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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.

Francis Winter’s Last Farewell

In 1691, the lawyers of The Temple, itself a liberty, sought to block up a gate connecting it to Whitefriars. The Alsatians, seeing this as an impediment to their movements in and out of their sanctuary, raised a mob, attacked the builders and demolished the newly-built wall. The Sheriffs of London arrived to restore order, and in the ensuing battle one of their officers, a John Chandlor, was shot in the leg with a blunderbuss. Two days later, having identified his assailant, he died of his injuries, and the leader of the Whitefriars men, Captain Francis Winter, was arrested for murder.

This riot, and Winter’s subsequent execution for his part in it, seems to have become quite renowned. It was an exceptional event for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was not the more common hue and cry against bailiffs seeking to seize a debtor, but a defence of rights of way and freedom of movement – the Alsatians had no wish for their sanctuary to be walled in. Secondly, it escalated from a dispute between two groups of citizens into armed resistance against the legal authorities of London, and so to the law outright. Given the political context of James II’s dethroning and William III’s settlement with parliament, this was not to be taken lightly. Thirdly, at Winter’s trial, the Judge had directed the jury to find him guilty, regardless of whether or not he had fired the fatal shot, on the grounds

“That where any Lawful Authority shall be opposed by any Riot, or Riotous Assembly, this implied Malice in Law, in the Persons so offending, and they were all equally guilty; and consequently, if the Prisoner did not shoot Chandlor, yet he was guilty of Murther, because he did abet, promote, stir up, and maintain such a Rebellious and Unlawful Assembly.” (Source: Old Bailey Online)

Thus it was more for insurrection than murder that Winter was found guilty, and he was hanged on the 17th May 1693, at Fryars Gate, the main entrance to the sanctuary.

There are a number of documents relating to this story, and the first I present is the ballad “Francis Winter’s last Farewel.” It is typical of the execution songs of the seventeenth century: a single sheet cheaply produced (the woodcut looks to be recycled), claiming to be the last words of the condemned, confessing to terrible deeds, solemnly making repentance and warning others not to follow in such evil ways. Verses 5 to 7 give the substance of the case: the narrator admits to heading an armed crew against the sheriff, and by extension “against the wholesome laws of this my native land.” But if he concedes to rebellion, he does not admit to murder: “whether I kill’d the man or no, I cannot justly say.”

The last verse mentions “the thousands that are standing by”, witnessing his death. The Ordinary of Newgate wrote “there were several Thousands of Spectators, who thronged to see him.” (Source: Old Bailey Online) Given that Winter was executed at the very entrance to Whitefriars, we can presume that all Alsatia turned out to pay their last respects.

Illustration from the handbill 'Francis Winter's Last Farewell'

Francis Winter's Last Farewell

Francis Winter’s last Farewel:
White-Fryers Captain’s Confession and Lamentation,
Just before his Execution at the Gate of White-Fryers, on the 17th
of this instant May, 1693. Tune of, Russel’s Farewel.

Behold these sorrows now this day,
you that are standers by,
All former joys are fled away,
now I am brought to die:
My heart is fill’d with fear and dread,
for here is no relief,
Since I a sinful life have led,
I nothing see but Grief.

I spent my days with roaring boys,
and little thought of death,
But where are all those fading joys,
now I must loose my breath:
Now they are clearly fleed from me,
and there is no relief,
Alas! alas! I nothing see,
but bitter clouds of Grief.

Alas! the follies of my youth
comes fresh into my mind;
Had I been guided by the truth,
then had I left behind
A better name then now I shall,
alas!  here’s no relief;
I by the hand of justice fall,
and nothing see but Grief.

Bold Francis Winter is my name,
who seem’d to bear the sway,
But now, alas! in open shame
I do appear this day:
My former joys have taken flight,
for here is no relief;
Grim Death appears this day in sight,
which fills my soul with Grief.

I must acknowledge this is true,
that when in arms we rose,
I was the captain of that crew
which did the sheriff oppose:
‘Tis said a man was slain by me,
therefore here’s no relief,
For I must executed be,
and nothing see but Grief.

Whether I kill’d the man or no,
I cannot justly say
But since in arms we acted so
we seem’d to disobey
The city’s lawful magistrate;
therefore here’s no relief.
And I must here submit to fate,
I nothing see but Grief.

It was against the wholesome laws
of this my native land,
To rise in arms, and be the cause
of that rebellious band,
Who broke through law and justice too,
of which I was the chief,
For which I bid the world adieu;
I nothing see but Grief.

Let my misfortunes teach the rest
obedience to the laws;
Let them not magistrates molest,
for that has been the cause
Of shedding blood, for which I die,
I being there the chief;
The very minute’s drawing night,
I nothing see but Grief.

I oftentimes have wish’d, in vain,
that I had not been there;
Nay, were it to be done again,
I shou’d that deed forbear,
And not myself with such inthral,
tho’ then I was the chief;
But what is past, I can’t recal,
I nothing see but Grief.

The thousands that are standing by,
alas! you little know
My inward grief and misery,
and what I undergo:
O let me have your prayers this day,
my sorrows here condole:
I now have nothing more to say,
but, Lord receive my soul.

Printed for J. Deacon, at the Sign of the Angel in Guiltspur-street.

Plain text in the public domain, taken from English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of California at Santa Barbara, and corrected against that in the Bagford Ballads (p.340) at archive.org. Image in the public domain, again taken from the Bagford Ballads at archive.org. The intro is CC-BY-SA.