John Page fl. 1742-1757

"Honest" Labouring Man Summoned to Appear Before both the Poor Law and Judicial Authorities

Together with his wife Sarah, John Page struggled to make ends meet as he moved between jobs in St Pancras and Westminster. In the process, he could not avoid the attention of both parish officials and the judiciary, but he was never convicted of any wrongdoing.

Early Life, Marriage, and Service

It is not known when or where John Page was born. He first appears in our records as a live-in servant with a Mr Hansted, a farmer near Kentish town in the parish of St Pancras. He was paid ten pounds a year.

In approximately 1742 he married a woman named Sarah at the Fleet, London. They had two children, Mary in 1745 and Thomas in 1747.

John held a number of different jobs, working as a farm labourer in St Pancras and, between approximately 1746 and 1753, as a servant to William Thorp, a coal merchant.

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At the Old Bailey

John's first appearance at the Old Bailey was as a prosecutor. In February 1751 he prosecuted Thomas Willis for stealing a lamb, value 6s, from him, but Willis was acquitted.

The following June the tables were turned. Together with John Meadows, John was committed to Newgate Prison by Henry Fielding for breaking open the house of Pury Kester and robbing him of four china bowls, a pewter dish, and other things.1 The case came to trial at the Old Bailey in June 1752. At the same time, Page was also tried, with Benjamin Breech, for breaking into the house of Michael Gibbons and stealing six great coats, value six pounds. In both the cases the evidence against them came from a single witness, and the defendants were acquitted.

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Difficult Times in St Clement Danes

At around this time the family appears to have moved to St Clement Danes in Westminster, where they attracted the attention of the poor law officials. In November 1752 John was one of a number of inhabitants who were tenants in buildings let out as tenements, summoned to attend the vestry to "shew cause why they shd. not be removed to their respective settlemts. or produce a Certificate". John seems to have satisfied the officials, though the following February he was summoned again, this time to explain why he had failed to pay his poor rate.

In June 1753 Sarah must have applied for relief, as she subjected to a settlement examination, which established that the family's settlement was in St Pancras, where John had been a live-in servant for more than a year. The same day, the family was removed from St Clement Danes to St Pancras.

After they returned to St Pancras, John worked for Catherine Burcher and her husband as a servant, selling hay from their farm.

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Further Trials

Soon after this move, in November 1753, his wife Sarah was tried at the Old Bailey for stealing a pewter pot from John Green, but was acquitted.

For some reason, the family moved back to Westminster. In 1757 they were lodging in a house belonging to Mr James Carse in Dean Street, High Holborn. Carse claimed that on the 5th of November the two stole three blankets, value 3 s, two linen sheets, one bed quilt, one copper tea kettle, one pair of tongs, one trivet, one bolster, one brass fender, one pair of bellows, and one curtain from their rented room.

At their trial in December, Carse claimed that Sarah had confessed to pawning the goods at several shops. She admitted this, but claimed that John had been sick and out of work, implying that she had only pawned the goods temporarily in order to make ends meet. John claimed that he had not entered the shops, and Sarah confirmed that he had been standing outside the door.

Character witnesses for the defence painted very different characters of John and Sarah. William Thorp, for whom John had worked for more than seven years, told the court "he behaved very honestly while with me". James Page, John's nephew, said, he had "known him all my life time. I would trust him with a million of money if I had it". Catherine Burcher said she had known John for about four years and "he has been trusted to bring money home for hay, and he has brought it very honestly; he is a very honest man".

Sarah, on the other hand, was damned by the same witnesses: "to the woman she is very bad".

Unsurprisingly, John was found innocent of the crime, but his wife Sarah was found guilty and sentenced to branding of the hand.

Thereafter the two cannot be identified in the records with any certainty.

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External Sources

  • London Evening Post. Tuesday, June 16, 1752, issue 3848.


1 London Evening Post, Tuesday, June 16, 1752, issue 3848.

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About this Biography

Victoria Philpott

Victoria Philpott 

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker