Christopher Leonard, fl. 1721-1726

An Eighteenth-Century "Supergrass"?

Christopher (Christian or Kitt) Leonard had no scruples about saving his own skin by betraying his companions and turning king's evidence.

King's Evidence

When Philip Storey and John Trantrum pleaded guilty to six burglaries at their trial in October 1721, their accomplice Christian (or Christopher) Leonard was still at large. By March 1722, however, he had been arrested and had turned king's evidence, serving as the prime witness against Mary D'arbieau (or Darbican) in a trial for breaking and entering, when he stated that he, Richard Trantum (not yet taken) and D'arbieau had broken into Joseph Folwell's (or Polwell's) house the previous July and stolen various silver goods. Folwell had offered to make D'arbieau an evidence. She refused, but Leonard had no such scruples. His testimony resulted in her conviction and transportation.

In the following sessions Leonard gave evidence that led to the conviction of Nathaniel Glanister for receiving the goods that Leonard, Richard Trantum and Mary D'arbieau had stolen. Nathaniel's father, Thomas, had absconded, but he was also caught, tried and found guilty of receiving stolen goods in October 1722, with Christopher Leonard again acting the part of the main prosecution witness.

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Murder of Thomas Ball

On 25 January 1726 Leonard was arrested in Surrey and confined in the county gaol accused of assaulting Ann Ball by firing a pistol loaded with powder only, and threatening to shoot her husband, Thomas Ball, with another pistol. He was also suspected of committing several burglaries and highway robberies.1 As this was the day after Edward Burnworth and his gang had murdered Thomas Ball in Southwark, and as Leonard was a known associate of Burnworth,2 it looks as if he was arrested on suspicion for the murder.

However, Burnworth, who must not have been aware of Leonard's previous informations, had been lodging with him and his wife Kate in Tash Street near Gray's Inn Lane, Holborn for some time, and from his cell in Kingston, Leonard instructed his wife to contact some Justices of the Peace to arrange for Burnworth to be captured at his house. He hoped to gain his freedom by this plan. Burnworth was captured on Shrove Tuesday by six men as he waited for Kate Leonard to make him pancakes.3

It is not known whether this ploy secured his release from Kingston gaol after Burnworth's arrest, but Leonard and his wife were awarded £100 for their part in his discovery and apprehension. This was the largest share of the £300 reward that was offered by royal proclamation for Burnworth's arrest.4

Perhaps this reward explains why Leonard does not reappear in the records of London Lives.

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External Sources

  • The National Archives (TNA), SP 35/61/13; T 53/32 ff.418-422.
  • The Tyburn Chronicle: or Villainy Displayed in all its Branches (1768), vol. 2, pp. 232-42.


1 The National Archives (TNA), SP 35/61/13.

2 The Tyburn Chronicle: or Villainy Displayed in all its Branches (1768), vol. 2, p. 232.

3 The Tyburn Chronicle, pp. 240-2. Shove Tuesday fell on 22 February in 1726.

4 TNA T 53/32 ff.418-422.

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About this Biography

Created by

Mary Clayton 

Further contributions by