Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports compiled by Rictor Norton

Vagrants and Beggars

7-9 March 1699   We have advice from Totness in Devonshire, that 4 vagabonds were whipp'd out of that town, for picking the pockets of several people in the market; those rogues made it their business to go from town to town a pilfering, and as I am informed there are too many that drive that wicked trade in divers parts of this Kingdom. (The Post Boy)

8-11 November 1700   On Wednesday . . . 12 vagrant boys and girls, the oldest not above 12 years of age, were taken up by the Beadles, and carried before the Court of Aldermen, then sitting at Guild-hall; and, upon examination, they all appeared willing to go into the new work-house, lately erected in Bishopsgatestreet [sic], and were accordingly sent thither, where they were immediately stript of their rags and washed; and each of them new cloathed, having also good shirts, &c. given them; and there earn their livings, to their own satisfactions: And, on Friday before, 8 more such young ones, who could give no account of themselves, were brought before the said Court, and placed in the same work-house; which, ’tis hoped, will have good effect, and encourage other parishes, or wards at least, to erect such like houses. [London Post]

8-10 January 1701   Yesterday about 20 vagrant boys and girls were taken up by the Beadles of the wards, and brought to Guild-Hall, where after a surgeon had examined each of them apart, to see if they had the itch, they were carried in before a committee of the Court of Aldermen, and by them sent to the work-house, in Bishopsgate-Street where upon their arrival, they were immediately stript and washt clean, and afterwards new cloathed, and taken care of; and I hear that about 60 have been taken up and provided for, since the holidays. [London Post]

19-20 February 1701   The Corporation for Setting the Poor on Work in this City, are fitting up their work-House in Bishopsgate Street, for the reception of vagrants and idle persons, whom they design to keep imployed in hard labour: For promoting of which good work, the Right Honourable Sir Thomas Abney, the present Lord Mayor, hath lately given them one hundred guineas: And Sir Humphry Edwin one hundred pounds, with a fat bullock, and a great quantity of wooll [sic] to work upon: And Sir William Withers one hundred pounds. Besides which, several of the Common Council-Men have likewise contributed towards the carrying on this Work; Particularly, Mr. Abraham Citty hath given them a tun of logwood; and Mr. Joseph Wolf twenty pounds in money (both of St. Hellens Parish) and divers others have been liberal, which we have not room here to mention. And ’tis said, the Governours of the said work-house are getting rasping-irons (such as they use in Holland) to rasp wood, which is judged a fit imployment for sturdy beggars, and incorrigible rogues, and if put in practice, will, its thought, quickly clear the streets and lanes of this city of those sort of nu[i]sances. [English Post]

28 February - 3 March 1701   Press warrants are given out for taking up all the lusty vagrants who can give no account of themselves, and are able to serve His Majesty; and last week several were pressed in Lincolns-Inn Fields, Leicester-Fields, &c. [English Post]

Saturday 1 November 1718   On Sunday last, upwards of 18 vagrants, commonly call’d Black yo’r Shoes yo’r Honour, were taken up by the Beadles and Constables in Drury-Lane and carried to Tuthill-Fields Bridewell: Several of them have been offer’d transportation. (Original Weekly Journal)

22 January 1726   On Saturday the Grand Jury for the City of London made a Presentment at the General Quarter Session, held at the Old Baily, setting forth, that effectual measures may be taken for obliging the several Parish and Ward Officers in this City to be diligent in the apprehending and seizing all strollers, beggars, shoe-cleaners, and other idle and wandering persons, that daily frequent and pester the publick streets of this City, to the great disturbance of the citizens, and all other persons passing to and fro through the said streets upon their lawful occasions, and to carry them before the Magistrates, that they may be sent to their proper parishes they belong to, or the House of Correction, to be punish’d according to their deserts. [Weekly Journal, or The British Gazetteer]

10 August 1728   On Saturday last a noted female beggar pretending to fall into a violent fit, in the Strand, which was a common practice with her, in order to raise compassion in the bystanders, a coach coming by, and the wheel being like to run over her, she got nimbly up, and run away, to the great surprize of the spectators, who were making a collection of small sums to give her, as soon as she came to herself. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer)

19 October 1728   On Sunday night last 18 idle and disorderly persons, of both sexes, were taken amongst the brick kilns near Marybone, and carried to St Geroge's Round-house, in order to be examin'd before the Bench of Justices at the Vestry-Room of St George's Church. (Weekly Journal, or the British Gazetteer)

Saturday, 15 March 1729   The Parish of St.Martin’s in the Fields have begun to put the Laws against Vagrants and Beggars into execution; to which end every person that finds a beggar in that Parish is allowed 2s. to be paid immediately by the Justice of Peace, who either commits the person to hard labour, or if belonging to the Parish, sends them to the Workhouse, or if not, passes them to their respective parishes.

It is hoped the laudable practice of this parish will be imitated by all others, that we may see an effectual stop to those swarms of beggars that crowd our streets to the great grievance and offence of all persons of business. (London Journal)

27 December 1729   On Monday ... a woman, who pretended to have a child sucking at her breast, stood at the end of Cabbage-lane, near James-street, Westminster, begging alms of people passing to and fro’; and two gentlemen passing by, after giving her a penny, insisted upon seeing the child, which she refused, saying its face was scabby; but the gentlemen persisted in their demand, and pulling aside her riding-hood and apron, perceived a kitten sucking at her breast, whereupon they secured her, and carried her before a magistrate, who discharged her, it not apeparing that she had defrauded them, but only had asked alms; but the mobb [sic] being very great, they threw her into a horse-pond, and there duck’d her so often, that she died on Tuesday. (London Journal)

1 August 1730   On Monday ... a woman that has many years begged about the streets was taken into custody and committed to the Gatehouse by Justice Scot, being charged with seducing a girl of 7 or 8 years of age, to go privately into several houses, and stealing divers goods. (London Journal)

7 January 1731   Yesterday [31 Dec.] at the quarter Sessions for the Royalty of the Tower, Sir John Gonson gave a very learned and ingenious charge to the grand Jury, and put the High Constable, &c. in mind of their duties in apprehending rogues, vagrants, &c. particularly those who go about with orange-barrows and dice, which, tho’ it may seem to some a minute thing, is often attended with very ill consequences; apprentice boys, school boys, &c. are taught to play at dice; and when once they have contracted a habit of this low gaming, and lose their money, they too often rob or pilfer from their masters or parents. [Grub-street Journal]

28 January 1731   Tuesday a beggar, known by the name of Ben, who not having the use of his leggs begg’d about the streets with pattens fix’d to his knees, upon which with the assistance of his hands, he moved from place to place, was marry’d at St. Anne’s Black Fryers to an agreeable young woman of 60l. fortune. [Grub-street Journal]

9 September 1731   On Saturday several idle and disorderly persons, and reputed thieves and pick-pockets taken up on Friday night, were examin’d before Sir John Gonson, Just. Railton, Galloway, &c. and some of the most notorious of them were committed to Tothill-fields Bridewell to hard labour. — Complaint being made to the said Justices, that several vagrants being in the streets in the day time, some with stump hands, others with fore arms and legs, one fellow without any features in his face, and another without a tongue, &c. the Justices gave a strict charge to the high Constable, &c. to apprehend these offenders, and particularly to take up and bring before the Justices a certain jolly, sturdy fellow, who last Sunday stopt a Gentleman of fashion and his Lady, as they came out of the Church, and, perceiving that he should get no money, and seeing the Lady with child, thrust his stump hand almost into her mouth. — By the Statute 12 Q. Anne, Cap. xxii. Sect. 24. Constables, &c. are, on complaint of any 2 inhabitants, to remove loose, idle and disorderly persons, blind, lame, or pretending to be so, or with distorted limbs, or pretending some bodily infirmity, from begging in the streets; and if they refuse to depart, or offend a second time, may (by a Justice’s warrant) cause them to be whipt til their bodies are bloody: and a Constable, &c. neglecting his duty herein, forfeits 10s. to the poor of the parish for every default or omission. [Grub-street Journal]

Thursday, 14 February 1734   A great number of loose idle vagabonds, street-walkers, women with wheel-barrows, carrying dice to cheat children and servants, who infest the streets of this city, have been lately committed to Bridewell, &c. by the right hon. the lord mayor; and yesterday a carman was committed to Bridewell by the same, to be kept to hard labour for a month, being detected in riding on the tops of his cart. (Grub-street Journal)

Thursday, 14 February 1734   On saturday two beggarmen, the one lame and the other seemingly blind, who had for some time travelled together, quarrelled on the highway near Guilford, whereupon the lame beggar struck the blind one on the head with a stick, which provoked him to such a degree, that he ran after the aggressor, and stabb’d him with a knife to the heart: some men being at work in an adjacent field, were spectators of the scene, and came up and apprehended the murderer, and carried him to Guildford, where he was committed to jail. D[aily].A[dvertiser]. – In order to be justly rendered so blind, and lame, as never to see or walk more. (Grub-street Journal)

Thursday, 28 March 1734   Last saturday Hugh Rogers, the pretended blind beggar, was tried for the murder of Tho. Hatfield on the highway, near Guilford, by stabbing him with a knife to the heart; but it appearing to the court, that the deceased was the aggressor, after a trial of three hours he was found guilty of man-slaughter. D[aily].
(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, "Vagrants and Beggars", 21 December 2001, updated 25 February 2007 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/vagrants.htm>

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