Friday, 31 May 2013

Sir Dudley Ryder (1691 – 1756): What can we learn from the Ryder sources

Sir Dudley Ryder,, accessed 30 August 2013.
Two weeks ago I attended a lecture at The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies given by Professor Thomas Gallanis, Chair in Law at the University of Iowa: "Eighteenth Century English Law: What can we learn from the Ryder sources".
The lecture concerned Gallanis's work on the judicial notebooks of Sir Dudley Ryder undertaken for the Seldon Society, to be published in 2014 (although looking at their website, the Society's publication timetable appears to be running two years behind schedule)
Although Ryder is known for his diaries, 1715-1716 published by Methuen in 1939, it is his judicial notes that are the subject of Gallanis's current work.
For those who don't already know, Ryder was born in London in 1691 the son of a draper. He studied at a dissenting accademy in Hackney, Edinburgh University and Leiden University in the Netherlands. In 1713 he attended the Middle Temple and at this point became a member of the church of England, thus opening the doors to all areas of law and politics. He was called to the Bar in 1719 and specialised in King's Bench and Chancery Court work. In 1725 he moved to Lincoln's Inn where Chancery Court sittings were held out of term.
Ryder became M.P. for St. Germans in 1733 and for Tiverton in 1734. In 1733 he was also made Solicitor General under Sir Robert Walpole and appointed Attorney General in 1737. In addition to his professional work, in 1739 Ryder was one of the founding governors of the Foundling Hospital in London. Knighthood followed in 1740 and in 1739, and again in 1749, he was offered the post of Master of the Rolls, which he declined. Nevertheless in 1754 he was made a Privy Councillor and appointed Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench.
Gallani noted that throughout his career Ryder was desperate to be noticed and gain a title, raising the status of his family from its relatively humble origins. However, although a patent was drawn up to create a peerage for him, Ryder died before it was passed. It is thought that the Baroncy of Harrowby betsowed on his son, Nathaniel Ryder, was given in recognition of the work of the father rather than the son.
So what do Ryder's diaries and papers offer?
There are four types of records:

  • 280 civil and criminal trial notes created in order to summarise cases for the juries and any post trial reviews. These papers show that hearsay evidence was not challenged, expert opinion was not challeneged, lawyers rarely raised objections or asked to withdraw evidence from a jury;

  • His assize diary for his sittings on the Home Circuit in August 1754 and July/August 1755;

  • His speeches to Grand Juries. Ryder presided over grand jury deliberations, at the beginning of which he would deliver a speech to remind them of their duties and deliver any other messages from central government that were appropriate and enforcing the majesty of the court;

  • His personal diary.
These records also include notes on how Ryder educated himself, referring to works by Mathew Hale, Thomas Wood, William Hawkins and Giles Duncan.

Gallani observed that Ryder's notes provide a new insight into what grand juries were hearing. His notes reveal just how often the grand jury followed his summing up, or not. The reason why Ryder's speeches, case notes of witness testimony and arguements by counsel survive is that Ryder taught himself shorthand. These notes were eventually deciphered by K.L. Perin (who went on to work at Bletchley) and used more recently by John Langbein. Langbein, John H. (1983) "Shaping the Eighteenth-Century Criminal Trial: A View from the Ryder Sources": Yale Faculty Scholarship Series.

In contrast to other notes that exist, such as those from Chief Justice William Lee, Ryder's immediate
predecessor as Chief Justice of King's Bench contain mostly receipts from his visits on the Northern Circuit and notes of what is required to undertake his duties. Similarly, although Lord Hardwicke left
notes from his days as a trial judge in the 1730's, his handwriting is in part undecipherable and trial narratives cannot be recreated from his notes.
It is a shame that the IALS lectures aren't better attended given the high calibre of speakers and the opportunity to view history and the legal system from a legal rather than a historical perspective. 
So, a plug for The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 17 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DR. Their events are generally free and no advance tickets required.
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Sunday, 26 May 2013

Mothers and Sons: Theft and the Death Penalty

On 7th October 1769 widow Jane Whitfield confessed to a magistrate that earlier the same day Joseph Waller came to her house to search for 35 yards of linen stolen from his bleaching croft three weeks earlier. The goods had been discovered and Jane stated that her son Richard had brought the linen to her.
At the same time her son Richard Whitfield, a servant to Joseph Waller, confessed that his mother had advised him to take the linen back to his master but he had refused.
Richard Whitfield was subsequently convicted of theft and his mother of receiving stolen goods at the City of York assizes held in April 1770. Both were sentenced to death at the sessions presided over by Mr Justice Gould.
In addition to the depositions found in TNA ASSI 54/29, copies of the indictments can be found in TNA ASSI 44/85 while the trial and appeal are recorded in TNA ASSI 41/6 and TNA ASSI 42/8.
State papers record that Justice Gould recommended Jane to the king/secretary of state for a free pardon and Richard to transportation for fourteen years which were granted and delivered at the subsequent summer assizes for York. In Jane's case, the circuit memorial recommends Jane on the grounds that 'favourable circumstances' had been found, while her son was deemed 'a fit object of mercy'. It would be interesting to explore further the use of these terms. 
Other records show that although Richard was convicted in Yorkshire, he attempted to avoid transportation by escaping captivity in London. However records in the Maryland State Archives show that he was eventually transported from Bristol by the 'Trotman' to Baltimore, Maryland in December 1770. MSA:CR 40.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Horse thieves Part 2: Recording Data

As a result of my earlier blog on female horse thieves, a friend called to me in Sainsbury's car park and asked, 'Why did they all take place in March, was it to do with horse fairs?' So, a fairly typical conversation when grocery shopping.

The act of horse theft was only a minor part of a much wider investigation into crime during the eighteenth century for my PhD thesis and I hadn't picked up on this point as being particualry relevant but of course it is. Also relevant was the fact that all the horses stolen by Anne Nightingale were mares.

The regularity of Ann Nightingale’s thefts suggests that she had a specific outlet in mind and markets and fairs were commonly used as outlets to sell horses. While the Spring and Autumn peaks in the timing of horse fairs, March comes at the beginning of the breeding season so mares might be targeted.
Playbill for Early Touring Circus, Kingston-upon-Hull Market Place, England, 1798. Museum no. S.211-1978,, accessed 30 Aug 2013

However, none of the depositions in Nightingale's case mention horse fairs, so the evidence implies that sales were made privately to individuals. A toll book system operated in fairs and markets but, as Peter Edwards notes in his book on the subject, it was hard to police. Even private sales had to be entered in the toll book at a nearby town but few people bothered.
What this case study also raises is the issue of data collection. What information do we extract from indictments and depositions, how is that stored in a data base, and how do we retrieve the data for relevant analyis. My data base had a column for dates of theft and a column for type of theft and a column for individual descriptors - but I hadn't picked up on the March or mares issue because Ann Nightingale was indicted for only one offence, but it is possible that her other alleged crimes were taken into account when sentencing her - information I had but didn't recognise.
Yet another revision before thesis becomes book - but highlights the relevance of careful data collection and analyis, and the benefit of information sharing.
See: Peter Edwards (1988) The Horse Trade of Tudor and Stuart England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Female Horse Thieves mid-C18th: Part 1 (Revised 20 August 2013)

Dick Turpin:, accessed 30 August 2013.
Before the advent of the steam engine and motor car, horse theft was a particularly serious offence. A horse was the only mode of transportation over any distance for most people and, in the case of a farm animal, an essential piece of machinery for working the farm.

Horse theft in the early modern period is generally associated with men and was characterized in the eighteenth century by the activities of men such as Dick Turpin. Women were only occasionally charged with horse theft, although it is possible that women acted as ‘fences’ for stolen livestock or took care of the animals until they could be passed on.[1]

Steps in following a capital offence through the legal process: the case of Ann Taylor, alias Ann Taverley, alias Ann Nightingale, 1753.

1. Examination by a magistrate of the accused, the victim and any witnesses.

Deposition/Examination – North Riding, Yorkshire 14 June 1753.[2]

Ann Nightingale, daughter of Robert Nightingale of Yearsley
Theft of a mare from Edward Jobson of Heverstough, Lincolnshire
This Examinant saith and deposeth that this black mare was left for her with Mr John Brady Inn Keeper of Great Grimsby in the county of Lincoln by Jeremiah Taylor, saylor where she received her about twelve or thirteen weeks since of the said Mr Brady and paid him one Guinea for the keeping of the said mare and rode upon the same to Tipsthorpe in the East Riding of Yorkshire from whence she was brought by her order to Whenby in the North Riding of Yorkshire by John Weddell Overseer of the poor of Whenby aforesaid.

Other statements in this series include:

Information of John Gibson of Wass, Kilburn, North Riding re theft of his bay mare on 21 March 1750 by Ann Nightingale who sold it on to Hannah Hollings.
Information of Edward Jobson of Heverstough, Lincolnshire re theft of a black mare out of its stable 15 March 1753.
Information of Francis Richardson of Ryland Abby, Coxwould, North Riding re theft of his saddle five years ago that was later found with Ann Nightingale.
Information of William Skleton of Yearsley, Coxwould, North Riding re theft of a dark grey mare in March 1751.[3]

2.  The indictment put to a grand jury.[4]

3.  Verdict of the petty jury.

Ann was sentenced to death at the Summer Assizes for the county in July 1753.[5]

4.  Recommendation for a reprieve from a guilty verdict.[6]

5.  Response of the king via the secretary of state.

Following the assize sessions for Yorkshire, presided over by Serjeant Eyre, Baron Legge and Justice Clive, a circuit memorial recommended Ann Taylor inter alia as ‘a fit object of mercy’. Ann’s sentence was commuted to transportation to America for fourteen years in June 1754. Even though Ann would have served at least one year served in gaol pending her trial and reprieve, there would be no remission in the term of years to be served in America.[7]

Unusually, TNA ASSI 45 includes a list of costs in this case and provides evidence of the use of legal counsel by the prosecutor in this case. Until the mid-eighteenth century, prosecution costs were recoverable only from the defendant but following an Act of 1752 costs were recoverable from the crown. However, the estreat process enabled the crown to attempt to recoup the costs from a convicted prisoner.[8]

The King v Ann Nightingale.
For Horse stealing on the prosecution of William Skelton, Castle of York – Summer Assizes 1753.

Paid Clerk of Assizes for drawing the Indictment
Paid for swearing
Paid for subpoena
      2s 6d
Paid John Smith a witness for coming 25 miles
     10s 6d
Drawing a Brief
Fair copy for Council
Fee to him
     10s 6d
To Mr Graves the Attorney
       6s 8d
£2 14s 2d
     15s 6d
£1 18s 8d

A wide ranging survey of trial outcomes for capital offences in England and Wales (1735-1799) by Richard Clark and Dave Mossop demonstrates that while few women were convicted of horse theft, those that were could not be assured of a reprieve from execution.

Female executions 1735 – 1799, England and Wales.[9] 

Horse/sheep theft

29 August 1740
Martha Allen
with 2 men
Horse theft
5 August 1785
Mary Morgan
Hanged with 1 man
Horse theft
28 April 1791
Catherine Lloyd
Horse theft

It is possible that some victims of horse theft failed to prosecute and were satisfied by the retrieval of their property, although they may have been more vigilant in the prosecution of organised crime associated with gangs of horse rustlers.

By the way:

When Joan of Arc was tried in Rouen by an ecclesiastical court in 1430, the 70 charges against her ranged from sorcery to horse theft. They were later whittled down to twelve charges, mainly relating to her wearing of men’s clothing and claims that God had directly spoken to her.[10]

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[1] Edwards, Peter (1988) The Horse Trade of Tudor and Stuart England, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 168.
[2] The National Archives (TNA) ASSI 45.
[3] See, on horse fairs and data gathering.
[4] Not located: it should have filed in TNA ASSI 44.
[5] TNA ASSI 42.
[6] TNA ASSI 42.
[7] TNA SP 44, circuit memorial; TNA ASSI 42.
[8] 25 Geo. II c.36 (1752) An Act for better preventing Thefts and Robberies, allowed prosecution costs to be paid in the case of a successful conviction for felony.
[9] Clark, Richard (2013) ‘Female executions 1735 – 1799’ (data collection Dave Mossop), accessed 19 August 2013.
[10] Cohen, Jennie (2012) ‘7 Things You Didn’t Know About Joan of Arc’,, accessed 19 August 2013.