Sunday, 16 November 2014

Smithfield Market, Clerkenwell, and the tale of two horse thieves

Smithfield Market looking towards the south.
Giltspur Street is to the right of the picture. [1]

Smithfield and St John's Street Road running away to the north from the market featured in the lives of at least four of the branches in my 19th Century family tree.  At the time these twigs were all quite unconnected with each other, and my forebears could well have passed by each other in the street without having in the least noticed each others presence or significance.

 The earliest event at Clerkenwell and Smithfield, London's main meat market, that I have come across, not entirely surprisingly involves John Kirby Moore, a young farmer from Badley in Suffolk. 
His sister, Sarah later became one of my great great great grandmothers, and when John Moore died without having any children of his own, he left her his papers and other artefacts, which have in turn come down to me through the family.

John Kirby Moore in 1864 [2] 

As a boy growing up in Badley in Suffolk just outside Stowmarket, where John would have been known to Joseph Pennington for many years. 

Pennington, a very able  land surveyor who produced a magnificent map of Ipswich, and was the Steward for Lord Ashburnham, at Holly Oak Farm Combs, the next village to Badley, where John Kirby Moore appears to have worked as a teenager.

Joseph Pennington would have collected the rent from John's father James Moore, who was a tenant of Lord Asburnham at Badley Mill. At some point before 1817 Pennington moved to his employers main estate at Godstone.

During 1817 John appears to have been sent to work for Pennington at his farm at Lee Place, Godstone in Surrey, quite prossibly in order to gain wider experience.  Godstone was the country seat of Lord Ashburnham who also owned about 3,500 acres including Badley between Stowmarket and Needham Market.

Lee Place, Godstone, home of Joseph Pennington.

During John Moore's time at Godstone the theft took place of a valuable cart horse.

Morning Post - Tuesday 9th December 1817
Guildhall — Horse Stealing. — Thomas Wale and Charles Wood were yesterday charged before the Sitting Alderman with stealing a horse, the property of J. Pennington, Esq. of Godstone, in the county of Surrey, They were committed for trial. [3]"

Either Joseph Pennington, or John appear to have realised at once that because the 5th of December was a Friday, there was be a very high probability that the thief would try to sell the horse at Smithfield Market, which held horse sales every Friday.  John immediately set off for London, which was about 23 miles away, acting on their hunch that the thief would try to sell the horse on as quickly as possible. 

This turned out to be the case as the following report of the subsequent trial at the Old Bailey in January 1818 demonstrates.

179. CHARLES WOOD and JOHN VALE were indicted for stealing, on the 5th of December, at St. Sepulchre's, one gelding, price 35l. , the property of Joseph Pennington.
THOMAS HOOK. I am servant to Mr. Joseph Pennington, who lives at Godstone. On the night of the 4th of December I put the horses up in the yard, and fastened the gate at eight o'clock, the bay gelding was safe then. I returned next morning, about a quarter before six o'clock, and the gelding was gone-it came home afterwards. I am certain it was my master's.
Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. Godstone is about twenty-two or twenty-three miles from Smithfield. There were four horses in the yard at night, and I only found three there the next morning. My master has had the gelding ten years; I have lived six years and a half with him, and have had the care of the gelding during that time, and knew it again.
WILLIAM COOPER. I am servant to Mr. Pennington. On the 5th of December, about five o'clock in the morning, I went to my master's premises, the yard gate stood open, there are two yard gates-the horses were in the corn-yard; the gelding was gone.
Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. I have seen the horse since; it has a white foot, and a bald face; I should know it among a thousand.
JOHN KIRBY MOORE. I manage Mr. Pennington's farm for him, he is the only occupier of it. Hook informed me that the gelding was gone, and I immediately came to London; I have known the horse about eighteen months; I saw it again in Giltspur-street, in the possession of John Ayres. After some conversation with him about it, the prisoner, Wood, came up, I asked him if he was the owner of the horse, he said, Yes. I asked the price, he said 24l. I told him it was too much, and asked him its age; he said it was six years old. I told him it was more; he said it was not more than seven. He then offered it to me for 23l. I said it was too much.
Q. Did he say any thing more about the horse-A. He said he knew it very well, and would put it into a cart to shew me how it would go. He said it was a Suffolk bred horse. I went for a constable, and on my return I met Ayres, leading the horse, in Smithfield, and Wood near him. I asked Wood if he would take 20l. for it - He said 22l. was the lowest-the constable came and took him, and I gave the landlord charge of the horse. After the examination before the magistrate I took the horse back into the country, the two witnesses saw it-it was the same horse. When I got into the country, I and Jones went and apprehended the prisoner, Vale, at Heaver, in Kent, on a Sunday, where he lived.
Cross-examined. I never saw the prisoner, Wood, until I saw him in Smithfield. I went up to him as if I meant to buy the horse-it stood alone, in the care of Ayres. Wood asked 24l. for it. I was gone about twenty-five minutes for the constable, I returned, and talked with him again about the horse.
Cross-examined by MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. Did you give him any reason, at first, to suppose you suspected him - A. None at all.
JOHN AYRES . I assist the hostler at the Green Dragon, in Smithfield. On the 5th of December, between six and seven o'clock in the morning, I saw the horse in the stable, I did not see the man bring it in, but I saw the prisoners in conversation about it. Wood asked me to go and have something to drink with him, and took me to the Denmark's Head, in the Old Bailey-Vale was there. Wood asked me what time the horse-market began; I told him about one or two o'clock, and not before. He said he had bought the horse of Vale, and wished to sell it again-Vale was present. Wood said he gave Vale 18l.10s. for it; he then put his hand into his pocket, and said, I have got to give you two shillings to make up the 18l. 10s. and he gave him two shillings-Vale took it. I asked Vale who he bought the horse of; he said he bought it coming along the road that morning. I asked him if he knew the man of whom he bought it, he said no, only that he told him his name was James Buckle. I told him I thought it was a stolen horse, and if it was, I thought he had brought it to a very likely market to have it owned. Wood asked me to lead the horse into the market for him, and said he would satisfy me for my trouble - I said I would; he then told me to get him ready, and tie his tail up to take him into the market. We came out of the public-house, Vale asked the way to Pimlico, I told him, and they both went down the Old Bailey. I did not see Wood again until he came to have the horse in the market, at the time Mr. Moore was asking me the price of it - I heard him ask the price. He has spoken correctly.
Cross-examined by MR. ARABIN. I am not much acquainted with horse selling. I was not in the way when the horse came. Wood took me out of the stable to the Old Bailey, he seemed anxious to sell the horse; he said he bought it of Vale, Vale set close to me and heard him.
Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. I do not know who brought the horse, I first saw Wood at a little after seven o'clock; we found Vale in the Old Bailey; I had a bad opinion of the business, and said, before them both, that I thought if it was prigged, he had brought it to a wrong place. After this Wood still went to Smithfield with me - He never attempted to go away; when Moore came I called him to me, and he was taken. Wood said he bought it of Vale before and after I had said I thought it was stolen, and still desired me to take it to Smithfield.
STEPHEN VINCE . I am hostler at the Green Dragon, in Giltspur-street. On the morning of the 5th of December, the prisoner, Vale, alone, brought the gelding; I was opening the gates to let a waggon in, about a quarter to six o'clock - He called for the hostler, and I answered; he said he wanted to put the horse in the stable to bait; I shewed him the way - He led it in, and tied it up himself. Wood came about seven o'clock, looked at the horse, and had him ran up and down the yard; he asked Vale if he, (Vale,) was not the man who bought the horse that morning, he said he was. I asked Vale if the horse was for sale, he said, Yes. I asked him if he knew who he bought it of? He said the man told him his name, but he did not know where he lived - He did not tell me his name; he said he bought it at Kennington turnpike, coming to town. After that he went into the yard, and returned in about half an hour, Wood had not been then; he ordered his horse a quartern of corn, which I gave him. Wood came down as if he was a stranger, and asked the questions which I related before; he said, "you are the man who bought the horse, if you had not bought it I should." I said, "if you will give him something for his bargain, he will let you have it." They appeared to be strangers to each other. They talked together; the horse was ran up and down the yard, and afterwards taken into the stable again. I did not hear them make any agreement.
Cross-examined by MR. ARABIN. Q. You told all this before the magistrate-A. Yes; I will not say I told it word for word. No person has been talking to me about it. Wood is not the man who brought the horse.
Cross-examined by MR. ADOLPHUS. Q. You said Vale was the man-A. I will not swear to him.
COURT. Q. You have sworn before the magistrate that the person who was dressed as Vale was before the magistrate, was the man, what do you believe now of Vale-A. To the best of my belief he is the man; I have not the least doubt of his being the man.
JURY. Q. How did the horse appear when it came into the stable - A. It appeared as if it had come off the road, being very thin and dirty. It had a broken halter on.
JAMES JONES. I am constable of Edenbridge, Kent. I have known the prisoners from their childhood; they lived at Heaver, which is twenty-seven miles from town, and were very well acquainted. Edenbridge is twentysix miles from town. Godstone is between Heaver and London, but not the nearest way. I was applied to on Sunday, the 17th of December, by Moore, and took Vale into custody. I told him I was not certain what the charge was against him. As we were coming to town, he said he did not steal the horse; I had said something about a horse, but I do not remember what. He said he did not take the horse, nor yet sell it.
Cross-examined. I am a constable in the neighbourhood. I had not heard of the horse having been stolen.
Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. Wood lived at Edenbridge, and had a very good character; he is a collar maker.
MR. MOORE re-examined. The value of the gelding is 35l.
WOOD'S Defence. I did not steal it.
VALE'S Defence. I know nothing of it.
WOOD - GUILTY. - DEATH . Aged 28.
VALE - GUILTY. - DEATH . Aged 28.
Recommended to Mercy .
London Jury, before Mr. Recorder.

From the description below, it would appear that the Green Dragon Inn
was situated at the bottom right-hand side of the map above.

“Green-Dragon-Inn, Giltspur-St.— at the N. end of the Compter, or the first gateway on the R. a few yards from Newgate-st. towards Smithfield.”[5]

An account of the Sessions was soon after printed in the Morning Post.

Morning Post - Wednesday 28 January 1818

OLD BAILEY.— Tuesday, Jan. 27. This day the Sessions terminated, and the RECORDER proceeded to pass sentence of death upon the following persons, capitally convicted:- Mary Alder, for stealing in dwelling-house- Joseph Thompson- for privately stealing in a shop - Ann Jones, for stealing in a dwelling-house -- Moses Daniels and John Smith for house- breaking-Charles Wood and John Vale, for horse-stealing-Lawrence Denley for stealing in a dwelling- house -- John Norton for burglary -- George Scott and Israel Chapman, for high way robbery— William White and John Read, for sheep stealing Mary Gildersleve, for stealing in a dwelling house— Wm. Kelly and Thomas Spicer, for forgery — Thomas Casey, for sheep stealing — William Henry Rawlinson and John Rawlinson, the younger, for stealing from a lag-boat on the River — Henry Hall, for stealing in a dwelling-house — Ann Cale, for privately stealing in a shop --William Grace and Charles Sims, for burglary — Charles Russell, for housebreaking — James Bennett (a boy), for stealing in a dwelling house -Matthew Sullivan (a boy, only 11 years of age., John Lucas and William Green, for stealing in a dwelling-house-Daniel Stockwell, for burglary— Rose O'Hara, Margaret Humphries, and Hannah Brian, for highway robbery -arid John Farmer, for privately stealing. Judgment upon William Bayley and Robert Spencer, for a burglary, was respited in consequence of a point of law having been reserved for the consideration of the twelve Judges. An immense number were sentenced to transportation, some for life, and others for seven and fourteen years. The DUELLISTS  — Messrs. Theodore O'Callaghan, Thomas Joseph Phelan, and Charles Newbolt, were ordered to be fined a shilling, and to be confined three calendar months in his Majesty's gaol of Newgate-. The Sessions were adjourned to Wednesday, Feb. 18.
The sentences next went to the Prince Regent for ratification, and for most this would inevitably be confirmation that they would hang.

Morning Chronicle - Friday 20 February 1818

RECORDER'S REPORT.-Yesterday the Recorder made a Report to the Prince Regent of the following prisoners, capitally convicted at the last Sessions, Charles Wood and John Vale, for horse-stealing; John Lucas, Wm. Green, Matthew Sullivan, Henry Hall, Mary Gildersleeves, Lawrence Denley, Ann Jones, Mary Alder, and James Bennett, for stealing goods in a dwelling-house; Ann Cale and Joseph Thompson, for stealing goods privately in a shop; Moses Daniels and John Smith, for house-breaking; Win. Grace, for burglary; John Norton and Daniel Stockwell, for a like offence; George Scott and Israel Chapman, for a highway robbery; Wm. White, John Reed, and Thomas Casey, for sheep-stealing; William Kelly and 'Thomas Spicer, for uttering forged Bank notes; William Henry Rawlinson and John Rawlinson, jun. for stealing goods from a boat on the navigable river Thames; Charles Sims, for burglary; Rose O'Hara, Margaret Humphreys, and Hannah Briant, for a robbery on James Redman; Charles Russell, for house-breaking; and John Farmer, for stealing goods privately in a shop.- William Kelly, Thomas Spicer, William Henry Rawlinson' and John Rawlinson the younger, were ordered for execution on Wednesday next the 25th instant.- The others were respited during pleasure.

If you have found this blog, you probably have had some connection with the events, places and people described. I would love to hear from you if this is the case. I can be reached at 

[2] Private collection.
[3] Morning Post - Tuesday 09 December 1817
[4] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 31 December 2013), January 1818, trial of CHARLES WOOD JOHN VALE (t18180114-13).
[5] Topography of London: Giving a Concise Local Description Of, and Accurate ... By John Lockie, published 1810, and the map is extracted from
[6] Morning Post - Wednesday 28 January 1818
[7] Morning Chronicle - Friday 20 February 1818

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