Edward Hill fl. 1744-1749

Wayward Apprentice turned Petty Criminal

Possibly influenced by other criminals in his family, Edward Hill misbehaved during his apprenticeship. In a classic example of sliding down the slippery slope, he became a convicted criminal and was transported.

Background and Early Life

We do not know a lot about the early life of Edward Hill but, judging from the fact that he was apprenticed in 1744, he was born in the late 1720s, or early 1730s at the latest. At that time he lived in Baldwin Gardens in the county of Middlesex with his father (also Edward Hill), a tailor, and his father’s wife, Edward’s mother or step-mother.

He may also have had a brother, John Hill, tried with his father Edward for highway robbery, in December 1744. Edward was acquitted, but John was convicted, and executed on the 24th of December. Edward (the father) was identified in the trial as a tailor living in Baldwin Gardens.


Edward was bound as an apprentice to John Sewell, a 'shaggreen case maker', by the permission of his father on 17 September 1744 for a term of 7 years. He apparently did not take his apprenticeship seriously and was constantly in trouble.

Hill was frequently drunk and often gambled by playing cards, and this got him into trouble locally. Sewell claimed he repeatedly had to seek out Hill on these occasions and 'with Gentle words rebuke him’. Sewell appears not to have reported this behaviour until October 1747 when he approached the local justice of the peace to request that the apprenticeship be terminated.

On 12 October 1747, Edward Hill and his father were ordered to attend court the following Friday, to settle the matter. His father was presumably ordered to go with him because he was under 18 as he was in the middle of an apprenticeship. Sewell told the justices that Hill frequently 'got Drunk and Absconded...Assaulted & Beat your Petitioner [John Sewell] & Threatened to Kill him'. After the final assault Hill was committed to New Prison for a short time before his formal dismissal.

Criminal Record

Edward's gambling led him to begin stealing goods from Sewell in order to fund his habit. This was one of the reasons Sewell sought to end the apprenticeship, and his discharge Hill continued down the slippery slope into a life of crime. He appears in the records of the Old Bailey in 1749 on very similar theft charges, though with different outcomes:

On 5 April 1749, he was 'indicted for stealing one pewter quart tankard' from Thomas Roshill on the 9th of March. No testimony is recorded in this case (apparently the prosecutor did not appear) and he was acquitted.

On 6 September, he was again 'indicted, for stealing 1 pewter quart pot', this time from James Close in August. At this trial the jury found him guilty of a lesser offence (petty larceny, of goods to the value of 10 d.) and he was sentenced to be whipped.

Finally on 11 October he was 'indicted for stealing one pewter pint-pot, val. 9 d.' from George Tessel on 6 October, and found guilty. On this occasion he was sentenced to be transported for 7 years. It can only be assumed that this more severe sentence was the result of his previous criminal record.

There is no documentation of Edward Hill’s actual transportation, other than the sentencing, and he does not appear again in the records, so it is unclear whether he was transported, and if so, whether he ever returned to England.

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About this Biography

Created by

Amabel Allen

Further contributions by

Eleanor Veryard