In the spring of 1704 the governors of the London Workhouse were confronted by one of the uncomfortable realities generated by a rapidly growing city. Two brothers, Thomas and John Brinnish, had been taken up from the streets and brought before them, where they informed the governors that the churchwarden of their home parish in Bristol had given the brothers three shillings and directed them to the charity of Londoners. Thirty years earlier they would almost certainly have simply been whipped and sent on their way. However, in an increasingly bureaucratic system, the governors first wrote to the keeper of the workhouse at Bristol for more information.1 In the process, the Brinnish brothers were inducted into a system of vagrant and pauper removal, itself part of an evolving bureaucracy of poor relief and criminal justice that was changing in response to legislation, civic innovation and the actions of the reformation of manners societies. These in turn had been prompted in part by the 1688 Revolution, which led to more frequent meetings of parliament and the growth of voluntary societies seeking reform.

Whether the Brinnish brothers were aware of and consciously took advantage of the new opportunities these innovations accorded the poor is unknown, but by their actions plebeian Londoners both forced the pace of change and took advantage of the new opportunities that arose. Driven by economic hardship, the poor and the criminal brought substantial pressures to bear on the institutions of relief and justice in the 1690s. Both the amount spent relieving poverty and the number of crimes prosecuted rose in the decade after 1688. In the small City parish of St Dionis Backchurch, expenditure peaked in 1694 at £582, a figure that would not be reached again for over four decades, and in the ten years after 1690 expenses averaged £414 per annum.2 Rising rates of criminal prosecutions reveal a crisis of gender, prompted by the imbalance in migration which saw a large number of young, unmarried women in the metropolis, whose independent status rendered them quickly suspected of theft and sexual immorality. Driven in part by the recruitment of men into the armed forces, prosecutions of women reached historically unprecedented levels. In 1695 women accounted for an all-time high of 53.2 per cent of all defendants at the Old Bailey, when 257 women were tried, compared to only 223 men. Over the next seven years close to half (48.2 per cent) of all those accused of non-violent theft at the Old Bailey were women.3

Following the disruptions to trade during William III ‘s wars in the first half of the 1690s, the second half saw social problems exacerbated by the triple catastrophes of recoinage, harvest failure and demobilisation. A series of crises began with the ’Great Recoinage’ of 1696, when long-standing problems resulting from the frequent clipping and counterfeiting of coins in London and across the country were finally addressed by the complete replacement of the coinage. This, in turn, led to significant economic disruption and inflation, compounded by harvest failures in 1697 and 1698 that further raised the cost of living, with bread prices in London peaking in 1697 at about 60 per cent above the long-term average. Real wages declined, reaching a level in 1697–9 which was 15 per cent lower than in 1694–5. Rising poverty was exacerbated by the increase in unemployment that followed the demobilisation of soldiers in 1697 at the end of the Nine Years War.4

What emerged in response to these pressures were two interrelated developments that together changed the relationship between the state in all its local and national forms and the inhabitants of London, creating a distinct landscape of power and authority, mapped in new documents and practices. Justices of the peace, Lord Mayors, constables and parish officers all had to adapt. But most importantly, with the most to lose, criminals and paupers needed to learn how to make a new system work for them.

First, a top-down process of reforming the system of poor relief that had begun in the 1660s with the definition of pauper ‘settlement’ was honed and refined in the 1690s through the introduction of pauper badges and settlement certificates to regulate pauper migration. This was accompanied by a justice-controlled system of centralised pauper discipline. For paupers a bureaucracy of belonging and exclusion came into being, bringing with it both constraints and opportunities.5 And finally, with the re-establishment of the London Workhouse in 1698, and the Vagrant Costs Act of 1699, the policing of unacceptable migration moved increasingly from the parish to the justices in their collective capacity as the county bench and, in the City, the Court of Aldermen .

Second, the criminal justice system was forced to adapt to new pressures and to accommodate new personnel. In response to concerns about rising crime and vice, the state and voluntary societies resorted to civic activism to discipline the disorderly communities of the capital, injecting a mercenary element into criminal justice. In response to statutory rewards and moral suasion, an army of thief-takers and informers, some with criminal backgrounds themselves, effectively moved the oversight of deviance, of policing that ragged boundary between a settled community and its miscreants, from the jurisdiction of private victims and religious authority to self-appointed policemen.

This chapter will examine the evolution of poor relief and criminal justice in the two decades following the ‘Glorious Revolution’ and assess plebeian responses to these new policies and practices. By the end of the first decade of the eighteenth century, it will argue, many of the systems of policing crime, poverty and belonging that would characterise the next century were in place. In the process, it will suggest that the creation of a new landscape of authority, worked out in a distinct ecology of documentation and overseen by justices of the peace, created a system through which the poor were increasingly separated from the parish community, and more clearly identified as social problems, and yet, along with some criminals, unintentionally accorded a new kind of agency .

Growth and disorder

In the second half of the seventeenth century, London was transformed both geographically and socially by substantial population growth. From around 400,000 at mid-century, over the next fifty years the city grew by almost half to close to 600,000.6 By the turn of the century, the population was spread ever more unevenly between the small wealthy parishes of the City, which housed only about 20 per cent of the population of the metropolis as a whole, and the large, rambling and in some cases poor and poorly policed parishes of the suburbs.7

Figure 2.1 (a) London, Westminster and Southwark, *c*. 1690 © Trustees of the British Library.

Figure 2.1 (a) London, Westminster and Southwark, c. 1690 © Trustees of the British Library.

Figure 2.1 (b) Population estimates, [Locating London's Past](, 'Broken down by Parish: 1690s'.

Figure 2.1 (b) Population estimates, Locating London’s Past, ‘Broken down by Parish: 1690s’.

It was in many of these extramural parishes that a constant stream of much needed but frequently unwelcome migrants made their homes; drawn to the capital in search of employment. Like all inhabitants of large early-modern cities, Londoners suffered a cripplingly high mortality. In the entirely typical year of 1700, London’s demographic seismometer, the Bills of Mortality, recorded 19,443 burials compared to only 14,639 christenings.8 It was migrants to the extramural parishes of the capital who filled the shoes of the dead.

The hands and minds needed to fuel London’s growth came in the form of young unmarried people in their late teens and early twenties. A majority were women seeking employment in domestic service. Craft apprenticeships and the boom in the building trades following the Great Fire employed many young men, though apprenticeship was no longer the driving force of urban growth that it had once been.9 The result was what historians of social policy characterise as a remarkably low dependency ratio, meaning that very young children and the elderly formed a relatively small proportion of the population as a whole.10 In decades witnessing a steady rise in the amount of poor relief distributed by parishes, the proportion of the population in London who conformed to the stereotype of the ‘deserving’ poor was at a historic low, allowing parish pensions to rise.11 At the same time, their very mobility led many of the new migrants to London to be marked out as ‘undeserving’. They were also, in many cases, identifiably different. Patricia Fumerton has argued that the later seventeenth century witnessed the rise of a distinctive unsettled plebeian culture which encouraged migration.12 London’s migrants came not only from all parts of the British Isles, but increasingly from the whole of Western Europe, bringing new accents and new ways .13

In effect the settled communities of London found themselves under increasing pressures; all the more so in the large and socially mixed suburbs that ringed the City where already weak parish government was confronted with increasing levels of migration in an unfamiliar guise.14 But even in the small and wealthy parishes of the City (not directly affected by growing population), settled elites must have felt surrounded by strangers. In January 1694, against a backdrop of historically high bread prices, the City grand jury complained:

That greate numbers of loose idle & ill disposed persons from all partes of this kingdome doe resorte unto this City & partes adiacent. And doe here shelter themselves not following any lawfull callings or employments. And haveing noe visible estates or honest way to mainteyne themselves doe turne Robbers on the highway Burglarers Pickpockets and Gamesters that follow other unlawfull wayes to supporte themselves.15

Crime rates and the cost of meeting the demands of the poor rose accordingly.16 In 1695 the Board of Trade estimated that poor relief in the capital as a whole had reached over £40,000 per year, amounting to fully 10 per cent of all money raised nationally, with an overall expenditure of approximately £69 per thousand inhabitants per year.17 The City of London was regularly forced to raise extra cash to subsidise poor relief expenditure in poorer parishes. In January 1694, at least ten petitions were submitted by its suburban parishes (those lying outside the medieval walls of the City but within its jurisdiction), complaining vehemently about the growing cost of relieving the poor. In the words of the parish officers of St Bride’s, St Bride’s was ‘scituate in the Suburbs of this City … their Poore dailey increaseing upon them’.18 In response, the City distributed £1,712 – 95 per cent of which went to these extramural parishes.19

Not only was this growing expenditure a subject of complaint from parish officers and ratepayers, and in an expanding literature of political economy, but the publicity of poverty raised serious concerns about disorder.20 Aggressive begging and vagrancy became an increasingly common subject for the Lord Mayor’s proclamations and grand jury presentments. And despite their efforts, things seemed to be getting worse. In July 1693 the grand jury complained of the ’neglect of the poor, & their being suffered to beg in great numbers up & down the streets of this City, to be a dishonour to the City, & an injury to the Inhabitants’.21 Poverty, and particularly the related practices of begging and vagrancy, was strongly associated in the public mind with crime, and criminal prosecutions increased accordingly. In the 1680s the number of felonies tried at the Old Bailey had more than doubled, to an annual average of 337 in the latter half of the decade, and this number increased still further to 495 per year in the 1690s. In 1698 the number of offences tried reached its highest level since publication of the Proceedings began in 1674.22 Similarly, in 1698 and 1700–2 (figures for 1699 are missing) the number of commitments to Bridewell reached the highest levels recorded since the early seventeenth century, which would not be exceeded until 1772.

Theft, as always, was the most common category of crime, but the character of prosecutions at the Old Bailey changed with an increase in prosecutions of clipping and counterfeiting coins. These tripled to 13.2 per cent of prosecutions in 1690–6, reflecting both harsh economic conditions and the government’s struggle to regain control of the currency, before it was finally forced to implement a complete recoinage .

The 1688 Revolution and the reformation of manners

Perceptions of substantial increases in poverty and crime form an important context for the moral and social reform initiatives which followed directly on from the Revolution of 1688.23 At least momentarily, between 1690 and 1693 it seemed possible that Britain could lead Europe to a new Protestant dispensation with William III at its head.24 But if this ‘reformation’ was to succeed, religious conviction needed to be accompanied by social discipline. The ambition to create a ‘godly monarchy’ demanded a programme of moral and social reform. Religious revival prompted by the providential belief that the country had been blessed by God in having been delivered from a Catholic monarchy implied that Britain, and pre-eminently London, needed to reform itself.

For a brief moment the politics of religion and foreign affairs worked together with that of poverty and crime to move policy. With continuing periods of economic dislocation and the perception of growing crime, social problems rose to the forefront of many minds. As a result the 1690s witnessed an accelerating programme of activity and innovation in addressing social problems, which both had significant (and often unintended) consequences for the poor and prompted forceful and effective opposition from many quarters.

The first and longest lasting initiative was the reformation of manners campaign launched with royal support in 1689.25 Prompted by a letter of encouragement from King William addressed to the Bishop of London and the two archbishops in February, the reformers sought ‘a General Reformation of the Lives and Manners of all our subjects’.26 Despite this broad ambition, the primacy of concerns about poverty and crime in driving reform can be seen in the justifications for the first sustained efforts to prosecute vice in London. In August 1689, apparently prompted by the future Archbishop of Canterbury and current rector of the parish, Thomas Tenison, the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the large Westminster parish of St Martin in the Fields observed:27

a dayly increase of poor in the said parish and that the encouragers thereof are people of evill fame who keep reputed bawdy houses in severall by alleys and places in the said parish whereby severall great disorders and misdeamenors [sic] are dayly committed against the peace …

They went on to ask the Westminster justices to suppress the brothels in order to ease ‘the great burden which at present lyes upon them’.28 In response, groups of justices meeting at the St Martin’s vestry committed over 200 prostitutes and other ‘loose [or lewd], idle and disorderly persons’ to the Westminster house of correction over a six-month period.29 In the City of London, the new Lord Mayor issued a proclamation in November against vice, leading to a similar increase in commitments to Bridewell.30

The first society devoted to the prosecution of vice, however, was launched in the autumn of 1690 in Tower Hamlets on the other side of London. In response to a royal proclamation against highway robbers issued on 30 October, a group of ‘churchwardens, constables, and several other officers and inhabitants of the Tower Hamblets [sic]’, claiming that brothels were ‘the common receptacles, or rather, dens of notorious thieves, robbers, traytors and other criminals’, resolved that the suppression of bawdy houses was ‘a necessary expedient’ if highway robbery was to be stopped. The proliferation of ‘impudent harlots’, they argued, led ‘our sons and servants to debauchery, and consequently to embezzle and steal from us… thereby families are begger’d and parishes much impoverished’.31 The suppression of prostitution would help parish officials cope with recent increases in both crime and poverty.

The following year, 1691, saw the foundation of the first society explicitly devoted to a reformation of manners, in the Strand. Further royal encouragement prompted orders from both the Middlesex sessions and the City’s Court of Aldermen requiring local officials to ensure the laws were properly enforced.32 Additional societies were formed, and the following years and decades witnessed waves of prosecutions of vice offences – the campaign did not finally end until 1738. Reformers, often motivated as much by concerns to maintain social order as by religious zeal, initiated tens of thousands of prosecutions in the metropolis alone.33 These societies constituted, at least temporarily, an important new form of non-governmental policing. Eschewing entirely the church courts and largely bypassing parish officials (except when they themselves were supporters of the campaign), the reformers, a coalition of artisans, tradesmen, gentry and noblemen, used the law aggressively to discipline the disorderly poor.

They were quick to claim initial success. In 1694 the Tower Hamlets society reported that ‘in the space of two or three years’ it had punished ‘seven or eight hundred criminals’. In the year ending January 1694 alone, they claimed to have prosecuted 157 men and women for being ‘night-walkers and plyers in bawdy-houses’ and 155 keepers of disorderly houses and brothels.34 Confirmation of the early impact of the reformers can also be seen in the records of the various criminal jurisdictions of the City and Middlesex. Largely the result of the activities of the St Martin’s justices, commitments to the Westminster house of correction peaked as early as 1690, with 768 commitments, of which 62.5 per cent were for prostitution or loose, idle and disorderly conduct .35 According to the Lord Mayor’s ‘waiting’ and ‘charge’ books (which record the cases brought before the Lord Mayor in his capacity as the leading justice of the peace in the City of London), there was a significant increase in vice cases brought before him in 1692–4, when prosecutions for prostitution, drunkenness, swearing and Sabbath abuse averaged over eighty per year, compared to just sixteen per year in the previous six years.36 Some of these offenders were committed to Bridewell, the City of London’s house of correction. The commitment and punishments of ninety-three vice offenders were recorded in the minute books of the Court of Governors between July and December 1693 .37

Figure 2.3: Vice offences recorded in Lord Mayor's waiting and charge books, 1686-1694

Figure 2.3: Vice offences recorded in Lord Mayor’s waiting and charge books, 1686-1694

Source: Tina Beth Isaacs, ‘Moral Crime, Moral Reform, and the State in Early Eighteenth-Century England: A Study of Piety and Politics’ (University of Rochester PhD, 1979), p. 244.

Online dataset: LM Waiting and Charge Books 1686-1733 (xlsx)

The characteristics of the reformers’ prosecutions demonstrate the extent to which their notion of vice was concerned with a wide-ranging notion of disorder, rather than restricted to specific ‘crimes’. This was one of the reasons their activities prompted so much opposition. Many accusations were based on loosely substantiated suspicion and an assessment of the general character of the accused, rather than specific evidence of delinquent behaviour. On 22 September 1693, for example, Eleanor Rawlinson and Elizabeth Thorne appeared before the Bridewell governors charged by James Jenkins and Bodenham Rewse with ‘being idle Lewd persons and Suspected to be comon Pickpockett(s)’.38 Jenkins and Rewse had been employees of the original Tower Hamlets reformation of manners society and were some of the campaign’s most active informers. According to the Lord Mayor’s charge book, these men often arrested people on the basis of precisely this kind of limited evidence. They both lived outside the City in the Strand (Jenkins was a jeweller or a clockmaker and Rewse an embroiderer), and in the summer and autumn of 1693 regularly brought women before the Lord Mayor. In October six women were charged by them with being common nightwalkers, ‘having been several times in Bridewell known to be persons of lewd life and conversation’.39 That same month, evidence provided by Jenkins was used to justify committing two women to Newgate prison, charged with being common nightwalkers and ‘suspected to be housebreakers’.40 In most instances, these prosecutions were directed at what might be called the ‘usual suspects’.

The reformers were frequently accused of targeting the poor, whose delinquencies were publicly visible, while ignoring the sins committed in private by the rich. This was a charge which the reformers essentially admitted, justifying their approach by noting the difficulties of finding evidence against private crimes and of prosecuting the rich, and arguing that in any case the very publicity of sins committed on the streets was a greater affront to God and therefore a higher priority.41

As this criticism implies, the reformers’ aggressive use of the law to target large numbers of poor offenders, often on the basis of reputation and prejudice alone, attracted substantial opposition from several quarters, and this opposition ultimately forced the reformers to change their tactics and reduce their ambitions. Justices of the peace complained that the reformers frequently failed to follow the correct legal procedures and undermined their powers of discretion. Constables were alienated by the pressure reformers put on them to carry out their duties more systematically, including attempts to supervise their activities and report delinquent officers to sessions.42 More audaciously, there was also substantial and effective opposition from plebeian Londoners, both on the streets and in the courts.

In a system in which the prosecution of crime was generally the responsibility of the victim, prosecuting vice required a different approach. Because vice offences were essentially victimless, they had to be prosecuted by volunteers or paid agents. Londoners quickly branded these men with the opprobrious label of ‘informer’, a name made more hateful as a result of the role informers had played in the prosecution of dissenters in the 1670s. As a group of reformers from Southwark complained in 1695, ‘we are abused, reproached and detained and the people in the streets stirred up against us to the hazard and danger of our lives’.43 These men were not exaggerating. In 1693–4 Jenkins was assaulted twice, as well as threatened and called by ‘the name of informer’.44 James Cooper, ‘the most active City constable in the 1690s’, who often worked with Jenkins and Rewse in arresting prostitutes and coiners, was also the target of threats, rescues and attacks.45 On 29 July 1693 Robert Lowth, a servant to a coffeeman, was bound over ‘for calling James Jenkins and James Cooper by the name of informers and threatening them’.46

Opponents of the reformers also used the law to fight back. Complaints against the Middlesex justice Ralph Hartley, responsible for convicting over 500 alehouse keepers and tradesmen for Sabbath breaking in the autumn of 1691, resulted in a judicial investigation leading to his expulsion from the Middlesex commission of the peace.47 Many of Hartley’s opponents were his fellow justices, but popular opposition was also important, with the justices concerned that his actions generated hostility to the bench. An investigating committee of magistrates claimed Hartley’s method was ‘a great oppression upon the people, and tends to the ruin of most victuallers and alehouse keepers, and makes the present government uneasy to them, as appears to us by their frequent and daily complaints’.48

Informers and other supporters of the campaign were also subjected to numerous lawsuits, which they claimed were vexatious. Jonathan Easden, for instance, a member of the original Tower Hamlets society and a carpenter, was subjected to a series of prosecutions in 1692–4 for assault, blackmailing keepers of brothels and their clients, and being a ‘barreter’, or common troublemaker.49 In April 1694 he was indicted for the murder of Ann Roberts ‘s unborn child, following her miscarriage during an attempt to arrest her. Roberts and her mistress, a Mrs Young, had abused Easden by calling him’Perjured Rogue’ after he accused Young of being ‘an ill Woman, and a Bawd’. At his trial, it appeared that the prosecution was malicious: Roberts had not been hurt in the incident, but ‘a great deal of malice appeared to be betwixt them, and no positive proof was [presented] against him as to the matter of Fact’.50 Although Easden was acquitted, evidence of his extortionate treatment of bawds and prostitutes was presented to the House of Commons in the following year.51

Even when prosecutions against informers were unsuccessful, defending them was costly. In 1692 parish officers from St Leonard Shoreditch spent £24 defending a lawsuit brought in the Court of Common Pleas by Frances Hinton alias West, ‘a person of very lewd life and conversation’ accused of running a brothel. Although Hinton lost the case, the officers could not secure their expenses as Hinton was ‘a very poore woman’.52 They were still trying to recover their costs four years later. Arguably the threat of such costly prosecutions contributed to the reformers’ tactical shift in 1694 towards prosecuting prostitutes rather than brothel keepers. Not only was prosecution by commitment to a house of correction cheaper, but prostitutes were less likely to be able to afford vexatious counter prosecutions.53

Informers were also forced to shift their tactics. To prevent them from being subjected to physical harm, counter prosecutions or loss of business, the reformers advised informers not to act in their own neighbourhoods, and the justices who supported them agreed to protect their anonymity wherever possible.54 As Dabhoiwala has argued, by transforming neighbourhood policing into a mercenary and impersonal activity, these practices ‘helped accelerate the professionalization of policing’.55 They also reduced the number of informers willing to act and further distanced them from their communities. An important aspect of this transformation was the participation of some of the most active informers in other aspects of policing for a reward, such as apprehending coiners and acting as thief-takers, activities that undoubtedly served to exacerbate popular hostility against them. Jenkins, Rewse and Cooper all added thief-taking to their activities as informers from at least 1693.

These changes in tactics ensured the continuing survival of the reformation of manners campaign beyond the early 1690s; however, by making the reformers appear mercenary and act anonymously, they led to increased popular hostility. Despite claims of success (in 1698 Josiah Woodward wrote that the reformers ‘had so far succeeded, that the impudence of lewd women, and the blasphemies of licentious tongues are manifestly abated in our streets’), rates of recidivism were high, particularly for those accused of being ‘disorderly persons’.56 Elizabeth Bird, for instance, was brought before the court of governors at Bridewell six times between June 1693 and December 1694 accused of a range of street-walking offences.57 (There are several additional charges in these years recorded against women with the same name involving petty theft that may refer to the same woman.) On 24 November 1693, Bird and two other women were committed by the Lord Mayor to Bridewell on the oaths of Jenkins and Rewse for being nightwalkers and pickpockets and ‘having been several times in Bridewell and other gaoles [and] known to be such persons’, highlighting just how ineffective such prosecutions and punishments were.58 Jane Glover and Elizabeth Prince had similar records of repeated arrests for prostitution and theft in the early 1690s.59 When Prince appeared before the Bridewell Court of Governors on 3 November 1693 charged with an ‘act of lewdness’, Jenkins affirmed that ‘Prince was but this very last week bailed out of Bridewell for being a nightwalker and endeavouring to have picked up him the said James Jenkins’ – a singularly inadvisable act.60 The reformers’ annual ‘blacklists’ of offenders published between 1699 and 1707 included the number of offences charged in each year against each name; between 6 and 35 per cent of the offenders on each list had been charged more than once.61

The social crisis of the late 1690s injected new life into an increasingly unpopular campaign, and drove further developments in the societies’ approach to law enforcement. But by then plebeian (and other) opposition to the reformers had achieved marked success in narrowing the range of offences prosecuted and limiting the number of people who were willing to act in the controversial role of an informer.

Reconfiguring poor relief

During these same years, when the reformation of manners campaign became an arena of conflict between ‘disorderly’ London and a subset of its more settled inhabitants, the nature of parish relief for the ‘deserving poor’ was also changing. The scope of entitlement to poor relief expanded, while the system for its distribution evolved significantly. War, high food prices, the recoinage and demobilisation all contributed to growing pauper demands on the parishes of London, which in turn helped drive innovation. In part, this evolution took much the same form of individual and magisterial initiatives as had the reformation of manners. In early December 1688, for instance, a group of concerned citizens, including Thomas Firmin and Sir Robert Clayton, organised a voluntary house-to-house collection in aid of the poor, to which William III gave both his support and money – donating initially £2,000 in 1688, and later £1,000 a year throughout the 1690s to what became known as the King’s Letter fund. Yet because this money was administered by the Lord Mayor and Common Council, and restricted to City parishes, unlike the reformation of manners, it helped to increase the power of the City authorities over relief at the expense of the parishes or ad hoc groups of activists, while doing nothing for the Middlesex parishes.62

The most significant innovations in the system of relief followed from national legislation that redefined the notion of ‘settlement’. Although inherent in the Old Poor Law and system of vagrant removal, the legal concept of ‘settlement’ was only clearly laid out in 1692, while the technology of ‘certificating’ that settlement was not created until 1697. In combination with the new physical marker of a ‘badge’, this legislation helped secure the settled poor’s ‘right to relief’, or ‘entitle[ment]’, in the language of the House of Lords, against the authority of parish officers, while explicitly excluding a large body of migrant poor from the limited safety net provided by parochial care.63 This legislation also changed the system of oversight, effectively excluding the local minister from much of the administration of poor relief, expanding the role of justices and reinforcing quarter sessions as a court of appeal for both paupers and parish officers. In the City of London, this was in turn furthered by the creation of a City-wide Corporation of the Poor, or London Workhouse in 1698.

The notion that every individual had a settlement, that they had a parish and community that owed them care and to which they owed allegiance, was implicit in the Old Poor Laws passed in the late sixteenth century and codified in 1601, and explicit in the system of vagrancy removal that evolved throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But for paupers seeking relief during the seventeenth century, decisions about settlement and support ‘ultimately turned on the discretion of parish officers’, in the words of Steve Hindle, forcing paupers and migrants to negotiate from a position of weakness.64 This began to change following the Restoration with the passage, in 1662, of a statute ‘for the better Releife of the Poore of this Kingdom’, widely, if inaccurately, referred to as the Act of Settlement.65 This Act specified that a settlement could be gained through birth, apprenticeship or service and that in cases of dispute, an appeal could be made to a justice of the peace. In all cases, however, the onus of notifying the parish in writing of one’s intention to establish a settlement lay with the individual migrant and carried the risk of immediate removal from the parish should the request be refused. This ensured that only a minority of people would bother to establish a legal settlement under the auspices of the 1662 Act.

The same Act also provided for basic ‘certificates’, under the hand of a minister, for those seeking work during the harvest. However, judging by the small number of examinations, appeals and certificates that survive in the archives for the three decades after 1662, it was only after 1692, with the passage of a supplementary Act for the better Explanation and supplying the Defects of the former Laws for the Settlement of the Poor, that a fully functioning system of poor law settlement and appeal was created.66 After 1692 the poor were only required to give notification in writing of their intention to settle in a parish if they did not fall into one of the many categories of entitlement. So from this date, settlement on the basis of apprenticeship, service for a year, paying parish taxes or serving as a parish officer became automatic, requiring no further action on the part of the individual. This effectively ensured that the existence of a legal settlement became the norm, rather than the exception, and inadvertently created the circumstances that would generate large numbers of retrospective ‘settlement examinations’. The 1692 Act made universal what had previously been a legal status secured by only a minority of the migratory poor; it also transformed it from something the poor had to actively establish into one which the authorities needed to disprove.

The 1692 Act was a part of the early 1690s reformation of policy that emerged from the Revolution of 1688.67 Passed in response to the increasing cost of relief, it shifted the balance of power between parish officers, parishioners and justices of the peace in favour of the justices, and more indirectly, the poor. From 1692 overseers and churchwardens were obliged to keep a register of the poor for the scrutiny of both ratepayers and justices, and to review the list of paupers receiving relief at each Easter meeting of the vestry when the parish accounts were normally audited by a justice. The Act also vested sweeping powers of removal by warrant in the hands of any two justices sitting in petty sessions; it furthermore required, on pain of substantial fines, that churchwardens accept the justices’ adjudications, providing only that any individual (including paupers) who found themselves ‘aggrieved’ by the workings of the Act could ‘appeal to the next General Quarter Sessions’.68

A measure of the Act’s impact on the relationship between justices, parish officers and the poor can be found in the growing number of appeals filed with the City of London sessions against orders for relief and removal issued by the justices. Removals, certificates and appeals can be found prior to 1692 but were relatively uncommon. In the City, in the two full years prior to the passage of the Act, there were five appeals seeking to overturn an order for relief or removal (and a further six appeals relating to rating issues). However, in the two full years after the passage of the Act (1693–4), this number rose to over forty appeals against orders for removal and relief, and a further thirteen petitions from suburban parishes for support in relieving the poor.69

The tensions created by this legislation are illustrated in the case of Henry Bates, his wife Mary and their two children.70 In the early 1680s, Bates had been a successful grocer, renting a shop worth ‘20£ per annum’ in St Botolph Bishopsgate, but by the winter of 1688 he was living in St Mary Woolchurch and seeking a new occupation. He approached the minister for help in securing admission to the ‘Society of Porters’, as a tacklehouse or ticket porter.71 In what appears to have been a relatively casual act that he no doubt later regretted, Andrew Crisp, the incumbent, confirmed that Bates ‘an Inhabitant of our said p[ar]ish, hath Demeaned himself Honestly & Cively amongst his neighbours … [and was] Industrious And Willing to worke for his liveing’.72 Before 1692 a certificate under the hand of the minister was sufficient to establish a settlement, but afterwards the rules became more complex. In the autumn of 1692, Bates, now employed as a ticket porter, was living in St George Botolph Lane with his family when he found himself in need of relief and applied to the parish. However, taking advantage of the change in the law, St George sought to remove him ‘according to a late Act of Parliament’, claiming that he had settled in the parish without formal written notification to the minister.73

The churchwardens approached two justices who examined Bates on oath, issued a warrant removing him to a third parish, St Botolph Billingsgate, where Bates had lived prior to 1682, and ordered that parish to provide for him and his family. Billingsgate, in turn, appealed later the same month against the warrant, suggesting that Bates’s true settlement lay in St Botolph Bishopsgate.74 Two counter appeals were lodged, and Mary, Henry’s wife, was examined on oath about the level of taxes the couple had paid in St George Botolph Lane.75 It was only after five months of toing and froing and the submission of at least nine separate warrants, petitions and appeals that the matter was settled by the Lord Mayor and aldermen sitting in sessions, who firmly laid the responsibility for Henry and Mary Bates and their children on the parish of St Mary Woolchurch on the basis of the 1688 appeal to the Society of Porters. That Bates could produce that written appeal gave him a powerful card to play in a newly bureaucratic system of warrants and complex settlement rules. The churchwardens of St Mary Woolchurch could only complain that the ‘Certificate was obteyned by Surprise’.76

We cannot know how Henry and Mary experienced this process, though it is clear that all of this legal activity was generated by their simple and apparently compelling request for relief. However, we do know that Henry at least was certainly not cowed by it. In the early summer of 1693 he was committed to Bridewell for: ’being very Trouble some to the parishioners of the parish where he dwells and being very abusive to the Churchwardens’.77 The 1692 Poor Law Act was not passed in direct response to pressure from the poor. European examples and the perception that overseers and churchwardens were wasting parish funds, leading to rising levels of parish expenditure, were more powerful motives in framing this legislation. Neverthless, in clipping the wings of parish officers and extending and reinforcing the direct involvement of justices in the oversight of poor relief and the allocation of casual payments, the poor were given a new avenue of complaint and claim. Thirty years later, the Act was explicitly identified as having led to:

many persons …[applying] to some justices of the peace, without the knowledge of any officers of the parish, [who] thereby, upon untrue suggestions, and sometimes upon false or frivolous pretences, have obtained relief.78

It had, therefore, driven up the cost of providing for the poor.

This relationship was in its turn modified by a further Act passed five years later in 1697: ‘for Supplying some Defects in the Laws for the Relief of the Poor of this Kingdom’.79 This Act regularised the form and status of settlement certificates, mandated the badging of the parish poor and further extended the role of justices and quarter sessions in managing the system. Following a formal examination, from 1697 a settlement certificate could be issued under the hands of two parish officers, two credible witnesses and two local justices (but not the minister). The certificates and associated examinations became the central documents of identity for half the English population. In the process this Act created a new documentation of belonging that in the words reproduced on thousands of pre-printed certificates ‘owned and acknowledged [the person named] …to be … Inhabitants legally settled in the Parish’.

Figure 2.4 Printed settlement certificate filled out on behalf of Petter and Jane Hughes, 22 August 1715. [LL, St Dionis Backchurch Parish: Churchwardens Vouchers/Receipts, 28 March 1683 -- 15 October 1729 (GLDBPP307010160)](

Figure 2.4 Printed settlement certificate filled out on behalf of Petter and Jane Hughes, 22 August 1715. LL, St Dionis Backchurch Parish: Churchwardens Vouchers/Receipts, 28 March 1683 – 15 October 1729 (GLDBPP307010160).

Despite the expansion of judicial oversight, the new system had real advantages for the London parishes in which so many immigrants lived. If any migrant whose settlement was confirmed by certificate became ill or unemployed and applied for relief, the cost of maintaining and removing them could now be charged to the parish of settlement. At the same time, it was almost always in the interest of the parish providing the certificate (even at the normal cost of 2s. to 3s. 6d.) to do so in the hope that individuals and their families could either maintain themselves elsewhere without parish support, or establish an alternative settlement through serving in a parish office, or renting a tenement worth £10 per year.80

For the poor, the legal and bureaucratic security implied in the certificates was new and helped to shield them from both the overwhelming ‘discretion of parish officers’ and often the process of removal and appeal experienced by paupers such as Henry Bates.81 Certificates were explicitly intended as an aid to economic migration. In the words of the Act, they would allow the poor to reside where ‘their labour is wanted’. However, in the process of confirming a ‘legal settlement’, they also gave the migratory poor a new kind of evidence of their status that, short of the certificate itself being proven a forgery or legally defective on a technicality, was beyond challenge by either parish officers or a justice.82 Consequently, certificates placed a gentle upward pressure on levels of relief. As some alms and expenses could now be charged to a distant parish, there was less incentive for parish officers to stint and cavil at the costs. But most of all certificates gave paupers a newly secure position from which to negotiate with the parish. When Mary Tite petitioned the vestry of St Clement Danes for thirty shillings in order to set herself up as a market trader in 1702, she rested her claim on the fact, ‘that she had gained a Certificate of her being an Inhabitant Legally settled’.83

This is not to suggest that huge numbers of certificates were actually produced. Normally initiated at the request of the officers of a migrant’s new parish, procuring a certificate required the active collaboration of both the poor and the officers of the original parish of settlement. To create a legally binding document, six signatures had to be collected (costly both in time and in clerk’s fees), and the resulting certificate was valid only in relation to a single move to a named parish. If an individual wanted to move again a further certificate and more signatures were required. As a result, certificates were probably reserved primarily for migrants moving to an established employment rather than those simply seeking work. But the legal character of ‘certificates’ effectively embedded the status of being ‘settled’ more firmly within the system of parochial poor relief. Within ten years of the passage of the Act, when the parish of St Clement Danes created a register of the certificates they had both issued and received in the four years between 1703 and 1707, they could identify twenty-four documents evidencing the settlement status of eighty-four individuals, including seventeen families.84 It is impossible to determine precisely what percentage of the parish poor based their claims on the existence of a certificate, but with a population at this date in the region of 11,000, St Clement Danes probably relieved between 300 and 500 individuals on a regular basis, making the certificate poor a relatively rare, but significant (and administratively expensive), part of the system.

The same Act also required that the parish poor display a badge with the initials of the parish and ‘a large Roman P’, in red or blue cloth, prominently on their outer clothing. Asking the poor to wear a badge was not new in 1697. Examples of the practice can be traced back to medieval precedent, and three years before the Act was passed the Middlesex sessions ordered the ‘Poor to Wear Badges’.85 Individual parishes, such as St Botolph Aldgate, had also pursued a policy of badging since at least 1691.86 Nevertheless badges became much more common from 1697.87

In part, as Steve Hindle has argued, the requirement to wear a badge was a self-conscious attempt to stigmatise the parish poor and to discourage applications for relief. But like certificates, badges also formed an important new claim to belonging that effectively both labelled individuals as ‘settled’ and licensed them to beg, particularly from door to door. The relevant clause in the Act obliging the poor to display a badge suggests that they would be a means of preventing money being ‘misapplied & consumed by the idle, sturdy and disorderly beggars’, and ensuring that it was given to ‘such as are as well impotent as poor’.88 The implication is that the parish badge would reassure uncertain almsgivers that the pauper before them was a deserving beggar, rather than an idle and disorderly one and, moreover, that any casual observer could readily judge whether parish officers were relieving deserving, settled parishioners or wasting ratepayers’ money on the idle and unsettled. Parish officers did not need badges to identify their poor. They had registers and accounts listing pensioners and collectioners; instead, badges were designed for the benefit of a wider public.

One measure of the authority of badges, and their power to confer legitimacy on the begging poor, is the extent to which they rapidly formed objects of counterfeit and fraud. Within months of the passage of the Act, Charles Tompkins was committed to Bridewell charged with ‘prtending. to be a Pensionr. in a parish of this Citty wth a False Badge in his pocket’.89 Two years later, Phenix Wilkinson was charged ‘For Cheating the parish of St James Dukes Place’ when she applied for a badge for a dead relative.90 The settlement status implied by a badge was also recognised by parishes and justices. Badges were carefully restricted to the settled poor, and refusal to wear one was frequently used as a pretext for denying relief. At St Dionis Backchurch, badges were limited to ‘pentioners’, and the parish actively avoided supplying a badge to casual and occasional paupers.91 In 1708 the vestry resolved that William Adams should be granted a pension of 2 shillings a week, but was ‘excused some time from wearing the Badge to try what Application he will make for Reliefe elsewhere’.92 Justices also recognised the implication of settlement conferred by wearing a parish badge. In 1704 St Clement Danes had little choice but to provide Elizabeth Parke with relief in response to a warrant under the hands of two justices which established her settlement on the grounds that she ‘wore the parish badge for many yrs past’.93

Of course, the flip side of this new technology of identity was that some people would find themselves labelled in ways that they did not welcome. Certainly, this must have been how Joanne Palmer felt in 1706, at the age of 81, when, she appealed against

the parish of St. Giles fields in wch. parish she has lived fifty years, without being the least [cost] or charge to the said parish till age [and in]firmity put her under a necessity of ma[king] application thereunto …

and asked the justices at Hicks Hall to order ‘a pention without a badge’.94

For at least the first two and a half decades after the passage of the 1697 Act, until the creation of parish workhouses throughout London, with their residential character and distinctive pauper clothing which made badges largely redundant, most settled paupers appear to have worn them. A measure of their commonality can be found in the poor law accounts of St Botolph Aldgate. The parish had a long tradition of badging the poor even before the passage of the Act, but in July 1699 the accounts record the purchase of ‘15 dozen Badges’ which lasted until April 1701 when they ordered ‘Seven Dozen’ more.95 In the next twelve years, at least a further 280 badges were purchased, bringing the total to over 500 for a pauper population of no more than this.96

Together the Poor Law Acts of 1692 and 1697 effectively re-ordered the relationship between the parish, the poor and the justices, and worked to bring the vast majority of both the settled and the migratory poor, including able-bodied adults, more firmly within the system of parish relief. They reinforced the triangular relationship between overseers, paupers and justices, ensuring that justices were given greater authority to both oversee the workings of the parishes and act as a court of appeal against the ‘discretion’ of parish officers. At the same time, they empowered the poor, creating a new kind of agency. Certificates allowed unemployed but able-bodied men and women to establish their ‘legal settlement’ as an insurance against old age and infirmity. A group of economic migrants who through most of the seventeenth century were in constant danger of being labelled and punished as vagrants were given the opportunity to prove their bone fides with a certificate. In a similar way badges effectively regulated the role of begging by providing a stamp of legitimacy to the pleas of established pensioners.97 From 1697 the charitable and sympathetic could rely on a parish badge to make the distinction between impotent and poor beggars and their ‘disorderly’ brethren.

For the English, and particularly London, poor, these developments created a comprehensive and flexible system that was theoretically universal in scope. Nevertheless, a vagrant residuum remained that would never fit easily in to a system largely built on the assumption that the poor should stay put. Just as a new ecology of identity evolved, national and city-wide schemes to regulate vagrancy, and punish, employ and educate the disorderly poor were created.

The London Workhouse and the Vagrant Costs Act

The aspiration to create a workhouse and house of correction for the whole City of London was not new in the 1690s. At regular intervals throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, both the City and the Middlesex bench had attempted to create employment schemes or residential workhouses to supersede parish relief as solutions to the Janus-faced problems of rising poverty and disorder.98 However, many contemporaries saw the re-establishment of the London Workhouse in 1698 as a facet of the wider reformation of manners, alongside the revitalisation of the reforming societies.99 If the societies were dedicated to reforming the poor through punishment, the London Workhouse was designed to achieve the same end by ‘inuring the poor to labour’ and training up their children to a religious and industrious life.

The City of London initially hoped that specific provision for the creation of a Corporation of the Poor covering the whole area within the Bills of Mortality would be included in national legislation.100 However, when this failed, the Lord Mayor, Sir Humphrey Edwin, simply revived Samuel Hartlib ‘s mid-century workhouse on the authority of a 45-year-old Act. The City initially sought to create a non-residential employment scheme, and in the autumn of 1698 committed over £5,000 to the project. Two ’undertakers’ were hired and a six-week course of training in spinning wool was run for parish children. The expectation was that any ‘willing industrious & capeable person may earn from two shillings to four shillings per weeke & some five or six shillings per weeke’.101 Over 400 people, children but also women, were trained to spin wool from home.102

Like the 1692 and 1697 parliamentary Acts, this initiative effectively shifted power away from the churchwardens and overseers of the poor to the City authorities. The response from the parishes was immediate: many refused to collect the money due to the new Corporation. More difficult, however, was the attitude of parish officers to the employment itself. They simply continued to pay regular pensions, while refusing to inspect or oversee the work as the Corporation expected.103 As a result the employment scheme collapsed within months and the City was forced to turn instead to establishing a residential workhouse, leasing a house in Half-Moon Alley off Bishopsgate Street in August 1699.

In part, as Stephen Macfarlane has argued, opposition to the Corporation was founded in politics, with the traditionally tory parishes of the City set against a new whig establishment, but it was also driven by a belief that increasing the powers of the Corporation would, in the words of a petition from a group of parish officers from Farringdon Ward Without, create a ‘new magistracy… making them masters of the Liberty of the People’. Yet the workhouse enhanced the agency of the poor. The petitioners complained that by exercising the powers of a justice of the peace, the Corporation would

impower … the President &c. on complaint (of too small an Allowance) made by any poor Person, to summons the Church-Wardens, Overseers, and Collectors to appear before them, and to administer Oaths, and on Examination to order such weekly Allowance to the Person complaining.

In the eyes of the parish officers, the Corporation was being authorised to put the decision over whom to relieve in the hands of ‘Strangers to the Poor’, thus empowering the poor, ‘those who are always craving and never satisfied’, at the expense of the officers, who were ‘the best Judges of the Necessities of their Poor’.104

The workhouse opened in 1699 and was divided, like Bridewell, between a ‘keeper’s side’ or house of correction, which could accommodate, set to labour and physically punish about fifty people (both adults and children) at any one time, and a ‘steward’s side’, which functioned as a residential workhouse and industrial school catering for poor children over the age of seven. The steward’s side charged 12 pence per week for each pauper to parishes and individual benefactors, effectively establishing a de facto rate for parish pensions in the City. There was no question of taking all the parish poor into the workhouse, and there was no ‘workhouse test’. Who would be sent to the house and who would remain at home on a pension was negotiated between the poor and the parish. However, the remarkable aspect of the house is that beside the children of the parish poor, it also made room for the vagrant children of the ‘Black Guard’ of homeless orphans who pilfered from the quays and slept rough on the streets and in the annealing yards of the glass houses of the east end. Although these children were initially taken up as ‘vagrants’, most were then transferred to the steward’s side, turning the London Workhouse into a refuge for children who had been singularly failed by the parish authorities. In 1703 the annual report claimed that 427 children had been maintained in the preceding year, who, when they reached their early teens, would be either sent back to their parishes to be apprenticed or, if they were from the unsettled ‘Black Guard’, apprenticed directly from the house, primarily into maritime service, the textile trades or domestic service.105

By parish standards the conditions in the workhouse were good, and the system actually seems to have worked, or at least, the grand jury for the City thought so:

Wee do find to our Great Satisfaction, none of those Young Criminals which were formerly used to be brought before Us, and … Wee are very Sensible, that this is in a great Measure, if not intirely Owing to the Workhouse Erected in this City, which hath received therein, All those poor, and Vagrant Children, which lay up and down in the Streets of this City (Commonly called by the Name of the Black Guard) and there hath Educated Imployed, and fitted for Trades and other Imployments.106

The Corporation, however, while apparently popular with the poor, continued to encounter significant opposition from the parishes, partly for reasons of cost, but also owing to the shift of authority inherent in centralising relief. By 1708 several parishes were questioning the legal basis of the Corporation, and in 1712 it was forced to change its by-laws and drastically reduce its workhouse function in relation to the parish poor. It continued to thrive as a house of correction and survived into the nineteenth century, but from 1713 it restricted the number of parish children taken in to the steward’s side and concentrated on educating and boarding children sponsored by individual benefactors at a cost of £50 for City children, and £70 for children from elsewhere.107

However, for several years the parish officers had once again been sidelined, and the poor were given a new entitlement. The existence of the Corporation, and its emphasis on reclaiming vagrant children, also helped to elide the boundary between criminal vagrancy and settled poverty . In a different way, by expanding the reach of the vagrancy legislation, the Vagrancy Costs Act, ‘An Act for the more effectual Punishment of Vagrants and sending them whither by Law they ought to be sent’, which followed sharp on the heels of the foundation of the Corporation, muddied this same distinction in Middlesex.108 This statute, applicable nationally, transferred the financing of the removal of vagrants from constables and the parish rates to the county rates, overseen by the county bench. In the City, with its system of wards and Common Council, the Act had little effect, but in Middlesex it gave new powers to the magistrates.

Until 1700 Middlesex parish constables retained the central role in the policing of vagrancy, arresting pretty much whomever they felt could be countenanced within the long and shaggy list of bear wards, players of interludes and diverse other offences that legally defined ‘vagrancy’. For the most part, almost anyone unable to ‘give a good account’ of themselves to a constable could be considered a vagrant. By law, on arrest vagrants were meant to be taken to the nearest justice who could order that they be ‘stripped to the waste and whipt until bloody’, prior to being confined at hard labour in the nearest house of correction and then returned to the parish constable to be removed parish by parish, constable by constable, to their place of settlement.

In the City the policing of vagrancy fell to the officers of Bridewell and the London Workhouse, with the assistance of constables and beadles, who were ward rather than parish officers. However, in Middlesex the constables were parish officers and their role was central. Until 1700 they were responsible for raising their own rate, or relied on general parish rates, to repay themselves for the expense of punishing and removing vagrants. The Act of 1699 changed all this. By shifting the cost of removal to the county rate, it ensured that constables would henceforth have to both deliver up individual vagrants for examination by a justice (in order to ‘certificate’ the relevant expenditure) and produce their accounts at the end of the year. Within months of the Act’s passage, printed blanks of vagrant removal orders were being issued, and by 1701 the Middlesex bench had begun to actively audit the accounts of constables.109 While constables benefited financially from this new arrangement, this was achieved at the expense of surrendering their control over who was to be labelled as a vagrant to the justices. The constables’ discretionary power over the unsettled and disorderly poor was substantially undermined.

‘Vagrancy’ is a poorly defined category that defies analysis. Many people taken up as vagrants were long-term residents with established connections to the community, but who offended against one or another sensibility; others were economic migrants unsuccessfully seeking work in the capital; still others lived off crime and immorality. We cannot determine if more vagrants were actually removed after 1699, though the new system naturally created a larger number of documents. But just as the new system of settlement certificates changed the relationship between overseers and the parish poor, the Vagrant Costs Act limited the power of parish constables. Both vagrants and paupers could now more easily appeal over the heads of local officials – making their ability to present a badge, a certificate or a credible story all the more important .

The reformation of manners renewed

Despite the popular opposition to ‘informers’, the late 1690s and early 1700s witnessed what Dudley Bahlman termed a ‘second great wave of enthusiasm for a reformation of manners’, prompted partly by the socio-economic crisis caused by recoinage, bad harvest s and demobilisation .110 Initiatives included the formation of the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK ) in 1698 and the related Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) in 1701, which used charity schools, the publication of cheap moralising tracts and the establishment of overseas missions to evangelise on behalf of a newly self-confident Anglican establishment.111 Yet while the SPCK and the SPG targeted their reforming efforts at the settled, the literate and the very distant, the renewed reformation of manners campaign continued to focus on the disorderly poor at home.

Several new societies were formed; Josiah Woodward claimed in 1698 there were ‘now near twenty Societies of various Qualities and Functions, formed in a Subordination and Correspondency with one another and engaged in this Christian Design in and about this City and Suburbs’.112 New legislation against immorality was introduced in parliament in 1698–9, and although no new laws were passed, the associated ‘rush of addresses, speeches, and proclamations by the king and commons’ drew attention to the campaign.113 Concurrently, following the example of the SPCK and often using the same printer, the reformers embarked on a publishing campaign, including sermons, an Account of the Societies for Reformation of Manners, in London and Westminster, and other Parts of the Kingdom ( by Woodward, the Societies’ chief propagandist), which went through five editions between 1699 and 1701, and annual Black Lists detailing the names of sexual offenders.114 Judging by the latter, by 1700 the number of prosecutions by the reformers was more than double those in 1694, the year in which they published their first list.115 As with the early 1690s, women were their principal target, accounting for 92.6 per cent of named offenders in 1700.116

This intensification of the reformers’ efforts once again met with substantial opposition, both from the political classes (who ensured defeat of the parliamentary bills) and plebeian Londoners. There were renewed physical attacks on informers, and complaints that justices of the peace did nothing to stop them. In his sermon to the societies preached on 27 June 1698 at St Mary le Bow, Thomas Jekyll complained that while ‘the common people rage and rattle against those that endeavour to reclaim them’, the magistrates ‘do all that in them lies, to make [prosecution of vice] both troublesome and dangerous, and thereby to beat [informers] off from engaging any further therein’. Informers were ‘again beaten, and wounded at the very doors of these magistrates, without protection and redress, and meet with nothing upon complaint but scoffs and jears’.117

These complaints were justified. The Middlesex magistracy was sharply divided: while some justices were strong supporters of the campaign, others, owing to legal scruples or concerns to maintain their reputations in their neighbourhoods, rejected the reformers’ systematic approach to prosecuting vice and refused to cooperate.118 However, plebeian Londoners were also active opponents. The reformers were once again subjected to considerable physical abuse, culminating in the murder of two prominent constables associated with the societies; the evidence suggests that these incidents represent the tip of an iceberg of violence committed against them. In 1702 a group of constables were making arrests at May Fair when they were attacked by ‘the mob’, ‘being about 30 soldiers,’ with brick-bats, and John Cooper, a parish constable of St James Westminster, was stabbed to death. A participant in the riot, Thomas Cook, a prizefighter nicknamed ‘the butcher of Gloucester’, escaped to Ireland, where, commenting on reformation of manners activities in Dublin, ‘he wondered at the people of Ireland to Suffer Such Rogues for that in London they used them like Doges’.119 Brought back to London, Cook was eventually tried and hanged for the murder. While he continued to deny participation in the killing to the point of his own death on the scaffold, he acknowledged he was ‘a sworn Enemy to those who were employ’d in the Reformation of Manners’.120 Popular sympathy for Cook was manifested in a ballad which reasserted his innocence.121

One of the men who had unsuccessfully tried to rescue Cooper from the crowd was John Dent, a constable of St Mary le Strand, who had supported the reformation of manners campaign since 1692.122 Dent was himself eventually murdered, seven years after Cooper, in March 1709, while arresting ‘lewd and disorderly persons’.123 According to a fellow constable, over the years Dent

had been aiding and assisting to the apprehending and prosecuting of several thousands of lewd and profligate persons, besides a vast number of Sabbath breakers, profane swearers, and drunkards … he has often been much abused, beaten, mobb’d and wounded; and in a very great danger of his life, in detecting, and bringing to justice, the lewd and disorderly persons …124

There is evidence to substantiate this claim. In 1701 Dent, along with John Wilkinson, another constable, brought Philip and Charles Conyer before a justice and accused them of assaulting and beating the two constables and ‘endeavouring to raise a mob upon them in execution of their office, searching after lewd and disorderly persons’.125 (In response, the Conyers filed a counter prosecution, a recognizance, against both Wilkinson and Dent for assaulting them.) It was the arrest of Anne Dickins, ‘a common lewd woman of the town’, near Drury Lane in March 1709 which led to Dent’s death.126 Three soldiers attempted to rescue Dickins, claiming she had been illegally arrested and calling the constables ‘informing dogs’.127 They drew their swords and Dent was killed in the mêlée that followed. After his death, Dent remained notorious in plebeian memory: six months later, Mary Thomas, a reputed brothel keeper, was accused of ‘drinking or permitting to be drank in a profane and dissolute manner a health to the soul of John Dent in hell’.128

The reformers were also undermined by legal challenges, particularly to their practice of arresting women like Dickins for ‘lewd and disorderly’ conduct. Arrests based on mere suspicion and reputation remained commonplace, but were repeatedly and successfully challenged, sometimes by the prostitutes themselves. In 1701 Elizabeth Claxton, a woman committed by Justice John Perry to New Prison after being ‘taken in a disorderly house’, was able to obtain legal counsel and have her case removed by habeas corpus to the Court of King’s Bench, where it was ruled that simply being present in a brothel at a ‘seasonable’ (not late) hour was insufficient justification for the commitment.129 As the judges recognised, the fact that she almost certainly was a prostitute, as can be seen in her subsequent commitments to Bridewell, was irrelevant. In the trial of the murderers of Dent in 1709, Chief Justice John Holt ruled that the initial arrest of Dickins on the basis that she had previously been convicted of prostitution, and was found in a street where they were known to frequent, was also illegal, thereby giving further succour to the reformers’ opponents.130

As a result of these setbacks, prosecutions of the offence of ‘lewd and disorderly’ behaviour declined. Following Cooper ‘s murder, the number of offences reported went down by 28.2 per cent between 1704 and 1707 (figures are missing for the intervening years) to 844, prompting the societies to switch the method of reporting in their accounts to include all persons ’prosecuted and proceeded against before the magistrates’, rather than just those convicted. As a result, the figure for 1708 appeared much healthier at 1,255. Nevertheless, it continued its decline in 1709, the year of Dent’s murder and Holt’s judgement, falling by 36.7 per cent to 794. It may be significant that no published accounts of the societies’ activities survive for 1710–14.131

In part the decline of the societies in the early 1700s can be attributed to the febrile political circumstances of these years and the poisonous religious dispute associated with the Sacheverell Riots.132 Nevertheless, popular antagonism to the reformers was a key source of their difficulties. Supporters of the reformation of manners would have to await the arrival of the Hanoverian monarchy, and a new whig government, for an opportunity to regain the initiative.

New measures against crime

While the reformation of manners attacked the purported causes of crime, there were also efforts throughout the 1690s and 1700s, particularly from 1697, to combat the apparently rising tide of crime directly through the passage of new legislation, both by encouraging more frequent prosecutions and by increasing the severity of punishments. While these statutes were national in scope, they were prompted by particular concerns about the extent of crime in London, especially the high level of female criminality, and they resulted directly from lobbying by City officials.133 Some statutes effectively created new capital offences by removing ‘benefit of clergy’ from some of the most serious crimes (robbery, housebreaking in the daytime, and breaking into shops and warehouses and stealing goods to the value of five shillings ), and from crimes that were thought to be increasing in London (shoplifting and theft from lodgings ). There was also an attempt to encourage prosecutions of women by, paradoxically, awarding them benefit of clergy on the same terms as men (without a literacy test). Owing to concern that hanging women was discouraging victims from prosecuting, it was hoped this change would result in more women being tried. This statute also deemed those who received stolen goods (who were often women) accessories to a felony, meaning that they could be charged with a felony if the principal was convicted.134

The 1699 shoplifting statute, which was in part the result of pressure from London shopkeepers, was aimed specifically at the large number of female thieves in the capital. Almost half (23 of 48) of the defendants charged with shoplifting in the Old Bailey Proceedings in 1697–8 were women.135 As a contemporary broadside, The Great Grievance of Traders and Shopkeepers, complained, shoplifting was a notorious and growing crime, committed by organised networks, backed by ‘bullies’ and receivers of stolen goods, and defended with ‘craft and subtilty’ when prosecuted. One recently executed female shoplifter, it alleged, ‘had stolen to the value of twelve thousand pounds’.136 This statute successfully led to an increase in prosecutions, with shoplifting doubling from 3.5 per cent of all offences in the five years leading up to the Act, to 7.1 per cent from 1700 to 1704. The proportion of female offenders also increased from 58.5 to 74.3 per cent of defendants accused of this offence.

Prosecutions were also encouraged by the offer of more generous rewards to prosecutors for the conviction of those who committed serious crimes, an innovation which resulted in major changes in policing and, as an unintended consequence, opened up new possibilities for criminality. As early as 1692 a statute had established a permanent £40 reward for the conviction of highway robbers, and a 1695 statute offered a similar reward for coiners.137 In 1699 a statute introduced new forms of reward: those who were responsible for convicting offenders of shoplifting, theft from warehouses, burglary and horse theft were to receive a ‘Tyburn Ticket’, which gave the owner an exemption from parish offices (and because it was transferable, amounted to a significant financial reward). More significantly, offenders who turned king’s evidence and whose testimony resulted in the conviction of two or more accomplices were entitled to a pardon.138 Together with a £40 reward for the conviction of burglars in 1706, these incentives encouraged the growth of thief-takers, men (and occasionally women) who turned arresting criminals into a profitable business.139 While such mercenary activities date back to at least the sixteenth century, in the 1690s and early 1700s the number of thief-takers increased considerably.

John Beattie estimates that in the City of London alone, there were between thirty and forty active thief-takers in this period.140 These include some of the most prominent reformation of manners informers, including James Jenkins and Bodenham Rewse.141 From 1694 both were heavily involved in the prosecution of clippers and coiners, but Rewse also prosecuted thefts, at least one rape and someone accused of conspiring to assassinate the king. By 1699 he was employed by Isaac Newton at the Mint specifically to arrest coiners, and in 1701 he became deputy keeper of Newgate prison.142 As with informers and the parallel development of deputy constables (who served for a fee in place of more respectable Londoners who were chosen to act as constables but preferred not to serve), the rise of these private detectives encouraged policing to become a mercenary activity.143 However, rather than separate the worlds of policing and criminality, these developments encouraged a form of symbiosis between them, since thief-takers needed to be deeply acquainted with criminal networks and their activities in order to prosper. Those who participated in crime grabbed this opportunity to sell their knowledge for a price, whether as compensation for returning stolen goods or as rewards for providing information about the whereabouts of their accomplices.

For those, including criminals, who wished to manipulate the law for their own advantage, the introduction of rewards, therefore, provided lucrative new opportunities. Several thief-takers, notably John Gibbons, regularly extorted protection money from coiners in return for turning a blind eye to their activities.144 Nevertheless, by increasing the number of prosecutions in the late 1690s, these measures also highlighted the problem of punishment. The authorities both struggled to punish the growing number of convicts and were confronted in these same numbers with evidence of the manifest failure of existing punishments to prevent crime from occurring. In considering the penal options at this time, it is remarkable that increasing the number of executions does not appear to have been a serious possibility, owing to concerns about the public reaction. As Beattie has argued, by the late seventeenth century with ‘the unique crime problem emerging in the urban world of London … too much violence in punishment could be seen as disruptive and counter-productive’, particularly since so many of the convicts were women.145 Despite the fact that these were years of considerable economic and social instability, the proportion of convicts sentenced to death at the Old Bailey during the prosecution wave from 1696 to 1702 (22.9 per cent) was significantly lower than in the previous seven years, when almost a third of convicts (31.4 per cent) were capitally convicted .

Convict defiance at the gallows may have contributed to this reluctance to respond to rising convictions with recourse to simple judicial murder. While convicts dying ‘game’ at Tyburn became much more common in the 1720s, this was already a recognised phenomenon in the late 1690s, when the Swiss visitor Henri Misson noted that the English ‘look upon [hanging] as a Trifle’; they dress ‘gayly, and go to it with … an Air of Indifference’.146 Even more worryingly for the authorities, the anonymous author of Hanging, Not Punishment Enough, for Murtherers, High-way Men and House Breakers (1701) complained that too many convicts made ‘their Exits in Gay Clothes’ like ‘Men in Triumph’, ridiculing hanging as nothing more than ‘making a Wry Mouth’.147 These observers had in mind convicts such as Charles Pynes, convicted of murder in July 1694, who ‘kickt the Ordinary out of the cart at Tyburn, and pulled off his shoes, sayeing he’d contradict the old proverb, and not dye in them’.148

Rather than increase the number executed, or, as advocated in Hanging Not Punishment Enough, conduct those executions with even more brutality, the authorities experimented with various forms of secondary punishments, notably imprisonment and transportation, in addition to the traditional punishments of branding and whipping. There were, nevertheless, significant disadvantages to all these secondary punishments, not least owing to the ability of convicts to subvert or ignore them. In 1700 Timothy Nourse complained that

whipping or frizzing them a little in the fist, is a punishment of no great pain and of a short continuance; and such cauteriz’d or case-hardened rogues as soon as out of jail are but the more confirmed in their former practices.149

Branding was particularly ineffective, despite the fact that the location had been switched from the thumb to the cheek in 1699 in order to create more of a deterrent. In a presentment in November 1704, the City of London grand jury explained why the current laws against crime were ineffectual, pointing to, among other penal deficiencies, the impermanent nature of the mark left by branding:

the mark or burn in ye Cheek was to[o] small and Executed so imperfectly as to be scarcely visible, and by that meanes many of them had been burnt Five or Six times over …

The grand jury went on to observe that

two of the most notorious Shopplifts that were Convicted the last Sessions have been taken Since in ye very act of Shopplifting in the late Dwelling House of Sr. Thomas Abney & tho. they were upon their last Conviction burnt in the Cheek the mark is not now to be discerned …150

Another group of London citizens petitioned parliament, however, that this public mark of shame was too effective – as it prevented convicts from obtaining employment and ‘made them desperate’.151 Clearly, the permanence of the branding mark was variable, but either way, it did not prevent convicts from committing additional crimes.152 Roderick Awdry, for example, whose first of several appearances at the Old Bailey occurred in 1710 at the age of no more than twelve, was, according to the Ordinary of Newgate, ‘thrice Burnt in the Hand’ as well as punished in the house of correction for his crimes, but he continued an active criminal career until he was finally executed in 1714. At the time of his execution, he confessed he had been responsible for thirty-eight substantial thefts over four years.153

Critics of branding advocated giving the judges the power to supplement it with a term of hard labour. This was authorised in a 1706 statute which allowed judges to sentence convicted felons who received benefit of clergy to hard labour in a house of correction or workhouse for between six months and two years.154 This bill was passed in response to a campaign by City MPs in addition to a citizens’ petition. The proposal appears to have attempted to capitalise on the perceived success of the London Workhouse; one of those who drafted the petition was Sir Robert Clayton, governor of the Corporation of the Poor. However, an additional factor was the need to find a punishment for several women who had been pardoned on condition of transportation, but who could not be transported because no merchant would take them.155

The choice of houses of correction and workhouses as places for putting felons to hard labour is significant in two respects. First, while the direct overlap between paupers and criminals was limited, the elision in provision for the poor and the criminal reflects the common belief that both groups were deemed in need of a period of hard labour, whether as a punishment in a house of correction for those guilty of crime, or as a prerequisite for relief (it was meant to reform both, by teaching them to be industrious). In the case of the London Workhouse, both were treated in the same institution. Second, institutions not designed for the punishment of serious criminals came to be used in lieu of the one London gaol designed to accommodate felons, Newgate. This was not only because of the perceived reformative potential of houses of correction and workhouses, but also owing to overcrowding and security problems at Newgate. As a result of the increase in prosecutions and the large number of convicts awaiting transportation, conditions in Newgate were at this time particularly unhealthy (a large number of prisoners in 1697 died of gaol fever ) and the crowded inmates became rebellious.156

There were a series of escapes from Newgate dating from 1693. Robert Beames had been convicted of two thefts and of making a false charge of high treason and was arrested following the second theft ‘in Bed betwixt two Women’, with five picklock keys and a ‘betty’ (used to pry open doors).157 He escaped from Newgate with an accomplice in April 1693 by the remarkably simple expedient of boring holes through the boards with augers, and ‘by the help of a long Rope they slided down and got away’. In March 1696 Katherine Buckingham, who had been convicted of grand larceny the previous October, sentenced to death, and reprieved for pregnancy, also escaped.158 According to the grand jury, this was a common problem: women acquired the time to engineer their escapes by ‘plead[ing]…their bellies’ before they were sentenced, and getting ‘women of their own gangs’ to sit on the matrons jury, ‘who finding them quick wth Child they did by that means gaine time to escape’. In 1697 William Birkenhead, accused of participating in a conspiracy to assassinate the king, also escaped. The three men accused of assisting him allegedly told another man, ‘we can soon get you out as we did Birkenhead’, implying that escapes could be arranged on request. In 1712 Daniel Wells was accused of ‘abetting and assisting several Prisoners to break her Majesty’s Goal of Newgate, and make their Escape’. As one of the prosecutors, Bodenham Rewse, former reformation of manners informer and now turnkey, testified:

on Monday the eighth instant, he had private Information that there was a Design to break the Goal that Evening, which he communicated to Mr. Jeffreys; and thereupon they made a Search, and found a Hole cut in the Floor of the Hall 7 Inches broad, and 18 long, and also that the Irons of one Robert Wilks, a Highway-man, were saw’d off.

The scale of the security problems at Newgate was further illustrated by the fact that at the same trial ‘It was also prov’d that the Prisoner was the Man who procur’d the Escape of Holloway, which was the Cause of three Persons Deaths.’ William Johnson, alias Holloway, was a convicted thief awaiting transportation who broke out of Newgate and killed a man who attempted to re-arrest him. He was convicted of murder in September 1712.159

Escaping prisoners rendered any attempt to increase Newgate’s role in the punishment of felons untenable. Other reasons were documented by the SPCK investigation of Newgate and other prisons in 1700. According to their report, ‘the vices and immoralities of prisons’ included the following:

  • the personal lewdness of the keepers and under officers [and] their confederacy with prisoners in their vices, allowing the men to keep company with the women for money;
  • the unlimited use of wine, brandy and other strong liquors;
  • [the fact that] old and incorrigible criminals corrupt the new-comers.160

Prisoners could behave inside much as they would in the outside world.

Citing problems of disease and security, a statute in 1700 encouraged the building of new prisons to address overcrowding, but nothing happened in London.161 Instead greater use was made of houses of correction. Commitments to the Middlesex, Westminster and City (Bridewell ) houses of correction all increased significantly in the late 1690s and early 1700s, made up in part of prisoners summarily convicted of thefts which in different times might have resulted in commitment to Newgate followed by an Old Bailey prosecution for a felony. Further increases in house of correction commitments resulted from the 1706 statute authorising the use of hard labour for convicted felons. Between 1707 and 1713, 10.8 per cent of convicts at the Old Bailey were sentenced to hard labour in houses of correction .162 While in numerical terms convicted felons in houses of correction were not significant (they were vastly outnumbered by the men and women committed directly by justices without trial for idle and disorderly conduct, vagrancy and petty theft ), the character of these new prisoners and the length of their incarceration caused difficulties. Convicted felons stayed for up to two years, while most prisoners in houses of correction stayed for only a week, and no provision was made to pay for their support. Unsurprisingly they posed a substantial threat to security and sometimes formed criminal alliances with other prisoners. Moreover, they resisted the ‘correction’ to their character that the houses were supposed to achieve. Innes calculates that ‘between 5 and 10 per cent (and perhaps even more)’ of these convicts were ultimately rearrested for another offence.163 Even those committed for petty offences proved recalcitrant. Not only had branding failed to keep Roderick Awdry from recidivism, but his five commitments to houses of correction were equally ineffective. According to the Ordinary, ‘no sooner was he sent to those Houses of Correction, but he presently broke out, and return’d to his wicked Trade’.

A final penal option was transportation overseas. This had been used since 1615 and more frequently after 1660 as a condition of pardons given to prisoners sentenced to death.164 Three-quarters of the convicts pardoned in the reign of King William were required to undergo transportation. However, it proved difficult to carry out this punishment owing to resistance from the colonies, disruptions to shipping and the fact that merchants, who bore the cost of the punishment, were only willing to transport fit young men whom they could sell into indentured labour. Given the absence of state funding and the inability to coerce the colonies, the number actually transported was low.165 In an attempt to resolve this problem, convicts were encouraged to transport themselves, but as the City grand jury complained in 1704, although convicts had to provide security to ensure they would leave the country, some failed to do so and instead went ‘at large comitting the like crimes and after all gett themselves into a generall pardon’.166

By the early eighteenth century, a combination of convict resistance, criminal recidivism and wider constraints had rendered all the available punishments for serious crime problematic in one way or another. The stalemate would only be broken by the passage of the Transportation Act in 1718.


The rising incidence of crime and growing demands for poor relief in the 1690s, exacerbated by population growth and immigration, supplemented the impetus for reform arising from the Revolution settlement. While these pressures did not determine the content of the resulting changes in the administration of poor relief and criminal justice, they certainly forced their pace, and in some cases paupers and criminals determined the limits of the possible. In other ways the consequences of reform unintentionally empowered the poor, or particular groups outside the state (such as thief-takers ), at the expense of local officials.

For the ‘deserving’ poor, support was increasingly tied to their parish of settlement, while the ‘undeserving’ poor were frequently put to hard labour, whether in a house of correction or a workhouse. In the process the balance of power between justices of the peace, parish officials and the poor was realigned. In this triangular relationship, overseers and churchwardens were substantially disempowered in their negotiations with the poor, who could now appeal more effectively to a justice. At the same time, settlement examinations, certificates and badges created a new technology of identity that gave to the settled poor evidence they could deploy in new ways in their negotiations with both parish officers and justices. A new kind of legal agency was created that was no longer in thrall to the discretion of the parish officers .

In relation to the activities of the reformation of manners campaign and in the development of penal policy, pressure from below limited what was possible, preventing both the systematic prosecution of vice and a bloodbath at the gallows. Although the growing number of Londoners tried at the Old Bailey or committed to a house of correction was ultimately the result of more systematic policing and prosecution, convict resistance shaped penal strategies. In addition, the poor could take advantage of the increasingly mercenary approach to policing, in which anyone could make an information and obtain a reward.

Although the poor were to some extent divided in terms of access to relief, and no doubt also in attitudes towards criminality, new alliances evolved, not only among criminals and the poor but also on occasion with those among their social superiors who also resisted change. These new alliances, already evident in the Sacheverell Riots of 1710, set the stage for the explosion of popular protest and resistance which accompanied the Hanoverian accession.


  1. LMA, ‘Minutes of the Court of the President and Governors for the Poor of London, 1702–1705’, CLA/075/01/007, 17 May 1704, f. 127.

  2. Online dataset: St Dionis Backchurch Poor Law Expenditure 1688–1803.

  3. Old Bailey Online, Statistics: Defendant gender, 1695, and Defendant gender: Thefts, 1696–1702. Note that the 1695 figure has been pro-rated to account for the fact that the January edition of the Proceedings has not survived. Similarly, the figure for 1696 to 1702 is calculated on the basis of surviving editions of the Proceedings only.

  4. D. W. Jones, War and Economy in the Age of William III and Marlborough (London: Basil Blackwell, 1988); Christopher Edgar Challis, A New History of the Royal Mint (Cambridge University Press, 1992); W. G. Hoskins, ‘Harvest fluctuations and English economic history, 1620–1759’, Agricultural History Review, 16:1 (1968), 19; E. A. Wrigley and R. S. Schofield, The Population History of England, 1541–1871: A Reconstruction (London: Edward Arnold, 1981), p. 643.

  5. For a recent discussion of the notion of a ‘right to relief’ that contradicts this point, see Steve Hindle, On the Parish?: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c.1550–1750 (Oxford University Press, 2004), ch. 6.

  6. There is some dispute about the precise numbers, but see E. A. Wrigley, ‘A simple model of London’s importance in changing English society and economy, 1650–1750’, Past & Present, 37 (1967), 44. Vanessa Harding suggests that population growth in the late seventeenth century was stronger than previously recognised: ‘The population of London, 1550–1700: a review of the published evidence’, London Journal, 15:2 (1990), 123.

  7. Craig Spence, London in the 1690s: A Social Atlas (London: Centre for Metropolitan History, 2000), p. 63.

  8. A Collection of the Yearly Bills of Mortality, from 1657 to 1758 Inclusive. Together with several other bills of an earlier date (1759), p. 122. In the ten years between 1695 and 1704, the Bills recorded an average annual surplus of 4,917 deaths over christenings.

  9. Peter Earle, A City Full of People: Men and Women of London, 1650–1750 (London: Methuen, 1994), pp. 39–46.

  10. Nationally, the latter half of the century witnessed the lowest ‘dependency ratio’ in pre-modern English history. See Wrigley and Schofield, Population History of England, pp. 443–5. In-migration would have made the equivalent figures for London even more pronounced.

  11. On levels of expenditure per hundred thousand of the population, see Paul Slack, Poverty and Policy in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Longman, 1988), pp. 181–2.

  12. Patricia Fumerton, Unsettled: The Culture of Mobility and the Working Poor in Early Modern England (University of Chicago Press, 2006).

  13. Earle, City Full of People, pp. 46–9.

  14. See Roger Finlay and Beatrice Shearer, ‘Population growth and suburban expansion’, in A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700: The Making of the Metropolis (London: Longman, 1986), pp. 37–59.

  15. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 6 December 1693 – 23 December 1694 (LMSLPS150050021). Anxiety about migration to the City had a long history even in 1694, and the language used here is mirrored in several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century presentments.

  16. Nationally, Paul Slack identifies this period as witnessing a marked rise in poor relief, with urban parishes in the vanguard: Slack, Poverty and Policy, p. 182.

  17. The Board of Trade estimate for London for 1695 was £40,847. See Stephen Macfarlane, ‘Social policy and the poor in the later seventeenth century’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, p. 255. See also, Spence, London in the 1690s, p. 109; compared to national Board of Trade figures at £400,000, in Slack, Poverty and Policy, pp. 170–1.

  18. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 6 December 1693 – 23 December 1694 (LMSLPS150050187).

  19. Spence, London in the 1690s, p. 109.

  20. For an overview of this literature, see [Joyce Oldham Appleby, Economic Thought and Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England (Princeton University Press, 1978; repr. 2004), and Julian Hoppit, A Land of Liberty? England 1689–1727 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000), pp. 190–4.

  21. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 8 December 1692 – 28 November 1693 (LMSLPS150040128).

  22. These figures have been adjusted to account for up to three missing sessions in each year (out of eight). For similar data for the City of London only, see John Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, 1660–1750: Urban Crime and the Limits of Terror (Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 41.

  23. Tony Claydon, William III and the Godly Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1996); Steve Pincus, 1688: The First Modern Revolution (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2009).

  24. W. R. Ward, ‘The relation of enlightenment and religious revival in central Europe and in the English-speaking world’, in Derek Baker, ed., Reform and Reformation: England and the Continent c. 1500–1700 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1979), pp. 281–305; W. R. Ward, ‘Power and piety: the origins of religious revival in the early eighteenth century’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library of Manchester, 63:1 (1980); and Claydon, William III.

  25. The standard, but now outdated, work on this subject remains Dudley W. R. Bahlman, The Moral Revolution of 1688 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1957; repr. Archon Books, 1968). The most recent comprehensive studies are in the form of unpublished PhD dissertations: A. G. Craig, ‘The movement for the reformation of manners, 1688–1715’ (Edinburgh University, 1980); and Tina Beth Isaacs, ‘Moral crime, moral reform, and the state in early eighteenth-century England: a study of piety and politics’ (University of Rochester, 1979). See also Faramerz Dabhoiwala, The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution (London: Allen Lane, 2012), ch. 2; Faramerz Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies for moral reform, 1688–1800’, Journal of British Studies, 46:2 (2007), 290–319; Robert Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment: Petty Crime and the Law in London and Rural Middlesex, c. 1660–1725 (Cambridge University Press, 1991), ch. 9; and Robert Shoemaker, ‘Reforming the city: the reformation of manners campaign in London, 1690–1738’, in L. Davison et al., eds., Stilling the Grumbling Hive: The Response to Social and Economic Problems in England, 1689–1750 (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1992), pp. 99–120.

  26. His Majesties Letter to the Lord Bishop of London (London, 1689), p. 4.

  27. Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies’, 298.

  28. LMA, Middlesex Sessions: ‘Sessions papers’, MJ/SP/1689/08/010.

  29. Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, pp. 238–9.

  30. Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies’, 298 and n. 47; LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 6 January 1689 – 8 August 1695, see 16 December 1689 (BBBRMG202010034) and following pages.

  31. Antimoixeia: or, the Honest and Joynt Design of the Tower-Hamblets for the General Suppression of Bawdy Houses, As Incouraged by the Publick Magistrates (1691).

  32. Bahlman, Moral Revolution, pp. 17–18, 33–4.

  33. Shoemaker, ‘Reforming the city’, in Davison et al., eds., Stilling the Grumbling Hive, p. 105, Table 6.1.

  34. Proposals for a National Reformation of Manners (1694), pp. 24, 34–5; Online dataset: SRM Prosecutions, 1693–1738.

  35. LMA, Middlesex Sessions: ‘Session rolls’, MJ/SR/1751–1764 (Westminster sessions only); total figure has been adjusted to account for the one unavailable calendar for that year. The percentage is based on the January and April Sessions: MJ/SR/1751 (January 1690); MJ/SR/1754 (April 1690).

  36. Online dataset: LM Waiting and Charge Books 1686–1733.xlsx.

  37. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 7 July 1693 (BBBRMG202010284) et seq. This figure includes only those prisoners who were present in Bridewell at the time the court sat. It is likely that even more people accused of these offences had been committed, but discharged before the governors met.

  38. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 22 September 1693 (BBBRMG202010313). See also LL, set, ‘James Jenkins’, and set, ‘Bodenham Rewse’.

  39. LMA, City of London: ‘Mansion House charge book’, CLC/286/MS00487/002, 16 November 1693.

  40. LMA, City of London: Sessions, ‘City sessions rolls’, CLA/047/LJ/02, Newgate Prison Calendar, October 1693.

  41. Isaacs, ‘Moral crime, moral reform’, p. 348.

  42. Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, pp. 241–4, 252–72.

  43. Edinburgh University Library (EUL), Laing Mss., III, 394, f. 503.

  44. LMA, City of London: Sessions, ‘City sessions rolls’, CLA/047/LJ/03, October 1693, recognizance 20 and unnumbered indictment of Thomas Dias; ‘Mansion House charge book’, 25 November 1693 and 29 July 1694.

  45. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, p. 246. See also LL, set, ‘James Cooper’.

  46. LMA, City of London: ‘Mansion House charge book’, 29 July 1693. See also 8 July 1693, and LMA, City of London: ‘Lord Mayor’s waiting book’, vol.xv, CLA/004/01/01/015, 15 July 1694.

  47. Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, pp. 253–60.

  48. EUL, Laing Mss., III, 394, ff. 221–6.

  49. LL, set, ‘Jonathan Easden’.

  50. LL, Old Bailey Proceedings, 18 April 1694 (t16940418-27).

  51. Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies’, 305–6.

  52. LL, Middlesex Sessions: ‘Sessions papers’, December 1696 (LMSMPS500460185).

  53. LMA, Middlesex Sessions: ‘Sessions books’, MJ/SBB/500, October 1692, pp. 50–1; Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, p. 246. Some prostitutes, however, successfully challenged their commitments.

  54. EUL, Laing Mss, III, 394, ff. 329–58, 415–20; [Edward] Fowler, A Vindication of a Late Undertaking of Certain Gentlemen (1692), p. 12.

  55. Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies’, 306–7.

  56. Josiah Woodward, An Account of the Rise and Progress of the Religious Societies in the City of London, etc. and of the Endeavours for Reformation of Manners (2nd edn, 1698), p. 86.

  57. LL, set, ‘Elizabeth Bird’.

  58. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 6 January 1689–8 August 1695 (BBBRMG202010333).

  59. LL, set, ‘Jane Glover’; and set, ‘Elizabeth Prince’.

  60. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 6 January 1689–8 August 1695 (BBBRMG202010327).

  61. A Sixth Black List of Names or Reputed Names of Eight Hundred and Forty Three Leud and Scandalous Persons, who, By the Endeavours of a Society for Promoting a Reformation of Manners in the City of London, and Suburbs thereof, have been Legally Prosecuted and Convicted* (1700).

  62. Macfarlane, ‘Social policy and the poor’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700 p. 259.

  63. PP, Journals of the House of Lords, 7 March 1697/8, p. 227.

  64. Hindle, On the Parish?, p. 310.

  65. 14 Charles II c. 12, 19 March 2020).

  66. 3 & 4 William and Mary c. 11, 19 March 2020). See also James Stephen Taylor, ‘The impact of pauper settlement, 1691–1834’, Past & Present, 73 (1976), 42–74.

  67. It was engrossed on 27 January 1691/2. PP, Journals of the House of Commons, 26 January 1691/2.

  68. 3 & 4 William and Mary c. 11, viii, 19 March 2020).

  69. See LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 10 January 1690 – 23 December 1694 (LMSLPS150010002 to LMSLPS150050194). The winter of 1693–4 was also marked by historically high bread prices.

  70. LL, set, ‘Henry Bates’.

  71. Walter M. Stern, The Porters of London (London: Longman, 1960), pp. 13–14.

  72. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 8 December 1692 – 28 November 1693 (LMSLPS150040208).

  73. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 13 March 1691 – 14 December 1692 (LMSLPS150030173).

  74. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 13 March 1691 – 14 December 1692 (LMSLPS150030174).

  75. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 8 December 1692 – 28 November 1693 (LMSLPS150040205).

  76. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 8 December 1692 – 28 November 1693 (LMSLPS150040207).

  77. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 6 January 1689 – 8 August 1695 (BBBRMG202010285).

  78. 9 George I c. 7, 30 Dec. 2013).

  79. 8 & 9 William III c. 30.

  80. A further ‘Act for explaining an Act made the last Session’ was passed hurriedly in the spring of 1697–8, making explicit the circumstances in which certificate holders could establish a new settlement. 9 William III c. 11.

  81. Hindle, On the Parish?, p. 310.

  82. The issue of whether having a certificate precluded gaining a settlement through other means, and the status of the children and grandchildren of certificate holders, ensured that appeals and legal challenges would continue. For the role of appeals and precedent in the evolution of the law of settlement, see Carolyn Steedman, ‘Lord Mansfield’s women’, Past & Present, 176 (2002), 105–43.

  83. LL, St Clement Danes Parish: Minutes of Parish Vestries, 22 January 1700 – 1 May 1709 (WCCDMV362170138).

  84. LL, St Clement Danes Parish: Register of Pauper Settlement and Bastardy Examinations, 8 June 1703 – 14 June 1707 (WCCDRD366000201-WCCDRD366000213).

  85. LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, 14 October 1693 (LMSMPS500770013).

  86. LL, St Botolph Aldgate Parish: Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor Account Books, 1689–1715 (GLBAAC100000103).

  87. In the most comprehensive recent analysis of badging in an English context, Steve Hindle recognises the ambiguity of badges as symbols, and their multivalent meanings for both elite commentators and parish officers, but substantially downplays their strategic value to the poor as a technology of identity: Steve Hindle, ‘Dependency, shame and belonging: badging the deserving poor, c. 1550–1750’, Cultural & Social History, 1:1 (2004), 6–35.

  88. 8 & 9 William III c. 30.

  89. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 23 August 1695 – 2 May 1701 (BBBRMG202020206).

  90. LL, Bridewell Royal Hospital: Minutes of the Court of Governors, 23 August 1695 – 2 May 1701 (BBBRMG202020429).

  91. LL, St Dionis Backchurch Parish: Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor Account Books, 1689–1720 (GLDBAC300000444).

  92. LL, St Dionis Backchurch Parish: Minutes of Parish Vestries, 7 January 1690 – 19 December 1711 (GLDBMV305000332).

  93. LL, St Clement Danes Parish: Register of Pauper Settlement and Bastardy Examinations, 8 June 1703 – 14 June 1707 (WCCDRD366000086).

  94. LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, July 1706 (LMSMPS506880038).

  95. LL, St Botolph Aldgate Parish: Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor Account Books, 1689–1715 (GLBAAC100000253 and GLBAAC100000314).

  96. The parish ordered a further 17s. 6d. worth in July 1704; twelve dozen in November 1712 and a further six dozen in June 1713. LL, St Botolph Aldgate Parish: Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor Account Books, 1689–1715; GLBAAC100000253, GLBAAC100000331, GLBAAC100000423 and GLBAAC100000455.

  97. For an analysis of the geography of begging in eighteenth-century London, see Tim Hitchcock, ‘Locating beggars on the streets of eighteenth-century London’, in Kim Kippen and Lori Woods, eds., Worth and Repute: Valuing Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2011), pp. 73–92.

  98. See Paul Slack, ‘Hospitals, workhouses and the relief of the poor in early-modern London’, in Andrew Cunningham and Ole Peter Grell, eds., Health Care and Poor Relief in Protestant Europe 1500–1700 (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 234–51; Paul Slack, From Reformation to Improvement: Public Welfare in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), pp. 90, 101; and Joanna Innes, ‘Prisons for the poor: English bridewells, 1555–1800’, in F. Snyder and D. Hay, eds., Labour, Law and Crime: An Historical Perspective (London: Tavistock, 1987), pp. 42–122.

  99. Josiah Woodward, The Duty of Compassion to the Souls of Others (1697), p. xii. See also Woodward, Sodom’s Vices (1700), pp. 14–15.

  100. This initiative followed the example of the Corporation established at Bristol in 1696. See Mary Fissell, Patients, Power and the Poor in Eighteenth-Century Bristol (Cambridge University Press, 1991), ch. 4.

  101. Quoted in Macfarlane,’Social policy and the poor’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, p. 262.

  102. Although we do not know the gender and age breakdown of the paupers involved in this scheme, the spinning was specifically chosen as ‘such work as women & Children in the Contrey use to do’. Quoted in Macfarlane, ‘Social policy and the poor’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, p. 262.

  103. Macfarlane, ‘Social policy and the poor’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, p. 262.

  104. Reasons Humbly Offered to this Honourable House why a Bill Pretended to Give Further Powers to the Corporation for Setting the Poor of the City of London… Should Not Pass (n.d.,? 1700).

  105. Macfarlane, ‘Social policy and the poor’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, p. 264.

  106. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 10 August 1705 – 20 November 1706 (LMSLPS150170027).

  107. Macfarlane, ‘Social policy and the poor’, in Beier and Finlay, eds., London 1500–1700, pp. 268–9. For evidence of the continuing role of the ‘keeper’s side’ as a house of correction, see Faramerz Dabhoiwala, ‘Summary justice in early-modern London’, English Historical Review, 121:492 (2006), 803–5.

  108. 11 William III c. 18, 19 March 2020).

  109. For an early printed order, see LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, 17 May 1701 (LMSMPS500790012).

  110. Bahlman, Moral Revolution, p. 24.

  111. The best modern history of the early years of the SPCK remains Leonard W. Cowie, Henry Newman: An American in London, 1708–1743 (London: SPCK, 1956).

  112. Woodward, Account of the Rise and Progress, p. 83.

  113. Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies’, 294–5; David Hayton, ‘Moral reform and country politics in the late seventeenth-century House of Commons’, Past & Present, 128 (1990), 58–60.

  114. Joseph Downing acted for both the SPCK and the Societies for the Reformation of Manners. See Joseph Downing, A New Catalogue of Books and Small Tracts Against Vice and Immorality; and for Promoting the Knowledge & Practice of the Christian Religion… [1708]; Isaacs, ‘Moral crime, moral reform’, p. 152.

  115. Although the list published in 1700 was described as the ‘sixth’ black list, no lists survive for the years 1695–7.

  116. A Sixth Black List of Names.

  117. Thomas Jekyll, A Sermon Preach’d at St Mary-le-Bow, June 27, 1698. Before the Societies for Reformation of Manners (1698), pp. iii–iv.

  118. Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, p. 258.

  119. LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, July 1703 (LMSMPS500900044). See also LL, set, ‘John Cooper’; and set,’Thomas Cook’.

  120. LL, Ordinary of Newgate Prison: Ordinary’s Accounts, 11 August 1703 (OA170308110308110001).

  121. An Excellent New Copy of Verses, Being the Sorrowful Lamentation of Mrs Cooke (1703).

  122. Dabhoiwala, ‘Sex and societies’, 305. See also LL, set, ‘John Dent’.

  123. LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, April 1709 (LMSMPS501050014).

  124. Thomas Bray, The Good Fight of Faith … Exemplified in a Sermon Preached the 24th of March 1708/9 (1709), p. 15. Dent’s reformation of manners activities are substantiated in the registers of prosecutions kept by the reformers, which indicate that he brought several people accused of working on the Sabbath before justices of the peace between 1704 and 1707. See Bodleian Library, Rawlinson Mss., D1399.

  125. LMA, Middlesex Sessions: ‘Sessions rolls’, MJ/SR/1972, R. 222–223 (Sept. 1701).

  126. LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, April 1709 (LMSMPS501050019). See also LL, set, ‘Anne Dickins’.

  127. LL, Middlesex Sessions: Sessions Papers, April 1709 (LMSMPS501050014).

  128. LMA, Middlesex Sessions: ‘Sessions rolls’, MJ/SR/2136, R. 183 (Sept. 1709).

  129. LL, set, ‘Elizabeth Claxton’.

  130. A Report of all the Cases Determined by Sir John Holt, Knt. from 1688 to 1710 (1738), pp. 406–7, 489–90; Shoemaker, Prosecution and Punishment, p. 261.

  131. The Fourteenth Account of the Progress made in Suppressing Profaneness and Debauchery, by the Societies for Reformation of Manners (1709).

  132. Craig, ‘Reformation of manners’, pp. 222, 271–91; Tina Isaacs, ‘The Anglican hierarchy and the reformation of manners 1688–1738’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 33 (1982), 401–2; Geoffrey Holmes, ‘The Sacheverell riots: the crowd and the church in early eighteenth-century London’, Past & Present, 72 (1976), 73–5.

  133. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 315ff.

  134. 3 William and Mary c. 9, 19 March 2020; Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, p. 318.

  135. 10 & 11 William III c. 23; Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 37, 67, 317, 328.

  136. The Great Grievance of Traders and Shopkeepers, by the Notorious Practice of Stealing their Goods out of their Shops and Warehouses (1699).

  137. 4 & 5 William and Mary c. 8, 19 March 2020.

  138. 10 & 11 William III, c. 23; Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, p.317.

  139. 6 Anne c. 31, i.

  140. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, ch. 5, figure quoted from page 233. See also Tim Wales, ‘Thief-takers and their clients in later Stuart London’, in Paul Griffiths and Mark S. R. Jenner, eds., Londinopolis: A Social and Cultural History of Early Modern London (Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 67–85.

  141. LL, set, ‘James Jenkins’; and set, ‘Bodenham Rewse’.

  142. Tim Wales, ‘Rewse, Bodenham (d. 1725), thief-taker and prison warden’ ODNB); Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 237–46; Wales, ‘Thief-takers and their clients’, in Griffiths and Jenner, eds., Londinopolis,p. 76.

  143. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 134–6.

  144. Wales, ‘Thief-takers and their clients’, in Griffiths and Jenner, eds., Londinopolis, p. 77; Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 237, 241–2.

  145. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, p. 308.

  146. Henri Misson, M. Misson’s Memoirs and Observations in his Travels over England, trans. M.Ozell ([1719]), pp. 124–5.

  147. Hanging, Not Punishment Enough, for Murtherers, High-way Men and House Breakers (1701), pp. 6, 21. See also Timothy Nourse, Campania Foelix: Or, a Discourse of the Benefits and Improvements of Husbandry (1706), p. 230.

  148. Narcissus Luttrell, A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714 (Oxford University Press, 1857), III, p. 345. See also LL, set, ‘Charles Pynes’.

  149. Nourse, Campania Foelix, p. 229.

  150. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 11 January 1703 – 24 November 1704 (LMSLPS150150024).

  151. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, p. 331, citing PP, Journals of the House of Commons, 19 December 1704, p. 463.

  152. For a discussion of branding in a European context, see Valentin Groebner, Who Are You? Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe (New York: Zone Books, 2007), p. 105.

  153. LL, Ordinary of Newgate Prison: Ordinary’s Accounts, 28 May 1714 (OA171405281405280005). See also LL, Molly Fisher, ‘Roderick Awdry’.

  154. 5 Anne c. 6, i.

  155. John Beattie, Crime and the Courts in England, 1660–1800 (Princeton University Press, 1986), p. 497; Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 331–3.

  156. See Luttrell, Brief Historical Relation, Vol. IV, p. 241; and Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 363–5. For a similar development in the 1780s, see Chapter 7.

  157. LL, set, ‘Robert Beames’.

  158. LL, set, ‘Katherine Buckingham’.

  159. LL, set, ‘Bodenham Rewse’; LL, Old Bailey Proceedings, 10 September 1712 (t17120910-17).

  160. Edmund McClure, ed., A Chapter in English Church History (London: SPCK, 1888), pp. 48–51.

  161. 11 & 12 William III c. 19.

  162. Innes, ‘Prisons for the poor’, in Snyder and Hay, eds., Labour, Law and Crime, pp. 88–9, calculates that a fifth of defendants convicted of property crimes between 1707 and 1718 were committed to houses of correction.

  163. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, p. 334; Innes, ‘Prisons for the poor’, pp. 89–90.

  164. Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, ‘Convict transportation from Britain and Ireland 1615–1870’, History Compass, 8 (2010), 1121, 1224–5; see also Peter Wilson Coldham, Emigrants in Chains: A Social History of Forced Emigration to the Americas of Felons, Destitute Children, Political and Religious Non-Conformists, Vagabonds, Beggars and Other Undesirables, 1607–1776 (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1992).

  165. Beattie, Policing and Punishment in London, pp. 362–4.

  166. LL, City of London Sessions: Sessions Papers, 11 January 1703 – 24 November 1704 (LMSLPS150150024).