Saturday, 17 August 2013

George Bowyer transported for pickpocketing

The proceedings of the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court are online at in a useful searchable format.  My attention was brought to this resource by a talk given by Joshua Taylor in Melbourne which was sponsored by .

Browsing for my forebears, whether victims or villains, I came across an item where George Bowyer was found guilty of pickpocketing and sentenced to seven years transportation. (Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 17 August 2013), July 1790, trial of GEORGE BOWYER (t17900707-35).)

The trial was on 7 July 1790 and the victim, Claude Crespigny, described how he was alerted to the theft by a footman and pursued the thief.
On the 2d of June last, about noon, under Newcastle-house , a footman told me I was robbed, and pointed to the prisoner, and called to him; and in King-street I came up to him; I never lost sight of him; towards the end of Gate-street, a man caught him in his arms; and he had thrown my handkerchief into a passage; I saw him make a motion with his right arm, as he was running, before he was stopped: I stooped passing by the passage, and picked up my handkerchief; that was in the pursuit, scarcely stopping in my career: he was instantly stopped within a few yards of that passage: I saw my initials, and No. 14, on the handkerchief: the prisoner was taken to Bow-street.
Newcastle House  is a mansion in Lincoln's Inn Fields in central London, England. It was one of the two largest houses built in London's largest square. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1688.  In 1790, at the time of the crime, half the house was purchased by James Farrer ; the firm of solicitors Farrer & Co still occupy the building. (Newcastle House. (2013, April 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:10, August 17, 2013, from
Newcastle House in Lincolns' Inn Fields, London. John Bowles, 1754. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.  The building looks very similar today as can be seen from street view on Google maps.

From Google maps: the route can still be walked today.  In distance it equals 1/10th of a mile and would take 2 minutes to walk.

George Bowyer was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation. He was transported with the third fleet setting sail in January 1791 sailing on the Albermarle. ( Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Third Fleet, 1791 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO11); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.)

The Albermarle left Portsmouth on  27 March 1791 with 282 male convicts and six female convicts.  She was one of eleven ships in the convoy.  Not long after departure there was a mutiny, but it was foiled and the perpetrators executed.  In the mean time the ship fell behind the fleet.  The voyage lasted 200 days.  There were 32 deaths of male convicts on the voyage. (Convict Ship Albemarle 1791 from retrieved 17 August 2013).

It is not certain what became of George Bowyer.  I can find no further reference to him.  He may have been one of the 32 men who died on the voyage.  No lists of those men are available.

Transportation to Australia seems a very harsh punishment for the pickpocketing of a handkerchief, even a silk handkerchief.

Claude Champion Crespigny (1734-1818) was my fifth great uncle.  He lived at Lincolns inn Fields at the end of his life, and was Receiver of the Droits of Admiralty and Director of the South Sea Company.  He was the first Champion de Crespigny baronet, having been created baronet after entertaining the Prince of Wales, later George IV, at his house at Camberwell. At the time of the incident he would have been 55 years old.
Claude Champion Crespigny