Samuel Badham, 1692-1740

Beggar and Wife Murderer

Early Life

Samuel Badham was born on the 27th of May 1692 in the parish of St. Mary Overy, Southwark. He attended the local parish school where he learned to read and, quite unusually, gained a substantial knowledge of the scriptures. At the appropriate age Badham was apprenticed to a shoemaker by the name of Matthew Bird in Thames Street in the City of London. He completed his apprenticeship and subsequently worked at this trade, keeping a stall in Tooley Street, where he claimed he "took fifteen or twenty shillings a week for second-hand shoes, and for mending jobs". Employment in his early life allowed Badham to maintain a fairly comfortable lifestyle.

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Marriage and Children

It is unclear when Badham married and his wife's name is equally unknown. He told the Ordinary that they had several (at least 5) children together, all christened in the parish of St. Olave's, London. Sadly only one of their children, a son, was still alive in 1740 (when he was 24). The son appears to have followed his father's footsteps in the profession of shoemaking. The family lived on St Olave's Street in Southwark, just southeast of London Bridge.

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Shortly after the early death of his wife around 1730 Badham was seized by an unknown illness which badly affected his feet. After this illness Badham was unable to wear shoes so instead walked with a thick bundle of rags tied under the soles of his feet and with the aid of a stick in each hand. This illness, coupled with his decaying business, thrust Badham into extreme poverty, and he began to work for his father’s brother in the business of coney-wool cutting (preparing rabbit fur for hatters). But this work "not answering my expectation" he chose to resort to begging for charity on the streets. Badham's ragged appearance combined with his substantial knowledge of the scriptures learned in childhood made him rather successful at begging, a "profession" which he continued throughout the rest of his life. Appearing essentially healthy, he "fitted the stereotype of the essentially healthy (despite his feet) adult male beggar, who used his intelligence, his ability to weave the right words into a subtle plea, in order to wrest a meagre income from well-to-do Londoners".1

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Relationship with Susannah Hart

During these years of begging Badham travelled across London, staying in cheap lodging houses wherever he happened to be at night. In one such house, the Crooked Billet in Hog Lane St Giles, he met Susannah Hart, a woman who made her living sweeping the entrances of French gentleman’s houses in Rathbone Place and by scouring their brass knockers, as well as by going on errands for servants. Susannah's father had earned a good living lending money to soldiers, and Susannah brought a substantial dowry to her marriage to Simon Hart. Having worked through her dowry, however, and passed on his venereal disease, Simon abandoned Susannah in the mid 1730s.

Sometime in 1738 Badham moved in with Susannah, to a rented room leased from a Richard Booker on the second floor of his house in Farmer's Court, St Giles. Their relationship was often quarrelsome, however, due, as Badham told the Ordinary, to Hart’s excessive drinking and drunken fits. He claimed that in one such fit she smothered a child he had had by her. She also had a habit of pawning her clothes (perhaps to pay for alcohol) and one day he discovered her wearing a gown provided by the parish. This deeply offended Badham, who said "there's nobody that ever belonged to me ever wore a parish gown" and so he begged money so he could buy her another.

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On the 20th May 1740, after they had been living together for about two years, Hart returned home in an intoxicated state at around ten o'clock in the morning. Badham, who had spent the previous night in a lodging house, had had no sleep and they quarrelled. After shouting at each other and a prolonged struggle Badham strangled Hart to death with his bare hands, leaving bruises that matched his fingers around her neck. Cries of "murder!" were heard from their room by neighbours and other lodgers but were dismissed due to the frequent outcries heard from the couple. Hart's body was not found until several hours after the attack had taken place. Badham was interviewed by Thomas De Veil and committed to Newgate a week later.2

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Trial and Execution

The trial of Samuel Badham took place on the 9th of July 1740. Several witnesses reported hearing Susannah cry out "murder!" that morning but no one intervened, while the marks on her neck suggested that she had been strangled, and Badham had not left the room. He claimed in his defence that she had been very drunk and had previously fallen down the stairs, but this was denied by his landlord, Richard Booker. Badham was found guilty and sentenced to death.

According to the Ordinary, though Badham was unwilling to admit his guilt, he behaved well while in Newgate awaiting his execution. He "talk'd scripture very much, was willing to be thought penitent, and declared he died in peace with all the world".

His execution took place on Wednesday, August 6, 1740 at Tyburn. The Ordinary reported that Badham's surviving son accompanied him and both displayed a "deep sorrow" which "very much affected the spectators".

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External Sources

  • Hitchcock, Tim. Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London. 2004, pp. 213-15.


1 Tim Hitchcock, Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London (2004), pp. 213-15.

2 General Evening Post Thursday, May 29, 1740'''.

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About this Biography

Created by

Sophie Brookes

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker