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. 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 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 and Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 
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.
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 and Bill’s Wine Vaults in Chandes Street, Covent Garden 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. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. A pricked wine has high levels of acetic acid and is in the process of becoming vinegar.
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. 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.” Robert Plot comments that the Right Whorshipfull Sir Henry Lyttleton produced an excellent wine from his vineyards at Over-Arley. 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. 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. 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. Thomas Hale comments in 1742 that he purchased wine from the vineyard at Hammersmith, London. 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. In 1780 Peter Foot notes that the 1780 vintage at Hammersmith produced some 100 gallons of wine per 100 yards of wine. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Both red wine and white wine were stolen from the Honourable Martha Maria Hervey in June 1788. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. In 1777 David Cunningham managed to knock the bung out of a butt of sherry belonging to Phillip Mallet and Charles Frisby. 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. 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.
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.  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.  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.  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. 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.  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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.” 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.  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.  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. 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.” 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. 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. 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. 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”. 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.”  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.
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. This was where he kept all of his wine. Lewis Beauvais identified his Madeira wine by their seals. 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.”  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. 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. 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.” 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.” Perhaps the clientele of White Conduit House required the unadulterated wines of the Jerusalem Tavern.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
 Molloy, Charles. De Jure Maritimo Et Navali. John Walthoe, London, 1722. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=qN0wAAAAIAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
 Evelyn, John. Sylva, Or A Discourse of Forest-Trees. Jo. Martyn and Ja. Allestry, London, 1670. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=8wQX9sHJ3BEC&pg=PR7#v=onepage&q&f=false
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 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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 . 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. 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
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. 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.