Shadrach Guy, c. 1693-1715

Page, Ensign, and Thief

A talented boy from a reputable family with a lust for travel, for unknown reasons Shadrach Guy acquired a thieving habit which led to his eventual downfall.

Early Life and Foreign Travel

Shadrach Guy was born around 1693 in the Parish of St Thomas the Apostle, London. His family were apparently reputable; his father was a captain in General Tollemache’s regiment. Shadrach received a good education. According to the Ordinary of Newgate, "he had learnt to read and write well, his Friends sent him to a Latin School; and then he was taught to cast Accompts, and to speak French". He was apparently also an accomplished dancer, and the Ordinary concluded by saying that he could "carry himself handsomly in any Company".

Shadrach used these characteristics to become the Duke of Roxborough’s page for two years. He then went on to become the Moroccan ambassador’s page for three years, which led the Ordinary to worry that he had moved from the service of a Christian to that of a "Mahumetan".

At this point he was persuaded by some friends to travel, which he did for four years, going to France and Holland. During his time abroad he improved his French and learned to speak Dutch, returning to England in 1713. When asked how he could fund such travels, Shadrach explained he obtained a pass and also ensign’s pay from an Irish officer called Major Rhine, all of which his father had arranged for him.

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His Crimes

However, Shadrach also had a tendency to steal. He told the Ordinary that around 1709 he was committed to Newgate Prison (before his foreign travels) on suspicion of "having stoln a pair of Sheets from his Landlord". However, his landlord refused to prosecute and he was discharged without trial.

Sixteen months after he returned to England from his travels, he was charged with breaking into the house of Ralph Musgrave on 15 January 1715, and stealing "a Gold Watch and Chain, value 35 l. a Pocket-book, 2 pair of Pistols, and other Goods".

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On 23 February 1715 Shadrach Guy was tried at the Old Bailey for burglary, along with Margaret Cock, who was accused of receiving the stolen goods. A lack of evidence led to Cock’s acquittal, but there was no similar lack of evidence against Shadrach.

Musgrave’s clerk confirmed that he had locked the door to Musgrave’s chambers in Staples Inn at eight o’clock, returning at eleven to find them "broke open, and the Goods taken away". Musgrave quickly had a bill printed and distributed, listing the items stolen and asking anyone to whom Shadrach attempted to sell or pawn the stolen goods to "stop" him. Shadrach was accordingly subjected to a search when he tried to pawn a pair of the pistols. During the search he was found to have the pocket-book that was taken and he was arrested.

Shadrach attempted to deny the charges, claiming he had bought the pistols. He even arranged a witness to confirm his story, but according to the Proceedings this amounted to no more than "an Oyster-woman who swore a sort of a blind Story relating thereunto". This was not enough to persuade the court and Shadrach was convicted of burglary and sentenced to death.

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Failed Reprieve

According to the Ordinary’s Account, having received his sentence on 23 February, Shadrach remained in Newgate Prison for unknown reasons "under a Reprieve during pleasure". On 15 June, however, his former sentence was reaffirmed, which the Ordinary notes "he did little expect". Shadrach probably thought that his friends in high places would secure him a pardon.

When told that he would be executed two days later, Shadrach instantly "became very serious, and was very earnest in making Preparation for Death". But when this date turned out to be incorrect, and he learned his execution would not take place for a week, Shadrach immediately began pursuing a further reprieve and even a pardon. This concerned the Ordinary, who was worried by Shadrach’s neglect for his eternal soul and his unwillingness to confess to the crime.

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Shadrach continually refused to acknowledge his most recent crime, but accepted "he had committed many Faults thro' the whole Course of his Life". He specifically mentioned neglecting his service to God and profaning the Lord’s Day, but claimed he never committed a crime.

The Ordinary noted that often Shadrach complained that his prosecutor, Musgrave, had dealt with him too harshly, but was nonetheless resolved to accept his punishment, hoping to be forgiven. He expressed sorrow that he had broken his mother's heart by being a neglectful son. After this revelation, when the Ordinary asked him once more if he had committed the crime Shadrach finally admitted it, and stated that he "That look'd upon this his shameful End as a due Punishment to him for his Undutifulness and Cruelty to his Mother, and wish'd it might be a Warning to others".

He was hanged at Tyburn on the 22nd of June 1715.

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About this Biography

Created by

Edward Duncan 

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker