December 13, 2011

Old Soldiers and women

I noticed in browsing tonight an interesting case at the Old Bailey from 1735. As usual it is interesting for what it doesn't say rather than what it does. The indictment is clear: three men, Charles Hooper, Thomas Baugh and James Farrel robbed a third John Wood. The robbery was performed with masks- though Wood was able to identify Farrel and at gun point. Hooper and Farrell were found guilty when Baugh turned the King's evidence and they were sentenced to die.

That isn't what I found interesting. Two things in particular struck me about the case. The first is this, Farrell was wearing according to Baugh a red waistcoat because he was in the third regiment. Farrell called some witnesses up to the bar to give information about his character. John Postern, Joseph Walker and Francis Patterson all testified that he had had a job, making earthen wear pots but had enlisted recently. Baugh also testified that he, Hooper and Farrel had met that evening to go out to rob. The picture we get from this small fragment of evidence is that Farrel had enlisted in the army following an unsuccesful career and now was on the way out to rob. That tells us a lot about the life of a soldier in the eighteenth century.

The second interesting thing about the case is that there was a dispute between Wood the victim and Baugh the witness. Wood deposed that he had been wandering about on a field near Highbury around 3 or 4 in the morning when he was robbed. Baugh agreed with him but said that there was a woman there with him. Wood states as soon as Baugh gave that evidence that the woman was with the gang not him and the trial leaves the matter unresolved. What's so interesting is the vehemence with which Wood rejects the allegation. All we have here is a fragment and there is no way of saying who that woman was or what she was to the gang or to Wood, but it is an interesting detail none the less.

One might speculate about what more it tells us about Wood and his encounter with the gang on the field near Highbury that the court never heard.