Archive for July, 2013

Bag Wine: Bottling Wine From the Bottom of the Cask

In my Murder and Thieves posts I first mentioned the case of Richard King who was found guilty of stealing Madeira, Port, and Hungary wine from Robert Ireland in 1773.[1]  Richard King was cellarman to Robert Ireland and claimed that the bottles of wine which were found at his lodgings contained bag wine.  Robert Ireland had tasted the wine and found it was too good to be bag wine; Richard King was found guilty of theft.  At the time wine was typically stored in cask until it was drawn off into bottles.  As the wine rested in the cask, the lees or dead yeast, slowly fell out to settle on the bottom of the cask.   In bottling the cask care was taken to draw off the wine without disturbing the lees.  Once all of the clear wine had been drawn off what was left in the cask was a lees-rich mixture of wine known as the dregs or bottoms.  This wine would then be drawn out using a fabric bag to filter out as much of the lees as possible.  This bag wine was drinkable but of inferior quality to the clear wine drawn from the first part of the cask.

Cisti the baker brings a barrel of wine to Geri Spina. After Gravelot. Print by Gerard Vidal. French (c) 1779. #1867,0309.1046. The British Museum.

Cisti the baker brings a barrel of wine to Geri Spina. After Gravelot. Print by Gerard Vidal. French (c) 1779. #1867,0309.1046. The British Museum.

The drawing of wine off of the lees into bottle is an old concept.  One French and English dictionary from 1611 defines “Frelaté. vin frelaté. That is shifted out of old into new vessels; or drawne off the lees, and kept in bottles; we say, racked.”[2]  There are scattered early references to using a bag for filtration.  One book from 1668 refers to filtering during the production of perry and cider as well as the production of Hippocras, “let it run through a wollen bag for the purpose”.[3]  Hippocras is an artificial wine made by infusing claret or white wine with spices which is filtered through a Hippocrates’s Sleeve.[4]  In 1706 John Kersey defined filter as “to strain thro’ a Bag, Felt, brown Paper, &c.” as well as the Latin Filtrum, “a Strainer, through which Liquors are pass’d to clarify, a Wine-l[r]ack that draws Wine from the Lees”.[5]  One century later in 1807, John Davies recommends in racking “Foreign wine” to “straining the lees or bottoms through a flannel or linen bag.”[6]  He writes that Hippocrates Sleeve or filtering bag “is a very necessary thing for wine and spirit merchants.”  The conical bag itself is made from a yard of linen or flannel with the bottom running to a point and the top as broad as possible.  It must be well sewed with the upper part attached around a wooden hoop.  This wooden hoop may be suspended by a cord then placed over a pail.  After being used it should be rinsed three or four times then hung to dry in an airy place so it will not get musty.  It is recommended that a wine dealer have two bags, one for red and the other for white wine.

Claret Bottle Ticket. England. 1805. #M.1116-1944. Copyright the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Claret Bottle Ticket. England. 1805. #M.1116-1944. Copyright the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Cyrus Redding in Every Man His Own Butler recommended that “all wine improves in bottle, and should finish there.”[7] He recommended that everyone who keeps a good cellar should have their own imperial quart and imperial half-quart bottles made with “his name, arms, or cipher upon them.”  These bottles should be cleaned twenty four hours in advance.  A flask of Florence oil should be poured into the cask through the bung to preserve the wine as it is drawn off.  The wine should be drawn off without moving the cask, so as not to disturb the lees.  As Cyrus Redding was writing for a gentleman bottling his own wine, he did not recommend giving away the lees. Once the bottom of the casks was reached the final dozen bottles, presumably rich in lees, should be set aside.  New and firm corks, free of defects may then be hammered into the necks.  Having a mark on the cork itself did not deter theft or spoilage so all of the bottles were to be dipped in wax.  Once the bottles were placed in the cellar the top side should be marked with chalk so if moved they could be placed in the same orientation.

From Cyrus Redding, “Every Man His Own Butler”

Jonathan Swift was less ingenuous in describing how to bottle a master’s hogshead in 1745.[8] Right before the wine became cloudy and slowed down he recommended shaking the cask then drawing off a glass of cloudy wine.  Upon showing the glass to the master he will “give you the rest as a perquisite to your place.”  After leaving the casks tilted for two weeks one to two dozen bottles of “good clear wine” may be drawn off.

This lees rich wine from the bottoms of casks appears in four Old Bailey Proceedings Online.  Known as bag wine or foul wine, it is directly mentioned as an element of theft in three cases and the general business of a wine merchant in one case.[9]  Wine was bottled by merchants in their wine vaults and in a private cellar by a wine cooper or servant of the household.  This was an involving task for a pipe of port would yield 460 imperial quart bottles.

In 1800 John Gourd was indicted for stealing eleven gallons of wine from the wine merchant Thomas Wigzell.[10]  John Gouard was cellarman to Thomas Wigzell.  In June 1799 Thomas Wigzell noticed a permit drawn from his stock for 26 bottles each of “foreign red wine, not French” and “foreign white wine, not French” comprising a total of 11 gallons.  Thomas Wigzell then applied to the Commissioners of Excise to see the permit request note of which he recognized John Gouard’s handwriting.  Thomas Wigzell had John Gourd bottle wine both in his vaults and occasionally in the cellars of his customers.  Thomas Wigzell stated that the customer owned the lees at the bottom of the cask and was unaware of anyone giving the bottler the lees.  He also was not aware of the bottler purchasing the casks with the lees still in them.

On June 10, 1799 John Philpot received two dozen bottles each of “red wine, not French” and “white wine, not French” from John Gourd.  These were accompanied by an Excise permit and bill of sales.  John Philpot tasted the wine with his companion Mr. Close.  Upon finding the wine “flat” John Gourd suggested they were “bottoms.”  John Gourd offered  John Philpot 29 shillings per dozen for the bottom wine instead of the 33 or 34 shillings asking price and bought the wine.

In his defense at the Old Bailey, John Gouard states he had habitually bottled of wine for several gentlemen, bought the casks with the bottoms in them, then took them to his cellar.  Through management he had brought the wines round so as to be suitable for drinking.  After producing three dozen bottles both of red and white wine John Gourd had informed Mr. Close he had the bottoms for sale.  Mr. Close then brought John Philpot over to taste the wine.

Six witnesses stated it was customary for gentleman to give the lees to the bottler. William Cheny stated by keeping the lees for some time, bottling them, corking them well, then letting them age the wine could come round.  It typically took four to six months for them to become drinkable.  Thomas Crowsie stated wine could be obtained from the bottoms by draining it through a bag.  John Early stated that John Gourd was capable of obtaining wine from the bottoms.  Thomas Browne, a dealer in casks and bottles, stated that the butler frequently sells the casks and the bottler takes the lees.  John Gouard was found not guilty of theft.

In 1827 Thomas Bradford was indicted for stealing wine from Captain John Jones, Esquire.[11]  Thomas Bradford claimed that the six or seven bottles found in his box were “from the lees.”  John Jones had recently bottled a cask of Madeira leaving the lees to Thomas Bradford.  He had never given Thomas Bradford the lees from wine.  In tasting one of the purported Sherry bottles at the time, Captain John Jones felt it was his 15 year old Madeira which he “gave a very high price for it.”  In the court room he presumably identified the very same bottle he had opened then apparently tasted it again finding, “As far as I can judge from the taste, this is sherry.”  Presumably because the wine was actually Sherry and not the 15 year old Madeira, Thomas Bradford was found not guilty of theft.

[1] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 28 July 2013), February 1773, trial of RICHARD KING (t17730217-50).
[2] Cotgrave, Randle.  A dictionaire of the French and English Tongues. 1611. URL:
[3] Markham, Gerbase. A Way to Get Wealth. 1668. URL:
[4] Dyche. Thomas. A New General English Dictionary. 1760. URL:
[5] Phillips, J. The New World of Words: or, Universal English dictionary. 1706. URL:
[6] Davies, John. The Innkeeper’s and Butler’s Guide. 1810. URL:
[7] Redding, Cyrus. Every Man His Own Butler. 1839. URL:
[8] Swift, Jonathan. Directions to Servants in General. 1745. URL:
[9] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 28 July 2013), January 1775, trial of ROBERT ROBERTS (t17750111-28).
[10] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 28 July 2013), January 1800, trial of JOHN GOURD (t18000115-85).
[11] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 28 July 2013), February 1827, trial of THOMAS BRADFORD (t18270215-75).
Categories: History of Wine Tags:

Wines to Drink While Researching

I am having a great time conducting research for my History of Wine posts.  These posts engage most of my free time so I have been publishing less tasting notes.  Though I have been drinking more familiar wines I still have a big pile of wines to write about.  The four featured in today’s post are an interesting lot.  The 2010 Domaine des Huards, Cour-Cheverny is made from the very rare Romorantin varietal.  There is not much of it so I am surprised myself to have this follow up to the previously tasted  2009 Francois Cazin, Cour-Cheverny.  With air the attractively priced Huards took up a good balance of lemon flavors and stones.  The 2010 Le Rocher Des Violettes, Cabernet Franc has attractive flavors of vintage perfume along with red and black fruit.   I would cellar a few bottles to drink in a few years.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the 2010 Domaine Rene Rostaing, Vassal de Puech Nobles, Coteaux du Languedoc will be even better in several years.   With a good nose, Cardamom(!), good flavors, and minerals it is hard not to like it right now but it left a feeling of being tight and not yet revealing its full potential.  Lastly, the 2011 Domaine du Vissoux, Poncie, Fleurie is a young with good berry fruit lifted by citrus and acidity.  I would not open a bottle yet but even the youth did not stop Jenn from enjoying it.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.


2010 Domaine des Huards, Cour-Cheverny – $16
Imported by Jon-David Headrick Selections.  This wine is 100% Romorantin sourced from old vines on limestone soils.  It was fermented then aged for 12 months in tank.  Alcohol 12%.  The nose was soft and Riesling-like.  The mouth followed the nose with a bit of Riesling-like flavor. Then with air it took on tart white and yellow fruit with ripe, citrus tannins.  There were lemon flavors, dry stones, and acidity on the front-sides of the tongue which caused salivation.  *** Now-2018.


2010 Le Rocher Des Violettes, Cabernet Franc, Touraine – $20
Imported by Vintage 59.  This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc sourced from vines planted in 1980 which was aged for 12 months in older barrels.  The nose was fresh with red fruit and greenhouse notes.  In the mouth there was vintage perfume which mixed with red and black fruit.  The flavors were dry with acidity that made itself known.  The flavors became drier through the finish where more vintage perfume and pepper came out.  **(*) 2014-2024.


2010 Domaine Rene Rostaing, Vassal de Puech Nobles, Coteaux du Languedoc – $24
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  This wine is mostly Syrah with some  Mourvedre, Grenache, and Rolle which were fermented with indigenous yeast then aged in a mixture of barrels.  Alcohol 13%.  The very fine but firm nose bore aromas of cardamom and pepper.  In the mouth there were initially red, citrus-like fruit with firm but good flavors.  With are a very floral vintage perfume developed with very integrated acidity.  There were flavors of raspberry candy, minerals, and a dry nature in the finish.  The aftertaste was expansive.  *** 2014-2023.


2011 Domaine du Vissoux, Poncie, Fleurie – $22
Imported by Weygandt-Metzler.  This wine is 100% Gamay sourced from 45 year old vines on steep soils of granite.  It was fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged six months in old oak tuns.  Alcohol 12.5%.  In the mouth there were tangy flavors of red fruit which had a citrus list.  There was a modest ripeness that came out as tangy flavors touched the sides of the tongue.  There were berries and strawberries in the aftertaste of young fruit.  There was plenty of acidity, the flavors remained tart on the sides of the tongue, and a purple and black note.  **(*) 2014-2020.


2011 Château d’Oupia, Les Heretiques

When I first sampled this wine I was not surprised to come across a wine I liked but rather one so affordable. Eight bottles later I can confirm this is a very approachable bottle of old-vine Carignan for current drinking.  At $10 per bottle you should buy it by the case for a juicy and quenching summer drink that stands up to scrutiny. This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

2011 Château d’Oupia, Les Heretiques, Pays d’Herault – $10
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. This wine is 100% Carignan sourced from 40+ year old vines of which half is fermented in barrel and the other half by carbonic maceration.  Alcohol 13%. The nose was grapey with berry aromas. In the mouth were grapey, ripe and fresh berries, purple notes, and good integration of juicy acidity. There were some black minerals in the slightly-round finish along with notes of violet. This is a quenching wine that does not require further aging. *** Now-2014.

Spanish and American Wines Made by Spaniards

Earlier this summer I really enjoyed the 2010 Idilico, Graciano made by the Spaniard Javier Alfonso.  You may read about this wine in my post Trying a Few New Wines in Seattle. During that trip I stopped by Pike & Western Wine Shop where Jeremy helped me out with some selections.  There was a large range of Idilico wines so I picked up the 2010 Idilico, Monastrell and the 2010 Idilico, Tempranillo.  The Monastrell was the youngest wine of the three I tried and will benefit from cellaring.  I do not think it will reach the level of the Tempranillo and Graciano.  The Tempranillo and Graciano respond really well to air, you can feel them become more expressive in the mouth.  I rather like these two wines and think they are attractive for the price.  They are worth looking for.  The wines of Bodegas Marañones are made by Fernando “Fer” Garcia who produces these “natural wines” from old vines located on granite soils.  As Garcia is interested in terroir he is a member of Chicos del Terruar.  Both the Marañones and Labros were interesting, for they are produced the same so they highlight the characteristics of the plots.  The former showed attractive strawberry flavors and the later engaged with minerals.  Give both of them a go but be sure to cellar them at least one year.  These wines are available at Pike & Western Wine Shop in Seattle.


2011 Vinateria Idilico, Monastrell, Upland Vineyard – $20
Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose was tight with ripe red fruit.  In the mouth the flavors open up after a few hours of air to reveal low-lying and expansive flavors, integrated acidity, and a little juicy acidity at the end.  ** 2014-2018.


2010 Vinateria Idilico, Tempranillo – $20
This wine is 100% Tempranillo sourced from Snipes Mountain, Yakima Valley, and Horse Heaven which was aged in French oak for 12 months. Alcohol 14%.  The nose revealed a little leather, earth, and herbs.  In the mouth there were interesting flavors of black fruit, some tobacco, along with firm ripe tannins that were drying.  There was some vintgae perfume along with berries.  *** Now-2017.


2010 Bodega Marañones, Garnacha, Marañones, Madrid – $33
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  This wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from 50-70 year old vines from two plots at 750-850m.  It was whole cluster fermented in open top barrels using indigenous yeasts, underwent pigeage and foot treading, malolactic fermentation, then was aged on the lees for 12 months in used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The nose was rather subtle with low-lying, dark red aromas.  There was good character in the mouth.  This young wine had finely ripe strawberry and black fruit.  The acidity was integrated and watering before the flavors became drier in a sense.  There was a hint of dried herbs and wood box with a firmer nature in the finish.  It feels like there was extract to match the structure.  Perhaps a touch of warmth breaking through.  *** 2015-2023.


2010 Bodega Marañones, Garnacha, Labros, Madrid – $33
Imported by Louis/Dressner.  This wine is 100% Garnacha sourced from 70 year old vines from a single 0.7 ha plot at 650m.  It was whole cluster fermented in open top barrels using indigenous yeasts, underwent pigeage and foot treading, malolactic fermentation, then was aged on the lees for 12 months in used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The light nose revealed cherry aromas.  This wine was the more forward of the two with a firm but riper, powdery core of black and red fruit.  There were minerally black fruit in the middle along with ripe and drying tannins which coated the lips and teeth.  The long aftertaste bore persistent, mineraly black fruit.  This remained more forward with a little roughness in the aftertaste, this should settle with some age.  There were gobs of robust sediment at the end.  *** 2014-2023.


Two Uses for Wine and Water

July 25, 2013 2 comments

In researching for my latest History of Wine posts I came across two very different uses for vessels of water and wine.  Windy wine was apparently wine which still had some amount of sparkle to it from the carbon dioxide. There are a few references to this term.  One author implies it was relatively new wine, “Once, where the windy wine of spring makes mad.”[1]  In The Forsyte Saga George Forsyte liked this type of wine, “How am I looking? A bit puffy about the gills? That fixx old George is so fond of is a windy wine!”[2]  H. Van Etten studied mathematics at the University of Pont a Mousson.  In 1653 he published a book  dedicated to his uncle, Lord Lambert Verreyken of Hinden, Wolverthem in which he addressed certain, interesting problems.  Van Etten considered the windy part harmful to a sick person so in his book he proposed a method to remove it.[3]

“Problem. CXXV How out of a quantitie of wine to extract that which is most windy, and evill, that it hurt not a sick Person?”

This method involved taking two vials of similar size, filling one with the wine and the other with water.  The necks of both vials are inserted together then the vial with the water is stood on top.  As water is heavier than wine, the liquids will change vials and “by this penetration the wine will lose her vapors in passing through the water.”

In 1779, a classified advertisement in a newspapers details how to use water to determine if a wine was adulterated.  This “easy Method to discover when Wine is adulterated”  required a long, thin vial of wine and a tumbler of water. [4] With a thumb over the vial, it is placed upside-down in the tumbler of water.  If the wine is pure it will remain in the vial.  If the wine is adulterated, the liquids will began to mix.  The pure wine and spirits will remain in vial whereas the mixture, being heavier than water, will settle on the bottom of the tumbler.  After pouring off the water “any chemist or apothecary will decompound, and tell you the ingredients.”

[1] Galsworthy, John. The Novels, Tales and Plays of John Galsworthy: The Forsyte saga . 1922. URL:
[2] Swinburne, Algernon Charles. Songs of the Springtides. 1880. URL:
[3] Van Etten, H. Mathematical Recreations. 1653. URL:  Note, it is possible that H. Van Etten was a pseudonym for the Jesuit Jean Leurechon born circa 1591.  See Notes and Queries, Third Series, Volume Fourth. 1863. URL:
[4]General Evening Post (London, England), July 29, 1779 – July 31, 1779; Issue 7112. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

Categories: History of Wine Tags:

An Early History of Natural Wine 1639-1906

July 24, 2013 3 comments

I was reading David White’s Terroirist website on July 10, 2013 when I came across the latest news about the natural wine movement in the form of posts by Lettie Teague The Actual Facts Behind the Rise of Natural Wine and Alice Feiring Natural wine, believe and desire.  I have stayed on the sideline about this subject though I did once express my frustrations with awful and unstable bottles of un-sulphured natural wine.  For the record, I have enjoyed bottles of un-sulphured natural wine.  In such books as Jamie Goode’s Authentic Wine, the modern natural wine movement is traced back to Jules Chauvet in 1970.  During my research for the Murder and Thieves posts I can across early references to natural wine.  Curious about the early use of this term I decided to conduct broad research.  For this post I have relied on Google eBooks and a few other digital archives.  I have focused on the period marked by the first English search result for natural wine, dated 1639, to 1906 when the House of Representatives passed the Pure Wine Bill.

October from "The Twelve Months" after Sebald Beham, printed by David Zephelius. #1927,0614.66. The British Museum.

October from “The Twelve Months” after Sebald Beham, printed by David Zephelius. #1927,0614.66. The British Museum.

Part 1 – “naturall wine”

The First Epistle of John speaks to the sacramental wine transubstantiating into the blood of Christ.[1]  In early writings I find references to the terms natural, bread, wine, and the blood of Christ.  Martin Luther wrote in 1520, “it is an article of faith that in the natural bread and wine the true natural body and blood of Christ are present”[2].  The Saxon Visitation Articles of 1584 describe the “true and natural body…and natural blood…of Christ” and that the body and blood of Christ are received “by the mouth, with the bread and wine; yet in an inscrutable and supernatural manner.”[3]  John Knox writes “of Wine into his natural Blood“.[4]

Christ in the wine press. By Anonymous, 1450-1500. #1895,0122.14. The British Museum.

Christ in the wine press. By Anonymous, 1450-1500. #1895,0122.14. The British Museum.

The early use of the term natural wine dates back to at least 1639.  Henry Ainsworth writing in Annotations Upon the Five Books of Moses, the Book of the Psalmes and the Song of Songs writes “For by the Beloved, usually in this Song is meant Christ: by going to righteousnesses  (or according to righteousnesses ) that is, going aright, straightly or directly, is signified the nature of pure wine, manifesting the goodnesse by the moving and springing in the cup, where by it is discerned to be the right and naturall wine, and is pleasing to them that drink it.”[5]  In writing about communion Richard Mason comments in 1670 that one may just receive either the “Species of Bread” or the” Species of Wine” and still receive both the “Body and Blood of the Saviour”.  He notes the Greeks and most of the Orientals give the sick “only the consecrated Host, in natural wine” for the sick receive the Species of Bread on Maundy Thursday.[6]  This association between natural wine and the blood of Christ survives forward.  In 1813 Paul Holbach differentiates between the miraculous wine that Christ transmuted from water being even better than the natural wine which had previously just been drunk.[7]

Both pure wine and natural wine were used in the same sentence by Henry Ainsworth.  A very early reference to pure wine may be found in the Calendar of the plea and memoranda rolls of the city of London.[8]   Dated 8 November 1327 it was noted “The King is given to understand that vintners and their taverners, selling wine by retail in the City and suburbs, mix weak and corrupt wine with other wine and sell the mixture at the same price as good and pure wine, not allowing their customers to see whether the wine is drawn in measures from casks or otherwise, to the great scandal of the City and in corruption of the bodily health of the purchasers.”  Thus a mixture of wines was not a pure wine.  Later references to pure wine allude to its strength.  “Which who so drinkes, although his draught be small, Stumbles as if pure Wine had made him fall.”[9]  In a “Cure of a moist distemper” published in 1624, both the roasted flesh of middle aged beasts and “pure wine, that is mightte to drinke” are prescribed, though administered seldom[10].

Shortly after these publications a refinement of the term pure wine starts to appear.  “They may drinke water alone, but not wine mingled therewith, unlesse they have a dispensation; that which is pure wine they call wine of the Law; this perhaps was one among other reasons, why they were of old, mistaken to have worshipped Bacchus”.[11]  Pure wine was also not sophisticated nor imbased.[12]  Sophisticated and adulterated wines are often used in exchange but a sophisticated wine is one mixed with just other wines.  An adulterated wine may be mixed with other ingredients.  [cite] The terms were used with distinction as in the 1688 Act for Prohibiting all Trade and Commerce with France where it was illegal to sell “corrupted sophisticated or adulterated” wine.[13]  This distinction between pure wine and wine mixed with water returns with an English and Dutch dictionary which defines “Pure Wine, or Wine unmixed with water.”[14]  There was even a test to determine if wine had been mixed with water.  If an egg sank in new wine then it contained water.[15]

Part 2 – “they squeeze Bordeaux out of the sloe and draw Champagne from an apple”

Bishop Gilbert Burnet, in writing about his travel through Italy, provides an early definition of natural wine.  In describing “Aromatick-wine” he notes “its strength being equal to a weak Brandy, disposes one to believe that it cannot be a natural Wine, and yet it is the pure juice of the Grape without any mixture.”[16]  Upon tasting a 40 year old sample Madam Salis assured him that “there was not one grain of Spice in it, nor of any other mixture whatsoever.”  This wine was made from extremely ripe grapes which were then stored in the garrets for one to three months.  Then only the sound berries were picked, pressed, and stored in hogshead.  Not all natural wine was good for decades.  In 1698, Guy Miege discusses that wine is best in the spring when it is natural and cheaper and despite the propensity of English vintner’s to mix their wines “one may have plenty of good natural Wine.”[17]  Thus at the end of the 17th century pure wine refers to the subsequent mixture of water with wine and natural wine refers both the manufacture of wine solely from grapes and the subsequent prohibition on mixture.

A drinking party in a wine cellar. Print by Antonio Tempesta, published by Nicolas van Aelst. 1580-1613. #1874,0808.2148. The British Museum.

A drinking party in a wine cellar. Print by Antonio Tempesta, published by Nicolas van Aelst. 1580-1613. #1874,0808.2148. The British Museum.

In Genoa, Italy extensive steps were taken to ensure a supply of natural wine.  In 1701, Ellis Veryard comments that a two year provision of wine was kept in governmental cellar throughout the city.  These cellars were known as Fondequa and were managed by an intendant.  All innkeepers and private people could purchase wine from the cellars for retail.  These wines were never adulterated for the punishment was transportation to the galleys.  The citizens of Genoa boasted, “that pure and natural Wine is only drank in Genua.”[18]

In the treating of “hysterick fits” natural wine could be mixed with water and drops of Sal volatile oleosum and Spirit of Lavender.  For those not used to drinking wine, drunk alone the presumably natural wine could cure them.[19] Some natural wine might have been strong as Germans learning English could learn.  In one exchange, “This wine is mighty strong, we should put some water in it.  It is not too strong: It is a natural wine.  But sometimes I put wine into my beer.  That’s cunningly done: wine does not spoil beer, but water spoils wine.”[20]

“an Invention, they have in Champaign, for drawing or forcing the Wine out of the Cask” from S. J. “The vineyard, a treatise” 1727.

The English author S.J. takes an interesting approach to the use of natural wine and that is a reference to what is commonly produced in a region.[21]  Thus the “natural wine of Champaign” is “Oiel de Perdix” and “Again, the natural Wine of Burgundy is Red.”  Though red wine was made in Champagne using the Burgundian manner he did “not call that, the natural Wine of the Province, because By Champaign we are to understand the Wine most commonly made there.”  Four years later in 1731, the definition of natural wine appears in an English dictionary.[22]

Natural WINE, is such as it comes from the grape without any mixture or sophistication.

Adultered WINE, is that wherein some drug is added to give it strength, fineness, flavor, briskness, or some other qualification.

Sulphur’d WINE, is that put in casks wherein sulphur has been burnt, in order to fit it for keeping, or for carriage by sea.

This definition appears to mark the beginning of texts commenting on the manufacture of fake natural wine and investigations into what are the properties of a natural wine.  In the Infusion section of the works of Francis Bacon flavor may be given to any wine to “imitate and exceed the Colour, Flavours, and Richeness of any natural Wines of foreign Growth.”[23]  A suggested experiment includes added fresh and green leaves of Basalm to simulate Frontignanc.

Descriptions of wine production illuminate the expected differences between natural and adulterated wine.  A 1622 recommendation for producing wine in Virginia starts with placing a little bundle of vine branches with a brick on top near the tap hole.[24]  This will be used to filter out the bits later on.  The ripe grapes are then placed in the cask or tub, trodden by bare feet, then left to work itself for five or six days.  This wine is then drawn out into a hogshead.  Greener grapes may then be trodden with the leftover skins to produce a smaller wine.  These leftover skins may be pressed with a tenth-part of water added to the juice to produce an even smaller wine.  Once in barrel the wine must purge itself and be kept topped off before sealing.

Autumn from The Four Seasons. Print by Virgil Solis. 1530-1562. #1868,0713.59. The British Museum.

Autumn from The Four Seasons. Print by Virgil Solis. 1530-1562. #1868,0713.59. The British Museum.

In 1665 William Hughes provides a detailed description of keeping wine.[25]  He starts with several different methods for bruising and pressing the grapes, including what is done in Germany.  The juice is to be run off into firm and new vessels which are well bounded with iron.  Fermentation is to occur in a warmer area and have been completed before the wine is transferred into tuns in a deep and cool cellar.  A full and well bunged cask will keep the best.  When tapping a cask the best way to prevent decay is to draw all of the wine into bottles which are then stored in sand.  If this is not done then a linen cloth steeped in melted brimstone may be burnt inside of the cask.  With the sulphurous fumes in the casks it may be stopped up.  William Hughes comments that Vintners and Wine-Coopers are quick to make mixtures and if they stopped doing so “it would be much better both for their houses and health of their Customers.”  Customers enjoyed a pleasing and brisk wine from a drawn down cask.  As an alternative to adding sugar, vinegar, vitriol, and “many other ingredients which must not be mentioned” he suggests combining boiled and concentrated wine with regular wine.  If wine is too sharp it should be drawn into bottles where it is combined with one or two spoonful of refined sugar.  After some time this will be a “pleasant and good Wine.”

In 1727 S. J. recommended that the gathered grapes be immediately pressed while still cool and without bruising.  This method best preserves the spirituous parts.  The first juice that runs out of the press, from its weight alone, is pleasant “but has not Body enough to keep a long time without Mixture.”  Wine of the second and third pressing will last four or five years without mixture.  Wine of the fourth pressing is tolerable to drink without mixture.  For white wines he recommends running the juice into new casks to prevent coloring but the red wines may be run into old casks provided they were sweet and clean.  In Burgundy and Champagne the casks are rinsed with water infused with peach leaves and flowers which gives a “delicious Flavour to those Wines.”  Once the wine begins to ferment the froth from the first casks may be put into the other casks so that the yeast will encourage the start of fermentation.  After fermentation is complete the casks must be kept topped off.  Once they are stored in the cellar this should be done once per month.  To fine the wine one ounce of isinglass should be mixed with white wine or brandy the mixture then added for every fifty gallons of wine.  He then notes that in Burgundy and Champagne they burn brimstone in the casks during the first and second racking.  This method provides “a more lively, brisk, and sparkling Colour” in the bottled wines.  S. J. notes he cannot determine whether the English Vintners and Wine-Coopers were aware of this method.

S. J. notes that the demand for frothy wines has caused dealers to experiment with “sundry sort of Drugs, and Chymical Preparations” which include mixing “Allum, Spirit of Wine, and Pidgeons Dung.”  He continues that the adulteration of wine sometimes takes place within the country supplying the wine.  Often the English vintners and wine coopers were simply performing an act of necessity.  They are simply correcting wines which have turned “eager and sower” or “sweet and ropey” due to the original adulteration of the wine.

Published in 1747, The London Tradesman lists several honest tasks of a wine cooper such as mixing various wines to produce the “Flavour and Taste required by the different Palates of his Customers”, to remove the lees, cure them of disease, recover pricked wine, preserve then, and recover flavor and color due to age.[26]  R. Campbell then claims the wine coopers have lately converted cider and “several more noxious Materials” to resemble Port, Sack, Canary, and other wines and that “few People know when they drink the the Juice of the Grape, or some sophisticated Stuff brewed by the Wine-Cooper.” One text claims, “some fall Sick upon it, as many have lately done and dye, by no great quantity moderately drank of it”[27]. Fabian Philipps claimed that merchants, wine coopers, and vintners mixed their wines with “Stum, Molosse or Scum of Sugar, Perry, Sider, Lime, Milk, Whites of Eggs, Elder berries, putting in raw flesh”[28].

Recipes were published for artificial wines which resembled other natural wines.  Some of these artificial wines did not even include any wine.  In 1661 one could make claret from cinnamon, “Galanga”, Ginger,” Paradise”, pepper, cloves, honey, sugar, and white wine, the mixture of which was fined with egg whites.[29]  The London and Country Cook includes several wine recipes including one “To make a wine like claret.”[30] The ingredients include cider, Malaga raisins, barberries, raspberries, black cherries, mustard seed, and dough to cover the mixture.  Apparently this “will be like common claret.”

Augmenting English wine with raisins was recommended by William Hughes in 1667.[31]  In recommending the “best way to help our English wines” he suggests adding one pound of raisins per gallon of English wine.  The Jesuit F. Balthazar Tellez writes in 1710 that communion in Ethiopia was taken with a cup of water mixed with four or six raisins for they had no wine and decided not to use liquor.  In 1766 an argument was made to expand the definition of natural wine to a new method of wine production for Great Britain.  This involved the addition of water to dry fruit to produce a superior “natural wine” because it only involved the restoration of moisture naturally lost during the drying and ripening of the fruit.[32]  However, the recommended recipe is for an “artificial wine” which also includes sugar and yeast.  This recipe involved 30 gallons of rain or river water combined with 100 weight of Malaga raisins picked from stalks.  This mixture would eventually ferment and must be stirred twice per day for 12 or 14 days.  The fluid and pressed raisins were then run off into a good wine cask to which eight pounds of Lisbon sugar and a little yeast were added.  This would ferment for one month after which the cask would be sealed for at least a year-long rest.  After which is may improve for four or five years then it may be flavored and colored to match other wines.

The lack of wine in Ethiopia continued to be an issue towards the end of the century.  Producing wine from raisins and water was practiced by Father du Bernet so that he could say mass in Ethiopia.[33]  Mr. Poncet, who informed Father du Bernet of this method, argued that a natural wine was produced whether water penetrated the raisin through the skin or roots of the vine.  Father du Bernet remained skeptical.

Natural wines were infrequently listed for sale in London newspapers.  In 1711, Brooke and Helliar gave notice that their “new natural Portugal Wines” were in the City and that they were “like new natural Wine.”[34]  The Viana sold for 14L and the Port for 16L per hogshead.  In 1714, Brooke’s Natural Wines sold White and Red French wine, Port wine, Malmsey wine, Carcavalla, Sherry, Mountain, Canary, and Rhenish.[35]  In 1740 one could purchase Vidonia Madeira wine at the Wine Vaults under Widow Lowe’s.[36]  This parcel of the 1737 vintage was brought round Barbadoes  and included no additional ingredients.  A “Person, who values his Health, and on that Account chuseth to drink natural Wine from the Grape, rather than adulterated; will in the least grudge the aforementioned Price.”  In 1799, an article described how the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought that sophisticated wines should be taxed as much as Port, the favorite foreign wine.  This “would check their consumption and operate at once in favour of health and revenue, by creating a preference for wholesome Natural wine.”[37]

The consideration of which types of wines were natural wines increases.  Vermouth was not a natural wine because there were no vineyards of that name nor were there any natural wines which had the flavor of wormwood mixed with St. Georges wine.[38]  James Busby considered Sherry the furthest thing from natural wine because it was a mixture of wines of various ages.[39]  He continues that a natural wine is “a wine as it comes from the press without a mixture of other qualities.”  Several years later Ralph Barnes Grindrod quotes this same definition and goes on to write that “brandy is almost universally used in the fictitious preparation of wines.”[40]  James Warre writes that Manzanilla is a natural wine, not made up for the English taste.[41]  Port on the other hand must “possess certain qualities not found in the natural wine, – deep colour, great body, and much richness.”  For him a natural wine is “limpid, white, and fragrant.”

The detrimental effect to the aroma and flavor of natural wine which has had brandy added is well expressed by Cyrus Redding.  For the more delicate wines he found “the aroma and perfume perish, together with that peculiar freshness which renders pure wine so estimable beyond every other potable.”  He writes that the English relish the strength of wine with brandy but in places where spirits are drunk such as Sweden and Petersburgh, they prefer unadulterated natural wine as in France.  Cyrus Redding uses a combination of pure wine and natural wine terms.  He defines pure wine as “it be the pure juice of the grape along, after due fermentation”.   He considered the wines of France, Germany, and Hungary the purest.  It is around this period that pure wine and natural wine were used interchangeably.

Part 3 – “The juice of the grapes fermented, preserved, or fortified for use as a beverage or medicine.”

The techniques of Dr. Chaptal, Mr. Petiot, and Dr. Ludwig Gall turned attention from the post fermentation addition of mixtures to that during fermentation.  Dr. Chaptal added a grape sugar syrup or sugar to the fermenting must to increase the alcohol of the finished wine.  In the 1850s Mr. Petiot ran the juice off of crush grapes then added a sugar solution to the grape must to cause an additional fermentation.  He then ran off the new infusion and repeated this process until the must was exhausted.  He could then obtain several times the amount of wine as compared to normal production.  Dr. Gall proposed the adjustment of the must acidity followed by the addition of a sugar solution much in the manner fruit wines had been made.  Both John Louis William Thudichum[42] and William J. Flagg[43] considered the wine made from the first pressed grapes, to which nothing was added, natural wine.  The “chemical article” produced subsequently did not sacrifice the previously obtained natural wine.

In the United States the expansion of vineyards led to concerns about the varying quality of wine produced due to vintage conditions and the spread of disease.  In the 1859 Report of the Commissioner of Patents on Agriculture it was proposed that wine produced from wild vines would yield 50% more if it was produced according to Dr. Gall and Mr. Petiot.[44]  Using these methods would provide profitable employment.  The quality of natural wine varied but that of Dr. Gall was always in harmony and generally preferred.  David M. Balch in writing about Dr. Gall and Mr. Petiot  opens “Yet mistaken and narrow views have led to much opposition to these methods; and have even caused them to be decried as specious forms of adulteration, by those who stand forth as champions of what they are pleased to call ‘natural wines.’”[45]  He believes it was acceptable to assist nature and quotes a chapter from Dr. Mohr’s Verbesserung des Weines.  Dr. Mohr believed there was no natural wine where grapes are not naturally found and that it is man who cultivates the grape on the best hillside.  He viewed the natural wine debate as that between those with superior vineyards who want to retain a monopoly on trade and everyone else who employ the methods of Dr. Chaptal, Dr. Gall, and Mr. Petiot to make wine just as good but cheaper.  Dr. Mohr was consistent in distinguishing between “well-prepared sugar wine” and natural wine as well as “imitated” from natural wine.

In describing the definition of adulteration taken up in the debate, Dr. Mohr writes that “Selecting, pressing, racking, clarifying, sulphuring” were all natural processes. Dr. J Bersch’s lecture on Artificial Wine defines natural wine as “the must should be left just as it flows from the press without anything being added to it.”[46]  He goes on however to argue that there is no such thing as natural wine because it is not a natural product because nature would turn it into vinegar.  Because man intervenes to promote the production of wine it is an artificial product.  With no such thing as natural wine he defines artificial wine as those made from the residue of wine or actual wine, to which certain substances are added.  A  Chaptalized wine was not artificial but ones made by the methods of Dr. Gall and Mr. Petiot were artificial wines and should be sold as such.

In 1869 James Lemoine Denman published a booklet centered on the apparent “Pure Wine Controversy” in which he concludes that Greek wines are the best.[47]  James Denman was a London wine importer and merchant who actually published a number of booklets, which while self-serving, strongly supported pure and natural wines against adulterated wines.  He even badgered the commissioners of the 1874 London International Exhibition about what they meant by their Exhibition of Pure Wine.  For this exhibition it was defined as “the exclusive produce of the country in which they are stated to be manufactured.”[48]

The wines of Spain and Portugal continued to be viewed as adulterated because spirit was added before shipping to England.[49]  However the wines of Southern France, Sicily, Hungary, American, and Australia did not have spirit added and survived the journey.  Robert Druitt considered the wines of France, Germany, and Hungary as natural wine producing countries whereas those of Spain, Portugal, and Sicily were often fortified.[50]  He believed one reason for fortification was to help poorly made wines travel well.  Of the three types of wine made in Hungary samorodny was considered the natural wine because the whole clusters which are pressed.[51] In describing the commercial relations of Greece and the United States in 1892 it was noted that the Hamburger & Co. winery was selling Greek natural wine similar to that of French claret and German table wines.[52]  Prompted by the introduction of a sparkling brut Saumur the Dublin Journal of Medical Sciences considered the production of Champagne. [53] The addition of the “highly saccharine” dosage made Champagne not purely a natural wine but an “artificial compound.”  However the brut Saumur received a small dosage which was just sufficient to produce “carbonic acid gas” thus it was a natural wine.

Average composition of natural wines. From R. Fresenius and R. Borgmann, Berichte der Deutsch. Chem. Gesell., 1885. Cited in Food Adulteration and its Detections, 1887.

Despite the philosophical debate about whether natural wines even exist, the term continued to be used as its scientific characteristics were studied.  The composition of wine continued to appear in numerous publications detailing the various acids, sugars, and other constituents.  It appears that alcoholic strength was of prime interest in England.  In 1862 the Government Wine Commission measured international samples to determine the greatest natural strength of wine.  They determined that it was 33.3 percent.[54] At the time The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered a speech in which he stated, “When I speak of natural wine, I meant wine with only so much spirit added as is necessary to make it a merchantable commodity for the general markets of the world.”[55] In 1875 A. Dupre lectured that natural wine could very rarely reach 15.8% alcohol by volume.[56]  In the Report from the Select Committee on Wine Duties of 1879, Parliament accepted the conclusion of the Customs authorities that no natural wine contained more than 26 per cent of natural spirit and redefined natural wine “as one in which the spirit is produced entirely by natural fermentation, there being no added spirit.”[57]  This categorization of wine as natural or fortified with spirits was aimed to generate revenue for all imported spirits because natural wine would have a low rate of duty.  It also reflects that England was primarily a wine importing country versus a wine producing country.

Natural wine developed a different meaning in the United States were there were significant quantities of wine produced.  In 1877 several American states begin to pass laws against adulteration of food and beverages.  In 1882 the California State Board of Viticulture started a campaign for a federal pure wine law.  There were significantly different vineyard and winemaking practices throughout the country.  The bill had to balance a strict definition against the practical methods employed by vintners.   In 1886 the California State Viticultural Commission tried to pass a National Pure Wine Bill through Congress.[58]  It was believed that such standards would improve the marketability of Californian wine.  The bill failed so in 1887 California passed the California Wine Adulteration Law in which pure wine was defined as “The juice of the grapes fermented, preserved, or fortified for use as a beverage or medicine.”  During fermentation pure grape products could be added, water to decrease the strength of must, but no products such as analine dyes, salicyclic acid, glyerine, or alum.  Sulphur fumes were allowed to disinfect and prevent disease while gelatinous and albuminous materials could be used for fining and clarification.  This act appears in the appendix of the book Food Adulteration and its Detection.  This book set out to present the most important facts about food and beverage adulteration.   In describing the history of adulteration the authors cites the Parisian Conseil de Salubrite who found 15.18% of wine, spirits, and beer were adulterated between 1875-1880.

Farrow and Jackson, Wine & Spirit Merchants’ Engineers, 1873.

The most common adulteration to American wines from the 1870s included water, spirits, coal tar, vegetable color, and imitation wine.  For example, ambergris and sugar would add bouquet to claret.  Imitation claret was still manufactured with one recipe requiring white sugar, raisins, sodium chloride, tartaric acid, brandy, water, gall nuts, and brewer’s yeast.  It was reported that in 1881, 52 million gallons of imitation claret were made in France.  In New York City alone two manufacturers produced over 30,000 gallons of fake Californian wine per month.  The spread of phylloxera and its subsequent destruction of vineyards significantly reduced the supply of natural wine.  This was believed to be the stimulus for the large increase in adulterated wines.

On Thursday, February 1, 1906 the Committee on Ways and Means in the House of Representatives considered a Pure Wine Bill.[59]  This bill defined natural wine as “the product of alcoholic fermentation of the juice of the grape, with such additions as are necessary in usual cellar treatment.”  These cellar treatments were defined as the correction of the must through the addition of pure care or beet sugar solution, the use of sulphites before and after fermentation, the use of clarifying agents the use of tartaric or citric acid, the normal manipulations to produce sparkling wine, sweet, and fortified wines, and finally the blending of natural wines.

Later that same year in August 1906 the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope passed the act To Prohibit the use of certain foreign substances in Wine, Brandy, Whiskey and spirits.[60]  This defined that natural wine or “’Pure Natural Wine’ means the product solely of the alcoholic fermentation of the juice or must of fresh grapes without the addition of any foreign substance as hereinafter defined, before, during, or after the making of the same.”  Foreign substances included ethers, oils, barium, fluorine, magnesium, arsenic, lead, etc.  Foreign substances did not include yeast, isinglass and others for clarification, common salt, sulphate of lime, tartaric acid, natural products of grape leaves and flowers, and pure wine spirit.


The natural wine term is centuries old.  It was used in religious, medical, historical, and scientific books and journals.  It has been used in newspaper advertisements and legally defined.  The growth of the term appears to have developed in three stages.  First, it was used in reference to wine for communion.  Second, it was used as a clear distinction between natural and artificial wines during a time when wine production yielded varying qualities of wine, not all wines were successfully transported, and not all wines kept well.  To some degree it was acceptable to add some ingredients or act upon the wine to correct faults.  Exceeding that intention by turning the wine into something it was not, involved a wider variety of ingredients and was considered adulteration.  Vineyard practices and specific winemaking techniques were not defined by the common usage.   Finally, with the improvement in production, transportation, and storage attention turns to the methods of Dr. Chaptal, Mr. Petiot, and Dr. Gall.  The methods of Mr. Petiot and Dr. Gall allowed for the artificially increased production of wine and with the advance of phylloxera a new wave of adulterated and artificial wine appears.  England, the great wine importing country, defined natural wine with the intent to capture all revenue from imported spirits.  The wine producing countries of the United States, New South Wales[61], and the Cape Colony defined natural wine both for consumer protection and trade purposes allowing for the practical variations in production techniques.  The conflict over the term natural wine is not surprising given its historical meaning.  Perhaps the conflict may be avoided if this modern category of wine is given a new name.

[1] Heskett, Randall and Butler, Joe. Divine Vintage. Page 118.
[2] Luther, Martin. An Open Letter to the Christian Noblility of the German Nation, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate. 1520. URL:
[3] Schaff, Philip. “The Saxon Visitation Articles, 1592” in The Creeds of Christendom, Vol 3. 1877. URL:
[4] Knox, John. The History of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland with Some Treatises Conducing to the History. 1644.  URL:
[5] Ainsworth, Henry. Annotations Upon the Five Books of Moses, the Book of the Psalmes and the Song of Songs. 1639.  URL:
[6] Mason, Richard. Liturgical discourse of the holy sacrifice of the Mass. 1670. URL:
[8] ‘Roll A 1b: (ii) Nov 1327 – July 1328’, Calendar of the plea and memoranda rolls of the city of London: volume 1: 1323-1364 (1926), pp. 37-65. URL:”pure wine” Date accessed: 18 July 2013.
[9] Seneca, Lucius. Works, both Moral and Natural. 1620. URL:
[10] Barrough, Philip. The Method of Physick. 1624. URL:
[11] Gentleman, Master H.B. A Voyage into the Levant, 1636. URL:
[12] Manton, Thomas. A Practical Commentary or an Exposition. 1653. URL:
[13] ‘William and Mary, 1688: An Act for Prohibiting all Trade and Commerce with France. [Chapter XXXIV. Rot. Parl. pt. 4. nu. 14.]’, Statutes of the Realm: volume 6: 1685-94 (1819), pp. 98-103. URL:”sophisticated wine” Date accessed: 18 July 2013.
[14] Hexham, Henry. A copious English and Netherdutch Dictionary.  1675. URL:
[15] Wecker, Johann Jacob.  Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature.  1661. URL:
[16] Burnet. G. Some letters containing an account of what seemed most remarkable in Switzerland, Italy & etc., 1686. URL:
[17] Miege, Guy. Nouvelle facile method pour apprendre l’anglois. 1698. URL:
[18] Veryard, Ellis. An Account of Divers Choice Remarks. 1701. URL:
[19] Purcell, John. A treatise of vapours, or hysterick fits. 1707. UR:
[20] Ludwig, Christian. Grundliche Anleitung zur Englischen Sprache. 1717. URL:
[21] S.J. The vineyard, a treatise, the observations made by a gentleman in his travels. 1727. URL:
[22] Bailey, Nathan. The Universal Etymological English Dictionary, Vol II. 1731. URL:
[23] Shaw, Peter.  The Philosophical Works of Francis Bacon, Volume 3. 1733. URL:
[24] Bonoeil, John. His Majesties Gracious Letter To The Earle of South-Hampton. 1622. URL:
[25]Hughes, William.  The compleat vineyard. 1665. URL:
[26] Campbell, R. The London Tradesman. 1747. URL:
[28] Philipps, Fabian. Restauranda: or the necessity of publick repairs. 1662. URL:
[29] Wecker, Johann Jacob. Eighteen books of the secrets of art and nature. 1661. URL:
[30] Carter, Charles. The London and Country Cook. 1749. URL:
[32] Davis, R. Museum Rusticum Et Commerciale. 1766. URL:
[33] Lobo, Jeronymo. A voyage to Abyssinia. 1789. URL:
[34] Post Man and the Historical Account (London, England), September 29, 1711 – October 2, 1711; Issue 2050.17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[35] Daily Courant (London, England), Monday, May 10, 1714; Issue 3913. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[36] Daily Post (London, England), Wednesday, June 4, 1740; Issue 6471. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[37] Oracle and Daily Advertiser (London, England), Thursday, March 28, 1799; Issue 21 943.17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[38] Irving, Washington. The analectic magazine, Volume 10. 18178.  URL:
[39] Busby, James. Journal of a Tour Through Some of the Vineyards of Spain and France. 1833. URL:
[40] Grindrod, Ralph Barnes. Bacchus, an essay on intemperance. 1839. URL:
[41] Warre, James. Past, Present, & Probably the Future State of the Wine Trade. 1823. URL:
[42] Thudichum, John Louis William. A Treatise on the Origin, Nature, and Varieties of Wine. 1872. URL:
[43] Flagg, William J. Three Seasons in European Vineyards. 1869. URL:
[44] United States Dept of Agriculture.  Report of the Commissioner of Patents on Agriculture.  1860. URL:
[45] Balch, David M. “Concerning Wine” Tilton’s Journal of Horticultural and Florists Companion, Volume 8.
[46] Dr. Bersch, J. “Artificial Wine,” Southern Cultivator, Volume 30. 1872 URL:
[47] Denman, James Lemoine. Pure wine and how to know it.  1869. URL:
[48] Denman, James Lemoine. What is wine? 1874. URL:
[49] Turner, J. W. The Medical Times and Gazette, Volume 1. 1874. URL:
[50] Druitt, Robert. Report on the cheap wines from France, Italy, Austria, Greece, and Hungary. 1873. URL:
[51] Ripley, George. The American Cyclopaedia. 1874. URL:
[52] United States Congressional serial set, Issue 3109. 1893. URL:
[53] The Dublin Journal of Medical Science, Volume 67. 1879. URL:
[54] Denman, James Lemoine. The Vine and Its Fruit. URL:
[55] Gladstone, William Ewart.  The Financial Statements of 1853, 1860-1863. 1863. URL:
[56] Crookes, Sir William. Chemical News and Journal of Industrial Science, Volume 31. 1875. URL:
[58] Carosso, Vincent P. The California Wine Industry, 1830-1895. 1976.
[59] Pure Wine: Hearing, 59th Congress, 1st Session, on H. R. 12868. Feb. 1, 1906. URL:
[60] Colony of the Cape of Good HopeActs of Parliament. URL:
[61] The Statutes of New South Wales, Vol. 6. 1903. URL:

“Murder and Thieves”: Part 3 “D-n my eyes, I am going out a house-breaking.”

Theft is frequently encountered in the Proceedings.  All forms of theft were considered felonies and there were many statutes which specified punishments for each particular type.  The types of theft were differentiated by the value of the goods stolen, the location, and the manner.[1]  In the cases of the sample set there is Burglary, Grand Larceny, Housebreaking, Petty Larceny, Theft from a Specified Place, and Other.  Burglary was defined as breaking into a dwelling house at night with the intent to commit a felony.  The house included outbuildings, offices, and warehouses.  Grand Larceny involved the theft of goods valued 1s. or greater without any aggravating circumstances like assault or breaking and entering.  Housebreaking involved breaking into a dwelling house during the day.  Petty Larceny involved the theft of goods value less than 1s. or 12d and the punishment never included death.  Theft from a Specified Place involved locations such as warehouses, ships, manufacturing places, churches, lodging houses, and dwelling houses where no breaking and entering took place.  For this sample set the distribution of the offenses are 62% Grand Larceny, 16% Theft From a Specified Place, 14% Burglary, 7% Other, and 2% Highway Robbery. All of the thefts in this analysis feature guilty verdicts with the resulting punishments represented by 46% Transportation, 19% Whipping, 14% Imprisonment, 14% Death, 3% Fined, 3% Military Discharge, and 2% Branding.

"The Industrious 'Prentice Alderman of London, the Idle one brought before him & Impeach'd by his Accomplice", William Hogarth, 1747. Image from Wikipedia.

“The Industrious ‘Prentice Alderman of London, the Idle one brought before him & Impeach’d by his Accomplice”, William Hogarth, 1747. Image from Wikipedia.

The history of crime and the legal system has been extensively written about by J. M. Beattie in Crime and the Courts in England 1660-1800[2] and Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750[3].  In these books Mr. Beattie extensively analyzed the judicial records of Surrey and Sussex along with the Proceedings of the Old Bailey.  Any mention of legal history in these posts refers to these two books.  Excellent material is also available online at Historical Background to the Proceedings of the Old Bailey.  The small sample set used for these posts does not add anything new to the history of crime and the legal system.  However, the time span of the sample set does help illustrate the major changes in the concern about different types of crime, the policing of London, and the law itself.

There were several types of officers in charge of order in London.  Throughout the sample set the four types mentioned are City marshals, beadles, constables, and watchmen.  The beadles and marshals were paid and uniformed officers who typically maintained their positions for several years thus they were experienced.  There was typically one beadle, and two marshals per ward.  The beadle was a long established position, were elected annually, and expected to carry out the commands of the Ward.  The marshal was a new position which was appointed by the Lord Mayor and alderman.  The marshals and beadles typically patrolled during the daytime hours.  The marshal’s prime responsibility was handling vagrancy.  The marshal was supported by six marshalmen and was also responsible for managing the beadles, constables, and watchmen.  The main body of officers was formed by the constables.  They were neither paid nor experienced because they were ordinary citizens serving an obligatory one year position.  They served during the day but were not expected to patrol the streets.  Instead they were expected to answer to requests for help.  Their counter parts were the watchmen who served at night.  This was also an obligatory position filled by ordinary citizens.

There is one mention of a beadle who saw then detained Anthony Goddard and the hamper containing nine gallons of wine.  The Parish of St. Margaret New Fish Street was one of four parishes in Bridge Ward Within.  In 1730 there was one beadle and fifteen constables.  By 1767 this had been augmented by a night watch of one beadle, one constable, and twenty-five watchmen.  Some twenty years later this is near the same area where James Ellick stole four quarts of red port from Smart’s Quay.  In 1745 a City Marshal provided Miles Dalton with information that a group of rogues hiding out in the woods might be responsible for his theft.[4]

Due to their large numbers Constables are featured throughout the Proceedings.  They often worked together victim, neighbor, and friends.  Mr. Barnes was the neighbor of Thomas Bruin, cooper to William Dickswell Grimes from whom William Westwood and Thomas Coulson had stolen a cask of wine.  Mr. Barnes fetched Constable Gardner and together they detained Thomas Coulson.  Thomas Coulson tried to get away but Mr. Barnes held on to him.  Thomas Colson challenged Mr. Barnes, “You are no constable.”  This prompted Constable Gardner to hold his staff to Thomas Coulson’s nose with the warning, “Smell of this.”

Watchmen appear several times in the sample set as well.  The first mention of a watchman was Thomas Rachey who happened to also steal a wooden runlet of Sherry in 1699.  In February 1779 Constable Patrick White spotted John Huddey with a bundle in Pall Mall.[5]  He followed him to Cockspur Street where he made John Huddey lay down the goods.  Constable Patrick White then rung his rattle which caused his partner Constable Hugh M’Kennon to come over.  These two watchmen took John Huddey to the watch-house between five and six in the morning.  The goods included a piece of soap, clothing, and three bottles of red port, Madeira, and claret.  John Huddey claimed he was moving the items because the owner kept a private still and feared seizure by an Excise officer.   Owning a private still was a serious offense.  Any Excise officer and a constable could break in to a building where they suspected a private still was located to seize it.  The owner had to pay £200 for every still or forfeit it.[6]

A constable or other officer had a duty to act when a crime was occurring.  Otherwise they typically reacted when the public brought in the name of an accused offender.  The discovery of the offender’s names and locations was up to the victim.  As a result rewards were given for certain types of crimes to gain the help of the public.  The reward in the case of the burglary of Thomas Lawrence at the Crown and Anchor Inn in 1795 was set at £40.  The unofficial position of thief-taker developed and referred to private citizens who operated for reward money in exchange for detecting and bringing in the offenders.  Henry Fielding was appointed a justice of the peace at the end of 1748.  Mary Ireland was brought up in front of him in 1752 for stealing a bottle of wine, tea, and other household items.[7]  In response to a surge in post-war crime Henry Fielding organized the Bow Street Runners which acted as an official sort of thief-taker.  This group of men were officially funded in 1753 and attached to the Bow Street magistrate’s office.  Their activities expanded under Sir John Fielding to serve writs and travel widely in search of offenders.

Sir John Fielding in "A bond and judgement" Matthew Darly, 1779. Item #1868,0808.4587, The British Museum.

Sir John Fielding in “A bond and judgement” Matthew Darly, 1779. Item #1868,0808.4587, The British Museum.

Private thief-takers in London continued to function in addition to the Bow Street Runners.  John Taplin had been an officer of the police for two and a half years but on hearing there might be grounds for a complaint against himself, he dismissed himself from service.  One week later he fashioned himself a thief-taker and detained Henry Helsing when he tried to sell stolen bottles at Thomas Burrows’ shop in 1795.


Not all offenders were captured with the stolen goods at the time of the theft.  Upon receiving information after a theft, the victim often obtained a warrant to search the suspect’s possessions.  Warrants first appear in the Proceedings in 1714 when Captain Samuel Moody lost a great deal of wine from his ship.  He was informed that his servant sold some of the wine to Samuel Green so he obtained a warrant then went to Samuel Green’s house.  Warrants are not mentioned again until 1773 when Robert Ireland was granted a warrant from Sir John Fielding.[8]  He then went with Constable Hutchninson to Richard King’s lodgings where they proceeded to search his possessions.  Several other Proceedings detail why a victim took out a search warrant, the times when the warrant was taken out and then subsequently served, and the constable who was present.


In looking at the types of theft over time the early decades reveal a small number of thefts actually involving wine.  After the decade of the 1710s there is an increase in the number of wine thefts which dips in the 1760s then peaks in the 1780s with the increase in Grand Larceny and Burglary.  These two crimes represent the strongest trends which involve the significant increase in Grand Larceny starting in the 1730s followed by an increase in Burglary in the 1770s over other types of theft.  There is a general correlation between the sample set and all of the Proceedings in that the minimum number of thefts occurred in the 1700s followed by a general increase to the peak decade of the 1780s.  Grand Larceny increasingly becomes the largest category of theft reaching over 2500 Proceedings per decade compared to less than 500 for the other categories.


In looking at the Punishment Type versus time there appear to be three distinct periods.  The first period includes the 1680s through 1710s when the punishment were primarily whipping, branding, and death.  The second period begins in the 1720s with the introduction and sustained high levels of transportation, a few cases of whipping, and the disappearance of branding and death.  The third period begins in the 1770s when transportation diminishes, imprisonment is introduced, and both branding and whipping reappear.  Though transportation returns to its former average levels it is imprisonment which becomes the prime punishment. 

Thus in terms of crimes the sample set shows an increase in Burglary during the 1780s as compared to the Proceedings.  In terms of punishment the sample set shows a larger increase in imprisonment and death.  Burglary was consistently viewed as a particularly heinous crime because it involved breaking into a house while the occupants were asleep and vulnerable.  There were eight Proceedings in the sample set which involved burglary.  Of these eight, six received the punishment of death and two of transportation.  Three of the cases of burglary occurred in the 1780s all resulting in the punishment of death.  In these burglary Proceedings a goal was to determine if the prisoner did actually enter and burgle the house.  Thomas Crow[9] in 1740 and John Nott in 1795 were found to have not entered the victims’ houses and thus found not guilty of the burglary charge.  Both were sentenced to transportation.  In John Nott’s indictment £7 8s of goods were listed but he was found guilty to the value of 39s.  This placed him below the 40s level at which death was required, thus escaping the death sentence twice.

Several of the Proceedings give insight as to why the crimes were committed.  In 1740 Thomas Crow was persuaded by his brother David Crow to rob the house of King Gold, Esq.  David Crowd was a former servant who knew the household.  In 1758 John Rhodes met a new companion and together they took up lodgings at Mrs. Briscoe’s house.  The companion threatened John Rhodes with death if he did not steal from the house.  In 1767 Joseph Barrow was approached by Eleazar Davis stating they both wanted money and watches.  Joseph Barrow stole the wine which Eleazar Davis then presumably sold.

In July 1771 Patrick Finley, Edward Flanagan, Matthew Polland known as Butterarse, and Thomas Jones set out for an evening of crime spurred on by Matthew Polland who explained, “D-n my eyes, I am going out a house-breaking.”  They were joined by an unnamed accomplice known as Greenapron.  After breaking into Lambert Taylor’s house they set out to knock people down so they could take their money.  The first person they encountered was Madhead so they let him go.  The second person they encountered was John Pagett who had originally refused to join them.  He cried out for help which brought a constable and an end to their spree.  In the case of Samuel Toomes and William Ellicot in 1787, Samuel Toomes asserted he was in the process of alarming the home owner, Captain Thomas Hindman, that his house had been burgled when he was caught.  He stated he was an out of work watchmaker with a wife and four small children.


Prior to the Hanoverian Succession it was believed that crime could be deterred through terror.  After the Revolution of 1689 a series of statues strengthened policing, prosecution, and the consequences of conviction. This “bloody code” expanded the range of capital crimes.  There were six indictments during this period for theft, theft from a specified place, and grand larceny.  Four of these cases were found guilty to the value of 10d. which resulted in a sentence of whipping. As is seen through these cases the value of the goods in the Indictment is often greater than what the prisoner was found guilty of stealing.  In 1698 Thomas Young, Henry Barton, and William Mees stole £8.5 worth of Claret, cherry wine, and pewter yet were found guilty of stealing 10d.[10]  In 1699 Thomas Rachey was indicted for grand larceny having stolen twelve gallons of Sherry wine in a wooden runlet (cask).  In the indictment the wooden runlet was valued at 2s. but the Sherry wine was not.  Being found guilty of a felony, he was sentenced to branding.  There were no more Proceedings involving the theft of wine for another 15 years.  There is a similar behavior with all of the thefts prosecuted at the Old Bailey.  This quiet period spans the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) when large numbers of men were overseas as soldier and sailors.

Once peace with France was established the disbanded soldiers and sailors returned to London.  Shortly thereafter the number of crimes starts to increase and wine was once again stolen in the Spring of 1714.  Later that year George I ascended to the throne.  In 1715 Anthony Goddard was indicted for grand larceny for stealing a hamper with six gallons of red wine, 6 quarts of Canary, and 6 quarts of white wine valued at £3.  Having been found guilty he was sentenced to death.  The theft of wine and crimes in general continued to rise.  With the jails of London overcrowded a solution was required to address the lack of alternatives to branding and the death penalty.  The Transportation Act was passed in 1718 as an alternative to the death penalty.  It allowed convicts to be sent to the Colonies of Virginia and Maryland.  In 1720 legislation was passed addressing the cost of transportation.  Together this gave the court an alternative to the benefit of clergy, whipping, branding, as well as those guilty of a capital offense who were pardoned by the king.  The first Proceeding involving the theft wine after the Transportation act received a sentence of transportation.

In 1751 a House of Commons Committee met to revise the criminal laws.  One of the recommendations was the use of imprisonment as an alternative to transportation.  In 1773 the last punishment of transportation to the American colonies occurred for the theft of wine.  In 1776 transportation halted with the start of the American War.  The first theft of wine during the war resulted in the punishment of imprisonment in 1777.  Transportation was still sentenced but it involved being sent to a hulk, a decommissioned ship repurposed as a prison, instead of a colony. During the American War the sample set reveals a dip in the number of thefts followed by resurgence afterwards.  During this resurgence punishment by imprisonment and transportation significantly increased.  Physical transportation resumed again in early 1787 with the location of New South Wales.   Both Elizabeth Lee in 1784 and John Calder in 1785 were sentenced to seven year transportation punishments.  They would have spent their initial sentence in a hulk followed by the remainder in New South Wales as evidenced by transport documents of 1787.

Over the course of the American War the English national debt almost doubled.  The smuggling of tea and wine had already been on the increase but the reduction of manpower during the war led to the continued increase of smuggling and reduction of revenue.[11] Through the Commutation Act of 1784 and Wine Excise Bill of 1786 Prime Minister Pitt succeeded in reducing smuggling and increasing revenue through making the legal importation of goods more attractive.  He transferred part of the duty on wine from Customs to Excise.  This meant the Excise officers could account for wine in the cellars of wine merchants even after it had cleared Customs.  The bill also included a provision that required persons who want to move any wine from one location to another had to apply to the Excise office to prove that all duties had been paid and obtain a pass which stated departure and arrival locations and dates.[12]

"The wine duty, -or- the triumph of Bacchus & Silenus; with John Bulls remonstrance" James Gillray, 1796.  Item #1868,0808.6520, The British Museum.

“The wine duty, -or- the triumph of Bacchus & Silenus; with John Bulls remonstrance” James Gillray, 1796. Item #1868,0808.6520, The British Museum.

This provision is evident two years later in a case involving the Honorable Martha Maria Hervey of Brompton.  She was the daughter-in-law of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol whose wine cellar was quite famous and already cited in these posts.  Her husband the Reverend Honourable Charles Hervey passed away in 1783 and five years later in 1788 she had twelve bottles of red wine and twelve bottles of white wine stolen, along with several other items.  The items in question were to be moved from the Brompton house to the house in James Street, Westminster.  To do so she hired Thomas Twite a former hackney coachman who watered the horses at Buckingham Gate.  Elizabeth Sibley was the maid who packed up the wine in a hamper, left it in a house, and then gave Thomas Twite the key on a Thursday.  On Sunday Thomas Twite returned the key and claimed there had not been any wine to transport.  That evening Elizabeth Sibley took out a warrant against him and upon searching his apartment found thirteen bottles and several of the other stolen items.  At the trial there were several questions relating to the nature of the transportation request.  Here is the exchange between Mr. Garrow, the prisoner’s defense, and Elizabeth Sibley, servant to the Honourable Martha Maria Hervey.

“Was there any permit for moving this wine, was not the man to carry the wine as he could so as to avoid the Excise officers? – He was to bring it to our house at his leisure; I do not know there was any particular time; I cannot tell whether he was to bring it two bottles at a time.

Were not these his instructions, to bring it a few bottles at a time? – No Sir, he was [not] instructed to bring it two bottles at a time, his instructions were to bring the wine there was two dozen.

Was not he told if he attempted to bring the two bottles at a time it was liable to seizure; was not he so told? – I do not know that.

Did you ever hear that? – No Sir.

Never in your life? – No Sir.

Do not you know he was expressly told so? – No Sir, I do not know that; my mistress gave him his orders to bring the things, she told him to bring the things; he was to bring them at his leisure, I suppose there was no particular time mentioned; it could not be a great while, because the key must be delivered up at such a time on quarter day.

When did you give it him? – This day fortnight, all the things were cleared out, and the key delivered up a fortnight ago almost.”

Mr. Garrow stopped questioning Elizabeth Sibley.  William Emmes was sworn in for testimony.  The inquiry into the legality of the transportation of the wine was not brought up again nor was it questioned by the court.  If the wine was illegally transported than Excise office could have seized the wine, bottles, and any livestock and carts involved in transporting the wine.

Mr. Garrow in "More miseries" Thomas Rowlandson, 1807-1808. Item #1869,0213.100, The British Museum.

Mr. Garrow in “More miseries” Thomas Rowlandson, 1807-1808. Item #1869,0213.100, The British Museum.

It is not documented how the valuation of stolen items in an indictments of the sample set were arrived at.  They were arrived at with regard due to the required punishment given the value of the stolen goods.  The prosecutor could exert influence over the indictment in terms of how the crime was described and the stolen property valued.  Even the victim could influence the value of the goods in the indictment.


In 1764 the first indictment to separately value the wine as distinct from the actual glass bottles lists nine glasses bottles valued at 18d. or 2d. each.[13] These bottles appear to be a mixture of pint and quart sizes.  In 1773 Richard King stole 30 bottles of wine of which the quart glass bottles were valued at 5s which is equivalent to 2d. per bottle.  The value of quart bottles varied between 0.9d. to 3.4d throughout the indictments.  The valuation of the bottles appears to be random across size and whether they were marked or not.  The six quart bottles of the Knowlys family were marked and valued at 2d. each in 1787.  Thomas Lawrence’s 12 case bottles were valued at 3d. each.  John Bedford’s seven quart bottles were valued at 3.4d. and were not marked.    John Allnut’s 13 glass bottles were valued at 2.8d. and were not marked.  In 1764 and 1765 Isaac Martin Rebow, Esq charged 2.5d per bottle and 2.3d per pint. [14]


The average valuation of wine in the indictment appears to show several cycles beginning with the first valuations in the 1690s.  In the 1700s there were no wine thefts and of the two thefts in the 1710s there were no valuations for wine.  The 1720s show a resumption of valuation which peaked in the 1730s, depressed in the 1740s, then peaked again in the 1750s.  The wine values depress further in the 1760s followed by a sharp increase in values in the 1770s which is maintained until the end of the century.

There is one instance where the indictment value for wine can be compared directly against the value stated by the victim.  In 1782 George Hellegar lost 30 quarts of old Hock which were valued at £8 in the indictment.  This is the equivalent to 5s 4d. per quart.  In the testimony he states that he had sold the same wine at £3 and 3g. per dozen.  This is equivalent to 5s and 5s 6d. per quart so the value in the indictment falls within this range.  Earlier in 1775 the one quart bottle of Old Hock stolen from Lewis Beauvais was valued at 1s.  In 1719 Henry Plaistow at the King’s Arms in the Strand sold young Hock at 6s. per gallon and fine mellow Old Hock at 10s per gallon or 2s 6d. per quart, revealing the premium paid for old Hock.  The Vauxhall Gardens Wine List of 1762 lists Old Hock “with or without sugar” at 5s per bottle.  Fine Hock was sold by Priddy’s Foreign Warehouse and Vaults in 1793 at 30s. per dozen or 2s 5d. per bottle.  Fell Park sold Old Hock at 3s 10d per bottle in 1788.[15]

The majority of the Portuguese wines stolen were Madeira and Port.  Port is described in the indictments as Port, Red Port, and White Port.  These three categories of port were consistently valued less than that of Madeira.  During the height of the valuations in the 1780s Red Port was valued between 1s 3d per quarts to 1s 6d per quart.  In 1770, the Punch House on White Cross Street[16]  and Bill’s Wine Vaults  in Chandes Street, Covent Garden[17] sold red port at 6s. per gallon or 18s per dozen bottles.  In 1790, Bridges and Co. of Duke Street, Piccadilly sold five to seven year old red port at 21-23s. per dozen and seven year old red port at 26s per dozen.[18]  During the 1780s Madeira ranged from 1s 3d per quart to 3s per quart with Malmsey Madeira reaching the high prices of 3s 4d to 5s per quart.  Fell Parker of Commission Wine Vaults sold Fine old Malmsey Madeira at 3s per bottle and Rich Malmsey Madeira at 30s. per dozen or 2s. 6d. per bottle in 1788.[19] Thus the published prices of wine appear to be in alignment with the valuations in the indictments.


The Proceedings of the Old Bailey which describe convictions for the theft of wine form a very small part of the nearly 197,000 documented cases.  I originally hoped to provide a more in depth analysis of the types of wine stolen as compared to what was imported and fashionable drink.  I had also thought I could write a more robust legal analysis.  My sample set proved too small so the second and third posts are more illustrative.  What the sample set did provide is a very diverse look at the social history of wine.  I find this exciting because this wine blog allows me to detail all of my explorations regardless of their outcome.  My immersion into this material has led me to develop several themes for future posts.  One of which I have already started acquiring research materials for and hope to have published later this year.

[1] Clive Emsley, Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, “Crime and Justice – Crimes Tried at the Old Bailey”, Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 11 July 2013 )
[2] Beattie, J. M. Crime and the Courts in England 1660-1800. Princeton University Press, 1986.
[3] Beattie, J. M. Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750. Oxford University Press, 2001.
[4] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1745, trial of Henry Cutler (t17450227-20).
[5] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1779, trial of JOHN HUDDEY (t17790217-33).
[6] The Statues at Large, (25 Geo. III, c. 50 section II)
[7] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), September 1752, trial of Mary Ireland (t17520914-39).
[8] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1773, trial of RICHARD KING (t17730217-50).
[9] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1740, trial of Thomas Crow (t17401204-60).
[10] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1698, trial of Thomas Young Henry Barton William Mees (t16980223-19).
[11] Ashworth, William J. Customs and Excise.  Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003.
[12] The Statues at Large, (25 Geo. III, c. 59 section XXXIII)
[13] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), October 1764, trial of William Robinson (t17641017-25).
[14] Simon, Andre. Bottlescrew Days. Boston, 1927.
[15] World (1787) (London, England), Wednesday, July 30, 1788; Issue 495.17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[16] Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Thursday, April 12, 1770; Issue 12 828. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[17] Lloyd’s Evening Post (London, England), March 16, 1770 – March 19, 1770; Issue 1982. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[18] World (1787) (London, England), Tuesday, January 5, 1790; Issue 940. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
[19] World (1787) (London, England), Saturday, February 23, 1788; Issue 360. 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.
Categories: History of Wine Tags:

“Murder and Thieves”: Part 2 “I tasted it, and found it to be red-port”

July 17, 2013 1 comment

The types of wine described in the indictments range from the generic Wine to the specific Old Hock.  These wines were primarily produced from grapes but fruit wines are found as well.  Over the sample set wine from seven specific countries was stolen.   The most common wine was from Portugal with some 133 gallons listed across 41 indictments.  Generic wine is ranked second with 86 gallons listed in 21 indictments followed by Spanish wine with 34 gallons listed in 14 indictments.  The wines of England, France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary round out the list.  While it is hard to draw any specific conclusions it is interesting to look at the wines stolen in the context of importation statistics, international affairs, and the individuals involved.

Claret Wine Bottle, 1645. Item 1887,0307,E.19. The British Museum.

Claret Wine Bottle, 1645. Item 1887,0307,E.19. The British Museum.

A wide variety of wine was available in London in the decades prior to the first conviction for theft.  In December 1647 Parliament enacted a subsidy on the tonnage of wine.[1]  French wine and those of its dominions, “Muskadels”, “Malmeseyes”, “Cutes”, “Tents”, “Allicants”, “Bastards”, “Sacks”, “Canaries”, “Malligoes”, “Maderaes”, Sweet Wines, The Levant, “Spaine”, Portugal, “Rhennish”, and Germany were explicitly listed.  This list of wine essentially continues into the 18th century.  Samuel Pepys noted in the summer of 1665 that his cellar contained Canary, Malaga, Sack, Tent, and white wine.[2]  In Lord Hervey’s diary entries through the end of the 17th century he noted purchases of Burgundy, Canary, Claret, Fayal, Galicia, Hermitage, Languedoc,  St. Laurent, Navarre,  Palm, Rhenish, and Sack.[3]  The wide variety of wine found in cellars and what was imported in any given year depended upon trade embargoes, wars, and vintage conditions.  The volume of wine stolen remained consistent at under 20 gallons per decade except for the 40 gallon peak of generic wine in the 1680s and the 80 gallon peak of Portuguese wine in the 1780s.  The first peak is due to Joel Gaischone stealing 40 gallons of wine out of the cellar of Robert Rawley.[4]    I suspect Robert Rawley must have been out of town in order for such a large quantity to be stolen away.  The even larger, later peak is also due to a single theft.  It occurred when the family of Thomas King, Esq was in the country on Christmas vacation.  During this period the cook Elizabeth Lee stole wine by the gallon.


Customs records shed light into what types of wines were imported into London at any given year and how they could vary wildly.  Customs returns for the total wine imports were not compiled before 1675.[5]  Prior to this point French wines were very popular along with Spanish wines.  In 1675 total imports into London consisted of 7,495 tuns of French wine, 4,012 tuns of Spanish wine, 538 tuns of German wine, 30 tuns of Italian wine, and 20 tuns of Portuguese wine.  Rhenish wines were imported by way of Holland and typically never exceeded 1,000 tuns through the end of the 18th century.  At the time the first returns were compiled the wines of Portugal were just gaining traction.  For the year 1669 Charles Davenant found no record of Portuguese wines in the Custom House Books and supposed that what was brought in came as presents. The imports of Portuguese wine in London increased from 43 pipes in 1668 to 378 pipes in 1678.  As a point of reference a total of 9,665 tuns of French wine were imported into England in 1677 along with 5,095 tuns of Spanish wine. By comparison the Portuguese merchants in London claimed in 1677 that 33 tuns of Portuguese wines were imported compared to 7,000 tuns of French wine.

Just prior to the first guilty verdict for the theft wine, Parliament imposed an embargo against French trade in 1678.  This embargo lasted until 1685, significantly changing the import statistics, and gave Portuguese wines favor.  Thus just prior to the embargo of 1678, 427 pipes of Portuguese wine were imported against 15,435 pipes of French wine into London.  There was no French wine officially imported during the embargo years of 1679 until 1686.  The total amount of wine imported in 1678 was at 14,000 tuns which then took a dip in 1679 to 9,000 tuns.  This rapidly returned to 14,000 tuns as the amount of Portuguese wine imported rapidly increased from 1,013 tuns in 1679 to 13,860 tuns in 1682.  Spanish wine imports increased in the years 1680 through 1684.  It is believed that some portion of these Portuguese and Spanish wine imports were actually French wine.  Even German imports wildly increased to 7,072 tuns in 1681.

"The Imports of Great Britain from France" Louis Philippe Boitard, 1757. 1867,1012.827. The British Museum

“The Imports of Great Britain from France” Louis Philippe Boitard, 1757. 1867,1012.827. The British Museum

With the resumption of French wine imports in 1686, quantities of French wine rapidly increased in to London with 15,518 tuns in 1687.  It is this year that the types of wine are specified for the first time in an indictment after Joyce Fletcher, who stole five gallons of Rhenish wine and five gallons of Claret, a French wine.  Perhaps this reflects the new availability of French wines and large amounts of German wine imported during the embargo.  Rhenish and Hock are the only types of German wine listed in the sample set.  There was the one instance of Rhenish wine followed almost 90 years later by Old Hock which was stolen in 1775 and 1782.  The lack of stolen German wine may not be surprising as German wine imports on average appear to have peaked in 1700 at 1420 tuns followed by a steady decline to 160 tuns in 1775.

French wine imports dramatically reduced in 1691 when they were once again prohibited during the war with France in the Nine Years’ War.  With the end of the war French wine was once again imported in 1697 with stocks available in London because in 1698 Thomas Young, Henry Barton, and William Mees managed to steal and dispose of 10 gallons of Claret.  In 1702 the War of the Spanish Succession started followed two years later by the Methuen treaty.  During this century French wine imports continued to decline below 1,000 tuns per year as Portuguese wine, buoyed by the Methuan Treaty, stayed above 10,000 tuns per year.  French wine does not appear again until 1775 when both Claret and Champagne were stolen from the wine merchant Lewis Beauvais.  Claret is then found in three more indictments through 1785.

The wines of Portugal are represented in the indictments by Calcavella, Lisbon, Madeira, and Port.  Both Lisbon and Port were listed generically, as white, and as red.  As such the first Portuguese wine stolen was five gallons of Red Lisbon by John Hopkins and Joseph Green in 1714.  Within three years the imports of Portuguese wines maintained a level of over 10,000 tuns per year.  Lisbon does not fall in an indictment until some 50 years later when two glass bottles were stolen by Eleazar Davis in 1765.  It then appears over the next 30 years on five separate accounts.  Madeira was first stolen by Edward Brown and Alexander Campbell in 1742 off of the ship Peggy and Jenny.  Madeira is then listed some dozen times from 1765-1795.  Madeira was imported into England even in the 17th century but the levels in 1726-1730 only reached 231 tuns per year and did not exceeded 1,000 tuns until 1765.  A large quantity of port, some 39 quart bottles, was stolen by William Jones and Jeremiah Whitehurst in 1737.  There was a brief hiatus until 1752 after which it appears 19 times until 1798.  The importation of port jumped from some 7,000 tuns in 1740 to approximately 10,000 tuns in 1741-1743 before steadily declining to initially low levels by 1754.  In 1756 the Companhia Geral da Agricultura dos Vinhos do Alto Douro was established to maintain quality, price, and reputation of port. One year later port wine imports started to increase for decades and ultimately sky rocketed near the end of the century. There was one instance of Calcavella being stolen and that was by Peter Chalmers wine-cooper.  The frequency of which Portuguese wines were stolen increased towards the end of the 18th century.  This is understandable given that Portuguese wines represented 70% of the wines imported into England in 1750 and maintained a similarly high-percentage until the end of the century.


The wines of Spain are represented by Canary, Malaga, Mountain, Sack, Sherry, Tent, and Vidonia.  From the very first incidence of a 12 gallon runlet of Sherry in 1699 the wines of Spain were consistently stolen at low rates, no more than three indictments per decade.  Canary appears once in 1715.  Palm sack first appears in 1739 followed by sack stolen from the vaults of wine merchant John Bill in 1762.  Mountain wine appears in 1740 and 1752 followed by Malaga in 1762.  Sherry appears again in four instances between 1762 and 1795.  It was stolen from barrel on a quay, from a wine merchant, and two private individuals.  Once instance of Tent and Vidonia stolen by Peter Chalmers.

Italian wines were only stolen twice, both of which were Florence wine.  Half of a chest was stolen in 1745 and a single bottle in 1758.  Florence wine was only imported in to England is very small quantities.  It was known to not travel well.  The half-chest which was stolen by Cutler Sheffield, the sole servant of Miles Dalton, was from Dalton’s warehouse.  It turned out that this half-case and others in the warehouse were pricked.[6] A pricked wine has high levels of acetic acid and is in the process of becoming vinegar.

From S. J. “The vineyard, a treatise, the observations made by a gentleman in his travels” 1727.

I have classified English wine to include both grape wine and that from fruits such as cherry, orange, and raisin.  There is one curious incidence of English grape wine being stolen.  In 1770 Richard Gee and William Price stole 36 quart bottles of English wine from Joseph Shipton.[7]  That English wine should be stolen and in such quantities was a great surprise to me.  There is a long history of vineyards and winemaking in England.  The Compleat Vineyard was published by William Hughes in 1665.  In his prolog he states there were vineyards at the time located in Essex, the West of England, and in Kent which “produce great store of excellent good Wine.”[8]  Robert Plot comments that the Right Whorshipfull Sir Henry Lyttleton produced an excellent wine from his vineyards at Over-Arley.[8]  It was “undistinguishable from the best French wines by the most judicious palates.”  Dr. Ralph Bathurst, President of Trinity College and Dean of Wells, made good Claret in the difficult year of 1685.   In 1708 John Mortimer recommends planting the Currant followed by the White-Muscadine, Parsley-Grape, Muscadella, and finally white and red Frontiniauqe.[10]  In making the best English Wine he recommends adding one pint or quart of red or white port per gallon of English Wine.  The resulting wine will be “as any French Wine without any adulteration.”   Some 20 years later S.J. in The Vineyard, A Treatise notes there have been instances of people producing wine from vines which were nailed upon brick walls.[11]  Having achieved “greater Maturity of Ripeness” these wines were “found to excel many foreign Wines, in their pleasant, brisk, and palatable Flavour.”   Hugh Barty-King details some seventeen 18th century vineyards in London alone.[12]  Thomas Hale comments in 1742 that he purchased wine from the vineyard at Hammersmith, London[13]. In 1769 a proprietor of English Wine was selling his 1763 vintage by the cask at the new low price of 9s per dozen or 9d per bottle.[14]  In 1780 Peter Foot notes that the 1780 vintage at Hammersmith produced some 100 gallons of wine per 100 yards of wine[15].  Unfortunately the Proceeding  for Joseph Shipton is limited to the indictment and the verdict.  In addition to the English wine he also had strong beer and rum.  With no other clues I could only guess as to which vineyard his wine came from.

The types of wine stolen appears to have been selected mostly by happenstance.   In such Proceedings as the cellar man Richard King who stole from Robert Ireland and wine-cooper Peter Chalmers, these men clearly picked which wines they took.  Three of the Proceedings do detail deliberate choices at a more common level.  In 1765 Eleazar Davis stole both liquor and wine from Joseph Wilkinson.[16]  Over the period of a month, typically on a Sunday, Eleazar Davis would bring a bladder or two to Joseph Barrow.  Joseph Barrow would fill up the bladders then Eleazar Davis would presumably sell the wine.  At one point Eleazar Davis’ mother was still ill and upon announcing she preferred Old Hock or Madeira, Joseph Barrow fill a bladder with some Madeira.  In 1799 John Spalding stole five bottles of wine and rum out of the vaults of wine and brandy merchants John Ewart and George Bell.[17]  John Ewart had just pulled into Black Raven Court, where they vaults were located, when he saw John Spalding exiting the vaults.  He carried him into the kitchen and sent for a constable.  Before the constable arrived John Ewart stated he was on the sick list and had got three bottles of wine which the doctor had prescribed him.  In 1799 Henry Helsing had known Thomas Burrows for approximately one year.  Thomas Burrows knew Henry Helsing was a gentleman’s servant and said he would buy anything he could get.   Henry Helsing started to steal candles along with red and white wine. Thomas Burrows said he preferred red wine because it was easier to sell.

Many of the indictments do not list the occupation of the victim such as with John and James Chalie who had both wine and Palm-Sack stolen from them.[18]  While we do not know Robert Ireland’s occupation he had a sizeable cellar from which Madeira, Port, white Port, Lisbon, and Hungary wine were stolen from in February 1773.  For those with stated occupations there was understandably a wide variety of wine stolen from wine merchants.  Such is the case of Lewis Beauvais in January 1775 who saw Claret, Champagne, Madeira, and old Hock stolen away.

Wine was stolen from Esquires, naval Captains, tavern owners, widows, and even a hop merchant.  The Esquires form a small group which drank diversely.  A large quantity of Elder Wine was stolen from Lewis Delafay, Esquire in December 1725.  Mountain wine was stolen from King Gold, Esquire in December 1740.  A vast quantity of wine was stolen from Thomas King, Esquire in 1785. His cook took red Port, white Port, Malmsey Madeira, Claret, Raisin Wine, Orange Wine, and many different spirits.   Forty two bottles of port wine were stolen from Thomas Lewis, Esquire in April 1797.  Red port wine was stolen from Richard Corral, Esquire in April 1798.

Wine was stolen from naval Captains both from ship and home.  In April 1714, Red Lisbon Wine was stolen from on board Captain Samuel Moody’s ship.  White wine was stolen from the boat of George Matson in 1721.  Five hundred weight of sugar and two elephant teeth were stolen from Captain Martin Long’s ship the Peggy and Jenny in December 1742.  The profit from these goods was to be split amongst the thieves so they also took wine and rum to simply drink.  Four cases of Madeira wine were stolen from Thomas Hindman, a captain in the East India Service in May 1787.

The publican Lambert Taylor of Brick Lane saw a bottle of red wine stolen from his house in 1771.  In 1790 Joseph Marriott stole a bottle of Lisbon wine from the cellar of John Bedford who kept the King’s Head at Longford.  Thomas Lawrence kept the Crown and Anchor in Staines.  He was burgled one night in October 1795 by John Notts, Samuel Clarke, and James Wingrove.  Amongst a few other items he lost a cask of gin and a case of port wine.  Samuel Clarke turned King’s evidence after constable Samuel Dale found the dozen port bottles at his house.  Having been responsible for the burglary he would have been sentenced to hanging.  James Wingrove disappeared so only John Notts was sentenced to transportation.  Almost three years later in September 1798 James Wingrove was spotted in Staines and brought in. He was sentenced to death.

The property of women was stolen as well, albeit representing only 10% of the victims.  Florence wine was stolen from Elizabeth Briscoe, Widow in February 1758.[19]  A hamper of wine was stolen from Sarah Graston, Widow in December 1781.  The sisters Hester, Anne, and Elizabeth Blackhall saw a quart of red wine amongst other items stolen away in October 1785.[20] Both red wine and white wine were stolen from the Honourable Martha Maria Hervey in June 1788.[21]  She was related to John Hervey the 1st Earl of Bristol whose magnificent cellar I have already mentioned.

I should like to think that even those in the business related to beer drank wine.  Forty two bottles of wine were stolen from the hop merchant Edward Railton in October 1795.

[1] Journals of the House of Lords. Vol IX. H.M. Stationery Office, 1646.
[2] Pepys, Samuel.  Diary of Samuel Pepys, Volume 1. 1906. URL:
[3] Hervey Bristol (1st Earl of), John. The diary of John Hervey, first Earl of Bristol. Wells, 1894. URL:
[4] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1685, trial of Joel Gaischone (t16850225-19).
[5] For all statistics in this post please reference Francis, Alan David.  The Wine Trade. 1972.
[6] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1745, trial of Henry Cutler (t17450227-20).
[7] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1770, trial of Richard Gee William Price (t17701205-22).
[8] Hughes, William, A Compleat Vineyard. London, 1665. URL:
[9] Plot, Robert. The Natural History of Stafford-shire.  Theater, Oxford, 1686. URL:
[10] Mortimer, John.  The Whole Art of Husbandry.  H. Mortlock, London, 1708. URL:
[11] J., S. The Vineyard: Being a Treatise. W. Mears, London, 1727. URL:
[12] Barty-King, Hugh. A Tradition of English Wine. Oxford Illustrated Press, Oxford, 1977.
[13] Hale, Thomas. A Compleat Body of Husbandry, Volume 4. 1759. URL:
[14] Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser (London, England), Tuesday, June 20, 1769; Issue 12 573.
[15] Foot, Peter. General view of the agriculture of the county of Middlesex. John Nichols, London, 1794. URL:
[16] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), September 1765, trial of Eleazar Davis (t17650918-70).
[17] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), October 1799, trial of JOHN SPALDING (t17991030-10).
[18] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), May 1739, trial of Thomas Owen , alias William Freeman (t17390502-21).
[19] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1758, trial of John Rhodes (t17580222-3).
[20] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), October 1785, trial of MICHAEL SMITH (t17851019-9).
[21] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), June 1788, trial of THOMAS TWITE (t17880625-78).
Categories: History of Wine Tags:

“Murder and Thieves”: Part 1 “..twelve Bottles of Wine, the major Part of which, they drank”

"The Custom House" Anonymous, 1750-1800. #1880,0911.730. The British Museum

“The Custom House” Anonymous, 1750-1800. #1880,0911.730. The British Museum

Wine was transported in to London by way of ship.  It was typically stored in a wooden cask, often a hogshead or pipe.  In some cases it was transported in bottles stored within a chest.  All wine brought into London was subject to duties originally ascribed to the Crown.  Known as butlerage  and presage the Vintner’s company required all wine to be landed above London Bridge next to the Vintry so the King’s butlers and vintners could assess the customs duty.[1]  Butlerage allowed the king’s chief butler to purchase two tuns of wine, one right before the mast and another right behind the mask, at a fixed price from every alien ship carrying 20 tuns or more of wine.  Presage or prisage extended this right over subjects.  Eventually the City of London was granted the right to customs and all wine entering the Port of London was subject to Customs fees.[2]  To assess the correct fees a wine gauger needed to measure the wooden casks.  Initially the wooden casks would be unloaded at a legal quay for measurement.  Once the casks were unloaded the Customs, Excise, and City Gaugers might all be involved in gauging.[4]  It took some time for the casks to be transported from the moored ship to the wharves and eventually gauged.  The volume of trade at the Port doubled from 1700 to 1770 then doubled again from 1770 to 1795.  Some 1,775 vessels were allowed to moor and these were serviced by 3,500 craft for the conveyance of cargo. Thus the casks might be caught up within the Port for several weeks due to the crowd of vessels and inadequate space on the quays.[4]  In 1777 David Cunningham managed to knock the bung out of a butt of sherry belonging to Phillip Mallet and Charles Frisby.[5]  Of the four or five gallons which spilled out onto Ralph’s Quay he managed to run away with half a gallon but was soon caught.  A few years later, in 1784 we find James Ellick indicted for stealing four quarts of red Port from one of 60 pipes of port on Smart’s Quay.  Smart’s Quay was one of 20 quays bounded by London Bridge to the west and Tower Dock to the East.[6]  Having pegged one of the pipes to fill his bladder with port he was spotted by the watchman Abednego Lambert who apprehended James as he headed west to Billingsgate Dock.  Billingsgate Dock was actually a small harbor where cargo was unloaded at the west-side and head of the quay.  With the Thames River at the south of Smart’s Quay and the water of Billingsgate to the west James would have to double-back towards the head of the quay then head west to escape the Customs House on the east.  Perhaps it was a curious feature of Smart’s Quay which aided in the capture.  James was sentenced to whipping on Smart’s Quay.

From "Tower Street Ward" Benjamin Cole, The History and Survey of London from its Foundation to the Present Time, 1754.

From “Tower Street Ward” Benjamin Cole, The History and Survey of London from its Foundation to the Present Time, 1754. From Genmaps.

Though private individuals took out licenses to import their own wine, domestic and foreign merchants imported a great deal of wine.  Wine merchants typically stored their wine, both in cask and bottle, in their wine vaults.  John Bill, a wine merchant, was out in the country one Tuesday in 1762.  While he was out his servant Peter Pulley saw William Brackleyhurst come out of the wine vault with a basket of wine. [7]  William Knowlys and his sons were wine merchants who kept their vaults at Cross Lane, St. Dunstan’s hill.  In 1787 their servant Edward Catlin went to open the wine vault door so that he could deliver two dozen bottles to the porter when Robert Coleman came out of the cellar.  Robert Coleman had six sealed bottled of red port upon his person.  Prior to his visit the bins in the cellar had been completely full and after it contained six vacant places. [8] In 1799 John Ewart, a wine and brandy merchant, with partner George Bell, arrived by hackney coach at their vaults which were located underneath Black-Raven court. [9] He saw John Spaling exit the vaults loaded with five bottles of wine and rum.  In these three Proceedings there was no mention of breaking open the vault doors.  These crimes probably took place during business hours when the cellars were busy.  Indeed, Edward Catlin first thought Robert Coleman was one of the servants of the Knowlys’ working at the vault.

Some thefts were a bit more ambitious.  Thomas Rachey stole a 12 gallon wooden runlet of sherry in 1699.[10]  In 1755 William Westwood and Thomas Coulson were found guilty of stealing a wooden cask containing 10 gallons of red port out of the store-cellar of William Grimes. [11] Thomas Bruin was the cooper in charge of William Grimes cellar which was located at Suffolk Lane.  His assistant William Westwood had fallen in with the “rogue” and taylor Thomas Coulson.  Together Westwood and Coulson took out a cellar in Barking Alley from James West for 40s. per year.  Coulson told Westwood that if they made up 20 gallons of wine they could sell it to Tom Horsenail.  Thus on the night the Medway man-of-war was launched at Deptford, Coulson was carrying the 10 gallon cask from William Grimes’ cellar on Suffolk Lane to their newly rented cellar in Barking Alley.  Thomas Heard, having seen the Medway launch, was coming home when he saw Westwood sweating from carrying the cask.  Heard commented “You sweat” to which Coulson remarked he had only set the cask down once.  A ten gallon cask of port would weigh approximately 90 pounds so it was quite a load to carry almost half a mile.  Suffolk Lane lies west of London Bridge between Cannon Street and The Thames.  The pair would have walked east on Cannon Street continued on Great Tower Street passing south of the Corn Exchange and north of All Hallows Church.  There they would have borne right onto the 95-foot-long Barking Alley to their cellar.  Heard joined the pair for two bottles of wine from the cellar.  Everything came to an end when Bruin found out Westwood had once again been out all night with Coulson and Heard confessed Westwood and Coulson had stolen the cask of port.  Renting a cellar demonstrates long-term commitment.  I can only imagine that Coulson planned to accumulate stores of wine to then sell in quantity to Tom Horsenail or others.

From "Tower Street Ward" John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1720. Copyright Motco Enterprises Limited.

From “Tower Street Ward” John Strype, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, 1720. Copyright Motco Enterprises Limited.

Transporting wine could be dangerous.  David Smith, who worked in the wine trade, was carrying three dozen bottles of wine in a hamper from Piccadilly to Spital Square.[12]  He took a break by placing his hamper on the pitching block at Brown Street, Seven Dials.  A pitching block is a place for people carrying heavy loads to take a break.  A hackney-coach accidentally knocked the hamper over spilling some of the contents.  John Studley came to help Smith with the hamper but grabbed a few bottles instead.  Charles Young having heard Smith cry out, “Murder and thieves!” ran up to apprehend Studley and take him to the magistrate.  In 1781 Henry Mann stood his cart holding a hamper of 24 bottles of wine against the King’s Arms, Bishopsgate Street.[13]  He went in to call a coachman but James Fenton hoisted the hamper on to an accomplice.  Mann’s dog was on the errand cart but was too busy eating so did not bark.  The hamper was recovered and Fenton was detained.

In 1795 a more complicated case comes up.  Peter Chalmer had been the cooper to John Allnutt for three weeks.[14]  Upon receiving some information the Foreman Harrison searched Peter Chalmers lodgings where he found a bottle of wine, three bottles of rum, letters, and papers.  Amongst the papers was a wharfinger’s receipt for a hamper at Glasgow wharf.  It listed the inventory of wines which were contained in the hamper.  A letter also stated , “a small hamper for you.  The contents is a sample of the liquors I have charge of, and I have a right to sample of all the different casks that comes to us.” Several attested to the hand-writing being that of Peter Chalmer and as well as the labels upon the unmarked bottles.  Upon questioning, Harrison testified that it was not customary for coopers to take their own personal samples, nor to draw off wine from a cask for tasting, and that spirits were only sometimes sold by sample.  In his defense Peter Chalmer testified one of the porters told him he could sell all of the empty beer bottles in the vaults and give half the money to Mr. Allnutt.

A wine cooper was a wholesale and retail dealer in wine who was responsible for both the casks themselves and the wine inside.  He was responsible not just for removing them of their lees but also compounding wines to improve flavor and also removing defects.  In 1773 Robert Ireland charged his cellar-man Richard King with stealing some 30 bottles of wine.[15]  Richard King had been hired some three year earlier.  He was responsible for all of Robert Ireland’s vaults.  Upon receiving information Robert Ireland obtained a search warrant and found various types of wine white Port, Lisbon, Sherry, and Hungary wine at Richard King’s lodgings.  In this relationship Richard King was allowed to draw off the remaining wine on the lees for personal consumption.  This wine would be filtered through a bag and was apparently readily identifiable as bag wine.  At first Richard King claimed he had bag wine but confessed to having taken some of the wine.  Richard King then claimed other bottles contained foul wine drawn from the bottom of vessels belonging to Lord Hinchinbrooke.  It did not taste like bag wine to Robert Ireland who thought it easy to distinguish.  Richard King subsequently confessed that it was Robert Ireland’s wine.

Wine was also stolen from private residences.  In 1740 Thomas Crow was indicted for breaking and entering the house of King Gold.[16]  Crow’s brother had once lived in the house as a servant thus was familiar with the house.  They gained entry by opening the cellar window through which they passed out 12 quart bottles of Mountain Wine.  The brothers drank 10 of the bottles in the garden and left the other two untouched.  Jane Bray picked the cellar lock of dwelling house owned by Ishman Reeves on Good Friday.[17]  Having gained entry to the cellar she began to take away some thirty bottles of old Hock belonging to lodger George Hellegar.  She was caught and to her defense claimed, “I know no more of it than the child that is unborn.” Hellegar could not recall having previously lost any wine because he was an old man of four-score years.  In 1795 Henry Hesling the footman to Edward Railton needed to repeatedly gain entry to the wine cellar to accomplish his theft.  To do so he removed enough bricks in the cellar wall so that he could crawl in and out.  He then neatly stacked the bricks after he removed a load of wine.  Over three visits he removed 42 quart bottles of wines.  Railton had not noticed the re-stacked bricks in his cellar so Hesling was only apprehended when he was found outside a shop that purchased old bottles at No. 124, Petticoat Lane, Whitechapel.  Not all thefts were as quiet and non-confrontational.  Captain Thomas Hindman, East India service, awoke one early morning in 1787 to a prodigious noise.[18]  He flew to his pistols, opened his bedroom door then joined his servant Thomas White.  They discovered many items of property strewn about outside and five doors smashed open, including those which had been barred and double-bolted.  They estimated the robbers Samuel Toomes and William Ellicott had been at work for at least two to three hours.  Amongst the items stolen were 48 bottles of Madeira.

"Golden Square" John Bowles(?), 1727. #1880,1113.2987. The British Museum.

“Golden Square” John Bowles(?), 1727. #1880,1113.2987. The British Museum.

Wine bottles and corks were present in the 17th century but continued to evolve until the end of the 18th century.  In the 17th century wine was typically stored in cask then bottled when it came time for drinking.  The bottles first needed to be washed.  Jonathan Swift recommended that every bottle be rinsed with wine after washing for fear of moisture.  He also suggested you change out the rinsing wine every two bottles, saving it to “either to sell or drink with the Cook.”[19]  Lewis Beauvais, wine merchant, kept his wine vaults at the bottom of Hay Market but hired a coach-house solely for washing bottles a quarter-mile walk near Golden Square .  At this point Golden Square had become fashionable with foreign artists but in the 19th century Golden Square became famous when Dr. John Snow investigated the five water pumps during the 1854 Cholera outbreak.  Wines were bottled from casks both by merchants and private individuals.  John Bedford bottled his wine for the King’s Head at Longford in his wine cellar.  Mr. Baldwin, baker, employed Richard King several times to draw off two hogsheads of Madeira.  To do so Richard King carried away the hogsheads for fining and presumably returned with the bottled wine.

Wine was only stolen from cask twice being the 12 gallon runlet of Sherry wine stolen by Thomas Rachey in 1699 and the 10 gallon cask of red wine stolen by William Westwood and Thomas Coulson in 1755.  A stolen wooden cask is a bit conspicuous.  Bladders appear in only three cases between 1765 and 1784.  Therefore wine was primarily stolen by the bottle.  The first stolen wine bottles listed in an indictment are found in 1687 when Joyce Fletcher was found guilty of sending bottled wine into the country for sale.  [20]   The first mention of cork as well as marked bottles is found in 1767 when Mary Sherman, spinster and servant to Mr. Barnard, stole seven bottles of wine.  [21]  Mr. Barnard answered several questions about how he knew these bottles were his property.  His answers are interesting because they reveal several facts.  First, Mr. Barnard comments his bottles stood in various parts of the cellar organized by type.  These earlier bottles were short and squat so they would not tip over at table.  The bottles could not be laid on their sides as evidenced by Mr. Barnard storing his bottles standing.  While corks could be used to stopper the bottles, the seal was often not air tight so a little oil was often poured on top of the wine.  Second, he was asked if these bottles had any particular mark upon the corks or bottles, they did not. This is the first mention of both the use of corks and marking of bottles.

The earliest corks in England may have been primarily used for cider.  Well-corked glass bottles in 1670 were known to contain excellent cider.[22]   There were instances of wine being bottled and stored as well.  In 1771 some labourers were clearing a fish pond near East Grinstea in Suffex.  Deep in the mud they found a bottle inscribed, “New Canary, put in to see how long it will keep good, April 1666, R. Wilson.”  The Monthly Chronologer reported, “The mouth of the bottle was waxed over, the wine was excellent, though the cork was almost decayed.”[23]  Forty-five years later we may read in the section about Bottling Cider it is recommended that great care be taken with the choosing of good corks, though glass stoppers are sometimes recommended.  These bottled may then be stored side-way.[24]  There were dangers for if wine was bottled before having exhaled through the pours of the casks, bottles were not only subject to the danger of bursting but the wine itself was imperfect.  In corking a bottle a hammer drives the cork which is then secured with packthread to “withstand the efforts of the wine”.  The sealing of the cork will account for any mistakes.  The bottle should then be stored obliquely so the cork will not dry out and let in external air.[25]  The Gardener’s Dictionary advises that fine wine should not only be corked and secured with pack-thread but they should be sealed with Spanish wax.  This will prevent any domestics from changing the wine or bottle.  These seal often bear the owners coat of arms.[26] The cellar floor should be covered in two or three fingers worth of sand so the bottles may be laid obliquely.

Firmly driven corks could require a bottle-screw or cork-screw to remove them.  In 1702(?) Sir C. H. used his new set of microscopes to observe Animicula in Waters commenting that a knob on the tail looked like “the Worm of a Bottle Screw”.[27]  Those studying French in 1729 could learn the phrases Debouchez cette Bouteille for “Pull the Cork out of that Bottle.”  Or Je n’ay point de tire-bouchon for “I have no Screw.” [28] Despite these early references bottle screws or cork screws were not common until end of 18th century.  The only mention of a cork screw in the Proceedings is one that was carried to Peter Chalmers in 1795.

Wine Bottle, 1732 (circa). #1961,1102.13. The British Museum.

Wine Bottle, 1732 (circa). #1961,1102.13. The British Museum.

Glass bottles were reused until they were broken.  They often bore a mark of the owner or tavern in the form of a symbol, letters, or words.  In 1764 Jeremiah Wherlings comments that some of the bottles his chamberlain stole were marked on the bottom with the mark of the Jerusalem Tavern.[29]  This was where he kept all of his wine.  Lewis Beauvais identified his Madeira wine by their seals.[30]    In 1780 John Ramsden identified eight stolen bottles, one bottle by the marked cork and seven by marked bottoms.  He commented that at dinner he noticed he grabbed the wrong bottle because he had written on the cork “red wine.” [31]  Two years later George Hellegar identified his old hock by the seals upon the bottles.  In 1785 Thomas King, Esquire comments on several marks: that of his own, that of Mrs. King who gave him a bottle, one sealed with “Smith, Leadenhall-street, No, 91”, and that of a marked cork.[32]  In 1787, the Knowlys sealed only their red port with W.K. and S. for William Knowlys, and Son.  One year later in 1788 Christopher Bartholomew describes both marks and seals.[33]  Some bottles were marked with “two dots, white spots” on the bottom.  He had red wine sealed with “a black seal, with St. John of Jerusalem upon it” which was the seal of Mr. Mendham.  He was unsure of the specific mark for these sealed bottles for they came from the Jerusalem Tavern.  Other bottles bore the mark of a wine-merchant.  Some of the stolen, sealed bottle remained intact for the corks had never been drawn.  In 1788 the Jerusalem Tavern sold wine in full quarts with the neck of the botle marked “with four lines cut by a diamond on the neck.”[43] Mary Bedford had bottled some Lisbon wine the day before she and her husband were robbed in the fall of 1790.  She had marked each bottle after they were corked.[34]  Stephen Ridington then recognized a single, particular cork because there was a crack in it and he had chalked the crack.  Apparently he chalked several dozen corks.  I found no other reference to chalking.  Charles Bird stole several bottles of wine from the Officer’s Mess at the Hounslow Barracks.[35]  The bottles were identified by Richard Corrall, Esquire, paymaster to the 15th Regiment of Light Dragoons, who stated that all of their wine bore the same mark.  There is only one instance of bottles being labeled and that was by the wine-cooper Peter Chalmers.  Perhaps to avoid confusion amongst the seven different types of wine and two types of liquor, he hand labeled all thirteen bottles.

"Loyal souls" James Gillray, 1797. 1851,0901.882. The British Museum.

“Loyal souls” James Gillray, 1797. 1851,0901.882. The British Museum.

It is of interest to point out that some of Jeremiah Wherlings’ bottles stolen in 1764 were marked by the Jerusalem Tavern and that of Christopher Bartholomew in 1788 were sealed by Mr. Mendham of Jerusalem Tavern.  Jeremiah Wherling lived at the Bear and Ragged Staff in West Smithfield.  This would place him within a third of a mile from the Jerusalem Tavern.  Christopher Bartholomew kept White Conduit House in the parish of St. Mary, Islington.  White Conduit House was located around one mile north of the Jerusalem Tavern.  Christopher Bartholomew inherited a good fortunate from his parents and was believed to be worth £50,000. The Jerusalem Tavern was established in 1741 and located in Clerkenwell Green literally within St John’s Gate.  This gate was originally built in 1504 as the entrance to the Prioiry of St John of Jerusalem.  James Mendham, Esquire was the master of the tavern until 1812 when he passed away at the age of 80.[36]  John Britton served his apprenticeship under Mendham for six years beginning in 1787.  John Britton’s Uncle Samuel never paid his apprenticeship fees so Britton’s six years were spent forcing or finning wines then bottling, corking, and binning them.  Mendham did not mix or manufacture wines.  Instead he dealt in wines from at least Portugal, Spain, and Germany.  Britton likened his apprenticeship as “legal English slavery” for each day he had to bottle off and cork a certain number of dozens.  Working expediently in the candlelit cellars, he could accomplish his task in ten or eleven hours time.  In 1771 it was observed that at White Conduit House “in the summer vast numbers of people resort hither to drink tea, coffee, wine, &c.”[37] Perhaps the clientele of White Conduit House required the unadulterated wines of the Jerusalem Tavern.

Wine Cellar, Jerusalem Tavern, Clerkenwell. John Britton, “The auto-biography of John Britton”, 1850.

As far as cellar organization Lewis Beauvais kept an outer cellar where wine for daily sale was kept.  The inner cellar was the store cellar and locked with a padlock.[38] He also kept his foul wine in the outer cellar and not the locked, store cellar.   1755, William Dickswell Grimes had so much wine in his store-cellar that 20 or 30 gallons could be taken without notice.  He stored both bottles and casks in the cellar.  Mr. Barnard stored his bottles in his cellar in different locations based on the type of wine.  In 1762 Mr. Barnard kept his Sherry standing next to the Madeira in his cellar.[39]  Thirteen years later, Lewis Beauvais kept Champaign at the bottom of the cellar and Madeira at the bottom, right-hand side.

In 1776 bottled wine was still kept in a heap on the floor.  Sir Edward Barry comments that a large heap of bottles in a merchant’s cellar was completely covered with salt.[40]  After several months this lot was in much better condition than another lot which was bottled at the same time.  He goes on to recommend storing wine in clay amphora buried in the earthen cellar floor.  Wine may be drawn off by siphon into a bottle then covered with some oil and a pitched cork.  He considered this for immediate use.  Andre Simon writes that the idea cylindrical bottle for Port came into fashion in 1784.[41] This bottle was sealed with a cork and was neatly stacked inside the bins of a wine cellar.  This new method of storing wine came to the attention of Parliament.  Prior to 1786 I find no mention of bottles and bins in the Statutes at Large.  On Thursday, 22 June 1786, Parliament considered repealing certain duties on wine which would be replaced by new duties.[42]  Lord Loughborough discussed the difficulties of gauging wine mentioning the impossibility of accounting for bottles in bins.  Later that day Parliament did repeal the old acts and imposed new acts which required dealers and sealers of foreign wine to show the Office of Excise bins as well.[43]  John Britton comments that during his apprenticeship from 1787-1793 the exciseman visited the cellars once every fortnight and was required “to keep tabular entry of wines and spirits in the vaults and house, both in cask and bottle.  This occupied between two and three hours.”  Britton also had to account for the bottles in bins.   The first mention of bins in the Proceedings corresponds with Parliament’s new requirements for bottled wine in bins.  In 1787 the Knowlys stored their bottles in completely full bins.  That same year Thomas Hindman commented he stored his wine in bins which had a door.

[1] Molloy, Charles.  De Jure Maritimo Et Navali. John Walthoe, London, 1722. URL:

[2] Pulling, Alexander. The law, customs, usages, and regulations of the City and Port of London. 2nd Edition. William Henry Bond, London, 1844. URL:
[3] Report From The Select Committee on Gauging in the Port Of London. London, 1814. URL:
[4] History of the Port of London pre 1908. URL: Date accessed: 07 June 2013.
[5] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1777, trial of DAVID CUNNINGHAM (t17771203-74).
[6] ‘Map of port of London’, The port and trade of early Elizabethan London: documents (1972), pp. 166-167. URL: Date accessed: 07 June 2013
[7] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), May 1762, trial of William Brackleyhurst (t17620526-20).
[8] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), January 1787, trial of ROBERT COLEMAN (t17870110-34).
[9] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), October 1799, trial of JOHN SPALDING (t17991030-10).
[10] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1699, trial of Thomas Rachey (t16991213-1).
[11] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), May 1755, trial of William Westwood Thomas Coulson (t17550515-35).
[12] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), January 1792, trial of JOHN STUDLEY (t17920113-28).
[13] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1781, trial of JAMES FENTON (t17811205-60).
[14] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1795, trial of PETER CHALMERS (t17951202-36).
[15] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1773, trial of RICHARD KING (t17730217-50).
[16] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), December 1740, trial of Thomas Crow (t17401204-60).
[17] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), April 1782, trial of JANE BRAY (t17820410-72).
[18] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), May 1787, trial of SAMUEL TOOMES WILLIAM ELLICOTT (t17870523-11).
[19] Swift, Jonathan.  The Works of Doctor Swift, Miscellanies, Volume 8.  C. Hitch, London 1746. URL:
[20] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), May 1687, trial of Joyce Fletcher (t16870512-17).
[21] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1762, trial of Mary Sherman (t17620224-4).

[22] Evelyn, John. Sylva, Or A Discourse of Forest-Trees. Jo. Martyn and Ja. Allestry, London, 1670. URL:

[23] The London Magazine or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Vol 40, 1771. URL:
[24] Dictionaire Oeconomique or The Family Dictionary. D. Midwinter, London, 1725. URL:
[25] Pluche, Noel Antoine. Nature Delineated. James Hodges, London, 1740. URL:
[26] Miller, Philip. The Gardeners Dictionary. London, 1768. URL:
[27] Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume 23 for the years 1702 and 1703.
[28] Boyer. A. The Compleat French-master, for Ladies and Gentlemen, Tenth Edition.  Samuel Ballard, London, 1729. URL:
[29] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), October 1764, trial of William Robinson (t17641017-25).
[30] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), January 1775, trial of ROBERT ROBERTS (t17750111-28).
[31] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), September 1780, trial of MARY BRITTLE GEORGE PARSONS (t17800913-89).
[32] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1785, trial of ELIZABETH LEE (t17850223-68).
[33] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), September 1788, trial of MARTHA BURGESS (t17880910-72).
[34] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), October 1790, trial of JOSEPH MARRIOTT JOHN SIMPSON (t17901027-45).
[35] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), April 1798, trial of CHARLES BIRD (t17980418-10).
[36] Urban, Sylvanus.  The Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. LXXXII, Part The Second.  Nichols, Son, and Bentley, London, 1812. URL:
[37] Spencer Esq., Nathaniel.  The Complete English Traveler. J. Cook, London, 1772. URL:
[38] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), January 1775, trial of ROBERT ROBERTS (t17750111-28).
[39] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1762, trial of Mary Sherman (t17620224-4).
[40] Burke, Edmund. The Annual Register For the Year 1776, J. Dodsley, London, 1788. URL:
[41] Simon, Andre. BottleScrew Days. Boston, 1927.
[42] The Parliamentary Register, Vol XX. J. Debrett, Piccadilly, 1787. URL:
[43] The Statutes at Large of King George the Third. Charles Eyre, London 1789. URL:
[43] Timbs, John. Lady Bountiful’s Legacy to her Family and Friends. 1868. URL:
Categories: History of Wine Tags:

“Murder and Thieves”: The theft of wine in London 1685-1799

July 15, 2013 1 comment

In September 2012 I received two emails from my mother, the first with a link to the Old Bailey Online website and the second with a link to the search results for the term wine from London Lives website.  We had watched the BBC One’s 2009 production “Garrow’s Law” for the first time that summer and in the Fall that she watched the extra features on the DVD which prompted her emails.  That winter I started to read the Proceedings of the Old Bailey.  Early in January I decided I would write a post about the theft of wine in London as described in the Proceedings and by the middle of February I had extracted my sample set of Proceedings.  I ended up spending many hours each week reading through the copious amounts of material I had gathered in addition to my regular blog postings and work schedule.  I have learned a lot in the process and am excited to share this information.  Undoubtedly there are omissions and mistakes but I believe the engaging nature of the subject still comes through.

"The New Sessions House in the Old Bailey" Thomas Winckworth, 1789. #1882,0311.161 The British Museum.

“The New Sessions House in the Old Bailey” Thomas Winckworth, 1789. #1882,0311.161 The British Museum.


The very first mention of wine in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey revolves around a Dutch Gentleman who was drinking a glass of wine in the company of a Frenchman at a tavern in July 1675.  They subsequently fell into a fight and having been locked in the tavern by others, the Dutch Gentleman had no choice but to draw his sword in defense and kill the Frenchman[1].    Indeed the early years of the Proceedings make wine drinking appear deadly.  Several years later in 1678 a former member of the Guard met a new companion who desired him to share a pint of wine at a Tavern in Kings Street.  After drinking three pints the former Guard attempted to leave but his new found friend apparently would not let him go.  They started to quarrel.  The former Guard subdued his friend in his chair, holding on to the friend’s cravat in one hand and his own sword in the other, the friend stood up and the former Guard found his sword sticking five-inches in to the deceased.  He was found not guilty of murder[2].   In 1682 Robert Dod was tried for killing William Catling at a Tavern in Covent Garden.  Several bottles of wine later they began to discuss “Manhood” and fear of swords which resulted in Robert Dod thrusting his sword some eight or nine inches into William Catling.  Because of the malice between the two men Robert Dod was found guilty of Manslaughter[3].   In 1683 after Nicholas Welsh refused to drink to Henry Atkinson’s health, words were exchanged, then wine glasses were thrown, and finally Henry Atkinson’s companion John Ruth ran his sword into Nicholas Welsh thus killing him.  He was found guilty of Manslaughter[4].

Though the initial years of the Proceedings have deadly references to wine, it was often a simple aspect in the account.  Thus we find Nichols the Butcher having unknowingly picked up the notorious pickpocket Elizabeth Spark, alias Slouch, then repairing to a tavern for a glass of wine.  There she picked his pocket, was caught, and being an “ancient pickpocket” received the punishment of death[5].  It is three years later in 1683 that wine as property became an element of indictment when Katherine Sawyer and Thomas Summers were indicted for stealing two hogsheads of wine, sheets, and a hat.  They were found not guilty[6].

In this series of posts I will analyze the cases where defendants were found guilty of stealing wine.  This begins with the first conviction which occurred in 1685 when Joel Gaischone stole 40 gallons of wine from the cellar of Robet Rawley.  He was found guilty to the value of 10d. and punished to whipping [7].  My analysis is divided into posts which I will publish throughout the week.  First, I will focus on the theft of wine as it reflects the transportation, distribution, and storage in such locations as cellars, vaults, houses, ships, and even an officer’s mess.   This section will include where the wine was stolen from and the types of containers such as bladder, bottle, flask, and barrel.  In these various containers the quantities stolen ranged from a single pint bottle all the way up to 57 gallons taken away by Elizabeth Lee the cook of Thomas King, Esquire[8].  Second, I put the theft of wine into a broader context for the vinous contents of what was carried away and swallowed were shaped by changing trade agreements, international wars, and what was politically popular to drink.  In the 115 years which followed the first conviction 29 different wine descriptions were named in the indictment.  This ranged from the generic wine, red wine, and white wine to Lisbon, Canary, Old Hock, Claret, Florence Wine, and even English wine.  Third, I look at the thefts as a reflection of the developing criminal legal system.

The Sample Set

From "Farringdon Without Ward and Castle Baynard Ward" John Strype, 1720. Copyright Motco Enterprises Limited.

From “Farringdon Without Ward and Castle Baynard Ward” John Strype, 1720. Copyright Motco Enterprises Limited.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey are accounts of trials which were held at the Old Bailey in London.   They were first published in 1674 and focused on a subset of the more sensational trials. Between 1678 and 1913 the Proceedings documented all of the trials at the Old Bailey.  Ten years ago the Old Bailey Online project first went online offering access to the fully-searchable collection for free.  The Proceedings which appear on the Old Bailey Online have been digitally scanned, hand-keyed, and tagged.  The tags include such information as Offence, Verdict, Punishment, and Date.  This allows the Proceedings to be searched through a combination of keywords and selectable criteria.   A Proceeding typically consists of the Trial Number and Defendant’s Name, the Indictment, the Witness Statements, the Defendant’s Statement, and the Verdict, Punishment, and Recommendation.

For this series of posts I have focused on the theft of wine from the earliest available records of 1674 through 1799.  To form my sample set I searched the Proceedings for various keywords using the criteria Offence with all subcategories of theft and violent theft combined with the criteria Verdict with all subcategories of guilty.  The keyword “wine” returned the largest set of Proceedings.  Wine was a common aspect of private and social lives so it frequently appears as part of the narrative instead of a stolen item listed in the indictment.   For instance, Edward Bird and a woman arrived by coach, with a bottle of Champagne, at Mr. Seeds well’s house.[8]   By reading through the indictments I manually reduced my set in size by eliminating such Proceedings.  Wine is a general term and does not reflect the diversity of choices available in London at the time.  To expand my set I searched for specific types of wine in my keywords such as Canary, Hock, and Claret.  In the end I found 58 convictions for the theft of wine spanning the years 1685 through 1799.  It is possible that I missed a few Proceedings due to variations in spelling, for example the instances of Claret and Clarret, but that should not reduce the nature of these posts.

The Indictment describes the nature of the crime, its date, the items stolen, and the name of the victim.  It typically contains the type of wine stolen, the quantity stolen, and the vessels it was contained in.  Both the wine and vessels are typically valued individually.  In some cases the Witness and Defendant’s Statements provide additional details about the wine.  I extracted all of this information into an Excel spreadsheet for my analysis.

[1] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 21 February 2013), July 1675, trial of Dutch Gentlemen (t16750707-5).
[2] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 21 February 2013), August 1678, trial of Gentleman (t16780828-4).
[3] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 21 February 2013), July 1682, trial of Robert Dod (t16820712-12).
[4] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 21 February 2013), October 1683, trial of Henry Atkinson John Fitz-James John Ruth (t16831010a-16).
[5] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 21 February 2013), January 1680, trial of Elizabeth Spark, alias Souch William Abbot (t16800115-4).
[6] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 21 February 2013), January 1683, trial of Katherine Sawyer Thomas Summers (t16830117-32).
[7] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1685, trial of Joel Gaischone (t16850225-19).
[8] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 17 February 2013), February 1785, trial of ELIZABETH LEE (t17850223-68).
[9] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.0, 10 July 2013), January 1719, trial of Edward Bird (t17190115-49).
Categories: History of Wine Tags: