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PAUL WHEELHOUSE

THE CONVICT

Copyright © Paul Wheelhouse, 2013 *

The Convict Chapter 1 Cows “I live at Tottenham Court, just through the turnpike and I am a cow-keeper; in business for myself. I lost two cows, but I never missed them till accidentally coming along Monmouth Street. I saw one of my beasts in a drove. When I challenged the drover he said he’d bought them off Mr Chapman, salesmen at Smithfield market, a person I very well know. The drover said he was going to take my beast to Mr Wright’s in St James’ market for slaughter. I desired him to make my compliments to his master and tell him not to kill it till I saw Mr Chapman. When I came to Smithfield I saw another of my cows in Mr Chapman’s custody, and he told me they were brought to him by a person in the name of Hamilton.” So began Thomas Rhodes’ account of the theft of two of his cows at the Old Bailey on 8th December 1784. As usual the courtroom was packed. It was bitterly cold outside and the twenty or so trials that day offered entertainment as well as warmth for the raucous crowd. “Were they in the field?” asked the court. “They were laid down there a good while, sir, I saw them all safe on Thursday morning. That was the 28th day of October last. I made it my business to check on them as I knew I should not see them on Friday.” Mr Peatt for the prisoner, queried Rhodes. “You say you hadn’t seen these cows since Thursday morning?” - “No, sir!” - “And how long have you had them?” - “I cannot say. We change our beast about from year to year as I have a great many. I know them all by the colour what they will.” Peatt pressed the witness further. “Was you ever mistaken in a cow?” Rhodes turned boldly to the jury. “I should know it if it was a thousand miles off, in the midst of a thousand beast!” The audience whooped. “Are you perfectly sure these were your cows?” asked the court. “Yes, I have not the smallest doubt about them; I know them all by their colour, nothing more, and one of these cows is a particular grey one.” “Thank you Mr Rhodes that will be all for now, you may step down. Please swear in Mr William Chapman.” Chapman stepped nervously into the dock. “Please can you give us your account, Mr Chapman.”
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The Convict “I know the prisoner, my Lord, I have seen him before. On the 29th of October last on the Friday morning, as I was going to Smithfield about half past six. The prisoner came and said he had brought two cows for me to sell. He said he had brought them from Mr Hamilton of Holloway or Highgate, I am not sure which. I looked at them and booked them in that name; the name of Hamilton.” “Was there a Mr Hamilton of Holloway that you knew?” - “No, I do not know any such name.” “You did not buy the cows?” - “No, my Lord.” “Did you sell either of them?” - “I sold one of them.” “Did you receive money for it?” – “No, my Lord, I sold it to Mr Wright of St James’ market, a person I am very intimate with, but he had not paid me.” Peatt stood up. “Did you pay the prisoner for either of the cows?” – “No, sir.” “Did you acquaint him that you would sell them?” – “I never saw him again from the time he delivered me the cows, when he spoke to me, till he was taken by the Justice, which was about twelve o’clock.” – “Thank you, Mr Chapman.” Peatt sat back down. “Before that, Mr Rhodes came to you?” asked the court. “Yes, my Lord. Mr Rhodes came to see me about twelve o’clock, and said that is my cow that stands there, how came you by it; I told him a young man had brought them to me in the morning, and said he brought them from Mr Hamilton of Holloway. That he’d left the cows with me and was gone away somewhere, I did not know where. I was present when the prisoner was taken away.” “What did he say?” – “He said little or nothing to Mr Rhodes, till he was brought before the Justice, then he said that he had brought them.” “And did he give any account of the person whom had bought them?” – “No, I do not remember.” “Thank you Mr Chapman, that will be all. Please swear in the prisoner.” Edward stood up and walked towards the dock. Some in the crowd rose and booed; a few mooed. The laughter and tittering ceased when the judge raised his arm. They both knew the routine. “Now then, Mr Garth, what do you have to say for yourself?” Edward took a deep breath.

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The Convict “I was paid for driving these cows to market, by one Hamilton of Highgate. He told me he was going into town and desired me to sell them. “Accordingly I gave them to Mr Chapman and desired him to sell them. I have several times carried cows to Mr Chapman. I then went across the road to the King’s Head and had a pint of beer, and then they came and took me up.” Chapman, who was stood to the side, was questioned by the court once more. “Have you ever had any dealings with the prisoner before?” – “None to my knowledge, my Lord.” The crowd shuffled forward in their seats. “But I have found since that he lived with Mr Herring just by Hampstead and that he had sent three or four cows for me to sell. I mentioned the prisoner to Mr Herring and he gave him a very good character.” Peatt raised his eyebrows to the judge. “Did you send for Mr Herring?” Edward was asked by the court. “Yes, sir, he was here four days past and here till eleven o’clock this morning; my witnesses were all here this morning. They are over at the public-house”. The judge turned in his chair. “Mr Peatt will you go and arrange for the witnesses to attend court?” In the meantime, please call Watchman Robert.” After being sworn in he commenced his account. “I was watchman at the small-pox hospital, by the turnpike at Cold Bath Fields. On the 29th of October, on Friday morning between five and six, I saw the prisoner come through the turnpike with two cows; one was a grey in colour and the other a dark mottled brown. It was light enough for me to discern the colour of his coat, his face, and his hair. He came very close to me. I’d never seen him before.” “Do the cows coming from Hampstead come through that turnpike?” – “Yes, sir, it is the road from Kentish Town.” Then the court recalled Thomas Rhodes and asked “Where were your cattle on Thursday last?” – “In the fields by the half-way house. It was in the forenoon when I saw them there.” “Thank you Mr Rhodes. Now kindly resume your seat.” The courtroom door opened and in quickly walked four men off the street behind Peatt.
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The Convict “Ah, welcome back Mr Peatt. I see you have returned with your witnesses for Mr Garth.” “Yes, my Lord. However, Mr Herring was not to be found. These four men have offered to provide statements on the character of the prisoner.” Edward looked disheartened. Six weeks in prison already, Herring would surely have been his saviour. “My name is John Redman. I am a licensed victualler in Tavistock Row, Covent Garden. I have known the prisoner fourteen years. I have known him to be an honest, hard-working lad, I never heard of anything bad of him before. He bore me a general good character.” “Thank you for your time, Mr Redman. Next witness.” “My name is Michael Redman. I am a milkman and I have known him”, he pointed to Edward, who was now slouched down in his chair, “a year and a half. His general character is an honest, hard-working lad. He worked for bricklayers. I got him into Mr Herring’s and I was bail to Mr Herring for his honesty.” “Would you, if he was discharged, take him into your service?” asked Peatt, seeking a way out for his prisoner. “Yes, sir, I would. I never knew anything of him but honesty. He has always behaved well.” The other two witnesses were called and gave equally good character statements for Edward. Then all heads turned to the bench as the judge asked the jury to consider what they had heard. Justice was as always, efficiently served. The foreman stood. “How do find the prisoner, Edward Garth, guilty or not guilty?” “Guilty, your honour. The jury are all agreed and we humbly recommend mercy upon him.” The foreman sat down and turned, avoiding Edward’s gaze and tears. “Mr Garth, please stand” said the judge. Edward rose, shaking. “Edward Garth, you are hereby found guilty of feloniously stealing on 29 th of October last, two live cows to the value of 17 pounds, the property of Mr Thomas Rhodes, the younger. The sentence of this court upon you is that you will be taken from this place to a lawful prison and taken to a place there to be hanged by the neck until you are dead. Mr Peatt. Next case.”
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