Sunday, 23 April 2006

Tough on crime

Pick pocketing, 15th January, 1680.
Elizabeth Spark and William Abbot were indicted the former being a notorious pickpocket, was as she pretended picked up in Cornhil, by one Nichols a Butcher, who would needs fasten a Glass of Wine upon her, so that they repairing to a Tavern, whilst he was searching her Placket, took the opportunity of searching his pocket, and drew thence for her own proper Use, about 14 or 15 Shillings, and then making an excuse to go down stairs, sheard off ; at which the Cully having some mistrust, all was not as it should be searching his Pockets, found his loss; and runs down stairs, to enquire after his departed new acquaintance, but she had left him to bewail his folly: yet whilst he was in pursute of her, she not fully satisfied, returns again, perhaps for more; but contrary to her expectation, was seized by the Master of the House, upon which Abbot lying perdue, endeavoured to rescue her, and fell upon the said Nichols, who was then returned from the pursute. She pleaded in Court, that he gave it her for to debauch her, yet she being an antient Pickpocket, was brought in Guilty, but Abbot not being in her Company when the Fact was committed, could not be found Guilty .

Elizabeth Spark was sentenced to death.
A Placket is a pocket in a woman’s skirt; why one Nichols a Butcher needed to search Elizabeth’s is not clear.)

This and details of 101,101 other trials at London’s Central Criminal Court are set out in The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1834, an online edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published; it is fully searchable by, for example, Keyword, Crime, Verdict, Punishment, Gender, and Date.
The site also has notes on the historical background, including essays on Crime, Justice and Punishment, London and its Hinterland, Community Histories and Gender in the Proceedings.

From December 1834 to April 1913 the Proceedings continued to be published under the title of The Proceedings of the Central Criminal Court. The creators of this fascinating website have received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to enable them to put online all 100,000 trials between those dates; the project will take three years, and should be completed by September 2008. his2

1 comment:

doris said...

I can endorse how wonderful this website "Proceedings of the Old Bailey" is and how great the search facilities are. I am fortunate that my humble ancestors were in the central London area and have been able to find out about the people and crimes in the times and locality of my ancestors.

It is sad though to read of the various crimes (such as you have copied) and then the punishment which far outweighs the misdemeanor. So sad to read of the children sentenced to death or to say 7 years deportation.

The use of language is quite something too and not at all what I had expected from such documents.