Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bailey Saws

I can almost hear the collective ears of the collecting readership perk up at the subject line. Leonard Bailey saws? Er, no. Whilst looking up a London silversmith online (as you do) I ran across the incredibly interesting "Proceedings of The Old Bailey" dating between 1674 and 1834. The Old Bailey, for the perplexed, being the Central Criminal Court in London. The existence of these records online could be old news to the readership for all I know, but in case you haven't already, a search of cabinet, maker and tools resulted in some fascinating accounts of fellows swiping tools, often immediately pawning them and carelessly leaving the damning pawn broker's "duplicate", or receipt, about their persons. (D'oh) Of course you also get told the value of the tools, which is quite interesting.

Anyway, saws seem to have been a very popular target, as well as the odd plane, rule etc (perhaps not a surprise if you recall this blog's previous dabble into tool theft 18thC style).  But you often can't help felling doubly sorry for the victim. Not only has he had his tools pinched, but he then, it appears, often has to do without them while the case is decided. Viz: Henry Allibone in 1799 had "a hand-saw, value 2s. and a tenon-saw, value 2s." taken. Having done all the legwork to find the villain and summon the constable, concluded his evidence (rather wistfully, it seemed to me) with the comment that "the constable has kept the tenon-saw, and the pawnbroker has kept the hand-saw".

So if you like that kind of thing, I recommend it. Here a few to get you started:
Feb 1767 - Pawnbroker gives poor return on 8s. worth of tools (if you've been watching "City of Vice" you'll probably spot the mention of Justice Fielding)
Feb 1788 - Accused gets familiar with iron bars and files before jail...
June 1789 - It was a fit up, claims accused
Sept 1794 - Shaky saw handle points nib at felon
Sept 1802 - "I took the tools and pawned them, thinking to get them out" confession
Jan 1803 - Phineas Kindred robbed (isn't that a wonderful name?)
Sept 1806 - Victim gives accused good character reference
Sept 1807 - Prisoner regrets defrauding workmate
April 1817 - Accused sells saws in another workshop
June 1818 - Cut and dried case gets seven years transportation
June 1821 - Wouldn't have liked to be in his shoes...


  1. Interesting to see the comparative values in planes and saws. For some reason, the expense of saws had escaped me!

    Pete W (a City of Vice fan)

  2. Brilliant stuff, Alf. I loved the case of James Figett who was convicted because his shoes matched the footprints in the victim's garden. CSI - eat your heart out!



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