th June 1785.

672. DAVID ENGLISH was indicted for feloniously stealing on the 31st of May , twenty-five yards of white thread lace, value 3 l. the property of John Baker , Robert Dawson , and John William Gallabin , privily in their shop .


I am one of the assignees with John Baker and Robert Dawson , to Thomas Baker , the assignment was made before this robbery happened.

Then you were in possession of the goods and the shop? - Yes, about a week.


I looked after this shop, I lost this lace between ten and eleven on Tuesday morning the 31st of May, there was nobody in the shop between the time I laid the laces in the window till the prisoner came in, I was in the parlour, I had laid the laces out even, I sat with my chair close to the door of the parlour, I turned my head round and I saw the prisoner in the shop, feeling in his pocket for something behind his coat, I thought he had something to match, I went into the shop and asked him what he wanted, he said, does Mrs. Thompson live here, I told him no, he immediately went out of the shop.

Jury. You did not see him enter in at the door? - No, Sir, I turned round my head and saw him there; I missed a card of lace, there was a vacancy, I immediately pursued him, he had got to the next shop window, I followed him from New Turnstile , ours is the third shop from New Turnstile , he looked behind him and saw me run, and he set off and ran as fast as he could, I called out stop thief, and the neighbours ran, some coachmakers, and I then lost sight of him down Gate-street, and I returned to the shop, and a man came immediately and said the boy was taken, and the lace was found; I went immediately into Lincoln's-Inn Fields and saw the prisoner, and knew him again, I am confident it was the prisoner.

Mr. Garrow, Prisoner's Council. Was there any other person but the prisoner when you saw him in the shop? - No.

Describe a little the situation of the shop to that part from whence the lace was taken? - He must come in the shop to take the lace.

So that sitting in that situation, if I understand you, you saw him draw the lace? - No, he was shuffling in his pocket.

Court. She did not know that anything was gone, she saw nothing taken, her impression at the time was this, that he wanted to match something, it is the actual taking constitutes the felony, she had no idea that he had got anything of her's.

Mr. Garrow. I take it that it is not at all necessary that you should see the actual thing taken, if you see the act of taking, in so penal a case as this is.

Mr. Justice Heath. It must be left to the Jury.

Mr. Garrow. In a case where a man said, I felt the act of pulsation in my fob, it was so held.

Mr. Justice Buller. But here he had got possession of the thing at the time that she first saw him, her first conception was, that he had something to match.


Here are two cards of lace which I had out of the house of Mr. Hamilton's area, it was thrown down his area.

Mr. Garrow. Did you see him throw it down? - I did not, I took the prisoner in Mr. Hamilton's yard.

(The lace deposed to.)

Prisoner. I leave it to my council to say for me.


I am the father of the boy, he is fifteen years and an half old, he was apprentice to me, he was at work with me about an hour and an half before, I sent him out to several places, we wanted a piece of blue persian, and I told him to go to Mr. Thompson's for a piece, he is a very honest lad, a sober, orderly good boy.

The prisoner called three other witnesses who all gave him a very good character.

Court to Jury. Gentlemen, the only question is, whether he did or did not take it privately, the distinction has been, whether they take so as nobody sees them at the time they actually commit the theft, or whether they are discovered in the act of the theft; here the boy was in the shop before she saw him, and he was fumbling in his pocket; if he had before that time got possession of the lace, the felony is compleat; if you think then the boy was in the act of taking it, it does not amount to taking privately.

GUILTY , Death .

The prisoner was humbly recommended to mercy by the Prosecutor.

Court to James English . Has your son ever appeared here before? - Never in his life, nor no where else.

Court. You are more to be pitied than your son a great deal.

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice BULLER.