Mary Nichols, alias Trolly Lolly, c. 1685-1715

Thief with the Alias of "Trolly Lolly"

Mary Nichols claimed she was driven to steal by her poverty. Her use of an alias during her final trial at the Old Bailey may have been an attempt to hide her previous convictions.

Early Life and Marriage

In the Ordinary’s Account of her life, Mary Nichols was described as aged 30 (in 1715), having been born in Deptford, Kent. Like many young women, she came to London when young, though we do not know when.

When in London she married a butcher. Initially she earned an honest living selling meat (provided by her husband) and sometimes fish, eggs, butter and fruit, on the streets of London and Southwark.

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Turns to Crime

Around 1713 she started stealing. Mary told the Ordinary there were two reasons she turned to crime: the cost of taking care of herself and her children and the fact her husband had begun to mistreat her. These circumstances led her to "extream Poverty, and by that driven to Stealing".

Trial and Branding for Thievery

Mary Nichols first appears in London Lives after she was apprehended for theft and tried at the Old Bailey on 9 December 1714. Nichols was listed as living in the "precinct of St Katherines" (by the Tower), though this is likely to be where the crime occurred. She was accused of stealing a brass kettle worth 5s and other goods out of the house of Edward Blount on the 9th of October.

Blount deposed that after he lost these goods, Nichols appeared and for the payment of a crown, told him where the items had been sold. By going to that place, Blount discovered that Mary herself had actually sold the objects. (Mary's attempt to extort further money from the victim of this crime was clearly ill-advised, and may reflect desperation.)

In her defence, Nichols argued that she had been given the items by a sailor. However she could not provide any proof of this, nor could she produce anyone to her reputation and good character. She was found guilty and sentenced to be branded.

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Trolly Lolly

Nine months later she appears at the Old Bailey again, this time using an alias, Trolly Lolly. Now listed as from the East End parish of St Mary Whitechapel (which again, may only be the location of the crime), she was indicted for breaking into the house of Christopher Hurt on 22 July 1715 and stealing "1 Pair of Flaxen Sheets, value 10 s. and other Goods".

Hurt testified that early that morning he had been awoken by a noise, and looking out his window saw Nichols leaving his house with the stolen items. Hurt then ran after Nichols and apprehended her. Hurt’s lodger stated that he had left early that morning to attend to business and was sure he locked the door behind him, leaving the key underneath it.

Having been apprehended with the stolen goods, there was not much Mary could say in her defence, so she attempted to prove that she hadn't broken into the house, and thus could only be convicted of a simple felony, not burglary. She said "she was going a hay-making and saw the door wide open". Deemed a "very poor" defence, her evidence was contradicted by the lodger's testimony that the door had been locked.

Nichols was found guilty of burglary and sentenced to death. She pleaded her belly, but was found by the jury of matrons not to be pregnant was therefore conveyed to Newgate Prison to await her execution.

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Confession to the Ordinary

Mary confessed her guilt to the Ordinary of Newgate, adding that she had been burned in the hand for a previous conviction, and was guilty of "several felonies" besides. Paul Lorrain, the Ordinary, "found her very ignorant; yet, I hope, she at last became sensible of the heinousness of her sins, so as to repent of them in good earnest".

Mary Nichols was hanged at Tyburn on Wednesday 21 September 1715.

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About this Biography

Created by

Edward Duncan 

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker