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The Ordinary of Newgate’s account of Charles Towers

I’ve previously published one version of the story of Charles Towers; here is a contemporary telling from the Ordinary of Newgate’s Account. It’s not the complete document; I’ve removed the parts not relating to Towers, meaning those to the William Anderson and the Ordinary’s scriptual quotes. The full text can be found on Old Bailey Proceedings Online.

From this document, we learn more of who Towers was. A butcher, with a wife, two children and a third on the way, gambling is cited as the cause of his fall, although it is said that his circumstances were so poor that he resorted to gaming to rescue himself and his family. He had ‘form’, previously being sentenced to – and reprieved from – transportation for stealing a spoon, a crime he denied. He spent 4 years in the sanctuary of Southwark Mint, and with its end, applied for amnesty under the terms of the 1722  Act against Southwark Mint, his name being listed amongst the petitioners in the London Gazette, no. 6171, 8th June 1723:

Charles Towers listed in the London Gazette, no. 6171

Charles Towers listed in the London Gazette, no. 6171

So with the end of the Southwark Mint, he “was forc’d to harbour in the New Mint, and took an House in Gravel-Lane ; for Prisons were all so full, that Men, as he said, died like rotten Sheep, and he had rather go to the Place whither he was going, than dwell under that Tyranny.”

This account also points at the statute he was executed by:

against the Form of the Statute made and provided, and which was to take effect, after the first of June, in the tenth Year of His Majesty’s Reign.

This is clearly a reference to the notorious ‘Black Act’, 9 Geo 1 c22, “An act for the more effectual punishing wicked and evil-disposed persons going armed in disguise, and doing injuries and violences to the persons and properties of his Majesty’s subjects, and for the more speedy bringing the offenders to justice.” This statute will be the subject of my next post.

THE ORDINARY of NEWGATE his ACCOUNT, Of the Behaviour, Confession, and last Words of Charles Towers, who was Executed at Wapping in the Parish of St. Paul Shadwell, on Monday the 4th of this Instant January: And also of William Anderson, who was Executed at Tyburn on Tuesday the 5th of the aforesaid Month.

AT the KING’S Commission of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer and Goal-Delivery, &c. Held (before the Right Honourable Sir George Merttins Knt. Lord Mayor , the Right Honourable the Lord Chief Justice King, Mr. Justice Dormer, Mr. Baron Page, Mr. Serjeant Raby, and several of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace, for the City of London and County of Middlesex) at Justice-Hall in the Old Baily, on Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, being the 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th Days of December last, four Men were by the Jury found guilty of Capital Offences, and received Sentence accordingly.

Two of the Persons, so sentenced, having obtained His Majesty’s Reprieve, viz. Rowland Swanson and Thomas Herbert; the remaining two, viz. Charles Towers and William Anderson were appointed for Execution.

Though they at first (especially Charles Towers) were incapacitated as to the performance of their Duty, by the Anger and Resentment their Condition had fill’d them with, ( Charles Towers in particular, at the same time that he acknowledged the rescuing the Prisoner West from the Hands of John Errington, affirming he was no way designedly disguised and that he no way apprehended he had any occasion to disguise himself, any more than had Tims, Bowler, Tibbs, Fencote, or any other upon the same Enterprize)

Yet they afterwards became sensible of the Folly of their Resentment; and as the Friends and Relations of Towers refused to give him any Hopes of a Reprieve, or Expectations of Life, he changed his Passion into Grief and Sorrow, that he had lost, by his neglect, the Use of Letters and Reading. As Rowland Swanson of the Four was alone able to Read, he very industriously assisted his Fellow Prisoners, and call’d upon them to listen to the Scriptures early each Morning, and before they went to Rest at Night. They were all very frequent and regular in their Devotions, when alone by themselves, as well as constant attendants at the Chapel; and ’twas thought apparent they never had any Designs of making an escape from Justice, and the execution of the Sentence that was pass’d upon ’em.

[ …. ]

The Account of these Persons under Sentence of Death.

CHARLES TOWERS, sometime Inhabitant near St. James’s Market, Butcher , was Indicted, for feloniously appearing, with several others, arm’d with Guns, Swords, Staves, or other offensive Weapons, and having his Face Black’d, or being otherwise disguised, on the Highway called Wapping Wall; on the 21st of June last; to the Terror of His Majesty’s Subjects, against the Peace of our Sovereign Lord the King, and against the Form of the Statute made and provided, and which was to take effect, after the first of June, in the tenth Year of His Majesty’s Reign. Upon the Indictment he was Tryed, and it appearing that on Sunday Morning at eleven of the Clock, June the 20th, C. Towers, with seven others, rush’d into the House of John Errington, (with a large Stick, like a Quarter-Staff in his Hand, his Hair clipt off, without Hat, Wig, or Shirt, only with a blue pea-Jacket, which flying open before, show’d his Breast, as well as his Face, Black, and besmear’d as with Soot and Grease;) whence they rescued J. West, affirming that they were sworn thereto, for his Name was set down in their Book kept at the seven Cities of Refuge; and offering (as the Prisoner was with loud Acclamations carrying off) to strike D. Taylor, Waterman, and G. Errington, Brother to the King’s Evidence; And the Prisoner’s allegations, that he never was in any Riot, but only defending himself against the Baylffs, &c. not being thought of any force, he was by the Jury found guilty of Felony without Benefit of Clergy.

As this unfortunate Person, after his Apprenticeship, marry’d young, before he was possest of a Competency, and Children and the Charges of a Family encreas’d upon him, he then judged that Gaming was a proper Method to retrieve himself and support his Family; but by Cards he lost that little he was then possest of. His Circumstances being desperate, he engag’d for a Friend, in a very large Sum of Money; which soon oblig’d him to fly into the Old Mint. When most distrest, he said, he refused all Solicitations to Rob or Thieve: Denying that he ever was guilty of any notorious Offence, except one, which was unfaithfulness to his Wife’s Bed; for which, he added, he must acknowledge he deserved Death, tho’ Adultery is so seldom punish’d in this Kingdom. As for the robbing Mr. Huggins of a silver Spoon, of the taking whereof he was convicted, some time ago, and ordered for Transportation, he denyed his seeing any such Spoon. And as for the picking the Pocket of Mr. Westwood, an Officer, and taking 3 s. with which Fact he was lately charg’d, he said he believed the Money might fall out of the Officer’s Pocket, as they Ditch’d him in a sad and shameful manner, but that he never saw any Silver or Copper. He farther said that their way was, as he must then acknowledge, very cruel and unbecoming Christians, for, during his Time, twelve or more were sentenc’d to be Whip’d, by a Judge, who was chosen from among them, for the Day, and sat in State: He added, that during his Confinement, some Persons had abused and insulted him, who were Friends to Mr. Jones, Bailiff; but he protested he was not Judge when Jones was sentenc’d, but one who was formerly an Officer in the Army: Nor had he ever any Designs against Sir Isaac Tilliard, or his House. He dwelt four Years in the Old Mint; but owing to one Man 70 l. was forc’d to harbour in the New Mint, and took an House in Gravel-Lane ; for Prisons were all so full, that Men, as he said, died like rotten Sheep, and he had rather go to the Place whither he was going, than dwell under that Tyranny.

He acknowledged the Fury and Violence he had used against innocent Men; and observed how contrary it was to Christian Levity and Mildness; we may suppose, that originally he was perswaded to it, as being strong and nimble; and afterwards had all Encouragement and Commendation; which Incitements coincided with the natural Warmth and Vivacity of his Temper. He confest he had been by much too Enterprizing and Rash; but at the same Time added, he thought the Officers were before his Misfortunes fully reveng’d of the Minters; for, among others, a Carpenter’s right Arm was so Hack’d and Chop’d, that the Surgeon was forced to take it off; as for himself, he show’d how dangerously his Head was Cut, even six Weeks ago, the large Scars whereof appear’d.

He denyed that he was ever in Disguise with design to do Mischief; but he said they had Mock-Masquerades, and particularly one in Meeting-House Alley, Wapping, where Men and Women met, under the Number of Twenty, and he in particular was in a Miller’s Habit and his Face cover’d over with White. He directed his Wife to offer this to the Consideration of his Majesty, in a Petition; and also to insert her having two Children, besides one in her Body, which must come to Misery if the Father was taken from ’em; which Petition she delivered at the Council-Chamber Door.

He was happy in having his Health continued entire, from the first Beginning of his Misfortunes; and in having R. Swanson, with him, who was able and ready to Read the Scriptures. When R. Swanson, had been Sick, in the Night, and could not Read and Pray at One of the Clock in the Morning, as was their constant Practice; Towers, the next Day, much condoled the Misfortune, saying he wished he was wealthy enough to employ and reward some Person who should sit up each Night and awaken them to Prayers as soon as Midnight was pass’d. The Day before his Death, he seem’d more chearful than before, saying, This was decreed for me, and I am easy and contented under it; and how should I be otherwise, for I am going from a Life of Trouble and Noise and Confusion, to a World of Quiet.

[ …. ]

The Behaviour, &c. of C. Towers at the Place of Execution.

THIS Prisoner, (who was carryed in a Cart, to the Gallows erected by Wapping, through a very great Concourse of People, many of whom with Tears lamented his Condition) appear’d with uncommon Intrepidity; and tho’ the Evening before, he wept very much when he took leave of his Wife and one of his Children, the immediate prospect of his own Suffering no way shock’d him; but in a very loud and exclaiming Voice he asserted his Innocence to the Spectators, after the Conclusion of the Prayers, &c. and to make all who were there believe, that he was not disguised when he rescued Mr. West, unless the dirty Condition he was commonly in, could be so term’d. That Capt. Buckland, sentenc’d Mr. Jones, the Bailiff, when he was used in so cruel and unchristian a manner that he Swooned, &c. That the others who were apprehended in the new Mint, and confin’d on the same Account, were not Guilty of going Arm’d in Disguise, or of any thing else that could nearly affect them; and named Mr. Saintloe, in particular. That he did not rob Mr. Henry Brooksbank, of any Brandy, Tobacco, or Pipes, as he had been charg’d, though the House was threatn’d and design’d against. To this he added, that lest his Words should be mistaken, he had most of the substance of ’em down in Writing; and pull’d out a Paper, written by an Acquaintance, for he could not write himself. He afterwards said, If the Sheriff or the High Constable must of necessity have the Paper, pray at least grant that it may be now read before all these People, for ’tis not against any Court: The Paper was according to his Desire read before the People; but it did not contain any Discovery, or any Confession of the Disguise, or the like, but was to the following Purport or Effect: That as he was in other matters a great Sinner (and had for other things deserved Death, he underwent the Punishment with Patience; and humbly hoped that Almighty God would be merciful to him for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom he trusted; that he did not know of any Disguise he was in; that he did never commit Theft or Robbery; did not steal a Silver Spoon, or any Money; did not rob any Bailiff, &c. that he was forced and obliged to take Sanctuary in the Place call’d the Mint, in order to avoid his Creditors, because his Debts were so large that it was not possible for him ever to pay them. This was the Substance, but ’twas branch’d into many Words and Sentences. He also inveigh’d against the Bailiffs; but declared that he died in Charity with all Mankind. After the Paper was read, he return’d to his usual Composure and again grew calm. As the Cart began to move forward, he with the loudest Cries and Exclamations cry’d out to God to receive his Soul, till his Breath was stopt, wringing his Hands in a passionate manner; after which, the strength of his Constitution appear’d in the extream and surprizing Difficulty with which he died.

[ …. ]

This is the Account that is given by me, T. PURNEY Ordinary and Chaplain.

N. B. A Paper was given by Towers at the Place of Execution to one Hinton, but was commanded out of his Hands by the High-Constable, and deliver’d accordingly; it was yesterday offered to Mr. Applebee; but as it was read to the Spectators, and the Contents already mentioned in the above Account of the Behaviour, &c. the Paper sign’d by Towers we shall not publish; People may therefore judge whether the Paper printed by Hinton, and published by Warner, is not an Imposition on the Town, altho’ witness’d by the two condemn’d Men: As to what Hinton publish’d, as follows, Towers publickly declar’d he would not deliver any Paper to the Ordinary or Mr. Applebee, &c. ’tis a direct Falsity, for Towers never mention’d either of them to the Publick.

LONDON: Printed by JOHN APPLEBEE, below Bridewell-Bridge, in Black-Fryers.

Old Bailey Proceedings (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 6.0, 17 April 2011), Ordinary of Newgate’s Account, 4 January 1725 (OA17250104).

The Ordinary of Newgate’s account of Captain Francis Winter

The Ordinary of Newgate was the curious title of that prison’s chaplain. One of the perks of the post was the right to the publication of the biographies and last words of the condemned, and it is the account of Captain Francis Winter, leader of the Alsatians in the riot against the Templars, we present here.

From this account we find that Winter was a sailor born in Truro, Cornwall; charges that he was a ‘copper’, i.e. pretended, captain, as made by  Thornbury in Old and New London, are unfounded, for he was made a captain of a merchant vessel in the West Indies, then fought “with a great deal of Candor and Courage” in the third Anglo-Dutch war (1672-4). Presuming he was in his twenties then, he would be in his forties by the time he fought against the Sheriff of London. At some unspecified time after the war, he fell into debt – how so isn’t said – and he fled to Whitefriars.

“At the Head of about Fourscore” [80] “mutineers”, a sizable contingent, Winter led the resistance to the Sheriffs. Barrels were put out to obstruct the authorities and provide cover for the Alsatians. The cry was ‘One and all, they would kill them, rather than any Man should be taken out from them, by way of an Arrest.’ This is a determined and organized force. How it ended isn’t clear; Winter was arrested some time later, having ‘absconded’, although we don’t know where he went.

As noted in the previous post, several thousand attended his execution; afterwards his corpse was taken for burial “in the Sepulchre with his Brethren.” Does this mean that the cemetery of the old monastery was still used? One wonders how the funeral was conducted, with what ceremony and who presided over it. There’s reference to a reprieve made by the Queen, then “a Fresh Warrant from her Majesty”, which raises questions of what was going on behind closed doors, and why the Queen, rather than William III, issued the documents. There is still more of this case to investigate.

The text is taken from the transcription at the Old Bailey Online. I have checked it against the page images (1, 2) and made some corrections. Capitalization and spelling remain as in the original. The OBO terms of use read: “All material is made available free of charge for individual, non-commercial use only.”

For a pithy introduction to the Ordinary and his publications, see Old Bailey Online.

Citation: Old Bailey Proceedings (www.oldbaileyonline.org, 24 June 2010), Ordinary of Newgate’s Account, 19 May 1693 (OA16930517).

AN ACCOUNT OF THE Condemnation, Behaviour, Execution, and Last dying Words OF Captain Francis Winter,

Who was Condemned at the Sessions-House in the  Old-Baily, on Saturday the 29 April, For the Murther of one John Chandler, in  White Fryers in London, Etc. and Executed for the same at White-Fryars-Gate in Fleet street, on Wednesday the 17 May 1693.

19 May 1693.

SEveral Reports, of this Nature, have been oftentimes Manifested in Print; many, of which, have seemed to look somewhat obscure, till it hath been more particularly dissected, and laid open, in all its Agravating Circumstances. And indeed; till that be done, there are a sort of Men in the World, who are apt to asperse the Superior Powers, as if they were too Severe in the Execution of Justice; but, when their Eyes are enlightned by the due Weight of Reason, then perhaps they will be of another mind, unless they are Prejudiced beyond the bounds of Natural Reason, and Common Sence, therefore, it will not be inconvenient to give the Reader a Brief Account (by the way) of the Matter of Fact, in Relation to this Unfortunate Gentleman, Etc.

Some Persons (it is very likely) have not forgotten, that about the 4th of July last, was Twelve Month, there was a Mutinous, or Riotous Assembly Raised, and got together in White Fryars, in London, in opposition to the Gentlemen of the  Inner Temple, who stopt up a Passage that led out of the said Fryars into the  Temple walks, the Gentlemen finding the said Passage to be very incommodious to them, upon the hot Resistance of the White Fryars men, there was likely to be great Mischief done, to prevent, appease, and qualifie which, the then present Sheriffs of London, (being sent for) came with their Officers and Attendants, entered in at the Fryars Gate, endeavouring to make open Proclamation, that all Persons should Cease, and go Home in Peace to their Respective Abodes: But this was not Regarded by the Mutineers, for they were the more Incensed, and came with great Fury against the High Sheriffs, this Gentleman being at the Head of about Fourscore of them, as their Captain and Leader, with a Blunderbuss in his hand, which he was seen to Fire off several times, bidding defiance to the Sheriffs; and all those who were their Assistance, crying One and all, they would kill them, rather than any Man should be taken out from them, by way of an Arrest, but that was lookt upon to be but a false Suggestion, and a Cunning Plea of their own Forging they having no Regard to Authority, for they had placed several Casks on both sides of the Street, on purpose to Impede the Passage of the Sheriffs, and some of them lay secretly behind them, as it were on purpose, to lye in Wait to take an Advantage, Etc. Firing several times against the Sheriffs and their Men, the Captain being at the Head of them, as aforesaid. And Chandler, the poor Man, who was killed, being on the Sheriffs side, had the misfortune to be shot in the Calf of his Leg, with a Leaden Bullet, which wound killed him in two or three Days, he solemnly protesting upon his Death-Bed, that he knew Captain Winter very well, and that he was the Man that shot him for which Fact the Captain, for some considerable time, Absconded, but was lately Apprehended, and Committed to  Newgate for the same, and was this last Sessions tryed for it, and found Guilty of Murther, and on the 29 April he was Condemned, in Order to be Executed with the other Criminals, who suffer’d at  Tyburn, the 8th. Instant. But, by Vertue of Her Majestys Gracious Reprieve, he was Respited until this day, Etc. As for his Birth, he was Born at Truro in Cornwall, then sent Apprentice to a Captain of Ship, after this he was made a Captain of a Merchant Man to the West Indias himself, after that he Commanded a Ship in the last Dutch Wars, where (to say the Truth) he behaved himself with a great deal of Candor and Courage, afterwards he fell into decay, and had Contracted some Debts in the World, which occasioned him to fly for Refuge into White Fryers, where he had the Unhappiness to be Engaged in such an unworthy Design, and Violent Attempt, as aforesaid.

He had not much to offer in his Defence at his Tryal, only in the General, that altho’ he was there amongst the Multitude, yet there were others that Shot, and therefore the Man might fall by another hand as well as his, or to that Effect, Etc. After Condemnation he Behav’d himself in a Christian like manner, being much Concerned for his Souls Everlasting Welfare, desiring the Advice, Good Counsel, and Prayers, of all those Worthy Divines that came near him, acknowledging the Justice of God, in bringing him to Undergo so Severe a Punishment, for that he had been guilty of several Irregularities in the Course of his Life, and had not walked up to the strict Rules of the Christian Religion as he ought to have done, which he now Lamented, and was exceedingly troubled for, therefore he hoped that God would forgive him, being willing to submit to the Righteous Judgement of God Almighty. He gave himself to Reading, Prayer, Hearing God’s Word, and to all other Exercises of Religion, being willing to adhear to all Seasonable Advice, that might any ways advance his mind, and set his thoughts on Heavenly Things, Relying only upon the Merits of Christ, for his future Happiness; he carryed himself humbly, during his Imprisonment, both before and after Conviction, though Naturally of a stout, hardy and undaunted spirit, was no ways affrighted at the near approaches of Death, giving God the Praise for such a Respite of Time, in Order to prepare his soul for another World.

On Wednesday morning, the 17th. Instant as abovesaid, (by Vertue of a Fresh Warrant from her Majesty) he was put into a Coach at Newgate Stairs, and from thence Conveyed down  Old Baily, and over  Fleet-Bridge, to the Fryars Gate, in the way to which place, there were several Thousands of Spectators, who thronged to see him, when the Cart was settled under the Gibbet, and he put into it, (which was Erected there on purpose) he stood up, and spake as follows: I have no Publick Declaration to make here, my Thoughts being wholly taken up in the Concerns of my Eternal Welfare, for that is the Work that I am come here to do: Therefore I desire that I may not be interrupted. Then the Minister Prayed with him, and for him, and Recommended him to the Mercy of God, Etc.

After this, he Pray’d in these Words.

O Most Great and Glorious Lord God, do thou look down in Mercy upon me, a Poor Miserable Sinner, and shew thy blessed Face to me, now in this Hour of my Extremity, for what am I without thee, therefore O Lord! I beseech thee to Pardon my Sins, and Wash my Soul clean in the Blood of CHRIST JESUS, and deliver me O Lord from the guilt and defilement of Sin; Holy Father do thou Receive me into Mercy, for into thy Hands I Commend my Sprit: O Lord let it be Precious in thy Sight, and let it live with thee in Everlasting Glory: Now I come, sweet JESUS now I am coming to thee; Dear JESUS do thou plead my Cause with the Great GOD of Heaven and Earth, and send down thy Blessed Spirit to Assist and Help me in this Great Work I am now about; I am a Poor Worthless Creature, full of Sin and Misery; yet do thou Lord JESUS take pitty upon my Precious Soul: O Lord JESUS come quickly, for I am now coming to thee, therefore I Humbly beg thee O GOD to Receive my poor Soul into the Arms of thy Everlasting loving Kindness, Lord! Into thy Hands I Commend my Sprit, for thou hast Redeemed it O LORD GOD of Truth Amen.

Then the Cart drew away, and afterwards he was Carryed into White-Fryars, to be Inter’d in the Sepulchre with his Brethren, Etc.