Middlesex County Records: Volume 2, 1603-25. Originally published by Middlesex County Record Society, London, 1887.
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I. Books temp. James I.—Apart from the editorial introduction and the index, the Middlesex County Record Society's initial publication consists altogether of the substance or principal facts of documents, that are preserved in a long series of fragmentary sessions-rolls. Resembling it in containing matters taken from the remains of a large body of sessions-files, the present volume differs from that earlier publication in containing data—viz., sessional orders, minutes of criminal cases, memoranda and other entries of record—drawn from the nine oldest volumes of the large assemblage of books, which form so large a part of the Middlesex Manuscripts. These nine volumes are (1) three folios of the Gaol Delivery Register, that was begun on the 19th of January in James the First's 5th year, (2) four folios of the Sessions of Peace Register, that was begun on the 18th of the same month and year, and (3) two folios called Process Books of Indictments, the earlier of which was begun in the April of James's 8th regnal year.
Though the earliest folios of the Gaol Delivery Register and Sessions of Peace Register exhibit neither on their vellum covers nor on their fly-leaves any note of evidence, that they were the first volumes of their respective kinds kept by the Clerk of the Peace for the county of Middlesex, there is ground for a confident opinion, that the two Registers opened with the two volumes, which received their first entries in the same month and almost on the same day of James's reign. Whilst the memoranda of the Elizabethan parchments make no reference to contemporary books of registration, it is in the highest degree improbable that, had the Jacoban volumes been preceded by earlier folios, the two books immediately preceding the two series of extant folios would have been posted up to their last leaves in the same week. It may therefore be assumed without misgiving, that the earliest remaining folios were the first folios of the two several Registers.
II. The Gaol Delivery Register.—From the January of James the First's 5th year to the end of his reign, it was the duty of the Clerk of the Peace for Middlesex, or one of his subordinate officers, sometimes styled "the Clerk of Gaol Deliveries," to place in the Gaol Delivery Register a brief note of every important transaction of the last Gaol Delivery, using the minutes put upon the indictments and recognizances of the same session's file, and also the matters exhibited in the original writing of those documents, as materials for what may be called the concise official narrative of the acts and proceedings, touching Middlesex, of the most recent Old Bailey Session. In the performance of this inter-sessional work the Clerk of Gaol Deliveries showed himself an expert in stripping facts of legal verbiage. It was seldom that he gave more than two lines to the case of a culprit, arraigned on a single capital indictment. In one line he set forth the culprit's name and offence, saying nothing of the crime and its doer over and above the bald facts, that might in coming time be useful to any clerk, who should be ordered to hunt out the original record of the matter,—viz., the annotated indictment that alone could be produced in evidence that the culprit had been acquitted, or after conviction had been branded or sent to Tyburn. Having in this manner reduced an entire indictment to a single line, he put over it the brief memorandum of the pleadings, verdict, judgment or other "consequences" of arraignment, copying letter for letter the concise note figuring in contracted Latin on the indictment immediately over the first mention of the culprit's name. For examples of the way in which the Clerk of Gaol Deliveries packed into two lines the main facts of a comparatively long document, readers are referred to pp. 210 to 228 of the present volume, which exhibit numerous matters transcribed from the Gaol Delivery Register. In other sections of his summary of a session's acts and proceedings, the clerk wrote no less concisely. The lists of culprits delivered by proclamation, of culprits awaiting trial in prison, of culprits committed to the custody of mainpernors, and of persons under recognizances to appear and give evidence at the next Gaol Delivery are made out with the fewest words possible. In recording the Orders of Court, however, the scribe gives the ipsissima verba of the Justices' ordinances, and in doing so uses only such familiar contractions of the English words as are usually found in seventeenth-century letters. Of these Orders, whether they relate to the general business of the county or to the interests of particular individuals, due notice is taken in the body of the present volume.
The register kept thus closely, and for the most part kept in extremely contracted Latin, is not a work from which mere literary idlers would derive much entertainment. But whilst they are less diverting and on the whole less instructive than the original documents of the files, to which they are a kind of official index, the brief and closely written entries of the successive folios afford the painful student much curious information that has perished from the mutilated sessionsfiles, and also numerous interesting particulars that were not at any time discoverable from the filed documents. In supplementing the defective session-files these books are especially serviceable, and would in this respect be even more valuable to students of James's reign and time, had the successive Clerks of Gaol Deliveries done their appointed work with greater regularity and exactness. It is an affair for lively regret that during the last seven years of James the First the books were kept with a remissness that in certain passages of those years wanted nothing of scandalous negligence. As readers will learn from the section of this volume that deals especially with the entries of this Register, it occurred repeatedly that the negligent registrar took no notice whatever of a Gaol Delivery. But for ten years (viz., from the beginning of James's 6th year to the end of his 15th year) the register was kept with sufficient care and exactitude; and from the entries made in the folios during these years, one learns even to a unit how largely the criminal code of our ancestors was destructive of human life in one of the smallest English counties.
This total, be it observed, is not the number of the persons sentenced to death in those ten years, but the number of the felons actually executed by the rope in a single decade; the yearly average of these executions for felonies done in Middlesex being 70 4.
(b.) Number of Culprits who died by the "peine forte et dure" during the same Ten Years.—Amazing as the total of the hangings, done in Middlesex during so short a term, must be to most readers of this page, it may not be regarded as a full exhibition of the mortality for which the penal code of our forefathers was directly accountable in the years under consideration. For that full exhibition, the number of the persons pressed to death by the peine forte et dure for "standing silent" —i.e., for declining to confess or plead to indictments for crimes done in Middlesex—must be added to the number of the felons who died by the rope for felonies committed in the same county. What was the number of the culprits who in James's time elected to pass from this world by a death no less ignominious and far more painful than death at the gallows, in order to avoid the forfeiture of property they were desirous of transmitting to their nearest kindred? The notion prevails that it was rare for a culprit to have the hardihood and heroism to dare and endure, for the sake of those who were especially dear to him, one of the most hideous of the numerous forms of death devised by the cruelty of human legislation. The entries of the Gaol Delivery Register put it beyond question that in the earlier part of the seventeenth century it was by no means uncommon for a culprit, at the mere motion of domestic affection, to accept the hideous doom of the "forte et dure," when by a single word of confession he would have been entitled to the quicker, less cruel, and less repulsive fate of death by strangulation. It appears also from the same entries that this noble fortitude was not confined to culprits of the sterner sex. To the honour of the gentler sex, it is to be recorded that in the ten years under consideration several women went to the "peine forte et dure" at their own election, accepting, for love of others, an excess of torture which they would have avoided had they been chiefly actuated by care for themselves.
Of the thirty-two persons who were thus pressed to death by heavy weights in ten years for declining to confess or plead to indictments for crime done in Middlesex, three were women. Remembering how rare it was in the seventeenth century for a woman, moving in the classes most disposed by circumstances to crime, to be possessed of any considerable property, the judicious reader will feel no surprise that of the thirty-two no more than three were women. Had women been more generally in possession of property, that could be a matter of serious concern to their survivors, the women brave enough to die by the "forte et dure" would doubtless have been more numerous.
In the article on the peine forte et dure, in Giles Jacob's "New Law Dictionary" (ed. 1772), it is said: "Before judgment passes of pain fort et dure, the Court orders a taste to be given to the criminal of the pain to be endured if he will not comply; and the Court will not proceed to this judgment before all methods are used to persuade him to plead. This is the constant practice at Newgate Sessions." In other words, it was the constant practice at Newgate Sessions for the Court to torture silent culprits by throwing them on the ground and pressing them with heavy weights, in order to extort from them confessions of guilt or pleadings of innocence, that would result in forfeiture. This foretaste of the dreadful pain, be it observed, was given before judgment, i.e., before an irrevocable sentence to the "peine forte et dure." After sentence for stubborn taciturnity, the culprit had lost his power of avoiding death under heavy weights by an utterance that would have given his body to the gallows and his property to the Crown. Though there is evidence that the constant practice so quaintly described in Jacob's Dictionary was a part of our penal method in a later period of the seventeenth century, the criminal records of Middlesex afford no evidence, nor any ground for suspicion, that torture was thus applied in James the First's time to mute culprits, for the mere purpose of forcing them to speak. It may therefore be assumed that this use of torture was no practice of the Old Bailey court-house during the period covered by the present volume. Anyhow, it is certain that the thirtytwo persons, sentenced to the peine forte et dure in ten consecutive years of James's reign, died under the sentence. In the files one comes upon indictments against some of these individuals, on which the clerk wrote "mortuus ad istas quia stat' mut' antea et h'et judic' pen' fort' et dure" = dead to these because he stood mute to a former indictment and had judgment of the peine forte et dure, or "mortuus in pen' fort' et dur'" = dead in the peine forte et dure. Respecting the sentenced culprits who are not noticed in this manner on subsequent indictments nothing is said, either on the parchments of the files or in the pages of the Register, after the one brief record of judgment to "the peine." It follows, therefore, that the perfect account of the persons put to death by the rope for felonies done in Middlesex, or by "the peine" for stubborn silence at the Old Bailey, stands thus:—
The reader must bear in mind that this account takes no notice of the numbers of the persons put to death in the same two ways for felonies, or for silence to indictments for felonies, done within the bounds of the city of London.
(c.) Executions for Felonies, or for Silence to Indictments for Felonies, committed in London.—Though it may be computed at no more than 130,268 persons (the known number of the inhabitants in 1631), the population of James the First's London (viz., of "the city" and its "liberties") greatly exceeded the contemporaneous population of those parts of Middlesex, which we have long been in the habit of regarding as part of London, and appears to have considerably surpassed the entire population of what has come to be styled the metropolitan county. In James's time, whilst our wealthiest merchants had their homes as well as their places of business within its limits, "the city" with the Lord Mayor for its chief magistrate numbered amongst its resident householders several of the wealthiest nobles and some of the stateliest gentry of England. The "town," in which the princes of commerce pursued gain and spent their leisure, was also the daily resort of the people of quality and pleasure who dwelt about Whitehall and Westminster Abbey. Whilst Paul's Alley was a favourite lounging-place of courtiers, Cheapside was frequented by modish people who had their homes outside the city, scarcely less than by the ratepayers of city parishes. Under these circumstances, the felonies committed in the populous capital must have greatly outnumbered the felonies committed in the adjacent county, where goldsmiths' shops and merchants' warehouses were less plentiful, and burglars and cutpurses had fewer opportunities for preying on society. In arguing inferentially, it is, however, best to avoid a suspicion of overstating the case. Let it therefore be assumed that in James the First's time, when Marylebone was wood or grass land and Paddington was peopled chiefly by farmers and farmlabourers, that the felonies done in London only equalled in number the felonies done in Middlesex, and that the persons who perished at Tyburn or under "the peine" for crimes perpetrated in London were neither more nor less numerous than the persons who perished in the same two ways under indictments for felonies done in Middlesex. By this moderate computation it appears that the number of persons executed, during the sixth and nine following years of James the First, by the rope or "the peine," for offences committed in London or Middlesex, were 1472 in number, the yearly average of executions during the decade for the capital and the county being 147.2.
(d.) Executions for Felonies, or for Silence to Indictments for Felonies, committed in London or Middlesex during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. —From this moderate view of the mortality in London and Middlesex, for which the criminal law was accountable during ten years of James the First, one may form a moderate approximate estimate of the number of persons put to death for offences committed in the same capital and county during the reign of the last of the Tudors. There is no reason to think that London and Middlesex were much more populous, or that their joint population comprised a larger criminal element in the time of our first Stuart sovereign than in the time of Elizabeth. The successive enactments and ordinances for restraining the growth of London and its suburbs, no doubt, indicate a buoyancy of population, and a tendency in the capital and its suburbs to encroach upon the adjacent country. On the other hand, the vigilance and energy with which the authorities enforced the various laws against persons guilty of building new houses, or subdividing ancient tenements, or entertaining inmates without licence to do so, justify a confident opinion that, though not altogether successful, the stringent measures for preventing the growth of the metropolis were in the main effectual, and that, though it somewhat increased, the population of the capital and the county did not grow rapidly. Still, the slow growth of the population during the two successive reigns may be supposed to have been attended with a slight increase in the number of capital offences committed in the capital city and the contiguous shire. But it does not follow that the slight growth in the number of crimes and criminals resulted in a proportionate increase of the number of persons executed for felonies. An examination of the statistical summaries at the close of the present volume will satisfy most readers that the criminal law was less rigorously administered under James than it had been in the days of Elizabeth. In so far as it was likely to affect the criminal deathrate, the slight growth of crime and of the number of persons who committed crime was more than counterbalanced in James's reign by the greater disposition of juries to convict culprits of petty larceny on clear evidence that they were guilty of capital felony, and by doing so to allow them to escape the gallows, albeit with shoulders scored by a whip of tails. The Middlesex records afford no grounds for thinking that the yearly average of executions by the rope and "the peine" was greater in James's reign than in Queen Elizabeth's time. Still, to guard against the suspicion of overstatement, let us multiply the Jacoban yearly average (147.2) by 44, taking no account of the hangings and executions by "the peine" that occurred in the four months and a fortnight of Elizabeth's 45th year. By this moderate calculation it appears that during the Queen's reign the criminal law put to death 6,476 persons for offences committed in London or Middlesex. To be yet more secure of erring on the side of under-statement, let us deduct 400 from this staggering total, and be content to say no more than that in Elizabeth's time upwards of six thousand of the inhabitants of London and Middlesex were hung or pressed to death by heavy weights for the good of society. To reflect that in a single reign six thousand of the inhabitants of a single city (with a population of some 130,000 souls), and of a single county (holding no bigger town than "Old Westminster" within its limits), went to the next world through the hempen noose, or the Newgate dungeon in which they were slowly squeezed to death,—to look upon a map of England, and, observing how small a part of it is covered by London and Middlesex, to remember that between Mary Tudor's death and James's accession, so strong an army of wretches passed thus miserably from so small a patch of "merry England,"—is to regard the spacious times of great Elizabeth from a gloomy, and even appalling, point ot view. To realize fully the significance of this penal death-rate, readers should calculate how many of the 4,000,000 inhabitants of what is termed modern London would be yearly killed by judicial sentences, if we hung and pressed people to death at the Jacoban rate. It is a ghastly thought that, had we to this hour persisted in killing criminals at the Jacoban rate, we should in each of the latest years of her present Majesty's reign have hung or pressed to death about 2,263 of the inhabitants of the metropolis.
III. The Sessions of Peace Register, temp. James I.—What the Gaol Delivery Register is to the acts and proceedings of successive gaoldeliveries, and to the indictments and recognizances of the successive gaol-delivery files, the Sessions of Peace Register is to the acts and proceedings of the successive sessions of the peace, and to the documents of the Sessions of Peace rolls. Like the Gaol Delivery Register, it also preserves a considerable number of Orders made by the Justices of the Peace for the conduct of the affairs of the county.
(a.) Orders and Memoranda touching Hickes's Hall.—James the First's time was an eventful period for the Justices of Middlesex; and of its memorable incidents none was more conducive to the comfort and dignity of the magistrates than the erection of the court-house that was known to successive generations by the name of the wealthy London merchant, who built it wholly at his own charges and then made a free gift of it to the county. From times considerably anterior to the long period covered by the Middlesex County Record Society's initial volume to the 10th year of James the First, the Middlesex Magistrates had no statelier Justice Hall for the holding of their ordinary sessions of the peace than the chief room of the Castle Tavern, standing in the Constabulary of St. John's Street. It was in this tavern parlour that the magistrates dispensed justice to petty misdemeanants, and received from grand-juries the greater part of the True Bills on which culprits were arraigned at the Old Bailey for offences committed in Middlesex. In this room, "at the Signe of the Castle" (vide p. 81 of the present volume), it was that Ben Jonson and a long series of offenders, from Dorothy White to Thomas Garnett, stood before the grand-jurors who found against them the bills which were in due course transmitted to the Old Bailey. But in James's 10th regnal year, the Middlesex magistrates ceased to meet under the sign of The Castle. The last Session of the Peace to be held under the ancient sign was held in the August of that year (vide p. 82), and on the 12th of the following January the Justices of the metropolitan shire met for the first time in the new court-house, one of the notable orders made at the session, with the unanimous assent and approval of the twenty-two then and there assembled magistrates, being that the house "built by Sir Baptist Hickes, and given to the Justices of the Countie of Middlesex for a Session House should for ever hereafter be called by the name of Hickes Hall, and that all inquisitions and other offices that shold be there taken for the said countie sholde be from henceforthe entered of Record as taken apud Hickes Hall in St. John Street in the county of Middlesex,"—an order, that was observed to a time so recent that it may fairly be spoken of as yesterday, when Sir Baptist's hall was replaced by a statelier and more commodious building. But while his public spirit was fitly acknowledged by his brethren of the Middlesex bench and other persons of worshipful quality, Sir Baptist Hickes was not so fortunate as to escape altogether the obloquy that persons of ignoble natures delight in pouring on the most estimable public characters. By the same court, that rendered Sir Baptist so appropriate a compliment, in reward of his munificence to the metropolitan shire, it was ordered (vide p. 84) that Grace Watson, wife of Peter Watson, of St. John's Street, apothecary, should appear before the bench, to answer "for givinge revylinge speeches against Sir Baptist Hickes, touchinge the buildinge of the Sessions House." It does not appear from the book of record, whether she resented the erection of the new hall, as a thing that interfered with her ancient lights, and threw gloom over her back-yard, or afforded her some other reasonable ground for discontent and bitter emotion. Nor does it appear from the brief note of the register, what punishment was awarded to Grace Watson for her contumelious utterances respecting Sir Baptist, "and alsoe for her unruly behaviour in the open court," when she appeared before the Justices in obedience to their worships' order.
(b.) Orders and Memoranda touching the Middlesex House of Correction.—Several matters, besides the growing indisposition of juries to send thieves to the gallows for their first essays in grand larceny, concur to show that society in Middlesex was less harshly disposed to ordinary criminals in the days of James than it had been during the previous reign, and even made distinct steps towards the state of feeling which rendered it possible for the philanthropists of a much later time to procure for criminals a treatment not wholly discordant with justice and benevolence. A step was made towards this better condition of social sentiment, when ceasing to bore the vagrant with a hot iron through the right ear, the law decided to apply the brandingiron to the culprit's shoulder, where the perpetual stigma would not be apparent to every one who scrutinized him in the public ways. A longer and firmer step was taken in the same right direction by the people of Middlesex, when they determined to build a house of correction, in which vagrants and other misdemeanants, for whose amendment there was a possibility, should be instructed in manual industries and trained to habits of labour, instead of being thrown back into the streets, after they had been soundly whipt for being hungry and dirty and having nothing to do. One of the most noteworthy orders to be found in the Sessions of Peace Register directed, under date of 21st October, 12 James I. (vide pp. 103, 104), that two thousand pounds should be levied by rate from the whole county of Middlesex, to defray the costs of building and establishing the house of discipline, so urgently needed for the better dealing with rogues, and other disorderly persons who would pass to the hangman, unless measures were taken to withdraw them from roads leading to Tyburn. This order is the more deserving of attention because it gives the precise amounts of money to be contributed towards the £2,000 by the several parishes or constabularies of the county, the parishes and other districts being grouped together under the names of the different hundreds to which they respectively belonged,—a body of details that will be of service to the antiquary, desirous of producing a map of old Middlesex divided into its hundreds, and of estimating the respective populousness and affluence of the Middlesex parishes in the earlier years of the seventeenth century.
It is almost needless to say, that the order to raise so large, a sum as £2,000 from the county for the more reasonable and effectual treatment of its rogues and vagabonds, who had hitherto appeared to the ordinary observer to cost the Middlesex ratepayers little more than the money spent on whips for their backs, branding-irons for their shoulders, and rope wherewith to hang the worst of them, was no order to be accepted and obeyed by the county without a murmur at newfangled notions and fanciful projects. But the Justices knew how to stifle opposition to their will, and reduce the malcontents to silence. When Michael Shorditche of Ickenham, gentleman, had the rashness and insolence to aver that "the countye would withstand the rate" (vide, pp. 105, 106), he was promptly brought before Their Worships at Hickes Hall to answer for such "unfitt and mutynous" language, and on his appearance was bound for his future good behaviour in the sum of. one hundred pounds. It may be assumed that henceforth Mr. Shorditche was silent about the rate, which he could not abuse roundly and to his heart's content, without forfeiting so large a sum.
Though the rate was not raised readily in some of the parishes, the reformatory prison was built in something less than the twelve months next following the date of the order for levying the two thousand pounds; and on 5th October, 13 James I., the first orders (vide pp. 117, 118) for the government of the new house were put on paper. It was provided that a discreet woman should be appointed to govern the female prisoners, and that the same prisoners should be kept in seven rooms especially assigned to them, apart from prisoners of the other sex. Further, it was ordered that the governor of the prison should appoint a discreet and honest person to read "divine service and prayers" to the people under correction "once everie daye at the least . . . . and twice everie Sabboth-daye." On the 11th of January in the same year (vide p. 120) it was ordered "that everie person committed thither shalbe sett to labour and have no other nurture, then that he or she shall get with their labour, except they be sicke." Rising at 6 a.m., and going to rest at 7 p.m., winter and summer, the prisoners were made to work between those hours hardly and incessantly, with the exception of the times allotted to prayers, meals and midday recreation. "A bell," says one of these January orders, "shalbe tolled everie morninge at sixe, everie noone at xi and again at xii, and everie eveninge at vii." Sleeping on straw, that was renewed every month, the rogues under correction had warm pottage thrice a week, viz., on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday; it being further provided that "their lynnen (if any they have)" should be washed from time to time. How often it was to be washed is not stated. Eight other orders for the better government of the doleful place were issued by the visiting Justices on 1 May, 15 James I. (vide p. 130), one of them running in the following words: "Item, for that oftentymes servants, apprentices and other unruly and disordered persons be sent thither to receave correccion for the better humbling of them to their dutyes rather then to make them worse or desparate in the course of their life, it is thought requisite that such persons, sent in to such purpose at the request or complainte of such as intend their reformacion, be not lodged or dietted amongst the rest of the roagues (except it be specially commaunded), but rather apart and by themselves, yett so as they may finde themselves in a House of Correccion, by houlding them to labour and using them to labour hardly as the qualitie of their offence requireth." Whence it appears that, within three-and-a-half years of the establishment of the new reformatory school, servants, apprentices and other unruly and disordered persons, not under sentence of law, were committed to it for severe and possibly wholesome discipline. Who were the "other unruly and disordered persons," who were neither the servants nor the apprentices of the persons committing them for correction to so stern a school of manners ? A fair inference is that they were the more or less troublesome children of the people who sent them to a common gaol for better nurture.
IV. The two Process Books of Indictments, temp. James I.—Divided into sections, each of which is headed with "Ad Generalem Sessionem Pacis tentam apud &c," or "Ad Sessionem Pacis tentam apud &c," followed by the date of the session, these two books may be described as the supplementary Sessions of Peace Register, in which the Clerk of the Peace entered the names and offences of the persons against whom he was directed at the successive sessions to proceed by indictment. Most of the offenders, whose names were thus entered in these books, were charged with nothing worse than common assaults, neglecting to keep watch, failing to assist in the repair of highways, and forbearing to attend church. Two-thirds of the entries relate to matters of no historical moment; but both volumes (especially the frayed, detached and tattered leaves of the fragmentary second volume) have been of great service to the present editor, in enabling him to recover the names of recusants who were indicted by bills no longer in existence for "not coming to church," and thereby to perfect the list of recusants so proceeded against from the beginning of James the First's eighth year to the end of his reign.
V. Sessions Rolls temp. James I.—From a comparison of the most substantial and least injured of the Elizabethan files with those of the Jacoban files, that without being absolutely perfect have lost no considerable number of their original documents, it becomes manifest that before either of the two bodies of rolls suffered from decay, the files of the later reign were stouter and heavier than the files of the earlier period. It does not, however, seem that the greater bulkiness of the Jacoban files was due to any noteworthy increase in the number of the indictments. On the contrary, the greater stoutness and weight of the files put together in James's reign appear to have been occasioned by a steady increase in the number of the recognizances, the larger dimensions of the bills, and the much greater thickness of the parchment used in the Clerk of the Peace's office. From these three causes the files became so inconveniently big and cumbrous in James's earlier time, and also in the closing years of Elizabeth, that the Clerk of the Peace thought it well to omit from the sessional bundles the writings for whose preservation there was no manifest need. Hence certain kinds of documents, that contributed in no slight degree to the interest of the Middlesex County Record Society's former book, do not appear in the files from which the present volume has been mainly compiled. For instance, though prisoners of course continued to die in Newgate of gaol fever, the sessions rolls of James's time are silent about the deaths from "the pining sickness." In like manner, though the gallants and roisterers of the urban districts of Middlesex continued to fight duels with rapier and dagger, the files yield few coroners' inquisitions touching the circumstances of the frays. Indeed, it is seldom that the searcher of the Jacoban rolls comes upon the bill of a coroner's inquest for cause of death, that was not used as a bill of indictment in the Old Bailey court-house.
In literary style and texture, the documents of the Jacoban files closely resemble the documents of the Elizabethan rolls. Nor is there any noteworthy difference in the penmanship of the two sets of records, although the clerks of the later period wrote somewhat more largely and less artistically than the scribes of the earlier time. It is more worthy of remark that the Jacoban clerks surpassed their Elizabethan scribes in the ingenious art of scriptural contraction. Where a clerk of the earlier time wrote "nul" or "rec," the Jacoban penman wrote "nl" or "r'." But the most remarkable example of this stronger disposition of the later scribes to write long sentences with the smallest possible number of words, and to spell the words with the fewest possible letters, occurs in the memorandum,
(a.) Cog ind pe li le cre.—It is doubtless in the memory of most readers of the Middlesex County Record Society's former volume that the Elizabethan clerk, who put on Ben Jonson's indictment for the manslaughter of Gabriel Spencer a note of the poet's confession, pleading for clergy, clerical capability, and subsequent branding, wrote at the bill's head, "Cogn' Indictament petit librum legit ut Cl'icus sign' cum lra t et del' juxta formam statut' &c." In the following reign the clerk of gaol-deliveries, plying his pen in the service of the Middlesex Justices, boiled and peeled this not extravagantly verbose record down to "Cog ind pe li le cre" Cognoscit indictamentum, petit librum, legit, crematur= He confesses the indictment, asks for the book, reads, is burnt." It must be admitted that the ingenious inventor of "cog ind pe li le cre" was a consummate master of the art of putting things briefly, and sparing himself trouble. But to his discredit it must be recorded that, in his generous ambition to spare himself needless pains, he sometimes forgot to do his duty in the easiest way, and left it altogether undone. At the present date the gentleman's ingenuity would redound more largely to his honour, had he exercised it evenly and consistently on all the pages of the books of record (vide pp. 227, 228, and 229 of the present volume) that were committed to his keeping.
(b.) Po se cul ca nul sus.—It is necessary that I should speak at some length of this memorandum, which is one of the most frequent of the memoranda that, by appearing on the indictments, caused "the files, which without them would be mere rolled files, to become sessionsrolls, in their literary substance and essence, though not in their literary form—i.e., coherent records of the acts and proceedings of successive sessions." And it being the obvious duty of an editor of obscure records, on discovering an inaccuracy in his work, to take the earliest opportunity for calling attention to the error, and seizing the opportunity to use it with the utmost effect, I invite particular attention to what I am about to say of this no longer perplexing and misleading memorandum. In my preface to the Middlesex County Record Society's former volume, I gave "Ponit se culpabilem catalla nulla suspendatur" as the right extension of "Po se cul ca nul sus." I did so, under the impression that "He puts himself guilty" (the exact translation of "Po se cul") meant what the words at first sight appear to mean, and signified a confession of the indictment, or what is nowadays called corruptly "a plea of Guilty." Longer study of the memoranda on the indictments has taught me that my impression was erroneous, and that the right extension of the unpunctuated memorandum is "Ponit se culpabilis catalla nulla suspendatur."
Arising in a less degree from the contractedness of the Latin words than from the absence of punctuation, and in a far smaller degree from the absence of punctuation than from the absence of the numerous words that are needful to expand the brief note into a full record of clear significance, the difficulty of dealing with "Po se cul ca null sus" disappeared as soon as it became manifest to me that "po se," "cul," "ca null," and "sus" were in fact four several symbols for four distinct groups of words. (1), "Po se" is a symbol for "Ponit se non culpabilem super patrie juratam"=He (or she) puts himself (or herself) not guilty on a jury of the country (2), "Cul" is a symbol for "Et jurata dicit (or juratores dicunt) quod est culpabilis=And the jury says (or the jurors say) that he (or she) is guilty. (3), "Ca null" is a symbol for "Et habet catalla nulla pro forisfactura," or "Et habet catalla nulla forisfacienda," or "Et catallorum nullum est probatum" (all of which forms are indicated by imperfect extensions of the memorandum, to be found on some of the indictments)=And he (or she) has no chattels (or there is no proof of chattels) for forfeiture. (4), "Sus" is a symbol for "Ideo consideratur (or consideratum est) per curiam quod suspendatur per collum quousque mortuus sit"=Therefore it is (or was) decreed by the Court that he (or she) be hung by the neck till he (or she) be dead.
In the fullness of its most usual form, the entire record of "Po se cul ca null sus" was a mere symbol of a record that ran thus (in thirtyone Latin words, containing in all 171 letters)—"Ponit se non culpabilem super patrie juratam, et jurata dicit quod est culpabilis, et habet catalla nulla pro forisfactura, Ideo consideratum est per curiam quod suspendatur per collum quousque mortuus sit"=He puts himself Not Guilty on a jury of the country, and the jury says he is Guilty, and he has no chattels for forfeiture, Therefore it was decreed by the Court that he (or she) be hung by the neck till he (or she) be dead. As it was needful (so long as the indictments were well kept) for a clerk to put this record, in some form or other on the indictments, over the name of every person convicted of felony by a jury and sentenced to death, it is not surprising that the Clerk of the Peace boiled the record of 171 letters down to a brief note, containing only sixteen letters.
All the capital felons mentioned in the Middlesex County Record Society's former volume, who on their arraignment acknowledged the guilt of which they were accused, are described in the words of the memoranda as confessing the indictment. Holding fast to the ipsissima verba of the memoranda, I also described each capital felon mentioned in that book, who putting himself on trial was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to death, as a culprit who "po se cul"="put himself guilty." Readers, who search the book to ascertain the incidents and consequences of any such culprit's arraignment, should therefore bear in mind that the words "put himself guilty" are the exact translation of the unpunctuated memorandum "po se cul," which, on being duly extended, amplified, and punctuated, signifies that the culprit put himself on trial and was found guilty by a jury. At the present date it is a matter of no concern whether the doer of any sordid crime who died at the gallows for it in Elizabeth's reign was convicted on his own confession or by verdict of a jury. But to biographers it may be of importance to know that such pious Catholics as Dorothy White and William Hartley did not confess the indictments preferred against them, but pleaded "Not Guilty," and were found "Guilty" by verdict of jurors. In like manner, it is well for social historians to be assured that no one of the several persons indicted for witchcraft done in Elizabethan Middlesex confessed the crime on arraignment.
(c.) Po se non cul nec r'.—Whether they are followed by other words, as is usually the case, or stand alone, as they often do both on the bills and in the Gaol Delivery Register of James the First's time, the words "po se" mean that the culprit, over whose name they are written, put himself not guilty on a jury of the country, i.e. (to use a term familiar to lawyers) "put himself on the country," or (to use a term more familiar to the laity) "put himself on trial." When they are followed, either on a bill of indictment or in the Gaol Delivery Register, by "cul" or "non cul de . . . . sed cul de . . . ." or "non cul nec r'," the word or words by which they are so followed are the minute of the jurors' verdict. "Non cul nec r'" is the most common note of a verdict of acquittal. The Latin-less reader needs no further instruction as to the significance of "non cul"; but an explanation of the "nec r' " will be accepted graciously by the antiquary who in early manhood took a first-class at Oxford. This appendage to "non culpabilis" (=not guilty) appears in various forms in the Middlesex files. On the indictments of Edward the Sixth's and Mary's times, and on the earlier Elizabethan bills, it appears in the more easily understood forms of "nec se retrax," "nec se retraxit," "nec se retraxer", "nec se ret," "nec recess'," "nec recessit," "nec recesser'," and "nec rec'." But in the later Elizabethan bills and in the Jacoban files and books of record, the almost invariable form of the memorandum is "nec r'," signifying "nor did it (i.e., the jury) or they (i.e., the jurors) retract"; this addition to the mere minute of the verdict being a memorandum that, after giving the verdict of "Not Guilty," the jurors did not withdraw from or retract the verdict, but on the contrary held to it.
In the times when "nec r'" was thus appended by Elizabethan and Jacoban clerks to a minute of a verdict of acquittal, judges dealt with juries and verdicts in ways that would not be tolerated in the present time. When a jury returned a verdict of "Guilty," the judges could set aside the finding, if they deemed it contrary to the evidence. They could require the jury to reconsider the decision, and, in case the jury persisted in it, could reprieve the culprit before judgment and certify for his pardon. "The Court," says Jacob in the New Law Dictionary, "may set aside a verdict that convicts a man contrary to evidence. . . . . Wood's Inst., 648." In explanation of this somewhat startling statement, it is also said by the same careful writer, "And if the jury will by verdict convict a person against or without evidence, and against the opinion of the Court, they" (i.e., the Court) "may reprieve him before judgment, and certify for his pardon." 2 Hale P.C., 310."
But though judges might thus set aside a verdict of "Guilty," by compassing its nullification, they could not set aside a verdict of "Not Guilty," if they failed to admonish the jurors into withdrawing the acquittal and replacing it with a conviction. "If," says Jacob in his Dictionary, "the jury acquit a person of an indictment of felony against evidence, the Court, before the verdict is recorded, may order them to go out again and reconsider the matter; but this hath been thought hard, and of late years is not so frequently practised as formerly: There are instances where defendants acquitted of crimes contrary to evidence have been bound to the good behaviour. 2 Hawk. P.C., 442. In case a jury acquits a man upon trial against full evidence, and being sent back to consider better of it are peremptory in and stand to their verdict, the Court must take it, but may respite judgment upon acquittal: And here the King may have an attaint."
Whilst judges dealt in this overbearing manner with verdicts of acquittal, it was competent for a jury of its own mere motion, after coming into court with a verdict of acquittal, to change its mind at the last moment, and recalling their verdict after its delivery to replace it with a finding of Guilty. "But," says Giles Jacob, "a jury have been permitted to recall their verdict; as where one was indicted of felony, the jury found him Not Guilty, but immediately before they went from the bar, they said they were mistaken, and found him Guilty, which last was recorded for their verdict. Plowd., 211." The earlier Middlesex files are so fragmentary, that it would be wholly unreasonable to infer from their few remaining parchments that such withdrawals of verdicts of acquittal were infrequent in the times of Edward and Mary and the earlier years of Elizabeth. It is however worthy of remark, that though I kept a sharp and steady look-out for memoranda of these quick reversals of sentiment, whilst working on the indictments for the production of my statistical summaries, I came in the whole course of my labour, from 3 Edward VI. to the end of James's reign, on only two instances of juries recalling a verdict of acquittal. One of the indictments for capital felonies, tried in 1 & 2 Philip and Mary, exhibits the clerical memorandum "Po se non cul sed recessit ca null"=He put himself Not Guilty but withdrew no chattels=(when amplified and punctuated) He put himself Not Guilty on a jury of the country: and the jury found him Not Guilty, but withdrew: he had no chattels for forfeiture." The same note (Po se cul sed rec ca null) appears upon the bill of indictment, on which John Clerke late of London yeoman was tried at the Old Bailey in the 26th year of Elizabeth for stealing a carcase of flesh. After hearing the jury declare him Not Guilty, the wretched man heard the same jury declare he was Guilty.
(d.) The Reliance to be put on the clerical Minutes of the Indictments.— With respect to these minutes it should be impressed on readers that the proportion of the indictments for minor (i.e., not capital) offences, which exhibit no clerical memoranda, is so large as to warrant a statement that, though they sometimes condescended to annotate these less momentous bills, it was not the usual practice of the successive clerks of the records to put memoranda on the indictments for the less serious offences. The indictments for assaults are annotated with a sufficient frequency to show that, whilst the usual fine in James the First's time for an ordinary assault was one shilling, the equivalent of from five to six shillings of Victorian money, assaults of inordinate violence or other circumstances of peculiar enormity were punished with far heavier fines, with or without imprisonment or other grave penalties; but most of the bills of indictment for common assault and battery give no information touching judgment, verdict or plea. The comparatively few indictments for petty larceny are more frequently annotated, and the clerk of the peace seems to have derived a virtuous delight from writing at full length the judgments against those keepers of immoral houses, who were carted about the town to the music of ringing basons, and were well whipt at Bridewell before being enlarged under heavy recognizances. But the indictments for nuisance and simple trespass, like the indictments for other trivial misdemeanours, for the most part afford no information respecting the incidents of arraignment or consequences of trial. It is otherwise with the indictments for capital felonies. Though a few of the Elizabethan bills for mortal offences are without annotations (in which cases the omission may have been due to the culprit's death before trial, or to the postponement of his trial to the next gaol-delivery, or to the fact that the story of his conviction and sentence to death was fully recorded on a lost bill of the fragmentary files), it was certainly the practice of the clerks throughout the Queen's reign to annotate the capital indictments with sufficient fullness and circumspection. And even in those years of James the First, when the Middlesex records were kept most carelessly, the negligent clerk of gaol-deliveries was less neglectful of the capital than of the minor bills.
Enough has been said, for the moment, of this clerk's negligence in his later time, but a convenient occasion has come for speaking of his faculty for blundering in his earlier and better days. At the Newgate Gaol Delivery of 9th February, 9 James I., a woman, styled in the indictment against her "Becon Neale nuper de London spinster," was convicted of grand larceny. What note appears on the bill of indictment against this woman?—"pe li non le sus"=petit librum non legit suspendatur" =she asks for the book, does not read it, and therefore was sentenced to be hung. The clerk who could record that a woman pleaded her clergy, that the judges allowed her the book, and that she went to the gallows through her inability to read the book, was clearly a clerk on whose entries of record readers should not be required to put unqualified reliance.
But though the indictments were annotated and gaol-delivery books were kept with insufficient exactness by a particular clerk of James the First's time, enough remains of the work of earlier clerks to justify a strong opinion that the minutes and lengthier narratives put on the Elizabethan indictments were penned by trustworthy scribes. It is also certain that these trustworthy scribes of the earlier reign were especially moved to use their pens cautiously and precisely in making entries of pleas for clergy and consequent brandings with the letter T. When a felon had received short and fit delivery at Tyburn, it was seldom needful to refer to the brief record of his execution. But in Queen Elizabeth's time, no less than in later times, it was a common occurrence for a felon, who had formerly pleaded his clergy and received the shameful stigma of the hot iron, to make a second prayer for the book. When a culprit, convicted by confession or verdict, was suspected of pleading his clergy for a second time, it was needful to refer to the record of his previous conviction. The Court could not refuse him the book because his left hand was marked with the letter T, which some cruel practical joker might have put on the brawn of his left thumb, or he himself might have burnt into his own skin in some whim of morbid humour. A scar on the thumb's brawn, which might be the result of a surgical obliteration of the hateful letter, was even weaker evidence that the culprit had in former time sued for and been allowed the benefit of scholarship. The more damnatory mark was nothing more than a reason for making particular inquiry into his previous history. To justify the Court in refusing him a chance of escaping the hangman by reading his neck-verse, it was in the first place necessary to produce the original record of his previous indictment, conviction, pleading of clergy and branding,—i.e., the fully annotated bill of his former indictment.
On the production of this evidential parchment, it was in the power of the felon to deny that he was the person named in the document, and in respect to that matter to put himself on the country: in which case, as readers of the former volume on the Middlesex records doubtless remember, a jury was impanelled and charged to inquire and declare by their verdict, whether he were the same or another person It followed from the frequency with which records of pleadings for and allowances of clergy were required for purposes of evidence at the Old Bailey and other criminal courts, that they were made with even greater care than the records, that were never or seldom needed for evidential ends. It being to the interest and convenience of clerks of the peace and clerks of gaol-deliveries, that these particular minutes should not be discredited, it may be assumed confidently that, in Elizabeth's days, when the Middlesex records were kept carefully, the annotations of the indictments, which might at any moment be demanded for the sake of evidence that certain felonious clerks had pleaded their clergy, were made and, when it was needful to amend them, were amended with the nicest exactness. Sometimes in the Queen's reign felons, after having their clergy allowed to them, escaped the fiery touch of the hot iron by being peculiarly favoured with an immediate remission of the branding, or with "a reprieve before branding," that was followed by remission of the penalty. Felonious clerks were also sometimes "reprieved before branding," because it seemed fit to the Court to defer the branding and delivery till the convicts had undergone a further term of imprisonment. In these cases, it was the clerk's duty to put on record the remission or reprieve before branding, or the mere respite of the operation. For instance, in the 43rd year of Elizabeth, when on his arraignment at the Old Bailey for a larceny committed on the 16th of March in that year, Henry Dowdall, late of London, yeoman, had confessed the indictment, asked for the book, read it like a clerk and been reprieved before the burning, the note put on the indictment against him was "Cogn Ind petit librū legit ut clericus repr. ante cremat'" = He confessed the indictment, asked for the book, read it like a clerk, and was reprieved before branding.
There is the greater need to call the reader's attention to these facts, because, since the publication of the evidence of Ben Jonson's arraignment at the Old Bailey, for the manslaughter of Gabriel Spencer, it has been urged by so able an Elizabethan scholar as Dr. Brinsley Nicholson that, instead of being actually branded in accordance with the record, the poet must somehow or other have been so fortunate as to get a remission of the branding. Anything urged by so exemplary an Elizabethan specialist as Dr. Nicholson, on any matter touching the field of literature which he has mastered with equal devotion and address, is of course deserving of the most respectful consideration; and no competent critic is likely to dismiss with haste or discourtesy the doctor's contention that, if Jonson had been really branded, Dekker would scarcely have failed to taunt the poet with the felonious stigma, when mocking him for having been compelled to read his neck-verse. There is no doubt considerable force in this argument of the eminent man of letters, who was the first critic to discover, by the new light of the recently found indictment, the several spiteful allusions to Jonson's penal discomfiture, with which Dekker seasoned the ignoble though pungent satire of the "Satiromastix."
Had Ben Jonson escaped branding, in accordance with Dr. Nicholson's suggestion, in the 40th year of Elizabeth, and had he some thirty years later (say, in Charles the First's time) been convicted of another clergiable capital felony, he could in his old age have discredited the record of his former conviction and allowance of clergy, and swept its evidence aside by showing his unbranded left thumb, and saying to the jury, "Here is conclusive proof that I am not the Benjamin Jonson who slew Gabriel Spencer and was branded in the 40th of Elizabeth. My left hand has no T upon it, nor a scar where the letter might once have been visible; whereas the record of the felon who killed Gabriel Spencer bears testimony that he was marked in the usual way with the Tyburn T." Of course clerks are sometimes careless and negligent; but the evidence of their records is not to be regarded lightly, because they now and then make a slip. The clerk who annotated the Middlesex indictments in the 40th of Elizabeth was the same careful clerk who three years later put the minutes on the bill of indictment against Henry Dowdall, another yeoman of London. To some readers it may appear more probable that the minutes put on the indictment against Ben Jonson were exactly in accordance with the facts of his case, than that the habitually accurate clerk, who was careful to write "repr. ante cremat'" on Henry Dowdall's bill, mistold the story of the poet's passage through the Old Bailey court-house. Anyhow, in considering Dr. Nicholson's suggestion and arguments, students should bear in mind the way in which notice used to be taken of cases in the Middlesex records, where the branding of a criminal was either remitted or deferred.
VI. The Summaries of the True Bills.—As great care and labour (indeed, an amount of labour and time that from certain points of view might be deemed excessive and unjustifiable) have been expended on the production of the statistical tables, printed on the concluding pages of the present volume, it is hoped that they will be of some service to social historians, in helping them to estimate the relative prevalence of different kinds of crime, the degree in which the rigorous penal code of our ancestors was destructive of human life, the degree in which the rigour of that code was modified by benefit of clergy and verdicts of petty larceny given on evidence of capital felony, the pro portion of indicted culprits who were acquitted by juries, the proportion of arraigned felons who confessed the indictments preferred against them, and the proportion of the last-named felons who after putting themselves guilty (or, as we now-a-days say corruptly, 'pleading guilty') followed up their acknowledgments of guilt with prayer for the clerical benefit. It is also hoped that the summaries will be useful to certain readers, in serving the purpose of a general class-index to the indictments of the sessions-rolls, and showing the proportion of the indictments, that have been compressed into the two volumes. Just as the reports on ancient writings, published from time to time by Her Majesty's Commissioners on Historical MSS., are useful in guiding inquirers to documents which they wish to examine, and also in saving them from wasting time and labour in searching for particular documents in accumulations of manuscripts that do not comprise any of the desired records, it is hoped that these summaries, whilst guiding them to records they may wish to examine, may save students from wasting time in searching at the Clerkenwell Sessions House for writings not to be found there.
(a.) The Defectiveness of the Records, from which the Summaries have been made.—Had the indictments of Middlesex files been in the first instance fully annotated, and then preserved to the present hour in their original entirety, the number of the persons counted into the following summaries as having been indicted for capital felonies would correspond with the combined numbers of persons counted into the same tables for having been convicted or acquitted of capital felonies, for having stood mute on arraignment, or for being described in the bills as capital culprits "at large," allowance being made for the cases of culprits dying in prison between indictment and arraignment, and culprits respited for trial at a session of a later year. So also, the combined numbers of the felons sentenced to death, the capital felons pleading clergy, and the convicted felons reprieved before judgment would be neither greater nor less than the number of persons convicted of capital felonies. But at no time of the long period from 3 Edward VI. to 22 James I. were the indictments annotated fully. Of a considerable proportion of the persons, who are shown by existing indictments to have been convicted of capital felony, one learns nothing from the minutes on the bills, beyond the fact that they were so convicted by juries. One looks in vain to the minutes for information, whether they were sentenced to death, or allowed benefit of clergy, or reprieved before or after judgment. Even in the capital bills of Elizabeth's time, when they were annotated with comparative amplitude and exactness, one comes continually on the names of culprits without any clerical memoranda. In those years of James the First, when the Middlesex records were kept with exemplary carelessness, the clerk of gaol-deliveries often tells no more of a person indicted for capital felony than that the culprit "po se"= put himself on trial. When it suited his humour to record that a culprit was convicted of mortal felony, the inventor of "pe li le cre" often omitted to add whether the felon was branded, sentenced to be hung, or reprieved. And whilst some of the bills were insufficiently annotated, other indictments, on whose minutes more care was possibly expended, have lost from decay or some other cause of injury those portions of their original substance, to which one would look for marginal memoranda. Eating the parchments from the right-hand edge to their middle, mere rot has reduced some of the files to half their original size, cutting the documents from top to bottom almost as neatly as a ragged knife would have cut them. From the halves of the indictments, held by the cord of one of these half-consumed files, one may learn the names of culprits and the crimes for which they were indicted, but neither the incidents nor the consequences of the arraignments. Where one of these halfconsumed files is part of a year's bundle of sessional parchments, it operates largely in raising the number of persons indicted for capital felonies, above the number of persons shown by the year's extant indictments to have been convicted or acquitted of capital felonies, or to have been at large with indictments for capital felonies found against them, in the year to which the bundle pertains.
(b.) Results of the Summaries.—So much having been said of the attenuation of the earlier rolls and the mutilation of many of their remaining documents, it may appear needless to remark that the figures of the Elizabethan summaries are in no degree significant of the comparative lightness or heaviness of the calendars of the prisoners, arraigned at the Old Bailey in the successive years on charges of capital felony or for minor offences. To save them, however, from misconceptions that would result in wildly erroneous conclusions, I venture to caution every peruser of the tables to bear in mind that, whilst none of the Elizabethan files are perfect, some of the annual bundles are so attenuated and scrappy as to be literally "mere handfuls" of frayed and disfigured documents. In no degree indicatory of the amount of business done at the Newgate gaol-deliveries, the fewness of the Elizabethan indictments is impressively significant of the magnitude of the losses occasioned by the decay of the files. That the yearly average of indictments at the Newgate gaol deliveries during Elizabeth's reign was about the same as the yearly average of indictments in the time of James the First, appears from the number and largeness of the packets, in which the mere refuse and undecipherable debris of the Elizabethan files are preserved at Clerkenwell, and also from the number of the indictments in the few Elizabethan bundles that retain something of their original shape and substantiality.
(1.) Results touching Benefit of Clergy.—The increasing proportions of the capital felons, who in the four successive reigns avoided death by pleading their clergy, point with curious significance to one effect of King Edward's grammar-schools, and the greater diffusion of primary education in the times of Elizabeth and James. In Edward's reign the proportion of capital felons who received the clerical benefit was 8.54 per cent. of the one hundred and seventeen felons who appear from the few remaining indictments to have been convicted of capital felonies done in Middlesex. Under Queen Mary the proportion of felons pleading and having the clerical benefit was fractionally higher than in the previous reign, viz., 8.75 per cent. of the capital convicts. The extant Edwardian and Marian indictments are too few to justify readers in assuming that the lost bills would have yielded the same proportions of clerical felons. But it makes for confidence in what may be termed the historic significance of the figures, that the two lots of extant indictments, tried in two successive reigns, when the new grammar-schools were only getting into operation, and nothing had occurred to greatly change the old proportion of the lettered to the unlettered culprits, yield results so nearly identical. The fragmentary Elizabethan files afford evidence of an increase in the proportion of the capital felons capable of reading a verse of scripture, that corresponds to what one would conceive to be a natural and necessary consequence of the diffusion of primary culture amongst the populace. Of the 617 persons, shown by extant indictments to have been convicted of capital felony in the first twenty years of Elizabeth's reign, 21.71 per cent. pleaded clergy and had the clerical benefit after reading with adequate address; and of the 1,428 persons, shown to have been convicted of capital felony in the Queen's last twenty-five years, 35.5 per cent. escaped the gallows by benefit of clergy; the percentage of the whole 2,045 culprits, shown to have been convicted of capital felony during the reign, who had the clerical benefit, being 31.83. The proportion of capital felons, who in James the First's time avoided the rope by reading was still higher, being 38.95 per cent. of the whole number of felons sentenced to death during the whole reign, and 41.62 per cent. of the convicts shown to have been sentenced to death during 6 to 15 James I. inclusive—ten years during which the indictments were annotated more fully, than the bills of the later years of the King's time. Of 672 felons, who had the clerical benefit in James the First's time, 23.06 per cent. confessed their indictments before pleading clergy. Thus, the tables for the four successive periods show that
(2.) Balance of Convictions and Acquittals.—On comparing the Jacoban with the Elizabethan summaries, readers will observe that the proportion of the culprits, who are shown by the defective files of the later period to have been acquitted of capital offences, is much greater than the proportion of capital culprits, who are shown by the much more defective records of the earlier period to have been acquitted by juries. This increase in the number of acquittals of capital indictments is largely referable to the growing practice of juries to acquit of capital felony and convict of petty larceny, on evidence of grand larceny. As every culprit, who profited from this merciful usage of the Jacoban juries was a unit transferred from the tale of capital convictions to the tale of capital acquittals—a unit "counting as two in the division"— the lenient practice affected greatly the balance of convictions and acquittals, sometimes even causing the latter to exceed the former in number. Of the 1,616 persons shown by the Jacoban bills to have been acquitted of capital felony, 21.96 per cent. were at the same time convicted of petty larceny on evidence of grand larceny. The Jacoban files preserve evidence of 355 of these " imperfect" acquittals in 3,341 arraignments, that resulted in 1,616 acquittals and 1,725 convictions of capital felony. Had the evidence of capital crime resulted in convictions of capital felony in the 355 cases, the convictions of capital felony on the 3,341 arraignments would have been 2,080 instead of 1,725, and the acquittals of capital felony would have been 1,261 instead of 1,616. At the same time, the greater readiness of juries to convict of petty larceny on evidence of great larceny seems to have been attended by a greater readiness to acquit culprits altogether, when their guilt could be regarded as doubtful.
(3.) Imperfection of the Results.—Enough has been said of the defectiveness of the Middlesex records to warn the student of the summaries that he must attribute to their results a degree of imperfection corresponding to the defectiveness of the data afforded by the fragmentary files. Whilst the Elizabethan sessions-rolls are so attenuated and scrappy, as to afford no bases for even the most conjectural computation of the measure of their losses, the Jacoban files appear to have lost about a third of the original number of their indictments;—a rough estimate that has been formed from a comparison of the files with the entries of the Gaol Delivery Register, for the ten years 6 to 15 James I. inclusive, and from observation of the number and largeness of the packets in which the mere litter and débris of the "broken files" have been put away in the Clerkenwell muniment-room. In arguing from the numerical data afforded by the remaining two-thirds of the Jacoban rolls, students may not assume that rot and defacement have worked with even-handed and proportionate destructiveness on the different kinds of documents and memoranda. The Gaol Delivery Register, for the ten years during which it was kept with sufficient care, affords some remarkable evidence against any such assumption. For instance, whilst the files of those ten years retain no more than 498 sentences to death by the rope, the G. D. Register shows that 704 persons were actually hung in those ten years. During their entireness the files must, therefore, have contained more than 704 records of sentences to hanging, as through grants of pardon the number of persons actually hung was less than the number of persons sentenced to the gallows. To escape the suspicion of exaggeration, however, let no allowance be made for pardons in respect to these 498 sentences, and for the purpose of the present computation let it be assumed that all the 498 sentences were executed. On that assumption, the files in their present state retain 70.73 per cent. of their original number of records of sentences to hanging, that were actually carried into effect, and have lost a trifle over 29.26 per cent. of them.—Now, let us look to the records of sentences to the peine forte et dure in the same ten years. Whilst the G. D. Register for the ten years shows that 32 persons were in that time sentenced to "the peine," the files preserve no less than 28 of the original records of those sentences, i.e., seven-eighths of the original number. Thus whilst they have lost 29.26 per cent. of the original records of sentences to the gallows, that were actually carried into effect, the files have lost only an eighth, or a decimal percentage of 12.5, of their original records of sentences to the peine forte et dure.
VII. Other Notable Matters of the present Volume.—To call attention in these introductory pages to all the curious and more or less instructive entries of the present publication would be to extend a preface to an inconvenient length, but it will be for the advantage of readers who, without having time to study the book thoroughly, would take a general view of its contents, that attention should be called to a few of the many matters that are especially deserving of consideration.
(a.) Catholic Recusants.—To satisfy the several readers of the former volume, who have expressed a desire for the ipsissima verba of the more exemplary indictments of catholic priests for celebrating mass or for being and remaining traitorously in the country, in disobedience to well-known statutes of Elizabeth, the editor has printed at length, in the second division of the body of the present book, all the most characteristic of those fully annotated indictments, together with English translations of the bills and their clerical memoranda. He has also given a summary of every remaining indictment against the catholics and other recusants for "not coming to church;" and in his desire to render the fullest possible account of these lastnamed offenders, he has counted into the summaries of the True Bills not only the persons whose prosecutions for failing to attend the services of the established church are certified by extant bills of indictment, but also the catholics and other recusants, who are not named in those bills, but are shown either by the filed memoranda of proclamations or by the entries of the Gaol Delivery Register or the entries of the Process Books, to have been proceeded against for that offence. In respect to all other offenders the summaries of the True Bills accord precisely with the descriptive headings under which they are printed, no offender being counted into the tables unless his name appears in a remaining bill of indictment; but to do full justice to the activity of magistrates and informers against the people who kept away from church, the editor in making the yearly summaries added to the number of persons, indicted by extant bills, the number of the persons who are shown by other writings of evidence to have been proceeded against for the said misdemeanor by bills, that have perished. A few of the persons so indicted in James the First's time were Brownists and other sectaries having no friendly disposition to the Roman faith and church, or people who neglected the religious exercises of the church from mere levity; but to the end of James's reign the great majority ofth e offenders thus proceeded against for religious non-conformity were resolute catholics. Of course the recusants, whose names occupy so much space in the index of the former volume, were only a small proportion of the recusants of Elizabethan Middlesex. For the first five years of James the First, the list of recusants given in the present volume is also greatly defective; but though it may want a few names that would figure in a perfect record, the list of the recusants given in the ensuing index may be regarded as the fairly and substantially perfect roll of the individuals, who were prosecuted in the last seventeen years of the king's reign for neglecting to attend the services of the Middlesex churches. Anyhow, historians seeking fuller information respecting the catholics of England from Elizabeth's accession to James's death, may be assured that the two volumes now published by the Middlesex County Record Society exhibit everything about the catholics of the two reigns, to be found in the Clerkenwell manuscripts.
(b.) Forcible Entry and Disseisin.—As no one of the many people who, from the time of Richard the Second to the end of James the First's reign, were guilty of forcible entry and disseisin, can ever have found it to his advantage to have entered forcibly on land to which he was claimant, and by unlawful means have dispossessed for a moment the person or persons whose title he disputed, it is curious and perplexing that throughout the successive generations of so long a period the populace should have persisted in so turbulent and futile a way of asserting their claim to real estate. All these forcible entries terminated in the same way,—the punishment by fine, with or without brief imprisonment, of the principals in the riotous misdemeanor, and the restoration of the "status quo." When (vide pp. 2 and 3) Thomas Palmer of the Middle Temple gentleman, Thomas Badger of the Inner Temple gentleman, Anthony Chapman gentleman and John Lynsey, one of the king's yeomen of the peace, made forcible entry into Humfrey Cruse's dwelling-house in the Round Wolstaple of Westminster and ejected Mr. Cruse from the same tenement, three Justices of the Peace (viz., Sirs Vincent Skinner, William Bowyer and John Grange, knts.) went personally to the Round Wolstaple, and finding the same Thomas, Thomas, Anthony and John in unlawful possession of the same house, caused them to be arrested and thrown into Newgate, where they were kept prisoners till they had paid the fines imposed upon them by the same magistrates,—Thomas Palmer being fined £2, Thomas Badger £5, and Anthony Chapman and John Lynsey 10s. each. In like manner, when (vide p. 5) John Selbie William Mundaie and Hugh Smithe had ejected the widow Anne Smithe by illegal force from a certain house at Enfeilde, John Brett esq. J.P. hastened to Endfield, and laying the forcible intruders by the heels threw them into Newgate, there to remain till they should have paid the fine imposed upon them. All the forcible entries ended with fine and other discomfiture to the deforciants, and an order of "fiat restitutio" for the ejected party. Yet people went on with their futile "forcible entries"—possibly from pure delight in rioting.
(c.) Houses of Ill Fame.—In dealing with these pest-houses and schools of wickedness, Jacoban "society" seems to have acted in Middlesex very much as society acts at the present time in the western districts of modern London. Enduring them and looking away from them, so long as they did their vile business unobtrusively and noiselessly, the decent householders of suburban London made fierce war upon the keepers and inmates of brothels, when the houses became unendurably numerous and noisy. Tolerant of the nuisance under ordinary circumstances, the Jacoban town was apt at any moment, when the condition of affairs became other than commonplace, to rise in fervid and ferocious virtue against an evil, which people had not yet learnt to call "the social evil." In these moods of transient indignation, the authorities delighted in "making examples." Society was in one of these moods when it (vide pp. 87, 88) rejoiced in the sentence passed at the Old Bailey on William Barnewell of St. Giles'sin-the-Fields gentleman and his wife Thomasina Barnewell gentlewoman, on their conviction of keeping "communem domum lupinariam vocatam . . . . in qua quidem domo diverse male-disposite persone et meretrices juratoribus predictis ignote procuracione ejusdem Willelmi Barnewell et Thomasine uxoris ejus scortacionem et fornicacionem tam per noctem quam per diem adtunc et ibidem commiserunt ad inquietacionem et perturbacionem diversorum ligeorum domini Regis ibidem commorantium." The law dealt with this gentleman and gentlewoman in stern disregard of—or, perhaps, with malicious reference to—their gentle quality and style. Keepers of brothels were usually carted through the streets to rough music, and then whipt in comparative privacy at Bridewell. But it was adjudged that, instead of being whipt in prison, the gentleman and gentlewoman should be whipt openly at the cart's tail from Newgate to the door of their own house in St. Giles's aforesaid, and should "there remayne for some space to the end the inhabitantes maie take notice of them, and from thence to prison againe, there to remaine tyll they fynde sureties for their good behaviour thereafter." Nine years later (vide pp. 171, 172) the Middlesex Magistrates issued a remarkable order for the suppression of the immoral houses of Saffron Hill, which had become in James's later time very much such a thoroughfare as Norton Street was thirty years since.
(d.) Jewel and Plate Robberies.—Both for magnitude and also for the curiosity of some of the stolen articles, the larcenies of jewellery and plate committed in James the First's Middlesex are even more remarkable than the thefts of the same kind done in the same county during Elizabeth's reign. A collector of Jacoban jewellery would pay a large sum at the present time for "the jewel" (vide p. 4) "called an Aggett the pictor of a horse and man," set with four rubies and worth forty pounds in Jacoban gold, which Richard Gellett carried off burglariously, with other costly gems and jewels, from Sir Edmund Carey's chamber in Savoy palace in the night of 6 December, 1 James I. The plate and jewel robberies from the Earl of Suffolk's house in St. Catherine's precinct on 18 Oct., 11 James I. (vide p. 93), from Whitehall Palace in the night of 1 March, 11 James I. (vide pp. 95, 96) to the impoverishment of "Lewis Duke of Lenax," and from the Earl of Arundel's townhouse on 15 September, 12 James I. (vide p. 101), in St. Clement's Danes', are three burglaries of which the particulars should be noted by readers of this preface. The burglars who carried off Lord Digby's silver plates, dishes, flagons, salts and bowls from his dwelling-house in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields in the night of 2 April, 17 James I., at the same time took away feloniously (vide p. 145) his lordship's "sex furcas argenteas anglice sixe silver forks" worth thirty shillings;—forks, whose price makes it manifest they were not the light playthings with which people had long been accustomed to pick sweet-meats out of syrup, but such table-forks as Tom Coryate had a few years earlier introduced from Italy to the dinner-tables of "the great,"—such forks as in a later period of the seventeenth century young Sam Pepys and the other modish gentlemen of Restoration London used to carry with them in their pockets to the tables at which they feasted. The "thirteene apostle silver spoones " (vide pp. 173, 174), stolen with much other plate from the Earl Darbie's house in Westminster, in the night of 15 January, 20 James I., were worth forty shillings, whilst "twelve plaine silver spoones" were appraised at so small a sum as ten shillings. The value of the plate, jewels, rich clothing and other costly chattels taken by burglars in the night of 30 August, 19 James I, from Sir Thomas Merry's house (vide p. 162), exceeded £757 of Jacoban money,—or some four thousand pounds of Victorian gold. Though the value of the moneys and chattels of which she was despoiled in Holborn on 18 July, 22 James I. (vide pp. 181, 182) was trifling in comparison with the value of the things taken from Sir Thomas Merry, no lady of her period seems to have lost more from a single raid on her valuables, than Venetia Standeley lost when she was stript of her "head-bracelett of gould enambled sett with twenty-three sparkes of diamondes worth eighty pounds," her precious ear-jewels, multifarious other articles of personal adornment, and one hundred-and-fifty pounds in numbered moneys.
(e.) Money.—One hears less in James's than one heard in Elizabeth's time of gold sovereigns worth ten shillings. That the twenty-shilling gold piece, bearing the sovereign's image, was called a sovereign by James's lieges, appears from divers indictments, one of which is noticed on p. 28. It is more worthy of notice that our forefathers in James's time used to earn and spend gold pieces worth twenty-two shillings each, called "unites." One of the four indictments (vide p. 125), of which Sir George Sandes knt. was acquitted at the Old Bailey in the 14th year of James the First, charged him with taking from John Marston gentleman on the Knightsbridge highway "duas pecias auri voc' King James' unites." Two years later (vide p. 136) Martin Earle late of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields yeoman, was charged with stealing "centum et quinquaginta pecias auri anglice unites" (one hundred and fifty pieces of gold called in English unites), each of them worth twoand-twenty shillings of lawful money, and also the trunk containing the same unites, of the goods, chattels and moneys of Edward Duncombe esq.
(f.) Pewter.—The attention of antiquaries should be called to the indictments which afford evidence that vessels said to be made of brass and vessels said to be made of tin, as well as vessels made of the metallic compound called "electrum" (a compound similar to if not identical with the pewter of the present day), were called pewter vessels by our ancestors of James the First's period. In the 11th year of that king's reign Winifred Davis (vide p. 84) was charged at the Old Bailey with stealing "duas patinas stanni anglice two pewter saucers" worth four pence; and four years later (vide p. 133) a true bill was found against four culprits for stealing, together with other things, "tres patinas seneas anglice three pewter dishes."
(g.) Poisoning temp. Elizabeth and James I.—When they are assured that notice has been taken of every indictment for administering poison, with or without fatal consequences, and also of every recognizance and entry in the Gaol Delivery Register touching the same offence, readers will have cause for surprise that the Middlesex manuscripts contain so few references to a particular kind of crime, that is generally believed to have been greatly prevalent in Elizabethan, and still more prevalent in Jacoban, London. Comprising (1) the indictment of Eleanor Trevener for giving ratsbane, without fatal consequences, to her mistress Susanna Jackson on 30 June, 33 Elizabeth, (2) the indictment of Margaret Farmer for killing her mistress Elizabeth Crumwell with ratsbane in November, 34 Eliz., and (3) the indictment of John Pemmer of Westdraiton for killing Anne Fisher with an excessive dose of white hellebore, the fragmentary Elizabethan files also retain the recognizance of Anne Arrundell, who was bound on 2 June, 40 Eliz., to give evidence against Geoffrey Welsh, Anne Welsh and Maria Wills "towching poison given to children." The Elizabethan files give these and one or two other records, touching the criminal administration of poison. As he was not indicted for murder, but only for manslaughter, John Pemmer may be presumed to have been a medical herbalist, who at the worst only killed his patient by mal-practice, whilst intending to do her good. For aught said in the document to the contrary, the children referred to in the recognizance may have been poisoned by innocent misadventure or not have been poisoned at all. In the substantial though far from perfect records of James the First's time one comes oftener on an indictment for, or a reference to, poisoning. Lucy Cole (vide p. 9) was found guilty of killing her master, Anthony Trott of Harroweld, by giving him ratsbane (viz. sulphuret of mercury), on 10 November, 2 James I.; in the same year a true bill was found against Margaret Padgett (vide p. 9) for killing Philip Ryce by giving him ratsbane in a glass of beer; and in the 18th year of the king's reign Margaret Masham was conricted at the Old Bailey of giving quicksilver and tin in cups of "scurvigrasse ale" to her mistress Frances Lady Bugges, with the intention of murdering her. With the help of the index, the reader may easily come in the present volume on notes of other cases, where poison was, or seems to have been, used for criminal ends. But whilst the fewness of the cases discountenances the notion that poisoning was a common crime in Jacoban Middlesex, the clumsy methods and vulgar materials used by the poisoners discredit in a yet more remarkable degree the impression that the miscreants were familiar with peculiarly subtle poisons and administered them with singular cunning and dexterity. The maid-servant who tried to kill her mistress with quicksilver and tin was a mere simpleton; and though its mortal efficacy is unquestionable, ratsbane was no poison to be used by poisoners, who had mastered the resources of Jacoban chemistry and wished to escape detection.
(h.) Middlesex Playhouses temp. James I.—The body of the present volume contains numerous entries touching actors and playhouses, that are especially deserving of consideration. No reader of the book should miss the notes on the series of recognizances (vide pp. 64, 65), making reference to the "notable outrage att the Playhowse called the Redd Bull," that set the town talking in May, 8 James I., or the note (vide pp. 165, 166) touching the information against Richard Gill "for threateninge" in April, 20 James I., "Mr. Baxter and the other Redbull players to ruyn theire house and persons," or the threatening letter (vide pp. 175, 176) written by John Gill in the same year to the same Mr. Baxter, at that time manager of the Red Bull theatre, or the remarkable Order (vide pp. 83, 84) dated by the Middlesex Justices of the Peace on 1 Oct., 10 James L, for the discontinuance "of certayne lewde jigges, songes and daunces used and accustomed at the play-house called the Fortune in Gouldinglane," that had of late proved dangerously attractive to "cutt-purses and other lewde and ill-disposed persons," and greatly conducive to disorder in and about the same playhouse. But the most noteworthy matter, touching a playhouse of old London, appears on p. xlvii. of this introductory essay, and is alluded to in no other part of the present volume.
After what they have been told of the confusion in which the Middlesex records were found a few years since, readers will learn without surprise that the editor of the manuscripts has come, in the broken files of James the First's time, on a few frayed and much-defaced slips of parchments that pertain to the fragmentary Elizabethan rolls. With a single exception these misplaced slips of parchment are unimportant, but the one exception—an indictment touching the playhouse, that in Queen Elizabeth's time was emphatically styled "the Theatre," and was for some years after its erection at Shoreditch, in 1576–7, the cause of much commotion and several riots in that parish—has a value which entitles it to be mentioned here, as it came to light too late for insertion in the Middlesex Record Society's former volume. The indictment runs thus:—
Midd. ss.: Juratores pro domina Regina presentant quod Johannes Braynes de Shorditche in comitatu Middlesexie yoman et Jacobus Burbage de eadem yoman xximo. die Februarii anno Regni Elizabethe Dei gracia Anglie Francie et Hibernie Regine fidei defensoris &c. xxiido. et diversis aliis diebus et vicibus antea et postea congregaverunt et manutenuerunt illicitas assemblaciones populi ad audienda et spectanda quedam colloquia sive interluda vocata playes or interludes per ipsos Johannem Braynes et Jacobum Burbage et diversas alias personas ignotas exercitata et practicata apud quendam locum vocatum the Theatre in Hallywell in comitatu predicto Racione cujus quidem illicite assemblacionis populi magne affraie insultus tumultus et quasi insurrexiones et diversa alia malefacta et enormia per quam plures maledispositas personas tunc et ibidem facta et perpetrata fuere in magnam perturbacionem pacis Domine Regine ac subversionem bonorum ordinis et regiminis ac ad periculum vitarum diversorum bonorum subditorum dicte Domine Regine ibidem existencium ac contra pacem ipsius Domine Regine necnon contra formam statuti inde editi et provisi &c.
Middlesex, to wit: The jurors for the Lady the Queen present that John Braynes of Shorditche in the county of Middlesex yoman and James Burbage of the same [parish] yoman on the 21st day of February in the 22nd year of the reign of Elizabeth by God's grace Queen of England France and Ireland defender of the faith &c. and on divers other days and occasions before and afterwards brought together and maintained unlawful assemblies of the people to hear and see certain colloquies or interludes called playes or interludes exercised and practised by the same John Braynes and James Burbage and divers other persons unknown at a certain place called The Theatre in Hallywell in the aforesaid county By reason of which unlawful assembling of the people great affrays assaults tumults and quasi-insurrections and divers other misdeeds and enormities have been then and there done and perpetrated by very many ill-disposed persons to the great disturb ance of the peace of the Lady the Queen and the overthrowing of good order and rule and to the danger of the lives of divers good subjects of the said Lady the Queen being there and against the peace of the same Lady the Queen and also against the form of the statute in that respect published and provided &c.
Hitherto it has been held by the best and most accurate historians of the Elizabethan stage, that James Burbage and no other person built the famous "Theatre," that he was the sole proprietor of "the Theatre" when this indictment was drawn, and that John Braynes had no connection with the Elizabethan stage or with this particular place of entertainment, apart from the fact that he was James Burbage's fatherin-law, and from the fact that he lent James Burbage some thousand marks of the money with which "the Theatre" was built. From the indictment, however, it appears probable that John Braynes was himself an actor, and more than probable that he was joint-proprietor and joint-manager of the place. A reasonable inference from the words "per ipsos &c. exercitata et practicata," i.e. practised and performed, is that John Braynes and James Burbage were both actors. Against this fair and reasonable inference it may, of course, be urged that in the eye of the law a person is the doer of things done at his command by his servants. Anyhow it is manifest that the Clerk of the Peace for Middlesex—the legal brain of the Justices of the county, and the man of affairs who was bound by official duty to watch narrowly every movement of the populace and every suspicious character in the Middlesex suburbs of London—had reason, and what appeared to him good reason, for regarding John Braynes as a more overt, cogent and notorious a power in the affairs of "the Theatre," than the capitalist in the background, who had lent between six and seven hundred pounds to his son-in-law for the establishment of the place of public amusement. To lend a thousand marks to an actor was no indictable offence. But to be joint-manager of a playhouse, that caused riots and other scandalous disorders in and about it, was to provoke an indictment. Moreover, John Braynes clearly appeared to the Clerk of the Peace to be the chief of all the mischief-makers known and unknown. Had he regarded James Burbage as the more potent and important of the two mischief-makers, the Clerk would have put his name in the indictment before the name of John Braynes.
(j.) Residents refusing to keep Watch.—Both in the statistical summaries towards the end of this volume, and in the entries of the earlier divisions of the book, readers will come upon evidence of frequent proceedings against householders and other residents for refusing or neglecting to take their turns in watching over their respective parishes or constabularies by night. "Forasmuch," runs a Sessions of Peace Order, dated by the Middlesex Justices on 30 September, 11 James I. (vide pp. 92, 93), "as William Goodall, constable of St. Martin's-in-the-Feilds, hath made complaint in this court that diverse knightes and gentlemen being Inhabitantes there doe refuse to watche and warde accordinge to the Lawe, It is therefore ordered by the Court that the Constables and officers of the place aforesaid shall upon sight hereof repaire to the houses of the knightes and other gentlemen, requiring them by vertue hereof to watche and warde as they ought to doe or to returne their answere to the Justice next adjoyning." Evidence that in the middle of James's reign the knights and other gentlemen of a surburban parish were required to do duty from time to time in the parochial night-watch, this order points to the nearapproaching time when knights and gentlemen were exempted from the uncongenial service, on condition that they paid efficient substitutes to watch for them. When the practice of allowing knights and gentlemen to watch by deputy had arisen, our ancestors were getting within view of the time, when the old night-watch of householders and other residents doing duty by turn was replaced by the paid body of regular watchmen.
(k.) Riots in Middlesex temp. James I.—To avoid the mistake of underrating the magnitude of the riots, that were so frequent in the urban districts of Middlesex, the reader must bear in mind that for every person indicted for taking part in a riot, ten or twenty rioters in the same disturbance often escaped indictment because they were unknown to the constables. Sometimes the rioters to escape indictment exceeded, in a far more remarkable degree, the principal rioters, who were proceeded against by the conservators of the peace. For the riots that gave "the Theatre" a bad name in 22 Elizabeth, it was enough for the authorities to indict John Braynes and James Burbage, though several hundreds of persons were no doubt concerned in the disturbances. In the indictment (vide p. 26), that called Thomas Linsey, John Nott, William Ap' Robert, John Elson and John Chapman to account for breaking glass windows in Turmill Street on 17 February, 4 James I., it is stated that the five rioters were supported and aided by 200 unknown disturbers of the peace. For distinguishing themselves in riots, that were mere street-brawls, and resulted in no serious injury to the king's peaceful lieges, rioters were usually punished with moderate fines, and required to find sureties for their peaceful behaviour. But for graver and more hurtful excesses, disturbers of the peace were disciplined on their bare shoulders with the lash. Ten of the rioters who broke windows in Old Street and Turmill Street (vide pp. 25, 26) in James's 4th year, were whipt at the cart's tail. Sometimes rioters of general orderliness and fair credit were spared the disgrace of being publicly whipt in the street, but sentenced to be whipt with comparative privacy in the halls of their respective companies. But for taking part in commotions of exceptional violence and enormity, justice (vide pp. 220, 1, 2, 3) did not hesitate in laying heavy fines on egregious disturbers of the peace, and at the same time sentencing them to be imprisoned in irons for three or even for twelve months.
(l.) Singular Outbreak of Judicial Ferocity.—To realize what scenes of savagery our forefathers could tolerate, and even regard with approval, as impressive and altogether wholesome exhibitions of judicial energy, in the earliest quarter of the seventeenth century, readers should give adequate attention to the record (vide pp. 53, 54) of Robert Allaley's case. There is sufficient evidence that Robert Allaley was a violent and dangerous criminal. He had already been convicted of a capital felony and received a conditional pardon of that felony (one of the conditions of the pardon being that he should henceforth be of peaceful bearing towards the King and all his lieges), when he was arraigned on 10 July, 7 James I., on a charge of housebreaking and larceny, commited at Kyngesberry, co. Midd. on the 12th of the next previous month. On his arraignment for this offence, Robert Allaley stood mute, and was sentenced to the peine forte et dure. Thus far there was nothing remarkable in Robert Allaley's passage to death, but what followed was so exceptional as to determine the clerk of gaoldeliveries to record the affair with adequate fullness. Obeying the order of the Court, the gaoler, Robert Kemmicke, was in the act of leading Robert Allaley to the appointed dungeon, when the latter in a sudden gust of rage turned on the officer and struck him. Quick to see the advantage given them by the wretched culprit's ill-temper, the Court lost no time in turning it to account. By striking his gaoler, Robert Allaley had violated a condition of his pardon, and might therefore be hung for the felony of which he had been convicted. Sentence to death and execution for this felony would be attended by the forfeiture, which the culprit hoped to avoid by dying in "the peine." Moreover, by striking the gaoler in open court, in the presence and under the eyes of the Judges that were for the occasion the King's own sacred presence and eyes, he had incurred the penalty of the loss of his right hand. The sentence of the Court was that Robert Allaley's hand should then and there be cut off, and that immediately after losing his hand he should be hung at the gate of the Justice Hall, for the edification of all persons passing along the Old Bailey. This sentence was carried out. The wretched man's right hand was cut off in the presence of his judges, and a few minutes later his lifeless body dangled at the end of a rope, at the gate of the court-house.
(m.) Witchcraft in Middlesex temp. James I.—Besides giving an abstract of every indictment for witchcraft, preserved in the files of James the First's time, and a note of every recognizance touching witchcraft to be found in the same files, I have noticed in the present volume every entry of the Gaol Delivery Register touching a trial for witchcraft, of which the files afford no evidence. Consequently, though I may know nothing of a few prosecutions for witchcraft, supposed to have been done in Middlesex, that were incidents of the first five years of James the First, I have reason to think that this volume notices all the trials of Middlesex witches that took place in the king's last seventeen years, and sufficient grounds for the strongest opinion that the volume mentions every prosecution for witchcraft committed in Middlesex, that occupied the attention of the Old Bailey court in the ten years (6 James I. to 15 James I. inclusive), during which the Gaol Delivery Register was kept with care and regularity. Showing that the metropolitan shire was not strongly possessed by the prevailing mania for worrying every old woman, who was suspected of inducing the devil to kill her neighbours' farm-stock, the record of the county in respect to the judicial persecution of wizards and witches is upon the whole creditable to its enlightenment and humanity.
(1.) The Case of Agnes Godfrey.—The records of the few trials for witchcraft, alleged to have been done in Middlesex, that took place in the times of Elizabeth and James I. deserve particular attention, for the light they throw on the trivial and absurd nature of the charges, which in one or two cases brought a miserable old woman to the gallows, and also on the way in which an alleged witch's persecutors used to gather stories to her disadvantage from current gossip about what she had done ten or thirteen years earlier. The movement for laying an information for witchcraft against Agnes Godfrey originated at Endfield in local uneasiness, arising from three recent occurrences. On 10 June, 7 James I., Jasper Tappes died in that parish from no obviously natural cause. Five or six months later (November or December, 7 James I.), Mr. William Durante, a gentleman of the same parish, lost a steer, a pig, a little pig and a mare, all which animals died about the same time, under circumstances that made it difficult to account for their deaths, without assuming that they had been bewitched. Just about the same time (December, 7 James I.), one Frances Baker of the same parish fell into ill-health, and lost flesh. This quick succession of troubles within the bounds of a single parish caused the people of Endfield to think they had a witch in their midst, to discover the witch in Agnes Godfrey, and to determine on laying information against her. Before they acted on this determination, the case against the poor woman was strengthened by certain Endfield gossips, who could remember that William Harvey, a one-year-old infant, had died at Endfield on 1 Jan., 40 Elizabeth, in a way that had never been satisfactorily accounted for, and that on 1 Jan., 39 Elizabeth, another one-year-old infant, named Thomas Phillippes, had died in the same parish, when there was reason for thinking he ought to have remained alive. When Agnes Godfrey was arraigned at the Old Bailey on 16 Feb., 7 James I., she was accused of the murders alleged to have been done by witchcraft in the 39th and 40th years of Elizabeth, as well as of causing the deaths of Jasper Tappes, Mr. Durante's steer, pig, little pig and mare, and the mysterious sickness and wasting away of Frances Baker. Pleading 'Not Guilty' to the indictments, Agnes Godfrey was found 'Guilty' of killing by witchcraft the steer, pig, little pig and mare in the said 7th of James I., and of murdering Thomas Phillippes by witchcraft in the 39th year of Elizabeth, but was acquitted of the other charges. It is not surprising that Agnes Godfrey was not hung for killing the steer, pig, little pig and mare, or for murdering the infant Thomas Phillippes some twelve years earlier. Escaping the gallows in 7 James I., she was arraigned, twelve years and three months later, at the Old Bailey (16 May, 19 James I.) on charges of bewitching William Durante of Endfield, so that he sickened and lost flesh from the 7th to the 20th of April, 10 James I.; of killing Robert Coxe by witchcraft at Endfield on 3 July, 11 James I.; and of killing Henry Butterfield by witchcraft at Endfield on 7 March, 16 James I. Agnes Godfrey was acquitted of all these charges. It points to an influence, which may be conceived to have worked against her in the minds of her fellowparishioners, that on the second arraignment she was charged with bewitching William Durante of Endfield from 7 to 20 April, 10 James I., —probably the same William Durante, whose steer, pig, little pig and mare, she was charged with killing in the seventh year of the king's reign.
(2.) The Case of Joan Hunt.—That an information was laid against William Hunt of Hampstead yoman and his wife Joan so early as 12 January, 11 James I, may be inferred from the memorandum of that date in the Gaol Delivery Register, certifying that Alice James was ordered by the Court to ask forgiveness of Sir William Waade knt., J.P. and lieutenant of the Tower of London, for speaking of him as "having slubbered up the matter of witchcrafte touching Hunte and his wife." With creditable enlightenment and humanity, Sir William seems to have protected the Hunts from the people who charged them with holding felonious intercourse with Satan. Sir William, however, was powerless to save them for any long period from the disgrace of being compelled to answer to so odious an accusation at the Old Bailey. On 6 May, 12 James I., they were brought to trial on a charge of bewitching Richard Parrett at Hamp stead, so that he languished and wasted in his body from 4 March, 11 James, till the 29th of same month, and so remained at the time of the arraignment of the two culprits. On this occasion Hunt and his wife were both acquitted; and William Hunt does not appear to have been required to defend himself again against an indictment for dealing with the devil. But in the following year (21 April, 13 James I.) Joan Hunt was placed by herself in the dock of the Old Bailey, and charged with killing John Nutting, a three years old infant, on the 10th of the same month. Found 'Guilty' by a jury, she was sentenced to be hung,—being one of the three women known to have suffered death in James the First's time, for witchcraft alleged to have been done in Middlesex.
The persons, shown by the Middlesex records to have been tried during James the First's time for witchcraft done in Middlesex, were Alice Bradley, Rose Mersam, Agnes Godfrey, Dorothy Magicke, William Hunt, Joan Hunt, Elizabeth Rutter, Anne Branch, Agnes Berry, Agnes Miller, and Anne Beaver. It does not appear what punishment Agnes Godfrey suffered, nor whether she underwent any punishment, in respect to the offences of which she was found guilty at her first trial under two of the indictments preferred against her. At her second trial she was acquitted of all the indictments. Alice Bradley, Rose Mersam, William Hunt, Anne Branch, Agnes Miller and Anne Beaver were all acquitted, and no one of them seems to have been again put on trial. Found guilty of bewitching Thomas Poole and Thomazina Heath at St. Andrew's-in-Holborn, with the intention of killing them, Dorothy Magicke was punished with imprisonment, and the humiliating obligation to make four public confessions from the pillory of the crime she had not committed. Only three of the eleven—Joan Hunt, Agnes Berry and Elizabeth Rutter—were sentenced to death for their alleged dealings with the evil one. Thus much for the action of Middlesex towards witchcraft and witches during a long period for which the criminal records are ample, though not wholly perfect. The fragmentary Elizabethan files give similar testimony to the county's action to such imaginary offenders. Of the eleven persons, shown by extant bills to have been indicted for witchcraft in the time of Elizabeth, seven were acquitted; one fell dead in court after pleading 'Not Guilty'; the bill of indictment against another bears no minutes; only two of the eleven appear to have been found guilty and sentenced to death. Unless the passionate extravagances and cruel excesses of the witch-mania in other shires have been strangely exaggerated, Middlesex was honourably distinguished amongst the English counties by comparative exemption from a fanatical and debasing delusion.
VIII. Letters of Abbreviation.—For the most part, the indicatory letters appended to the entries of the present volume are the same capitals that were used in the former volume for the guidance of readers desirous of inspecting any of the documents. But as the Middlesex files of James the First's time comprise no "Inquisition Rolls," the editor has had no occasion for using the indicatory capitals I. R. in making the present book. On the other hand, to indicate two of the three sources of evidence that begin in James's reign,— the Goal Delivery Register and the Sessions of Peace Register,— he has found it convenient to use "G. D. Reg." and "S. P. Reg." Hence, the list of the indicatory letters used in this volume stands thus:—
IX. The Next Publication of the Middlesex County Record Society.— Though it is impossible to say precisely how many printed pages will be required for dealing adequately with records not yet examined, it is hoped that the next volume issued by the Middlesex County Record Society will cover Charles the First's regnal term, the Commonwealth period, and the opening years of Charles the Second's actual reign. Possibly it will deal with documents touching the Great Plague and Great Fire. But the Committee of the Middlesex County Record Society have no disposition to urge their editor to hasten onwards with excessive speed, to the neglect of writings likely to interest any class of readers. From the 8th or 9th year of Charles the Second's actual reign, the editor's progress will necessarily be slower, from the steady increase of the number of records awaiting scrutiny and manipulation. But whether the Society is enabled to accomplish the whole of its large enterprise, or in default of sufficient subscribers is compelled to desist from an undertaking that cannot be fully executed without a considerable expenditure of money, the Committee are resolved that, so far as it is done, their work shall be done thoroughly. Hitherto the Middlesex County Record Society has received an encouraging measure of public support; but the work in hand requires for its execution all the material aid that can be afforded by the general body of readers, as well as by students especially interested in matters of archaeological inquiry and documentary research.