The Fight against Crime

21-23 October 1700   On Saturday and Sunday night last several foot-pads and house-breakers, mixing with the mob, committed divers robberies in the high streets of this city, stopping of the coaches, and taking money by force, and then made off; and likewise endeavoured to break into several houses, whilst the mob by battering of the windows, breaking down stalls, weather-boards, and a thousand such insolencies, sadly diverted the inhabitants from their necessary watchfulness against their other enemies in the rear, who in the mean [time] were slily attempting to serve them worse (if possible) on the inside of their houses, so that the damage sustained upon this occasion has been very great; but to prevent the mischiefs for the time to come, we hear that on the 4th and 5th of November, and all publick nights for the future, certain persons, well armed, will be employed to hire up the coaches, and ride backward and forward through the publick streets, and that whoever presumes to stop the coaches, and demand money, will be seiz’d and prosecuted as robbers on the highway, and the law against highway-men executed upon them. And there being by Act of Parliament a reward of 40 pounds to every person that apprehends a highwayman, ’tis not to be question’d but every body will be ready to assist in the getting of the money, even their own companions. Such as are found breaking of windows, abusing of persons, or offering any violence, will in like manner be prosecuted as house-breakers, &c. to their utter ruin; with proportionable rewards for such as apprehend them. For which purpose there will be men employ’d at convenient distances conceal’d. [English Post]

6-9 November 1702   An Order is lately published by the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor, That whereas many felonies, robberies and burglaries, are frequently committed in this City and suburbs, in the winter season, after the breaking up of the watches (being commonly at 5 in the morning.) It is ordered, for preventing the same, That from the First of November, to the First of February, good watch shall be kept from 10 at night, till 6 in the morning, as the Constables will answer the contrary at their perils, &c. [English Post]

30 July 1726   We hear, that the City is about purchasing two houses in Newgate Street, the one known by formerly being the Dog-Tavern, and the other adjoining thereto, in order to the enlarging of the Jail of Newgate; that a strong apartment is to be prepared for criminals under sentence of death, who are to be kept in different cells, separate from one another, the better to dispose them to prepare for a future state. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

14 October 1732   It having been humbly represented to his Majesty by Mr. Baron Thomson, Recorder of the City of London, that his Majesty’s Bounty of one hundred pounds directed by Proclamation to be paid for apprehending and convicting any highwayman, or street-robber, who hath committed the fact within five miles of London, hath been a temptation to wicked and profligate persons to make a trade of prosecutions for the sake of so large a reward, whereby it may be feared many perjuries will happen, and innocent lives be brought to destruction through this most infamous practice; his Majesty, in tender compassion to his people, and an abhorrence of such abominable wickedness, hath been most graciously pleased to order, that the granting of his Majesty’s said Royal Bounty be left, for the future, entirely subject to the discretion of the Right Honourable the Lord Mayor for the time being, and of the Judge who shall have tried the convicts, by whom the issuing of such reward shall be allowed or disallowed on every several conviction, as they shall see cause from the nature of the crime, and from the merits of the prosecution. (Read’s Weekly Journal, or, British-Gazetteer)

26 October 1732   In the mayoralty of Sir Francis Child Kt. 582 persons have been indicted at the Old Bailey; of which number 70 have received sentence of death, 208 been ordered for transportation, eight fined, imprisoned or pilloried, four burnt in the hand, four whipp’d, and 288 acquitted by juries. Daily Post. (Grub-street Journal)

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "The Fight against Crime", 19 April 2002, updated 15 March 2007 <>

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