John Simpson, fl. 1748-1754

Pauper Transported for Shoplifting

John Simpson appears guilty of only one crime in the London Lives records, but the impact of that crime extended beyond his personal misfortune. Following his transportation, his wife and young daughter were left to negotiate the poor law authorities by themselves.

Service and Marriage

John Simpson lived as a servant for Colonel Mading, lodging in his master's stables at Ham Yard in the parish of St George Hanover Square, earning four pounds a year in his first year and later six pounds a year for his service.

He left his position in approximately 1748, before marrying Margaret on 11h December 1750 at the Fleet, London. Margaret, who may well have been older than John, was the widow of Thomas Harrison, whom she had married in Dublin around 1734. She had one child with Harrison, Mark, who was born around 1745.

It is unclear what profession John took up after his marriage. But Margaret and John moved to the parish of St Clement Danes, where Margaret had a daughter, Ann. On the 30th of March 1752, presumably following and applications for relief, however, they were removed to St. George Hanover Square as their parish of settlement.

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Trial for Shoplifting

On the 11th of January 1753, John was tried at the Old Bailey, together with James Ellice, for stealing five silk handkerchiefs, valued at fifteen shillings from the shop of John Gillingham, just 5 days before the trial.

Gillingham stated that Simpson and Ellice posed as customers, asking to view several different patterned handkerchiefs and bartering over prices. He claimed that John hid the parcel containing the stolen handkerchiefs in his coat, but when Ellice was accused and searched, John flung them on the counter. Simpson stated that he had entered the shop with the intention of buying goods.

Although the goods were worth fifteen shillings, the jury, engaging in "pious perjury", and found the two guilty of shoplifting to the value of only 4s 10d. This meant that they were transported, rather than hanged.

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John was transported on the ship The Thames to America in April 1753.1 Margaret, who had moved back to St Clement Danes, was subjected to another settlement examination in June 1754, in which she is described as "the wife of John Simpson (gone from her)". This led to Margaret and her daughter Ann, now twenty months, being removed back to the parish of St George Hanover Square.

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External Sources

  • Coldham, P. W. The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775. Baltimore, 1988, p. 724.


1 P. W. Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 (Baltimore, 1988), p. 724.

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About this Biography

Created by

Victoria Philpott 

Further contributions by

Robert Shoemaker