Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 04 October 2023), April 1812, trial of JOHN HOLCOMB JOHN PITKEATHLY (t18120408-27).

JOHN HOLCOMB, JOHN PITKEATHLY, Theft > grand larceny, 8th April 1812.

338. JOHN HOLCOMB and JOHN PITKEATHLY were indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 18th of January , a gallon of rum, value 15 s. the property of William Chatfield and Samuel Chatfield .

JOSHUA BRAY . I am a city constable.

Q. On the 18th of January were you placed by Mr. Chatfield's cellar in Cooper's-row - A. Yes, on the 18th; I followed the man and saw him go down the cellar; I saw Holcomb go down Mr. Chatfield's cellar, between five and six in the afternoon, it was light.

Q. How long did he remain down - A. Three quarters of an hour. When he came up again he passed me, and I looked at him. I then lost my partner, I waited till he came.

Q. Did you observe his appearance - A. I observed that he was loaded, I was sure of that. I followed him, as soon as I found my partner, to a public-house, the Ship, near Mark-lane; he got into the house a little before me, I found him at the front of the bar, he was going to pull something out of his pocket, but he had not pulled it out; I could not see what it was; I came in so quick upon him that he covered it over with his coat; the landlady, I suppose her to be, was in the bar, she was standing as if to receive it; as soon as he saw me he walked across the tap-room, I said, I will see what you have got there; he hustled with me a little; I told him it was of no use; I took him into the kitchen and searched him, and found these two tin bottles upon him, they were in the inside coat pockets, the glass bottle I found upon him when I took him to the Compter. There is a gallon of rum and a quart, he said I came very honestly by it, I had it gave me. I did not steal it; well, said I, I did not say you did. When I took him to the Compter I went into Cooper's-row, and I found Pitkeathly locking up the cellar; I asked him if Mr. Chatfield was at home; I found he was not.

Q. Did you go the next day to Mr. Chatfield's - A. I did, and I examined all Mr. Chatfield's servants; I told him I was informed by the man that he had given the man a pocket full of rum; yes, he said, I did; he said it is usual to give it him once a quarter.

Mr. Alley. He left it to you to examine all the servants, and the man at the bar, he said he got it honestly - A. Yes, he did.

Q. That was the excise officer, the question here is not whether it was smuggling, but whether it is stealing. When you examined the servant he said it is customary to give it once a quarter - A. Yes.

CHARLES PHILLIPS. I am a city constable.

Q. Did you see the officer go into the cellar and come out - A. Yes, I followed the last witness to the public-house.

Q. Do you know the name of the person that keeps the public-house - A. A man of the name of Cramphorn keeps the house the Ship in Hart-street, Crutched-friars.

Q. Did you see the officer standing at the bar - A. I did, I was the first that entered the public-house after him, as soon as I got in I touched him over one of the pockets; I asked him what he had got there; I told him I must see what he had got in his pockets. We took him into the kitchen and searched him. We took these things out of his pocket.

SAMUEL CHATFIELD . I am a wine-merchant, my partner's name is William; the prisoner, William Pitkeathly , was my cellarman. In consequence of information I had placed these officers to watch the cellar. On the morning after the officers apprehended Holcomb Pitkeathly came to me and said an unpleasant affair has happened; I said, what is it; he said Holcomb is in; in the Poultry Compter I concluded; I said, he had not got there for any good perhaps; he said he did not know, he had given him a little rum; I asked him how much; he said perhaps about a bottle; I then asked him if there was any thing else; he said there might be a tin besides; I then asked him whether the tins might not hold a gallon, or somewhere thereabouts; he said, probably they might, he could not say; he then said he belived it was a customary thing; I made answer, I rather doubted it; he called it a quarterage.

Q. How long had the officer surveyed you that time - A. The last time, only three surveys.

Q. Do you know of, or sanction any such custom, as to give quarterage - A. Certainly not. It is impossible to swear to rum. I looked at the rum at the Mansion House.

Q. Did you afterwards taste that rum - A. I tried it, I did not taste it; I believe it corresponded with the other rum in the cellar; I believe it to be part of my rum. The officer surveyed the quantity of stock in the cellar; there was a deficiency of about fifty gallons.

Q. What is the value of a gallon of rum - A. About sixteen shillings.

Mr. Alley. How long has Pitkeathly lived you - A. About fifteen years, and more likely he acted from mistake than principle; I think he might be led into it; I think he acted without thinking of the error he committed.

The prisoners left their defence to their counsel.

Holcomb called three witnesses, who gave him a good character.

Pitkeathly called seven witnesses, who gave him a good character.

HOLCOMB - GUILTY , aged 49.


Transported for Seven Years .

London jury, before Mr. Recorder.