Middlesex County Records: Volume 3, 1625-67. Originally published by Middlesex County Record Society, London, 1888.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
I. Period and Sources of the present Volume.—Opening with the first year of Charles the First and closing with the eighteenth year of Charles the Second, i.e. with the seventh year of restored Stuart's actual reign, the present volume covers the forty-one years and ten months that began on the death of James the First and ended with the year of the Great Fire of London; and the matters set forth on its pages have been gathered from what remains to us of the Middlesex sessional records for so comprehensive and changeful a period of the seventeenth century.
II. Middlesex County Records temp. Charles I.—Comprising (a) the Gaol Delivery Register (imperfect at places and in degrees, that are indicated in the second section of the present volume), (b) the Sessions of Peace Register (perfect for the entire reign, with the exceptions of a few lost leaves and defaced entries), (c) an imperfect series of 'Gaol Delivery Books,' (d) a defective series of more or less fragmentary 'Sessions of Peace Books,' (e) a single and fragmentary Process Book of Indictments, from 6 October, 7 Charles I., to 4 December, 16 Charles I., (f) an imperfect series of Gaol Delivery Rolls, some of the files being greatly attenuated by decay or total loss of parchments, and (g) a collection of Sessions of Peace Rolls, the sessional records of this reign, though upon the whole more substantial and less reduced by rot and wasteful exposure than the Elizabethan and Jacoban manuscripts, are so far fragmentary as to be wholly wanting in evidence touching numerous matters, our knowledge of which would have been enlarged by the writings, had they come to us undiminished and undefaced.
(1.) The 'Gaol Delivery Books' and 'Sessions of Peace Books.'—Not to be confounded by readers of this preface with the successive volumes of the Gaol Delivery Register, and of the Sessions of Peace Register, these slight books appear for the first time in the sessional archives of Charles the First's regnal term. An octavo pamphlet stitched into a light wrapper (sometimes, a mere wrapper of coarse paper) each of these mean and ill-written books relates to the proceedings of a single session of Gaol Delivery or a single Session of the Peace, and may be described as the rough draft of a single sessional memoir, that after undergoing revision and amendment was copied in fair clerical penmanship into the one or the other Register. These pamphlet-books were in fact the first drafts of the successive sessional memoirs of the folio registers. The Middlesex writings of James the First's reign comprise no specimen of these single-session pamphlet-books. But it does not follow that no such rough drafts for fair memoirs were made in that time. On the contrary, most readers of this page will probably concur with the editor in thinking it less probable that no such first drafts of memoirs for the registers were made by the Jacoban clerks, than that such pamphlets were produced by the sessional scribes from the first institution of the two Registers in 5 James I., and were destroyed or allowed to perish when they had served the purpose of rough drafts.
(2.) Process Book of Indictments from 6 October, 7 Charles I., to 4 December, 16 Charles I.—Though they will cause lively regret for the loss of similar books that have perished altogether, the entries touching recusants in this fragmentary and only Process Book of Charles's time will be an affair of congratulation to those students, who are seeking data for estimating the numerical, material and social strength of the English catholics under our second sovereign of the Stuart dynasty. Some of the lists of recusants indicted for "not coming to church" will prove all the more attractive and serviceable to the historian, who is more concerned in the general history of the country than in the annals of a single shire, because, whilst assigning each recusant to the parish of Middlesex where he or she had a temporary abode, they also mention the county and particular place of the county, to which the religious misdemeanant may be said more strictly to have belonged. Whilst they enable the historical enquirer to assign individuals to their respective families and even to trace them from Middlesex to their particular homes in remote shires, these twofold descriptions yield a considerable body of data for an estimate of the proportion of the catholic gentry, who in the seventeenth century were in the habit of leaving their rural estates and visiting the capital for business or pleasure. In connection with these entries in the Process Book, which afford many an acceptable view of the domestic story and associations of the statelier Middlesex recusants, reference may be made to the several indictments (vide pp. 45, 46, 47, 64 and 65 of the present volume) in which numerous gentle people of the catholic families are described in the same manner by their addresses in the country, as well as by their places of occasional resort in or near the capital. Another remarkable feature of this remarkable volume is the long list (vide pp. 149 to 159) of no less than fourteen hundred and thirty persons, who were entered in the Process Book, at the Session of the Peace held at Hicks Hall on 4 December, 16 Charles I., as persons to be proceeded against for Recusancy, in not repairing to church for an entire month.
(3.) Sessions of Peace Rolls.—Few and fragmentary in the earlier years of the reign, the Sessions of Peace Rolls of Charles's time grow both in number and size from the closing months of the King's 15th regnal year, the increase in number being due to the presence of the imperfect series of the files of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for the City and Liberties of Westminster, whilst the steady growth in the bulk and weight of the rolls is referable to three several causes, (a) the greater thickness of the parchment used by the draftsmen of the various instruments, (b) the better preservation of the writings, and (c) the notable increase in the number of recognizances and indictments, that may perhaps be regarded as indicatory of greater vigilance and activity on the part of the Justices and their subordinate officers, rather than as indicatory of greater disorderliness on the part of the populace.
Something should here be said of the various designations accorded by legal practice or clerical usage to these rolls, and to the sessions commemorated by their parchments. The careful student of the previous volumes published by the Middlesex County Record Society does not need to be reminded that, though they were exempted by 14 Henry VI., c. 4, from the necessity of holding four General Sessions of the Peace yearly within the limits of their jurisdiction, provided that they always held two such sessions in each year, "and more often if need be," there were occasions towards the close of James the First's time when the Justices of the Peace for Middlesex found it needful, or at least convenient, to hold three and even four such grand courts within the same year. For example, the extant Middlesex sessional records of 20 James I. afford conclusive evidence that, besides holding in accordance with the ancient usage a General Session at Westminster in the first week after Michaelmas and the first week after the close of Easter, the Middlesex Justices of the Peace also held in that year at Hicks Hall an "open Quarter Session" at Midsummer and in the first week after Epiphany. In their present state the Clerkenwell records do not furnish sure testimony that from the 20th year of James the First it was the invariable practice of the Justices of the metropolitan shire to hold four General Quarter Sessions in each year. But even in their present fragmentary condition those records justify a confident statement that the practice, which seems to have arisen in the later time of James the First, was maintained from an early date of his son's reign to the end of the period covered by the present volume. The clerks, who kept the various sessional books of Charles the First's time, no doubt show a curious reluctance to rate any Session of the Peace as a General Session, that was neither an Easter nor a Michaelmas session; but the clear and legible endorsements on the wrappers of extant sessions-files put it beyond question that, whether it was held at Westminster or Hicks Hall, every open Session of the Peace held in that king's time at any of the quarterly seasons for Quarter Sessions was rated and regarded as a "Generalis Quarterialis Sessio Pacis." At the same time all the other Sessions of the Peace, that sate at Hicks Hall concurrently with the Sessions of Gaol Delivery held in the Old Bailey court-house, and on finding the truth of indictments returned the bills into the Courts of Gaol Delivery, were designated "Generales Sessiones." It has been already observed that the sessions-of-peace files, recently removed from the Westminster Court-house to the new muniment-room of the Clerkenwell Sessions House, are records of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace held for the City and Liberties of Westminster. It follows, therefore, that all the sessions-of-peace files, which have afforded materials for this volume, are G S. P. files, and that the files relating to Sessions of the Peace for the City and Liberties of Westminster, as well as the files relating to Sessions of Peace held for the county of Middlesex at the customary times for Quarter Sessions, are G. Q. S. P. files. These points having been ascertained by careful examination of the wrappers and documents of the rolled files, it appeared well to the present editor to discard 'G' from the indicatory capitals, put in the ensuing pages at the end of every entry touching a document or several documents preserved in the sessions-of-peace rolls, as it could not help to guide the searcher of the original records to a particular roll. So also, to save the pages of the body of this book from the disfigurement of ineffectual and wholly superfluous capitals, he determined to refrain from putting Q. at the head of his indicatory references to Q. S. P. rolls. Whether it refers to a sessional file, that without being a Q. S. P. file is a G. S. P. file, or to a filed roll that is both a general-session-ofthe-peace roll and a quarter session-of-the-peace roll, the indicatory reference to a Middlesex county session-of-the-peace roll consists of the three letters S. P. R. followed by its proper date, which date by itself declares whether the file so pointed is a G. Q. S. P. R. or a mere G. S. P. R. At the same time the indicatory references to City of Westminster S. P. files are distinguished from the indicatory references to Middlesex S. P. files by the insertion of 'West.' between the P. and R.,—as in 'S. P. West. R., 9 Jan., 14 Charles I.'
(4.) Indictments and Recognizances of these Sessions of Peace Rolls.— Few examples are given in the present volume of the numerous indictments preserved in these S. P. files, because they afforded only a few matters requiring separate notice; but on examining the series of statistical tables that will close the editor's dealings with the Middlesex MSS. of the Stuart period, readers of the Middlesex County Record Society's publications will be studying a body of classified data into which the historical value of every one of the several thousands of multifarious indictments for minor offences will have been manipulated. The recognizances of these particular files have yielded a larger proportion of matters deserving separate and particular attention. For example, on pp. 161, 162, 163 and 168 readers, searching the calendar chiefly for curious matters, will be entertained by the particulars of the "greate and daungerous ryott" that disturbed the playgoers at the Fortune theatre in May, 2 Charles I., and of the disorder that reigned in the Red Bull playhouse in August, 14 Charles I., when Thomas Jacob of Old Bridewell assaulted and beat divers of the company then and there assembled. With the aid of the index such readers may also discover, amongst the matters taken from these session-of-peace files, several entries relating to persons charged with hearing mass at the lodgings of foreign ambassadors, and divers entries touching a class of misdemeanants, who appear for the first time in the sessional writings of this reign,—to wit, the caitiffs of both sexes who inveigled children from their parents and apprentices from their employers, in order to ship them to the West Indian plantations. That it was possible to raise a rout against an innocent woman by pointing to her in a public thoroughfare and denouncing her for a kidnapper, appears from the memorandum on the recognizances (vide p. 181), taken on 12 May, 21 Charles I., for the appearance of William Graunt of Hollowell Street weaver at Hicks Hall "to answer for assaulting and pumping of Margaret Emmerson upon the false report of being a spiritt or an inticer or inveagler of children from their parentes, there beinge noe charge or accusation laid against her." A year and eleven months later (9 April, 23 Charles I.), Thomas Trescott of St. Buttolph's-without-Algate mariner was bound over to appear at the next Session of the Peace, "to answere for that hee is suspected to bee one of those that take up children in the streets and are commonly called by the name of Spiritts, as well for that hee endeavoured to entice away the daughter of one Winefred Baily, as also the covenaunt servaunt of Sampson Walker (whereby the said Walker might have been damnified) under false pretences to carry them to the Barbadoes."—The increasing activity of the London kidnappers from the closing years of Charles the First's time till the end of the Commonwealth period points of course to the growing demand for servants, artisans and field-hands in our West Indian and American plantations,—a demand that was soon to be in some degree supplied by the felons, convicted of the less heinous offences, who in larger numbers than heretofore were pardoned under condition of transportation to the lands, where their industry was urgently needed, and also by the religious misdemeanants, who, after Charles the Second's restoration were shipt in even stronger numbers from the mother-country to her remote dependencies, in accordance with the directions of the Conventicle Act. This bolder use of transportation was England's reply to the demand for more labourers, that came from the planters by every ship from the plantations. It was also the means by which the English government checked the nefarious practices of the kidnappers.
(5.) Curious Indictments and Orders of the Files and Books, temp. Charles I.—Holding to my purpose of noticing every parchment, that should exhibit a famous person's name or any other feature of personal interest, although it should in other respects be a writing of no historic moment, I have given on pp. 9 and 10, the particulars of the
(a.) Indictment of Frances Richardson for picking the Pocket of Francis Quarles gentleman, who was in the parish of St. Clement's Danes' on 21st June, 2 Charles I., when the aforenamed spinster approached him stealthily, and without his knowledge picked his pocket of fifty shillings, one result of the incident being that amiable man of letters was bound to prosecute the thief at the Old Bailey court-house.
(b.) Indictments for Stealing Jewellery and Plate.—The plate and jewel-robberies committed in Middlesex during Charles's time will endure comparison with the plate and jewel robberies of the two previous reigns, whether regard is had for the value or the 'fashion' of the stolen chattels. Had they been so fortunate as to escape the rigor of the criminal law, the three burglars who (vide p. 10), in the night of 4 July, 2 Charles I., carried off the Earl of Scipiere's "silver forkes worth forty shillings, together with other plate valued at £325 10s." (about 1,627£. in Victorian money) would have been handsomely rewarded for their enterprise. Even if they had not been sent to the gallows, George Colledge and John Grigson (vide pp. 35,6) would not have congratulated themselves on the pecuniary results of their burglarious entry, made on 9th November, 6 Charles I., into the dwelling-house at St. Mary's Savoy "of the Most Serene Lady Mary Queen of England," for from their point of view it was an unsatisfactory business, but a nineteenth-century antiquary would like to see the "picture of our Lady Mary garnished with silver worth forty shillings," that was an item of the plunder. Connoisseurs of old ornaments would also like to look at the "cluster of nutts with rubies of gold worth thirteen pounds six shillings and eight pence," and the "golden fly sett with rubies diamonds and sapphires" that were amongst the precious things, amounting in value to £190 19s. 6d. (about 955£. of Victorian money) which Richard Rose (vide pp. 53, 4) stole at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields on 20 August, 9 Charles I., from Sir Robert Naunton knt., Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries. The worth of the golden coronet and other articles, stolen by burglars (vide p. 79) in the night of 17th August, 17 Charles I, from the King's dwellinghouse called 'St. James House' exceeded 315£. (about 1,575£. at the present worth of money). The plate stolen (vide pp. 89, 90) by burglars in the night of 10th Nov., 19 Charles I., from the French Ambassador's dwelling-house in St. Mary's le-Savoy was valued at 1,461£. (about 7,305£. at the present value of gold), and comprised several interesting items, e.g. "one large peece of plate in fashion of a shipp worth three hundred pounds," "a greate payre of snuffers with a silver chaine worth ten pounds," and "four dozen silver forks worth twentyfour pounds." A smaller, but still an important and curious platerobbery was perpetrated in the night of 27th May, 21 Charles I., when a party of burglars (vide pp. 94, 5, 6) broke "into the dwellinghouse of Francis Torrado gentleman in Graies Inn," and carried off from "the shop" of the said gentleman watches and jewels to the value of 350£. and 58£. in money.
(c.) Indictments of Soldiers for deserting the King's Service.—Perusers of the ensuing pages should not overlook the indictments (vide pp. 15, 17) of soldiers for withdrawing themselves from their captains without permission, after receiving the King's "arram anglice prest" i.e. the customary gift, payment, or earnest-money, in familiar parlance "the king's shilling,"—a feature of the indictments, showing that the word 'prest' in the terms 'prest soldier' and 'prest sailor' did not originally point to the force used in bringing the soldier or seaman under military command, but to the earnest-money given him at the moment of his enlistment.
(d.) Indictment for making an impious Bargain with an Evil Spirit. —But of all the noteworthy indictments preserved amongst the Middlesex records temp. Charles I., perhaps the most curious is the True Bill returned into the Old Bailey court-house in the 19th year of the king's reign against Thomas Browne, late of St. Giles's-without-Cripplegate yeoman, who was thereby charged with selling his own soul to an evil and impious spirit on terms and for considerations set forth in a certain writing, to wit, that the same impious spirit should pay him 1,000£. immediately upon the execution of the deed, and 2,000£. a-year in equal half-yearly payments during his natural life, and should during the full term of forty-one years defend him from all perils of body and goods, and should ensure to him the possession of a wife in whom he should delight, and the enjoyment of all health, riches and worldly pleasure during his natural life. A clerical minute on the bill shows that a jury found Thomas Browne 'Not Guilty' of thus selling his soul to the evil one; but the acquittal renders it in no degree less marvellous that a Grand Jury sitting at Hicks Hall decided to leave it to another jury to discover whether the prisoner had in truth played the part of Faust in Marlowe's familiar tragedy.
(e.) Orders for the Suppression of Sunday Trading and of Immoral Houses.—For a group of remarkable orders, issued by Justices of the Peace, assembled in Quarter Sessions, on 11 January, 2 Charles I., readers should look at pp. 13, 14.
III. Middlesex County Records temp. Commonwealth.—Consisting of (1) the Gaol Delivery Register (perfect for the whole period, with the exception of a few lost leaves and a few defacements of entries), (2) an imperfect series of single-session Gaol Delivery Books, (3) a greatly defective collection of Sessions-of-Peace Books, (4) a single Indictments' Process Book covering the period from 8 April, 1653, to 13 July, 12 Charles II., which, unlike the single Process Book temp. Charles I., has contributed nothing of interest for the present volume, though its entries will prove greatly serviceable to the editor in perfecting his next collection of statistical tables, in respect to minor trespasses and misdemeanours, (5) a collection of Gaol Delivery Rolls that have suffered less from decay and disorder than the Gaol Delivery files of any previous period, and (6) a large and comparatively well-preserved body of Sessions-of-Peace Rolls, these records of the Commonwealth period do not comprise a Sessions-of-Peace Register. The extant sessional records of Charles the Second's 12th year, i.e. the first year of his actual reign, comprise entries in a large and well-kept volume of the S. P. Register; but there is a break in the series of the register's volumes from the close of Charles the First's reign till the time of his son's return from exile. This hiatus in the register is of course an affair for lively regret, although the remaining S. P. Books, i.e. the single-session pamphlets, contain a considerable number of the interesting orders, that were transcribed from the rough leaves of the slight quartos into the pages of the lost folios.
(1.) Distinguishing Characteristics of the Commonwealth Records.— Though in substance and design they resemble the writings of Charles's time, the sessional MSS. of the Commonwealth period differ from those earlier records in particulars of style and language, that reflect the political changes and spirit of the epoch which produced them. For example, in the indictments, Jurors for the Lord the King are replaced by Jurors for the Keepers of the Liberty of England by authority of Parliament, who after Cromwell's assumption of the protectorate are succeeded by Jurors for the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Oliver having passed from the scene, the student of the files comes again on Jurors for the Keepers of the Liberty of England by the authority of Parliament. But the most remarkable peculiarities of the Commonwealth parchments result from the substitution of English for Latin. From the date of this change for the better in official ways, the indictments and recognizances were drawn in intelligible though scarcely graceful English; but whilst the legal draughtsmen produced sufficiently good bills in the mother tongue, they were less fortunate in their English renderings of the Latin minutes. For example, in their various translations of "nec se retr" and "nec rec," &c., they were guilty of slips, that are worthy of remark as they indicate how obsolete the ancient practice, to which the puzzling notes refer, had become by the middle of the seventeenth century.
(a.) Po se non cul' nec rec'.—When Thomas Dade was arraigned at the Old Bailey in 1651 on a charge of being a seminary priest &c. and was acquitted of the charge by the Jurors for the Keepers of the Liberty of England by the authority of Parliament, the annotator of the indictment wrote upon it "He putteth himselfe upon the country, which finde him Not Guiltie noe flienge," as the English equivalent of "Po se non cul nec rec'" or "Po se non cul' nec se retr'." In 1653, when Elizabeth Newman was acquitted of a charge of witchcraft at a Newgate Gaol Delivery, the annotator of the bill on which she was arraigned put the case somewhat differently, but to the same effect, to wit, "She putteth herselfe &c. not guiltie &c. she did not flie." In the following year, when Anne Gale (vide p. 223) was found 'Not Guilty' of stealing a silver porringer, the same clerk wrote over the bill on which she was tried "She putteth herself &c. Not Guilty nor fled &c." The clerk seems to have been uneasy in his mind about the perplexing minute "nec rec'" in its various forms, for he goes on year after year, ringing the changes on "did not flie" "nor fled" "nor did flie" "noe flieing" &c., without settling down to any one of the renderings, as certainly correct and altogether satisfactory. To the last, the worthy man failed to discover that "Po se non cul'nec rec'" signified that the culprit put himself or herself on a jury of the country, that the jury found him or her Not Guilty, and that after giving in this verdict the jurors did not withdraw from it. Had it been known to ordinary lawyers of the Commonwealth period, that it was in former time the practice of juries to withdraw from verdicts of acquittal and replace them with verdicts of 'Guilty,' the annotator of these indictments would not have been so completely at fault on a curious feature of the Latin records.
(b.) Puse.—Able antiquaries having differed as to the precise meaning of this singular combination of four letters, which appears repeatedly in the Commonwealth volumes of the Middlesex Gaol Delivery Register, it is well to show how the letters came to be put together and to state their signification. After troubling himself for some few years to write "putteth himself" or "putteth herself" at the beginning of every clerical minute, touching the arraignment of a culprit, who pleading his innocence put himself on a jury of the country, it occurred to the official annotator that he would spare himself a good deal of trouble by using a symbol of four letters for the fourteen letters of "putteth himself." Just as 'Po se' was convenient stenography for "ponit seipsum," 'Pu se' would be convenient shorthand for "putteth himself." Consequently he adopted the form of four letters, and then, either from a whim or to spare himself the labour of lifting his pen, wrote the four letters into the one word "Puse." On the re-introduction of Latin, which followed quickly upon the restoration of the monarchy, Po se recovered its place in the Middlesex indictments, and held it till the final abolition of Latin from the criminal records, when, curiously enough, Puse was again adopted by the Middlesex Clerk of the Peace as a handy symbol of "putteth himself." To this day Puse is thus employed in the Clerkenwell Gaol Delivery as signifying that the culprit, named in the next line of the entry, "pleaded Not Guilty, and put himself on trial."
(2.) Curious Indictments and Recognizances of the Commonwealth Records.—The indictments and recognizances, noticed in those of the ensuing pages which relate to incidents of the interregnum, comprise so large a proportion of writings likely to afford entertainment to the general reader, that I should travel beyond the limits of an introduction, were I to call particular attention to each varietyof them. Students may be left to find them out for themselves. For the benefit of the general reader, I may however observe that, whilst turning over the closelyprinted pages, he should be always on the look-out for entries touching the catholic priests and catholic laity, for indictments of utterers of seditious words, and the numerous recognizances that afford testimony to the increasing activity of the kidnappers from Charles the First's death to the eve of his son's restoration.
(a.) Leather Wine-Bottles.— Notwithstanding all that has been written in verse and prose about the 'leather botél,' the general reader is so apt to think the vessel was made of glass when he comes in seventeenth-century literature upon a bottle of wine, that he will do well to take note of the indictment (vide p. 200) of Joan Haynes for stealing, together with other goods, "quindecim uteres vini Hispanici anglice fifteene bottles of canary wyne" worth fifteen shillings. When (vide p. 254) John Bramell of Coleman Street merchant and five other London merchants were taken by the watch in Norton Folgate, in the night of 26 August, 1656, going along "in a rantinge manner . . . . with bottles of sack in their hands," the bottles carried by the roisterers were probably leather bottles. Glass bottles and glass flasks, of Venetian and other manufacture, were of course commonly seen on English tables; but the wine drunk by our ancestors of the Commonwealth period was usually brought to table straight from the wood in silver drinking-vessels, and on being taken from house to house was more often conveyed in leather than in glass bottles.
(b.) Plate-Robberies temp. Commonwealth.—To show that plate must have been much more abundant in Middlesex than is generally supposed, at a time when the civil war had seriously reduced our forefathers' stock of table-silver, I have given the particulars of numerous plate-robberies, that are noteworthy only for their evidence to this point. From the quantity of the silver chattels stolen by the Middlesex thieves in the years immediately following the civil conflict, it is obvious that in accounting for the present rarity of pre-Commonwealth plate, antiquaries have somewhat exaggerated the amount of silver-plate that was converted into money for the exigencies of the political struggle, and have given less than due consideration to the ordinary wear and friction to which utensils made of so soft a metal were subjected in times when, instead of being kept for occasional display, they were articles in daily use.
(c.) Theatrical Amusements temp. Commonwealth.—Of the alacrity with which the Londoners flocked to the theatres as soon as they were re-opened on the fall of the saints, and also of the promptitude with which the players returned to their proper calling as soon as they could follow it with safety, remarkable evidence is afforded (vide p. 279) by the recognizances, taken on 12 May, 1659, of William Wintershall and Henry Eaton both of Clerkenwell gentlemen, in the sum of 50£. each, for the appearance of Anthony Turner at the next Quarter Sessions of the Peace held at Hicks Hall, to answer "for the unlawfull mainteining of stage-playes and enterludes at the Redd Bull in St. John's Street, which house he affirms that they hire of the parishioners of Clerkenwell at the rate of twenty shillings a-day over and above what they have agreed to pay towardes releife of their poor and repairing their highwayes."
(3.) Sanitary Regulations.—Though an important part, the successive ordinances by the Council of State, the Middlesex Justices of the Peace and the parochial authorities (vide pp. 226, 227, 228, 229) for the better ordering of the highways, are only a part of the evidence, that the government cannot be charged with indifference to the health of the capital and its suburbs. Whilst new rules were made for ensuring the timely removal of the household waste and refuse, whose accumulation and decomposition would be likely to breed infection, the old laws against over-building and over-crowding were upon the whole steadily enforced. Acting well up to the sanitary light and views of their time, the inhabitants of Cromwell's London were no less commendably careful for the health than the orderliness of the city and suburbs. Even in its closest quarters the town was remarkable for the number of its open spaces, public or private. Whether he lived within the limits of the Lord Mayor's jurisdiction or in a Middlesex suburb, a Londoner, without the Council's special licence for the purpose, was no more at liberty than in former time to erect a new building for human habitation in the yard or garden at the rear or by the side of his own house, unless he assigned four acres of open and contiguous ground to the new dwelling. If his house were too large for his need, he might not, without special leave to do so, divide it into two or more tenements, and let to sub-tenants such portions of the structure as he did not care to inhabit himself. Without licence for the purpose, he might not harbour (i.e. entertain) lodgers or any kind of inmates. To prevent overpopulation of the town as well as other inconveniences, constables were required to be vigilant and prompt in arresting vagrants and masterless persons, in order that they should be returned to their proper parishes. Whilst these means were employed for keeping the population down to a minimum, various precautions were taken for the health of the town's proper residents. Whilst provision-dealers, who sold for human food unwholesome flesh or other stuffs unfit for man's consumption, were promptly indicted for the offences, commissioners of sewers and annoyances kept a sharp look-out for the doers of nuisances, that might be hurtful to the health of individuals. To superficial observers the town had the appearance of being a healthy place. The streets were wellswept, the kennels were clear, the water of the Thames was remarkable for its brightness and seeming purity. To account for the fact that, notwithstanding this show of healthiness and all the care taken to make the reality accord with the show, so small and slightly populated a town was a nursery of pestilence, one must have regard for the crowded burial-ground in every parish, the cess-pools at the rear of every dwelling, and the insufficient food of the poorer people,—the intramural interment that poisoned the springs of water, the absence of all means but the night-carts for carrying off what is now-a-days called the sewage, and the frequency of the seasons when the poor lived on starvation-allowances of the cheapest food.
(4.) Magnitude of the Sessions of Peace Rolls temp. Commonwealth.— Growing larger and larger in the later years of Charles the First's time, the session-of-peace files become inconveniently huge and cumbrous during the Commonwealth; the increase of size being wholly due to the steady growth of the number of indictments for minor offences and the proportionate growth of the number of the recognizances touching the same offences. Were it not for the peculiar temper and other exceptional conditions of the epoch, one might be disposed to regard the larger number of the parchments as evidential of a greater prevalence of disorder. It is, however, more reasonable to attribute the change to the greater activity of the magistrates and their subordinate officers, who, instead of leaving the less heinous misdemeanants alone, so long as they had a prudent care for appearances, and even conniving at disorders which though manifest caused no great harm, were alike zealous in punishing all kinds of open offenders and hunting out all secret doers of immorality. The fact, however, remains that, in spite of the new zeal for suppressing disorder, Commonwealth London remained to the last a disorderly place. It was a capital in which drunkenness, blasphemy, uproar, mutinies against officers of justice, and breaches of the peace cannot have been less common than in Charles's town. In some respects, it was no doubt a more decent as well as a less amusing place than the pre-Commonwealth town. But it remained a town in which tavernkeepers found it profitable to entertain dissolute company, and where sinners of every sort could find congenial society. That in respect to capital offences, Middlesex during the Commonwealth closely resembled Middlesex under Charles I., appears from the particulars of its penal death-rate in the two consecutive periods.
IV. Penal Death-Rate of Middlesex temp. Charles I. and Commonwealth.—Into the annual totals, given in the ensuing tables, of capital executions for felonies, or for silence to indictments for felonies, committed in Middlesex in the times of Charles I. and the Commonwealth, I have counted the several executions of felons convicted of High Treason, and the comparatively few executions by burning to death of female felons convicted of Petty Treason.
(1.) Capital Executions for Felonies, or for Silence to Indictments for Felonies, committed in Middlesex in the time of Charles I.
(2.) Capital Executions in the Ten heaviest Years of Charles I.
|No. of Executions.|
|2 Charles I.||42|
|3 Charles I.||54|
|4 Charles I.||53|
|6 Charles I. (Defective Record)||40|
|7 Charles I.||52|
|8 Charles I.||54|
|9 Charles I.||35|
|13 Charles I.||38|
|14 Charles I.||39|
|17 Charles I.||43|
|Yearly Average of Executions||45|
(3.) Capital Executions for Felonies, or for Silence to Indictments for Felonies, committed in Middlesex, Temp. Commonwealth.
|No. of Executions.|
|Yearly Average of Executions for Eleven Years||40.27|
In dealing with this last account the reader should observe two or three matters. On looking to the 'further particulars,' touching crime and its punishment in 1659, taken from the Gaol Delivery Register (vide pp. 296 to 301) he will see at once that it was a year in which the arm of Justice was partially paralyzed by the political crisis, and that therefore the few capital executions of those twelve months should be omitted from the account of capital executions during the Commonwealth period. It will be better for him to confine his attention for the moment to the executions of the first ten years—the true Commonwealth period. The capital executions of the ten years, 1649 to 1658 inclusive, numbered 429—giving a yearly average of 42.9 capital executions. It should also be observed (vide p. 292) that eleven capital felons escaped hanging in the year 1655 by pardons granted under condition of their transportation, that in the year 1656 (vide p. 294) six other capital felons escaped death through similar pardons, and that in the year 1658 twelve other capital convicts were exempted from the death-penalty by pardons granted under condition of transportation. The three batches of convicts comprised twenty nine felons, who would have been hung had not the sentences passed upon them been commuted to sentences of transportation. When he compares the capital executions temp. Charles I. for crimes done in Middlesex, with the capital sentences followed by punishment temp. Commonwealth for crimes committed in the same county, the student should take account of these twenty-nine commutations of the death sentence. If the 29 capital sentences followed by transportations are added to the 429 capital executions, the sum of capital convicts punished for their respective crimes done in Middlesex in the years 1649 to 1658 inclusive is 458, i.e. 45.8 per annum, whereas the yearly average of capital executions for crimes done in Middlesex during the ten selected years of Charles I. with the highest penal death-rate was exactly 45. per annum.
There is another reason why the student should notice the three batches of capital convicts who were transported in the years 1655, 1656 and 1658. Though earlier instances appear in the Middlesex records, where transportation was substituted for the capital execution in respect to a few exceptionally favoured individuals, these three batches are the earliest of the numerically considerable groups of convicts, described in the records as pardoned on condition of transportation. Henceforth even stronger lots of conditionally pardoned convicts are mentioned in the records as sent in the same way to the plantations. The three batches, therefore, may be said to mark the period when transportation first came, at least so far as Middlesex is concerned, to be largely employed as a convenient and in various ways beneficial substitute for capital execution.
(4.) Comparison of the Penal Death-Rate temp. Charles I. with the Penal Death-Rate temp. James I.—During the ten years, 6 to 15 inclusive, of James the First's reign, which doubtless yielded a larger yearly average of capital executions than the later years of the same reign, the penal death-rate of Middlesex gave on the average 73.6 yearly executions, inclusive of deaths by the 'peine forte et dure.' During the ten years of Charles the First's reign, whose criminal records in their present defective state afford the highest yearly average of capital executions, the penal death-rate of Middlesex appears to have been no more than 45. For five of Charles's earlier years—viz., the 1st, 5th, 6th, 11th, and 12th years—the Gaol Delivery Register is defective, and the recorded deaths of one of the defective years (viz. the 6th year) have been accepted by the present editor as the full number of executions for the year. But though the average penal death-rate of the ten selected years may have been something, I do not think it can have been more than fractionally higher than 45. This remarkable fall in the penal death-rate within so short a time (from 73.6 to 45, if the Jacoban executions by 'the Peine' are taken into account;—or from 70.2 to 45; if the executions by 'the Peine' are omitted from the account) is remarkable and for a moment even startling. But on considering the several influences that were operating throughout James's reign and in Charles's earlier years to mitigate the ancient rigour and ferocity of the criminal law, readers will perhaps see no cause for surprise at the change for the better. Referable in a greater or less degree to a general abatement of crime, for which the recently established House of Correction may be held in some measure honourably accountable, the fall in the yearly number of executions is also attributable in various degrees to the following causes, to wit, (a) the increasing diffusion of education that was steadily qualifying a larger proportion of the convicted culprits to plead their clergy effectually, (b) the growing disposition of juries to convict culprits of petty larceny on evidence of grand larceny, (c) the larger number of reprieves, followed by free or conditional pardon, granted to convicts before or after judgment, (d) the operation of the statute 21 James I., c. 6, that, granting to the female sex what was in a large number of cases tantamount to benefit of clergy, provided that women convicted of simple larcenies under the value of ten shillings should be exempted from the death penalty, and (e) the greater readiness of juries to give the prisoner the full benefit of the doubt, that may be presumed to have attended their greater readiness to convict of petty larceny, on evidence of grand larceny.
(5.) Fewness of Capital Executions during the Civil War.—In studying the penal death-rate table temp. Charles I., the reader should observe how few culprits were put to death, whilst the Royalists and Roundheads were in the field. That the hangman had so little to do is not surprising. The war provided employment for many men, who, if they had not been fighting for the King or the Parliament, would have been living as highway-robbers, burglars, or pick-pockets.
(6.) Sentences to the 'Peine forte et dure' temp. Charles I. and the Commonwealth.—If the fall in the penal death-rate is noteworthy, the fewness of the sentences to 'the Peine' in Charles the First's reign is even more remarkable. In ten years, viz., 6th to 15th inclusive, of James the First's time, no less than thirty-two culprits (three of them being women) were committed to 'peine.' In all, thirty-five persons are shown by the defective Jacoban records to have died by 'the Peine' in James's time between the beginning of his 6th and the end of his 18th regnal year, for standing silent to indictments for crimes done in Middlesex. The Middlesex records for the last four years of that King's reign do not afford a single sentence to the 'forte et dure.' The next sentence to 'the Peine' appears in the records of 13 Charles I.; and the records of 24 Charles I. give another case of a male culprit, sentenced to 'the Peine' for standing silent to an indictment for capital felony. Thus, whilst the greatly defective Gaol Delivery Register for seventeen years of James I., viz., the years 6th to 22nd inclusive (the Jacoban G. D. Reg. was begun in Jan. 5, James I.) contain records of thirty-five sentences to the peine forte et dure, the comparatively perfect, though occasionally defective, G. D. Register for the twenty-four years of Charles the First's reign contain records of only two such sentences. After working through the sessional records of sixteen years, viz. 19 James I. to 12 Charles I. inclusive, without coming upon a single sentence to 'the Peine,' I conceived that I must have worked well into the period when the foretaste of the dreadful pain, so naively mentioned by Giles Jacob, put a stop to such sentences, or at least caused them to be very rare. The two sentences, found in the records of the 13th and 24th years of Charles I., failed to dispel this misconception, and to prepare me to find no less than twelve sentences to 'the Peine' in the next nine years, 1650 to 1658 inclusive, and to see that in 1651 no less than four male culprits were sentenced to be pressed to death for contumacious silence on arraignment. The account of committals to the awful doom, temp. Charles I. and Commonwealth stands thus:—
(7.) Trial and Execution of Ursula Powell for Adultery.—This case deserves to be especially noticed, because Ursula Powell, wife of Robert Powell, was the only woman convicted of and hung for this offence done in Middlesex during the Commonwealth, and because a verdict of 'Not Guilty' was returned in respect to every one of the twenty-two women who were arraigned on charges of the same uncleanness at G. D. Sessions subsequent to Ursula's conviction. On 30 Aug., 1652 (vide p. 287) Ursula Powell was found 'Guilty' by a jury at the Old Bailey court-house of having had criminal intercourse with "a man unknown." After conviction she had judgment "to be hanged." To defer her own fate and preserve the child already quick within her womb, Ursula Powell pleaded pregnancy, when a jury of women ascertained that the plea was honest and true. Execution was, therefore, deferred till after the birth of the child. But that the wretched woman was hung after her accouchement appears from the marginal "S" put against the Gaol Delivery Register's brief note of her case, which is the only remaining record of the doleful business, as the annotated indictment (the original and only legally evidential record of the conviction &c.) has perished. At the G. D. S., opened on 13th Oct., 1652, Elizabeth Alford was tried for fornication, and Ursula Whittington for adultery, and were both acquitted. At subsequent G. D. Sessions of the same period, twenty-one other women were found 'Not Guilty' of adultery. It being highly improbable that so many women were arraigned on insufficient evidence of guilt, it seems as though the common sense and humanity of Middlesex jurors revolted at a brutal law, and made them decline to send wretched women to the gallows for fleshly frailty.
V. Middlesex County Records temp. Charles II.—Besides putting into the concluding part of the present volume a large body of matters, taken from (a) the Gaol Delivery Register, (b) an imperfect series of Gaol Delivery Books, (c) the Sessions of Peace Register, (d) an imperfect series of Sessions of Peace Books, (e) the Gaol Delivery Rolls and (f) the Sessions of Peace Rolls, of Charles the Second's time, I have exhibited on ten consecutive pages (vide pp. 340 to 349 inclusive) a remarkable collection of facts, gathered with no small pains from a very instructive though unfortunately defective series of forty-eight Certificates of Convictions of Conventiclers. The careful perusal of the ten necessarily somewhat dry and repellent pages on which these facts are exhibited will prove serviceable to students, who whilst seeking more information respecting the number, quality and usual meetingplaces of the Restoration conventiclers, would apprehend more precisely the various degrees of rigour and lenity, steadiness and irregularity, with which the statute of 16 Charles II., commonly called 'The Conventicle Act,' was enforced against those religious nonconformists, who persisted in assembling themselves together, under colour of exercising religion in ways other than the manner allowed by the Liturgy and practice of the Church of England. Hitherto, in the discharge of my editorial functions, I have refrained from entering minutely into the particulars of the various statutes under which the offenders mentioned in Middlesex County Record Society's publications were proceeded against. But as the Conventicle Act is not set forth in the 'Statutes at Large' (a collection to be found in every comprehensive private library), though it of course appears in the 'Statutes of the Realm' (a work much less generally accessible to ordinary readers), and as several able writers on Anglican Nonconformity and other historians have been more or less at fault about this scarcely beneficent enactment, through insufficient acquaintance with its words, I shall venture to call attention to those of the statute's provisions that should be fully and exactly apprehended by every peruser of my summary of the forty-eight certificates.
(1.) The Conventicle Act of 16 Charles I. and 1664 a.d.—By this statute, which came into operation on 1st July, 1664, it was provided that "if any person of the age of sixteene yeares or upwards being a subject of this realm . . . . shall be present at any assembly conventicle or meeting under colour or pretence of any exercise of religion in other manner than is allowed by the Liturgy or practise of the Church of England in any place within the kingdome of England dominion of Wales or towne of Berwicke upon Tweede, at which conventicle meeting or assembly there shall be five persons or more assembled together over and above those of the same household, then it shall and may be lawfull to and for any two Justices of the Peace of the county limit division or liberty wherein the offence shall be committed, or for the chiefe magistrate of the place where such offence aforesaid shall be committed (if it be within a corporation where there are not two Justices of the Peace), and they are hereby required and enjoyned upon proofs to them or him respectively made of such offence either by confession of the party or oath of witnesses or notorious evidence of the fact . . . . to make a record of such offence or offences under their hands and seales respectively, which record soe made as aforesaid shall to all intents and purposes be in law taken and adjudged to be a full and perfect conviction of every such offender for such offence, and thereupon the said Justices and Chiefe Magistrate respectively shall commit every such offender soe convicted to the Gaole or House of Correction there to remaine without baile or mainprize for any time not exceeding the space of three moneths unlesse such offender shall pay downe to the said Justices or Chiefe Magistrate such summe of money not exceeding five pounds as the said Justices or Chiefe Magistrate . . . . shall fine the said offender at for his said offence which money shall be paid to the churchwardens for the releife of the poore of the parish where such offender did last inhabite." The certificates of convictions dealt with on pp. 340 to 349 are such records as convicting magistrates were directed by certain of the abovequoted words to make under their hands and seals for evidential use.
On a second conviction for the like offence, it was ordered by the statute that every offender so convicted for a second time should "incurr the penalty of imprisonment in the Gaole or House of Correction for any time not exceeding six months . . . . unlesse such offender shall pay downe to the said Justices or Chiefe Magistrate such summe of money not exceeding ten pounds as the said Justices or Chief Magistrate . . . . shall fine the said offender at for his or her second offence, . . . ." It will not escape the careful reader of pp. 340 to 349, how rarely the Middlesex Justices imposed the highest penalties, and how much the ordinary alternative sentences of fine or imprisonment were beneath the highest authorized penalties.
In the case of convictions for a third offence, it was ordered by the Statute that every offender so convicted should forthwith be sent to "Gaole or House of Correction there to remain . . . . untill the next General Quarter Sessions Assizes, Gaole Delivery Sessions or sitting of any Commission of Oyer and Terminer in the respective county &c. . . . .," to be then and there arraigned &c. for the said offence, like other culprits. It was provided that, should the conventicler, so sent to trial, neither plead to the general issue nor confess the indictment on his arraignment, the Court should cause judgment to be entered against him. It was further directed that every conventicler thus convicted of a third offence, whether by verdict or confession, or against whom, in case of his silence, judgment should have been entered, should forthwith be sentenced to "be transported beyond seas to any of his Majestyes forreigne plantations (Virginia and New England onely excepted) there to remaine seaven years," that the sheriffe or sheriffes of the same county, &c., should be required, under a penalty of forty pounds to be forfeit for each neglect of duty in that respect, to cause every such offender, so convicted and sentenced, to be transported in accordance with the sentence.
For the payment of needful costs and charges of transportation, it was provided that, in the case of every so sentenced offender having estate real and personal, the sheriff or sheriffs should be reimbursed the reasonable charges of transportation out of the said estate, unless the offender or some one acting in his or her behalf should give sufficient security for the repayment of the same charges to the Sheriff. In the case of every so sentenced offender, who should be unable to defray the charges of his transportation, or whose sureties for the payment of the charges should be in default in respect to them, it was provided that the Sheriff or Sheriffs should have power to contract with any master of a ship, merchant or other person to transport the indigent convict, and also be authorized to empower the same master of a ship or other person "to detaine or employ every such offender soe by them transported as a labourer to them or their assignes for the space of five years to all intents and purposes as if he or she were bound by indentures." In other words, after being transported to the appointed plantation, the indigent conventicler might be sold into bondage for five years by his actual transporter or transporters, who might be empowered to keep the price paid for the same bondservant in partial or full payment of the charges for transportation. Thus, whether he were comparatively rich or quite poor, the conventicler sentenced to transportation paid for his own passage across sea. If he were a man of means he paid for the voyage out of his estate; if he were quite indigent he paid for his passage by labouring for five years without wages in the service of a master.
The rigour of the Statute was modified by some curious provisoes and exemptions. Thus on conviction by verdict or confession of a third offence, the rich conventicler could avoid transportation by paying a fine of one hundred pounds; but for every subsequent conviction he was sentenced to transportation, to be avoided only by payment of another fine of 100£. In consideration for husbands who were neither in exile nor under sentence of transportation as convicted conventiclers, it was provided "that judgement of transportation shall not be given against any feme covert unlesse her husband be at the same time under the [same] judgement and not discharged by the payment of money as aforesaid but that instead thereof she shall be . . . . committed to the Gaole or House of Correction there to remaine without baile or mainprize for any [terme] not exceeding twelve months unlesse her husband shall pay downe such summe not exceeding forty pounds to redeeme her from imprisonment as shall be imposed by the said court." For the advantage of persons having sufficient means to pay the maximum fine that could be imposed on a conventicler for a first or second conviction, the Statute also provided, "That noe person shall by vertue of this Act be committed to the House of Correction that shall satisfie the Justices of Peace or Chiefe Magistrate respectively that he or she (and in case of a Feme Covert that her husband) hath an estate of freehold or copyhold to the value of five pounds per annum, or personall estate to the value of fifty pounds."
(2.) Position of Conventiclers during Exile in the Plantations.— From what has been said, it is manifest that the position of the transported conventiclers, though the humane reader may well reflect upon it with pity and indignation, was less cruel than the position of convicts undergoing any of the forms of penal servitude, which are usually suggested by the word 'transportation.' On landing at Jamaica or Barbadoes the conventicler, who had paid the charges of his transportation, was at liberty to live on his means (if he had the means to subsist in idleness) or to earn his livelihood as a free labourer. If he determined to enter the service of a planter, he could choose his master. He could also choose his place of abode within the island, provided he did not withdraw himself from the observation of the authorities. In short, his position was less that of a convict undergoing a term of transportation, than that of a political exile—living amongst people of his own nation, and also under the protection of his own sovereign. A larger measure of compassion is due to the indigent conventicler, who for the charges of his transportation was sold for five years to the planter who offered the best price for him. As a bondservant to a hard master he sometimes endured a lot no less cruel and humiliating than penal servitude. But planters were not necessarily monsters of cruelty. On the contrary some of them were enlightened and humane gentlemen, who would be more likely to deal tenderly than to deal harshly with criminal bondservants, guilty of no worse offence than religious nonconformity. At the same time, in the prevailing dearth of 'hands' and urgent need of 'labour,' the most brutal planter saw it was to his interest to have care for the bodily health and contentment of his white bondservants. But under the most favourable conditions, the lot of the transported conventicler was hard and pitiful. He was an exile against his will. However much he suffered from home-sickness, and yearned for the society of his kindred in England, he dared not return to his native country before the end of the seven years for which he had been transported. For the Conventicle Act provided that the transported conventicler, guilty of returning without special licence to do so before the end of his term of exile, should be "adjudged a felon and suffer death as in felony without benefit of clergy."
(3.) Other Records touching the Restoration Conventiclers.—Besides the large assemblage of data exhibited on pp. 340 to 349, readers will find amongst the entries of the closing section of this volume a large number of matters respecting the meetings, teachers and trials of the Middlesex protestant nonconformists during the seven earliest years of Charles the Second's actual reign, together with particulars of the sentences passed on the offenders, and orders for their shipment to foreign parts. The numerous entries touching the Great Plague and Great Fire may prove more attractive to less serious readers, but historical s'udents will be chiefly thankful for the large body of digested data respecting the conventiclers. From so impressive an assemblage of new facts for future historians of the English Puritans, the nonconformists of the country may see how greatly they are concerned in the labours of the Middlesex County Records Society.
VI. Indicatory Letters and other Abbreviatory Capitals used in the present Volume:—
G. D. = Gaol Delivery.
G. D. R. = Gaol Delivery Roll.
G. D. Reg.= Gaol Delivery Register.
O. T. = Oyer and Terminer.
S. O. T. = Session of Oyer and Terminer.
S. P. = Session of Peace.
S. P. R. = Session of Peace Roll.
S. P. Reg.= Sessions of Peace Register.
G. S. P. = General Session of Peace.
G. Q. S. P. = General Quarter Session of Peace.
C. C. C. = Certificate of Convictions of Conventiclers.
JOHN CORDY JEAFFRESON.