Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 06 December 2023), September 1785, trial of JOHN BERROW (t17850914-179).

JOHN BERROW, Theft > grand larceny, 14th September 1785.

899. JOHN BERROW was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 12th day of September , one silver watch, value 3 l. one steel chain, value 2 s. and one stone seal set in silver, value 1 d. and one key, value 1 d. the property of George Price .


I and two more were returning home, and were joking and sparring with each other, and the prisoner and another came up, and pretended to be friends; my acquaintance Plumpton wanted to make a blow at me, and the prisoner jumped in between us, and desired no foul play might be shewn, I told him no; upon which I unbuttoned my waistcoat, and that instant I found my watch go from me; then the prisoner turned to go from me, and I caught hold of him, and he tumbled down, I charged him with stealing my watch, and he denied knowing anything of it; and two strangers came by, and they asked if he fell anywhere, and the watchman went with Plumpton, and looked, and Plumpton picked up the case in one place, and the watch in another, and the glass broke all to pieces.

Mr. Knowles, Prisoner's Counsel. Can you take upon you to say that you did not drop your own watch? - I think I can.

Are you positive of it? - Yes.

Why did you hesitate so much in the answer to that question? - Because I was recollecting.

Then you have some doubt? - No, I have no doubt, but as you put the question to me, it being a serious one, I was endeavouring to recollect.

Was you sober? - Rather merry.

Rather in liquor? - Yes.

You had been out spending the evening with some companions? - Yes.

You had been drinking a little? - Yes.

This was about one? - Yes.

All of you pretty merry? - We were rather merry.

Are you sure you were not drunk? - I own I was rather merry.


I had been spending the evening with this young man in St. Paul's Church yard.

Where do you live? - We live in Black Friars.

You went to Covent-Garden for a frolick? - No, Sir, we came round Ludgate-hill with a young man that was going to Bride-lane, and there was an engine, and we pursued it as far as Maiden-lane, and then one said to another, we will take a walk round Covent-Garden; we stopped at the corner of the Piazza, next James-street, and had some saloop, and he caught hold of my hair behind, and pulled me back, which rather vexed me; upon which I turned round and made a blow at him, and he began sparring at me, and the prisoner and another person came up, under pretence of being my second; I then went to strike at Price, and the prisoner quitted me and ran in between, and called out no foul play; immediately I heard Price halloo out to me, Sam, I have lost my watch; and two strange gentlemen came up but just before, he observed to him, if you will return me my watch, I will let you go; we went with the watchman, and picked up the case and the watch, the glass was broken; I think Price had his waistcoat unbuttoned when I came up.

Was Price drunk or sober? - He was rather mellow, but far from drunk.

Mr. Knowles. Then I am to understand that you had been drinking, and had been wandering out of your way, and had struck out a foolish quarrel? - Yes, we thought we would go round the garden.


I am only the constable; they told me much the same story that they told your Lordship; Mr. Plumpton gave me the watch.

(The watch produced, having a very remarkable watch-paper of the year 1784.)

(Deposed to.)


I was coming by, and one of the gentlemen said, will you take my part, I said with all my heart; he said he had lost his watch, I said I was very willing to be searched; they searched me, but found no watch.

The prisoner called four witnesses, who gave him a very good character, and said he was the son of very reputable parents, and clerk to an attorney, and Mr. Knowles assured the Court he had fourteen more witnesses to call to his character, if necessary.


Court to Prisoner. You have had several witnesses, who have given you a good character, and the Jury have acquitted you; I do not think this trial will be any imputation on your character; but yet it will be a means of cautioning you against the dangerous consequences of bad company, and bad hours.

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. RECORDER.