Search the Capital Convicts Dataset

Use the features in the four large boxes below to define and restrict your searches of the dataset. You might find it useful, first, to consult the “Flowchart” provided here to help you understand the structure of decision-making in each case.

Clicking on the text links (“?”) will open documents which explain the significance of each specific data feature and its basis in historical records. A single PDF document, containing the text of all these individual documents (with supporting references to published scholarship), can also be downloaded by clicking on “Full Notes and References” at the bottom of this page.

Searches are produced by clicking on one of the two buttons at the bottom left of this page. A “Regular Search” will produce a table of individuals. A search using “Plot on Chart” will produce the information on a colour-coded graph.




See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

Until October 1775, and again from December 1816, the printed Proceedings provide both the start and the end dates of each sessions. Until the 1750s, both the Gentleman’s and (especially) the London Magazine scrupulously noted the end dates of sessions, dates of subsequent Recorder’s Reports, and days of execution.

From December 1775 to October 1816, I have derived the end dates of each sessions from newspaper accounts of the trials. Trials at the Old Bailey usually began on a Wednesday. And, of course, no trials were held on Sundays.

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).


See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

I have silently corrected obvious misspellings in the Proceedings (as will be apparent to users who hyper-link through to the trial account at the OBPO), particularly where those misspellings are confirmed in supporting documents. I have also regularized spellings where there may be inconsistencies at different appearances points in the OBPO.

In instances where I have made a more radical change in the convict’s name, I have provided a documentary reference to justify the more marked discrepancy between the name used here and that which appears in the Proceedings.

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).


See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

The printed almost invariably provide the age of each Old Bailey convict from December 1790 onwards. From 1791 onwards, the Home Office’s “Criminal Registers” for London and Middlesex (HO 26) do so as well. However, no volumes in this series exist for 1799 and 1800, and those for 1828-33 inclusive (HO 26/35-39) omit the ages of the convicts. I have not comprehensively compared the ages reported in HO 26 with those given in the Proceedings, and it is not impossible that there are discrepancies between the two.

Until it ceased publication in the 1760s, the Ordinary’s Account (OA) usually noted the ages of all those convicts who were hanged. In all such instances (and more than half of all capital convicts from 1730 through 1770 were hanged), I have not bothered to cite the OA as the source.

In several cases, I have been able to determine the age of a convict by using the online version of the Proceedings to search the text of trials for phrases such as “what age” and the words “age/d” (as in, “what age are you?” and he/she “is aged seventeen”).

In all instances where a convict’s age has been determined using a source other than the Proceedings or the OA, I have noted the source used in the list of “Supplementary” documents and publications. These include documents (such as petitions for mercy, judges’ case reports, and hulks or transportation registers) or other printed accounts (such as newspapers and criminal Calendars).

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

Crimes Convicted

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

  • Theft

    • Robberies (conventional, by sodomy accusation)
    • Burglary and housebreaking
    • Stealing in a shop
    • Stealing in a dwelling
    • Animal theft (horse, sheep or cattle)
    • Miscellaneous theft
  • Violence

    • Murders (conventional, infanticide, murder of husband, murder by servant)
    • Sexual Assaults (rape, sodomy or bestiality)
  • Currency and Fraud

    • Coining
    • Embezzling
    • Forgery (bank, seaman, personation, miscellaneous)
  • Other offences

    • Arson
    • Black act (stealing deer, mamiming horse, cutting trees)
    • Escaping hulks
    • High treason
    • Murderous assault (stab, cut, shoot, poison, other)
    • Mutiny
    • Pickpocket
    • Escape prison
    • Receiving
    • Return from transportation
    • Riot
    • Smuggling
    • Stealing in a bleaching ground
    • Stealing in a church
    • Stealing from the mail
    • Stealing on a navigable river
    • Stealing other
    • Threatening letter
    • Treason
  • Major theft

    The vast majority of all capital convictions at the Old Bailey were for “crimes against property” – that is, thefts – the most serious of which entailed the threat (and sometimes the actual use) of violence against persons and/or their property. The five major categories of property crime in the database are briefly described here. Several other categories of theft appear under the general heading Miscellaneous.

    • Robbery

      Robbery consists of theft in the course of a personal confrontation between the criminal and his or her victim, a confrontation in which the implicit threat or the actual use of violence is present. The term “robbery” covers a large and varied degree of circumstances, ranging from the use of truly murderous violence (for which John Austin, the last man ever hanged at Tyburn, was made a special example of in November 1783) to seemingly mild verbal or physical altercations in the course of a theft. As fewer and fewer people came to be hanged for robbery, such distinctions were central to the decision whether to hang or pardon such criminals. With the one exception discussed immediately hereafter, however, no attempt has been made to introduce any such categories, a perilous exercise in any case since the letter of the laws themselves offered little or no help on that score.

      Robbery by Sodomy Accusation

      One mode of robbery has been explicitly distinguished in the database, however – not only because the definition of “robbery” in such cases was remarkable in itself, but because it appears to have been viewed with sufficient severity that it explains the one and only execution for any kind of robbery at the Old Bailey after 1829 (that of Thomas Attrell in February 1833). In April 1779 the Twelve Judges made a ruling in the case of James Donally, convicted of robbery at the Old Bailey two months earlier. The Judges concurred with the presiding judge at trial that Donally’s extortion of money from another man, by means of a threat to publicly accuse him (the victim) of having made a sodomitical assault upon Donally, inspired so “life threatening” a sense of danger in the victim’s mind as to amount to a form of “violence”.

    • Burglary and Housebreaking

      Next to robbery, burglary and housebreaking were the most serious forms of theft with violence. Both entailed the breaking into a dwelling in the course of an act of theft. As with robberies government sought, by a statute of 1707 (5 Anne, c31), to enhance the regularity with which both burglary and housebreaking were punished by providing rewards to those who prosecuted such cases successfully. The definition of “Burglary” was to break into a person’s home under cover of darkness with intention of committing a felony (theft): this was made a capital crime in 1547 (1 Edw. VI, c12, s10). A statute of 1713 (12 Anne, c7, s3) expanded the definition of the capital crime to cases where the culprit entered a dwelling with intent to commit a felony without breaking it, provided that he or she subsequently broke the dwelling in the course of making their exit.

      For most of the era covered here, “Housebreaking” consisted of: (1) breaking into a dwelling (or other building) in the daytime and stealing goods while someone therein was put in fear (no one needed to be present in the case of burglary); or (2) breaking into a dwelling (or other building) without anyone being present, provided that the value of the goods stolen was five shillings or more. Both of these acts had been capital crimes since the sixteenth century (5 & 6 Edw. VI, c9, s4; 39 Eliz. I, c15, s1-2). Convictions for housebreaking appear to have been fairly uncommon: for every four convictions for burglary, there was only one for housebreaking. (This is why the database treats “Housebreaking” as a sub-set of “Burglary” for purposes of comparative statistical analysis.)

      The database treats “Burglary” as a crime taking place at night (the temporal definition of which could change significantly between the summer and the winter months) and “Housebreaking” as essentially the same crime only during the day.

    • Stealing in a shop

      Shoplifting (or, privately stealing in a shop), where the goods stolen were valued at five shillings or more, became a capital crime in 1699 (10 & 11 Will. III, c23). The creation of this capital offence was a direct consequence of the emergence of the first recognizably modern commercial shops in London and other major urban centres. The statute also covered thefts from a warehouse or a stable.

    • Stealing in a dwelling

      The theft of goods worth forty shillings (£2) or more from inside a dwelling – without any breaking or any persons necessarily present – was made a capital crime in 1713 (12 Anne, c7). This law was particularly intended to deter theft by servants, who had more or less full access to any valuables in the homes of their master or mistress. Servants, the vast majority of whom were young women, were usually newcomers to London, whose character and reliability were often almost entirely unknown to their employers – hence the anxiety which led to the creation of this particular capital crime.

    • Animal theft

      Two of the three major forms of animal theft represented here became capital crimes in the mid-eighteenth century, reflecting (again) the changing social-economic experience of England and its capital. A “Regular Search” of each or all sorts of animal theft will produce a table in which I have indicated, in each instance, the number of animals stolen – a consideration that could be crucially important in the case of sheep-stealing (see below).

      Capital punishment for all three major forms of animal theft – horse, sheep and cattle – was abolished by a single Act of 1832 (2 & 3 Will. IV, c62).


      Horses were indispensable to all effective travel, communication and transportation of goods before the advent of the railways in early Victorian England, as well as to farming in an economy that remained substantially agriculturally-based until that time. They were also quite easy to steal. Not surprisingly, then, horse-theft had been a capital crime since 1545 (37 Hen. VIII, c8, s2). Execution for stealing a horse became less frequent at the Old Bailey after the mid-eighteenth century and distinctly uncommon by the early nineteenth.

      Sheep & Cattle

      The theft of sheep and cattle alike were made capital crimes by a single statute of 1741 (14 Geo. II, c6), although the wording of that Act as to cattle was deemed to be sufficiently imprecise that a clarifying statute was passed the following year (15 Geo. II, c34).

    • Miscellaneous theft

      Other forms of theft are categorized here for one of two reasons:

      They are numerically too infrequent to warrant a separate “Crimes Convicted” category of their own, yet too distinctive in their character and/or enforcement to be treated as sub-categories of one of the five major forms of theft described here. Such forms of theft include: Stealing in a Bleaching Ground, Stealing in a Church (Sacrilegious Stealing), Stealing in the Mail, and Stealing on a Navigable River.

      They are insufficiently central to the actual, long-term practice of capital punishment to be allotted one of the nine major category definitions. The database contains more than a hundred convictions for “Pickpocketing” (stealing privately from the person), but no one at the Old Bailey was hanged for that crime after 1750.

  • Violent crimes

    • Murder

      The general term “Murder” is used here as a residual category, covering all types of murder other than the three specific forms distinguished below (in all three cases, the killer had a special relationship to the victim). Searches under “Murder” using the “Regular Search” function will produce a table of results, in each of which the distinctive features of the particular murder involved – either an unusual sort of victim or the unusual circumstances of a particular murder – might be noted in parentheses.


      This was the murder of an infant by its unwed mother, usually immediately (or soon after) birth. Under a statute of 1624 (21 Jas. I, c.27), the mother could be (and usually was) convicted simply on the evidence of having concealed the birth of an infant subsequently found dead. After passage of “Ellenborough’s Act” in 1803, an act of homicide per se had to be proven for conviction on a charge of infanticide, although the crime still applied only to the illegitimate offspring of unwed mothers (43 Geo. III, c58, s3). The definition of “infanticide” only became gender neutral when that crime was fully subsumed into a general law of homicide in the Offences Against the Person (Consolidation) Act in 1828 (9 Geo. IV, c31, s3). Until that time, men who murdered infants could only be charged for doing so where a deliberate act of murder could be proven – which largely explains why “infanticide” is entirely confined to female perpetrators in this database.

      MurderHusband vs MurderWife

      Until the Offences against the Person Act in 1828 recast it as murder like any other (9 Geo. IV, c31, s2), the murder of a husband by his wife was deemed to be a form of “Petty (petit) Treason” – effectively, an act of rebellion against a father–figure akin to rebellion against one’s king (i.e., High Treason). Petty treason was defined in law by a statute of 1497 (12 Hen. VII, c7). Until 1790 women convicted of this form of murder were burned at the stake, usually after having been hanged first (see the explanatory text at Outcomes Executed).

      The database also distinguishes all cases of husbands murdering their wives so that readers may better appreciate for themselves the degree of possible gender bias in the definition and punishment of the respective forms of spousal homicide during this era. In a few instances, such as that of William Taunton in September 1769, the wife in question was a “common law” spouse.

      MurderByServant vs MurderOfServant

      The murder of a master or mistress by his or her servant was also deemed to be a form of “Petty Treason” (by the statute of 1497) until 1828. Unlike a wife murdering her husband, however, no distinctive form of execution was regularly imposed upon those convicted of killing their master/mistress.

      As with spousal homicides, the database also distinguishes all cases of masters or mistresses who murdered their servants, so that the other side of the coin is apparent. This crime could provoke especial public detestation if it seemed to involve a grossly excessive abuse of the power of physical correction which the law vested in parental authority figures.

    • Sexual Assaults


      Rape became a capital crime by a statute of 1576 (18 Eliz. I, c7), remained so under the Offences against the Person Act of 1828 (9 Geo. IV, c31, s16), and ceased to be only thirteen years later (4 & 5 Vict., c56, s3). Once convicted of a rape, virtually the only way a man might avoid execution was to raise doubts about the previous sexual morality of the victim and/or the honesty of her testimony at trial.

      Sodomy & Bestiality

      Sodomy and bestiality were made capital crimes in 1533 (25 Hen. VIII, c6), were sustained as such under the 1828 Offences against the Person Act (9 Geo. IV, c31, s15), and did not cease to be so until 1861 (24 & 55 Vict., c100, s61). In contrast to rape, the probability of being executed for these sexual crimes seems to have increased after 1770; they also remained capital offences for two decades longer than rape.

      The distinction between “bestiality” (penetrative sex with an animal) and sodomy is not always clear in the trial accounts, especially after the Proceedings ceased to publish the details of such trials (as well as those for rape) from the 1790s onwards. That gap has been supplied using newspaper accounts.

  • Currency offences

    • Coining

      Coining is one of the two oldest capital crimes represented in the database: the making or importation into the kingdom of false money was made a form of High Treason in 1350 (25 Edw. III, c2).

      Coining was one of the few capital offences which generated a large proportion of convictions – and executions – of women, presumably because the degree of technical skill which the crime entailed made it far less plausible for judges and juries to persuade themselves that such women were acting under the control of their husbands or any other male authority figure.

      Concealing a Bankruptcy

      The act of concealing one’s bankruptcy from one’s creditors was first made a capital crime by an Act of 1706 (4 & 5 Anne, c17) which lapsed ten years later, then another of 1719 (5 Geo. I, c24) which also expired after a decade. It was made a capital offence permanently in 1732 (5 Geo. II, c30) and abolished as such in 1820 (1 Geo. IV, c115).

      Only four people in the database were convicted of this crime, but its cultural impact appears to have been lasting: perhaps because three of those four men were hanged; and because two of those three featured prominently in editions of the Select Trials well into the nineteenth century.


      Embezzling was made a capital crime by several different statutes, each of them specifying its application to the employees of a specific company. All three of the men in the database who were convicted of this crime (none of whom were hanged) worked for the Bank of England.


      Over the course of the eighteenth century, forgery – the falsification of various paper instruments of financial exchange, including bank notes and private promissory notes, or even a person’s will – became one of the most complicated and extensively legislated of all crimes carrying the death penalty. During the waning years of “the Bloody Code”, it was also perhaps the most controversial of all capital offences. Execution was imposed far more consistently in cases of forgery than in virtually all other capital crimes besides murder.

      The creation of forgery as a capital crime and its severe enforcement was inspired by the rapid expansion of commercial exchange in England following “the financial revolution” of the 1690s, the decade which saw the establishment of the Bank of England and the National Debt. The security of instruments of financial exchange and of national revenue became important concerns for parliament thereafter.

      Forgery Bank

      The evidence of the database strongly suggests how central forgeries against the Bank of England in particular must have been to the controversies surrounding capital punishment during the early nineteenth century.

      Forgery Seaman

      This crime consisted of forging the will – or any other written instrument – of a military serviceman (almost invariably a sailor) for the purpose of claiming outstanding wages or prize money owing to him.


      This crime consisted of professing actually to be a particular serviceman (again, usually a sailor), or his wife (or other designate), in order to claim outstanding wages or prize money owed to him.

      Forgery Misc[ellaneous]

      “ForgeryMisc” is used as a residual category, which includes forgeries of promissory notes, bills of exchange, payment orders, wills, and so forth.

  • Other capital offences

    • Arson

      In an era in which an uncontrolled fire could, and sometimes did, destroy entire towns – most famously, the City of London itself in September 1666 – the deliberate setting fire to any premises was regarded as a particularly heinous offence.

      Black Act

      The “Black Act” of 1723 (9 Geo. II, c22) was an infamous statute which created several new capital offences (the exact number is debatable). Although it has famously been seen as a particularly blunt attack upon the “common rights” of rural plebeians, it has also been plausibly interpreted as a clumsily conceived “emergency” response to the danger posed by Jacobite gangs in southern England in the years following the failed invasions of 1715 and 1719.

      Two important and frequently-deployed capital crimes created under the Black Act are of sufficient numerical significance to be treated separately: shooting at a person (see below, #5), and extortion by means of a threatening letter (see below, #18). It also provided the legal basis for five other capital convictions at the Old Bailey; the term “BlackAct” is used only as a residual category to capture these five.

      Deer Stealing

      The “Black Act” made the hunting, wounding, killing, destroying or stealing deer a capital crime if committed within Royal Forests or any other enclosed areas in which such deer were specifically kept. It also made the hunting, wounding, killing, destroying or stealing deer in any place a capital crime if the culprit was armed and disguised while committing the act.

      Maiming a Horse

      The capital crime of maiming a horse was deemed, by a judicial interpretation of 1770, to have been created by a passage in the “Black Act” which specified the maiming of “cattle”.

      Cutting Down Trees

      This provision of the “Black Act” was notoriously complex as to its interpretation by the judges, the more so because two later (and apparently unrelated) Acts of 1766 (6 Geo. III, c36 & c48) both made substantially similar offences felonies punishable by only transportation for seven years at most. The statutes of 1766 perhaps reflected the general disinclination of the judges to actually hang anyone for this crime.

      Escaped Hulks

      This capital crime consisted, more specifically, of a second escape from the hulks. Closely related to the crime of returning from transportation, it is one of the most obscure capital offences represented here. The “Hard Labour Act” of 1776 (16 Geo. III, c43), which set out the regimen for the Thames prison hulks established in that year, contained a provision (s15) which made a second escape from confinement in any institution established under that law a capital offence.

      High Treason

      Rebellion against the sovereign authority of the state was – and nominally remains – the most detested of all criminal offences. Its formal enunciation as a capital crime as early as 1350 (25 Edw. III, c2), and its continuation as such until the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 (Eliz. II 1998, c37, s36), make High Treason the longest-lasting death penalty offence represented here. Most eighteenth-century trials for High Treason were conducted in the High Courts (usually King’s Bench), so this crime is represented by only twelve people here – all but one of them convicted of the “Cato Street Conspiracy” of 1820.

      Murderous Assault

      I have used this somewhat awkward term to cover a variety of specific criminal offences which, during the early nineteenth century, came to be assimilated into the general category of “attempted murder”.


      The “Stabbing” Act of 1604 (1 James I, c8) deemed stabbing a person, who then died within the next six months, to be an act of murder.


      The “Coventry” Act of 1670 (22 & 23 Chas. II, c1), so-named because it was inspired by a vicious assault on the MP Sir John Coventry, made it a capital crime “on purpose and of malice-aforethought, and by lying in wait, [to] unlawfully cut out or disable the tongue, put out an eye, slit the nose, cut off a nose or lip, or cut off or disable any limb or member of any subject of his Majesty, with intention in so doing to maim or disfigure” a person.


      “The Black Act” of 1723 (9 Geo. II, c22) made it a capital crime, amongst many other things, to “wilfully and maliciously shoot at any person in any Dwelling-house, or other Place”. Before 1803 this was – by a very wide margin – the most frequently convicted category of murderous assault at the Old Bailey.


      As people using the database will soon discern, after “Ellenborough’s Act” came into effect, convictions for both stabbing (all of them non-fatal) and cutting and maiming became markedly more common than they had been before. The addition of poisoning was particularly significant because it targeted a form of attempted murder that was perhaps seen as being more often committed by women than men.

      Strangling, Blunt Instrument, or Simple Physical Attack

      “Ellenborough’s Act” was repealed and replaced by the 1828 Act for Consolidating and Amending Offences against the Person (9 Geo. IV, c31), which now openly deployed the term “attempts to murder” and extended the constituent acts of violence to attempts to drown, suffocate or strangle a person (s11), while also adding the more generalized term “wounding” to forms of murderous assault such as shooting, stabbing, and cutting and maiming (s12).


      This crime – represented by only a single person in the database – was a variation and extension upon the established capital crime of “seducing to treason” (see below).


      Stealing privately from the person (pickpocketing) was made a capital crime in 1565 (8 Eliz. I, c4 s2), and just over a hundred people were convicted of it at the Old Bailey from 1730 onwards.

      The early nineteenth-century parliamentary campaign for the abolition of capital punishment scored its first victory with this offence.

      Prison Escape

      More specifically, this crime consisted of aiding the escape of a convicted felon. Its definition as a capital offence at all was highly problematic. It applies here solely to eight men who were convicted in January 1821 of helping two others convicted of burglary escape from Newgate Prison.


      Along with “Stealing” (see below), this is one of two non-capital offences which appear in the database purely as secondary convictions (or charges) where an individual was also convicted of a capital crime. The belief that the ready availability of receivers was a primary impetus to capital thefts frequently provoked demands that receiving should itself be made a felony (rather than a misdemeanour), or at least more severely punished.

      Return from Transportation

      A person who returned to Britain or Ireland before their sentence of transportation had been completed was deemed to be guilty of a capital offence.


      The Riot Act of 1715 (1 Geo. I, c5) was passed during the deeply unsettled era in which a potential Jacobite invasion jeopardized the security of the recent Hanoverian succession. It imposed capital punishment where twelve or more people refused to disperse within an hour of a magistrate ordering them to do so.


      The term “smuggling” embraces a variety of specifically-defined offences concerning the landing of imported goods without paying customs duties.

      Perhaps the most striking aspect of smuggling is that all fifty-five of the men condemned for it at the Old Bailey committed their crimes, not in metropolitan London, but in one of the coastal counties of southern England. Officials were loath to try this highly organized crime in local jurisdictions for fear of sympathetic or intimidated juries.

      Stealing in a Bleaching Ground

      A statute of 1745 (18 Geo. II, c27) was only the last and most comprehensive of the legislative measures which imposed capital punishment for stealing from industrial-scale cloth works since 1670 (22 Chas. II, c5). It was perhaps inspired by the particular demand for cloth production (especially for ships’ sails) during Britain’s 1739-48 war against the Bourbon powers.

      Stealing in a Church

      Stealing from a church or chapel – or “sacrilegious” stealing – had been a separately-defined capital crime since 1531 (23 Hen. VIII, c1, s3).

      Stealing in the Mail

      Stealing in the mail was made a capital crime in 1765 (5 Geo. III, c25, s17) and ceased to be so in 1835 (5 & 6 Geo. IV, c81). The statute specifically targeted employees of the Post Office; it was akin to those statutes which prescribed capital punishment for embezzlement by employees of the Bank of England (see Currency Offences) and the South Sea Company (24 Geo. II, c11).

      Stealing on a [Navigable] River

      Stealing goods worth forty shillings (£2) or more from on board vessels in navigable rivers or ports was made a capital crime in 1751 (24 Geo. II, c45). Its repeal was one of the earliest targets of the parliamentary campaign against capital punishments which commenced in 1808 but was not achieved until Robert Peel himself sponsored the measure as Home Secretary in 1823 (4 Geo. IV, c53).


      This term covers non-capital (i.e., non-aggravated) forms of theft. The distinction between Grand and Petty Larceny (theft of goods worth one shilling or more, versus theft of goods worth less than a shilling), which once had made Grand Larceny a nominally capital crime, was abolished by an Act of 1706 (5 Anne, c6) which effectively rendered them both non-capital crimes.

      The only appearance of such non-capital thefts in the database is as a secondary conviction (or charge) where the individual was also convicted of a capital offence.

      Threatening Letter

      Four men in the database were convicted of extortion by means of a threatening letter. This had been made a capital crime by the “Black Act” of 1723 (9 Geo. II, c22); the death penalty was removed from that crime in 1823 (4 Geo. IV, c.54, s2).


      In contrast to “High Treason” (see above), this term is used to signify the crime of enlisting – or inciting someone else to enlist – in the military forces of a foreign power without the king’s consent.

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).


See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

I have identified which judge served on which court and at what time (as well as normalized the spellings of their names) using the standard biographical reference: Edward Foss, Biographica Juridica: A Biographical Dictionary of the Judges of England from the Conquest to the Present Time, 1066-1870 (London, 1870). Most of the judges now also have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004- ).

The search-feature for the database lists only the name(s) by which each judge was known while serving on the bench and the range of years during which they might be expected to be found presiding over trials at the Old Bailey.

IdentifierServedName (life dates)Position(s)
Abbot-C / Tenterden-Lord1816-32Charles Abbot, subseq. 1st Baron Tenterden (1762-1832)Justice of Common Pleas 1816, Justice of King’s Bench 1816-32 (Chief Justice 1818-27, Lord Chief Justice 1827-32)
Abney-T1740-50Thomas Abney (1690/91-1750)Baron of Exchequer 1740-43, Justice of Common Pleas 1743-50
Adair-J1779-89James Adair (ca.1743-1798)Recorder of London 1779-89
Adams-R1749-73Richard Adams (1710-1773)Recorder of London 1749-53, Baron of Exchequer 1753-73
Alderson-E1830-41Edward Alderson (1787-1857)Justice of Common Pleas 1830-4, Baron of Exchequer 1834-57
Alexander-W1824-31William Alexander (ca.1761-1842)Baron of Exchequer 1824-31
Alvanley-Lord1801-4Richard Pepper Arden, 1st Baron Alvanley (1745-1804)Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1801-4
Arabin-WStJ1822-41William St Julien Arabin (ca.1775-1841)Civic Judge of Old Bailey/Central Criminal Court 1822-41
Ashurst-WH1770-99William Henry Ashhurst (1725-1807)Justice of King’s Bench 1770-99
Aston-R1761-78Richard Aston (1717-1778)Justice of Common Pleas 1761-5, Justice of King’s Bench 1765-8
Bathurst-H1754-71Henry, 2nd Earl Bathurst (1714-1794)Justice of Common Pleas 1754-71, Lord Chancellor 1771-8
Bayley-J1808-34John Bayley (1763-1841)Justice of King’s Bench 1808-30, Baron of Exchequer 1830-4
Best-WD1818-29William Draper Best, subseq. 1st Baron Wynford (1767-1845)Justice of King’s Bench 1818-24, Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1824-9
Birch-T1746-57Thomas Birch (1690-1757)Justice of Common Pleas 1746-57
Blackstone-W1770-80William Blackstone (1723-1780)Justice of Common Pleas 1770-80
Bolland-W1829-39William Bolland (1772-1840)Baron of Exchequer 1829-39
Bosanquet-JB1830-42John Bernard Bosanquet (1773-1847)Justice of Common Pleas 1830-42
Buller-F1778-1800Francis Buller (1746-1800)Justice of King’s Bench 1778-1794, Justice of Common Pleas 1794-1800
Burland-J1774-76John Burland (1724-1776)Baron of Exchequer 1774-76
Burnet-T1741-53Thomas Burnet (ca.1694-1753)Justice of Common Pleas 1741-53
Burrough-J1816-29James Burrough (1750-1839)Justice of Common Pleas 1816-29
Carter-L1726-34Lawrence Carter (1668-1734)Baron of Exchequer 1726-34
Chambre-A1799-1815Alan Chambre (1739-1823)Baron of Exchequer 1799-1800, Justice of Common Pleas 1800-15
Chapple-W1737-45William Chapple (1677-1745)Justice of King’s Bench 1737-45
Clarke-C1743-50Charles Clarke (ca.1702-1750)Baron of Exchequer 1743-50
Clive-E1745-70Edward Clive (1704-1771)Baron of Exchequer 1745-53, Justice of Common Pleas 1753-70
Coleridge-JT1835-58John Taylor Coleridge (1790-1876)Justice of King’s Bench 1835-58
Dallas-R1813-23Robert Dallas (1756-1824)Justice of Common Pleas 1813-23 (Chief Justice 1818-23)
Dampier-H1813-16Henry Dampier (1758-1816)Justice of King’s Bench 1813-16
Denison-T1741-65Thomas Denison (1699-1765)Justice of King’s Bench 1741-65
Denman-T1822-30Thomas, 1st Baron Denman (1779- 1854)Common Serjeant of London 1822-30, Lord Chief Justice of King’s Bench 1832-50
Eldon-Lord1799-1801John Scott, 1st Earl of Eldon (1751-1838)Lord Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1799-180, Lord Chancellor 1801-6, 1807-27
Ellenborough-Lord1802-18Edward Law, 1st Baron Ellenborough (1750-1818)Lord Chief Justice of King’s Bench 1802-18
Eyre-J1763-99James Eyre (1733-1799)Recorder of London 1763-72, Baron of Exchequer 1772-93 (Chief Baron 1787-93), Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1794-99
Fortescue-W1736-41William Fortescue (ca.1687-1749)Baron of Exchequer 1736-8, Justice of Common Pleas 1738-41
Foster-M1745-63Michael Foster (1689-1763)Justice of King’s Bench 1745-63
Garrow-W1817-32William Garrow (1760-1840)Baron of Exchequer 1817-32
Gaselee-S1824-37Stephen Gaselee (1762-1839)Justice of Common Pleas 1824-37
Gibbs-V1812-18Vicary Gibbs (1751-1820)Justice of Common Pleas 1812-13, Chief Baron of Exchequer 1813-14, Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1814-18
Glynn-J1772-9John Glynn (ca.1722-1779)Recorder of London 1772-79
Gould-H1761-94Henry Gould (1710-1794)Baron of Exchequer 1761-3, Justice of Common Pleas 1763-94
Graham-R1800-27Robert Graham (1744-1836)Baron of Exchequer 1800-27
Grose-N1787-1813Nash Grose (1740-1814)Justice of King’s Bench 1787-1813
Gundry-N1750-54Nathaniel Gundry (ca.1701-1754)Justice of Common Pleas 1750-54
Gurney-J1832-45John Gurney (1768-1845)Baron of Exchequer 1832-45
Harrison-T1783Thomas Harrison (?-?)Deputy Recorder of London 1783
Heath-J1780-1816John Heath (1736-1816)Justice of Common Pleas 1780-1816
Hewitt-J1766-68James Hewitt (1709-1789)Justice of King’s Bench 1766-68
Holroyd-G1816-28George Holroyd (1758-1831)Justice of King’s Bench 1816-28
Hotham-B1775-1805Beaumont, 2nd Baron Hotham (1737-1834)Baron of Exchequer 1775-1805
Hullock-J1823-29John Hullock (1767-1829)Baron of Exchequer 1823-29
Hyde-J1770-72John Hyde (ca.1737-1796)Old Bailey Judge (as a Senior Counsel for the City of London) 1770-72
Kenyon-Lord1788-1802Lloyd, 1st Baron Kenyon (1732-1802)Lord Chief Justice of King’s Bench 1788-1802
Knowlys-N1803-33Newman Knowlys (1758-1836)Common Serjeant of London, 1803-22, Recorder of London 1822-33
Law-CE1830-50Charles Ewan Law (1792-1850)Common Serjeant of London, 1830-33, Recorder of London 1833-50
Lawrence-S1794-1812Soulden Lawrence (1751-1814)Justice of Common Pleas 1794, Justice of King’s Bench 1794-1808, Justice of Common Pleas 1808-12
LeBlanc-S1799-1816Simon LeBlanc (1748/49-1816)Justice of King’s Bench 1799-1816
Lee-W1730-54William Lee (1688-1754)Justice of King’s Bench 1730-54 (Chief Justice 1737-54)
Legge-H1747-59Heneage Legge (1704-1759)Baron of Exchequer 1747-59
Littledale-J1824-41Joseph Littledale (1767-1842)Justice of King’s Bench 1824-41
Loughborough-Lord1780-93Alexander Wedderburn (1733-1805) 1st Baron Loughborough, subseq. 1st Earl of RosslynLord Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1780-93, Lord Chancellor 1793-1801
Lyndhurst-Lord1831-34John Singleton Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst (1772-1863)Lord Chancellor 1827-30, Lord Chief Baron of Exchequer 1831-34, Lord Chancellor 1834-35, 1841-46
MacDonald-A1793-1813Archibald MacDonald (1747-1825)Chief Baron of Exchequer 1793-1813
Mansfield-Lord1756-88William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (1705-1793)Lord Chief Justice of King’s Bench 1756-88
Mansfield-J1804-14James Mansfield (ca.1734-1821)Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1804-14
Maseres-F1779Francis Maseres (1731-1824)Deputy Recorder of London 1779
Mirehouse-J1822-50John Mirehouse (1789-1850)Old Bailey Judge 1822-3, Common Serjeant of London 1833-50
Moreton-W1753-63William Moreton (ca.1696-1763)Recorder of London 1753-63
Nares-G1771-86George Nares (1716-1786)Justice of Common Pleas 1771-86
Noel-W1757-62William Noel (1695-1762)Justice of Common Pleas 1757-62
Nugent-T1758-90Thomas Nugent (?-1790)Common Serjeant of London 1758-90
Park-JA1816-38James Alan Park (1763-1838)Justice of Common Pleas 1816-38
Parke-J1828-55James Parke, subseq. 1st Baron Wensleydale (1782-1868)Justice of King’s Bench 1828-34, Baron of Exchequer 1834-55
Parker-T1738-72Thomas Parker (c.1695-1784)Baron of Exchequer 1738-40, Justice of Common Pleas 1740-42, Chief Baron of Exchequer 1742-72
Patteson-J1830-52John Patteson (1790-1861)Justice of King’s Bench 1830-52
Perrott-G1763-75George Perrott (1710-1780)Baron of Exchequer 1763-75
Perryn-R1776-99Richard Perryn (ca.1723-1803)Baron of Exchequer 1776-99
Pratt-C1761-66Charles Pratt, subseq. 1st Earl Camden (1714-1794)Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1761-66, Lord Chancellor 1766-71
Reynolds-J1725-38James Reynolds (1686-1739)Justice of King’s Bench 1725-30, Chief Baron of Exchequer 1730-38
Richards-R1814-23Richard Richards (1752-1823)Baron of Exchequer 1814-23 (Chief Baron 1817-23)
Richardson-J1818-24John Richardson (1771-1841)Justice of Common Pleas 1818-24
Rooke-G1793-1808Giles Rooke (1743-1808)Justice of Common Pleas 1793-1808
Rose-JW1789-1803John William Rose (1744-1803)Recorder of London 1789-1803
Ryder-D1754-56Dudley Ryder (1691-1756)Chief Justice of King’s Bench 1754-56
Scarlett-J / Abinger-Lord1834-44John Scarlett, subseq. 1st Baron Abinger (1769-1844)Lord Chief Baron of Exchequer 1834-44
Silvester-J1790-1822John Silvester (1745-1822)Common Serjeant of London 1790-1803, Recorder of London 1803-22
Skynner-J1777-87John Skynner (ca.1723-1805)Baron of Exchequer 1777-87
Smythe-S-Stafford1750-77Sidney Stafford Smythe (1705-1778)Baron of Exchequer 1750-77 (Chief Baron 1772-77)
Strange-J1739-42John Strange (ca.1696-1754)Recorder of London 1739-42
Sutton-TM1805-7Thomas Manners Sutton, subseq. 1st Baron Manners of Foston (1756-1842)Baron of Exchequer 1805-7
Taunton-W1830-35William Taunton (1773-1835)Justice of King’s Bench 1830-35
Thomson-A1787-1817Alexander Thomson (ca.1744-1817)Baron of Exchequer 1787-1817 (Chief Baron 1814-17)
Thomson-W1715-39William Thomson (1678-1739)Recorder of London 1715-39, Baron of Exchequer 1729-39
Tindal-N1829-46Nicholas Tindal (1776-1846)Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1829-46
Urlin-S1742-6Simon Urlin (1696-1754)Recorder of London 1742-46
Vaillant-J1817-20John Vaillant (ca.1764-1827)Old Bailey Judge 1817-20
Vaughan-J1827-39John Vaughan (1769-1839)Baron of Exchequer 1827-34, Justice of Common Pleas 1834-39
Willes-E1768-87Edward Willes (ca.1723-1787)Justice of King’s Bench 1768-87
Willes-J1737-61John Willes (1685-1761)Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1737-61
Williams-J1834-46John Williams (1777-1846)Baron of Exchequer 1834, Justice of King’s Bench 1834-46
Wilmot-JE1755-71John Eardley Wimot (1709-1792)Justice of King’s Bench 1755-66, Chief Justice of Common Pleas 1766-71
Wilson-J1786-93John Wilson (1741-93)Justice of Common Pleas 1786-93
Wood-G1807-23George Wood (1743-1824)Baron of Exchequer 1807-23
Wright-M1739-55Martin Wright (1692/93-1767)Baron of Exchequer 1739-40, Justice of King’s Bench 1740-55
Yates-J1764-70Joseph Yates (1722-1770)Justice of King’s Bench 1764-70, Justice of Common Pleas 1770

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).


For all but the last three years covered by this database, the Old Bailey conducted capital trials for two jurisdictions: the City of London; and the adjacent county of Middlesex (which included the City of Westminster). Defendants were tried in alternating batches derived from first one, then the other, of these two jurisdictions. Each defendant had to be tried by a jury comprised of men resident in the jurisdiction where the crime had been committed.

For each defendant, I have identified whether the jury was that of “London” (L) or “Middlesex” (M). The database also records whether this was the first, second or third such jury for each jurisdiction (M1, M2, M3, or L1, L2, etc) at that particular sessions. However, since every jury was composed of substantially different individuals from one sessions to the next, users are unlikely to find any use in pursuing distinctions amongst particular juries over the long term (i.e., more than one sessions). Only the basic geographical distinction – London or Middlesex – might be of long-term statistical relevance.

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Mercy appeals - who

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When a trial ended in a capital conviction, one of the participants might choose to recommend him or her to mercy. People using the database can investigate the probability of securing a pardon depending upon “Who” recommended mercy and/or the particular grounds on which they did so (“Why”).

In the vast majority of instances, only three players at trial recommended mercy after conviction. The most frequent parties to do so were the trial “Jury” (993 instances) or the “Prosecutor” (745 instances). The “Judge” is known to have done so in only nineteen instances (fully five of them, oddly enough, in the year 1748). On four other occasions, a “Witness” did so. On no less than 466 occasions, the Proceedings tell us that mercy was recommended but do not tell us who made the recommendation.

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Mercy appeals - why

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The incidence (and potential effectiveness) of mercy recommendations can also be measured in terms of the grounds on which the recommendation was made. The language used to characterize the grounds of appeal sometimes varies, but I have categorized all mercy recommendations under one of eight headings:

Unknown (814 instances)

No information whatsoever is provided justifying the recommendation. Users of the database might find, however, that a close reading of the trial suggests what the reason might be.

Personal Characteristic (472 instances)

The principal ground here is usually the convict’s age: he or she is deemed to be either too young or too old to be an appropriate example to put on the gallows.

Good Character (465 instances)

The convict seems hitherto to have borne an unblemished public character; most often, it will be explicitly stated that this is their first known offense. This category often seems to overlap with “Personal Characteristic, but I have tried to distinguish a feature over which the convict had no personal control (their age, which might suggest good character to date) from one which they did (their previous good behaviour, which in theory would prove their good character, regardless of their age).

Circumstances of [the] Crime (231 instances)

Some feature of the crime suggests that, in this particular case, the convict should not be treated as seriously as might another person convicted of the same crime. The most common such feature was a lack of violence used in committing the crime.

Personal Connection (74 instances)

The convict’s connection to another person is seen as grounds for a recommendation to mercy. Sometimes this means their connection to a person of wealth or stature in the community; more often than not, it is an expression of sympathy for aged and/or reputable parents, or a concern for a family whom an executed convict might leave destitute. Of course, sympathy for a survivor and recognition of the survivor’s stature might sometimes be inextricably linked as considerations.

Legal Reservation (41 instances)

The party making the recommendation entertains doubts as to whether the crime has really been adequately defined or proven. Often doubts are expressed as to the honesty or accuracy of one of the witnesses, especially if it is a confederate turning king’s evidence.

Regrets [the] Crime (34 instances)

The convict behaved in some manner which clearly suggest that s/he regrets the crime; this most often takes the form of returning stolen goods.

Death Sentence (10 instances)

The party making the recommendation appears to believe, as a matter of principle, that the crime in question ought not to carry the death penalty. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, five of the ten known instances date to 1788-91, a period before public opposition to the capital code had gained the sort of force that it had by the second decade of the nineteenth century.

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Judge's respites

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Before the sessions ended, a capital convict could have pronouncement of his or her sentence of death respited (delayed) by a presiding judge on one of two grounds: doubts as to the legality of the conviction; or in the case of women, being “quick” with child.


A judge could respite a prisoner’s death sentence if there were doubts as to whether the capital conviction was legally valid. Perhaps the crime was improperly charged. Or perhaps evidence produced at trial had provoked some doubts as to whether the precise conditions that made the crime a capital offence had been fully established on this particular occasion. Sentence of death in such cases would be respited until after a meeting could be convened of the twelve high court judges. At that meeting, the Twelve Judges would review the evidence of the case, as well as any relevant legal precedents of which they were aware, and decide whether the conviction was legally “safe”. Their ruling would then be announced at the end of the first Old Bailey sessions which followed their meeting. If the conviction had been properly determined, sentence of death was at last pronounced on the prisoner at the next sessions, and his or her case considered at the next Recorder’s Report.

“Belly-Q” or “Belly-NQ”

A woman convicted of a capital crime might “plead her belly” – that is, claim that she could not be hanged because she was pregnant – and hope subsequently to receive a pardon. When a woman made this claim, the court ordered a “jury of matrons” (women) to be empanelled and to examine the convict to determine whether or not she was “quick” with child (i.e., whether the pregnancy was sufficiently advanced that the unborn child was discernibly moving). If the woman was found to be “quick” with child, sentence of death was respited and further consideration of the case suspended until sometime after the birth had taken place. If the woman was found “not quick”, then sentence of death was pronounced in the usual order, and the woman’s case went forward to the next Recorder’s Report along with the other capital convicts of her sessions.

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Decision at recorder's report

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For the entire period covered by the database, the decision whether to execute or to pardon each capital convict was made at a meeting known as “the Recorder’s Report”. At some point after each trial sessions ended at the Old Bailey, a meeting would be convened of the king, the Recorder of London, and the king’s senior government ministers, including:
- at least one of the two Secretaries of State, both of whom shared responsibility for the national government’s role in administering criminal justice; after the reconfiguration of the Secretaryship in March 1782, this became the assigned task of the Home Secretary alone (though the other Secretaries of State usually attended anyway);
- the Lord Chancellor, who (as senior legal official of the realm and “keeper of royal conscience”) was apparently deemed to have a special relevance in advising the king as to how his royal prerogative of mercy ought to be exercised;
- the Archbishops of Canterbury and York: their presence (as the senior primates of the state church) presumably conveyed an aura of religious authority to the life-or-death decisions being made at the meeting; and
- a variety of other senior members of cabinet, including the first Lord of the Treasury (“the prime minister”).

All people convicted of a capital crime at the Old Bailey could expect to have their case heard at a Recorder’s Report. The sole comprehensive exception to this rule was people convicted of murder between 1752 and 1836. Under the terms of a 1752 Act (25 Geo. II, c37), people convicted of murder were required to be executed within two to three days of their conviction at trial, so that the particularly heinous character of that offence would be fresh in the minds of the public at the time of execution.

A few other capital convicts did not go before a Report. In some instances – notably from the early nineteenth century – this appears to have stemmed from a determination on the part of government to achieve the speediest resolution in a case which clearly did not deserve to end in execution.

The extent to which the Report, at different times, determined the actual condition of pardon (as opposed to the simple decision of whether to hang or not) is discussed in the Outcomes document.

The practice of the Recorder’s Report was abolished by statute (1 Vict., c.77) in 1837 for several reasons.

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Recorder's report respites

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This component of the database enables one to measure the possible impact of decision-making processes in confirmed capital cases prior to the final disposition of each prisoner (that is, Execution or Pardon). Such decisions were usually made at the Recorder’s Report. Sometimes, however, they had to be made by the Secretary of State, either:
in cases of murder (between 1752 and 1836) where doubts had arisen as to the certainty of the convicted killer’s guilt after sentence was pronounced immediately after the end of the trial; or
in cases where doubts had arisen in the case of a non-murderer whom the Report had left to be executed.

“(RR)” indicates that the respective “Respite” decision was made at the Recorder’s Report. Note that people convicted of “Murder” between 1752 and 1836 will have no initial “(RR)” respite because their case never went to a Recorder’s Report (see below).

“(Date)” indicates that the respective “Respite” decision was made on the date indicated, either after the Recorder’s Report or (for murderers from 1752 to 1836) after conviction at trial.

If you wish to isolate people who were respited after being left to die at the Recorder’s Report, choose “ToDie” under Decision at Report in conjunction with any option under Post-Report Respites and/or Minimum Respites.

To Die

Except in the case of people convicted of murder between June 1752 and July 1836, the Recorder’s Report always made the first (and usually final) determination as to who would be hanged. The Murder Act of 1752 (25 Geo. II, c37) required that convicted murderers be hanged within two days of their trial (or three, if one of the intervening days was a Sunday). Only the Secretary of State could respite that sentence, either on the advice of the trial judge or in the light of dramatic new evidence produced after trial.

Specified Pardon or Pleasure

During eras in which the full range of secondary punishments was available with certainty, the Report appears to have specified the condition of pardon that would be imposed.

Nevertheless, if no document exists which clearly indicates that the Report specified the condition of pardon, I have assumed – following the standard terminology deployed in accounts of Reports that were published in contemporary magazines and newspapers throughout the era covered by the database – that the Report only respited the convict during “Pleasure” and that the specific condition of pardon was determined later.

It needs to be remembered that the “Pardon” references used in this database were not pardons per se, but rather orders to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex to carry into effect pardons that had already been issued.

Specified Time Delay

In cases where doubts arose in the case of a person who was scheduled to be executed, the execution might be delayed for a specified period of time, intended to allow for a proper investigation of the new allegations. The Secretary of State frequently wrote to the Sheriffs of London and Middlesex to insist that they make clear to the condemned that such a delay by no means constituted a guarantee that a pardon would follow. Many such cases ended with a second and final order that the prisoner was “ToDie”. Where the doubts raised appeared to be convincing, however, the convict was respited during “Pleasure” and subsequently pardoned.

Multiple Respites

Use this option to isolate people who were respited more than once, either following conviction for murder or following the Recorder’s Report. The decision to continue to issue time-specific respites to a convict presumably indicates reluctance on the part of government to issue a pardon without extremely good reason to do so (i.e., determination that the crime ought to be punished by death unless there was compelling reason to spare the convict’s life).

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).


See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).


Dates, places and modes of execution have been determined (or confirmed) primarily by using newspapers. On only a few rare occasions after 1790 did London’s two principal daily newspapers – the Morning Chronicle and the Times – entirely neglect to report the execution of Old Bailey convicts. The surviving Ordinary’s Accounts provide the information for most executions down to the early 1760s; a substantially complete record of them for the same era (probably derived from the Accounts) appears in the Gentleman’s and London Magazines. The earliest volumes of the Home Office’s “Criminal Registers” for London and Middlesex (HO 26), which began in 1792, also recorded the dates of executions.


The vast majority of pardons in the database were imposed on condition of TRANSPORTATION for seven years, fourteen years, or for life. Until 1775 such convicts were transported to the American colonies (usually Maryland or Virginia) where they were sold into indentured service. From 1787 until the 1860s, convicts were transported to New South Wales or (later) one of the other Australian colonies.

Pardons on condition of IMPRISONMENT at hard labour for a specified number of years were used during the era in which transportation was rendered unavailable by the American Revolutionary War (1775-83). During this time, men were sent to prison HULKS on the River Thames, while women were sent to one of the houses of correction in London or Middlesex.

With the expansion of the British war effort from 1778 onwards, it became more common for men to be pardoned on condition of MILITARY service rather than confinement on board the increasingly controversial hulks. The navy and army were reluctant to accept capital convicts into their ranks (there was less objection to petty criminals ), so military pardons feature in the database almost entirely during wartime – the Seven Years War (1756-63), the War with America (1775-83), and the Wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France (1793-1815) – when the urgent necessity for servicemen overrode conventional scruples.

Formal pardons on condition of IMPRISONMENT continued to be used, but only in small numbers and usually only with respect to women or young offenders. Convicts who were subsequently remitted the remainder of their sentences of imprisonment have been classified as receiving EARLY RELEASE from custody.

By the early nineteenth century, however, pardons issued on condition of TRANSPORTATION often “disguised” what amounted to terms of IMPRISONMENT. Men sentenced to transportation for seven years (and sometimes longer) often spent the entire term of their conditional pardon on board the hulks. At the end of their service, they had to be issued a free pardon in order to be discharged from custody – because the actually stated condition of their pardon, transportation, had never been carried into effect and remained formally binding until a free pardon was issued.

Four other conditions of pardon were rarely used, almost entirely from the 1780s to the 1810s:
Obliging a convict to RETURN TO THE PARISH of their origin was used six times, all during the 1790s – three times as a pardon of first instance, and three times as a secondary pardon. I have classified this as a sub-category of FREE (or unconditional) pardon.
Very young capital convicts might be sent either to the MARINE SOCIETY or the PHILANTHROPIC SOCIETY, two famous charitable organizations that sought to apprentice children to useful trades. For the purposes of the database, I have classified these as modes of IMPRISONMENT, though some readers may think that this overstates the relative severity of the convict’s ensuing treatment.
Forty-eight capital convicts were given EARLY RELEASE on condition of their GOOD BEHAVIOUR for a specified period of time thereafter – two, three, seven or fourteen years or life, or for that portion of the original conditional pardon that remained unserved.

Non-judicial deaths

A substantial number of people – 113 (just over 1% of the total) – died after receiving sentence of death at the end of the sessions, but before being either executed or pardoned.

Many of these people must surely have succumbed to “gaol fever” (generally thought to have been typhus). Such deaths appear to have occurred most frequently:
during the mid-1730s;
from the late 1740s through the mid-1750s, a timespan which includes the Old Bailey’s infamous “Black Assizes” of April 1750, in which gaol fever amongst the prisoners was communicated to the court at large, killing the Lord Mayor himself and several other officials and jurors;
during the late 1760s through the mid-1770s, which includes a second “Black Assizes” at the Old Bailey in September 1772, an event which at long last triggered the much-delayed building of a new prison at Newgate; and
during the 1780s, during the long suspension of regularized convict transportation.

Unkown outcomes

I have been entirely unable to determine the ultimate outcome for seventy individuals (sixty men and ten women) in the database. Many (perhaps most) of them must also have died before they could be either executed or pardoned, mainly (again) from gaol fever. Some of these individual mysteries may subsequently be resolved, either as more documents are examined or more newspapers digitized.

See complete notes and references (pdf in new tab or window).

Details on executions

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With the uncommon exception of executions at the site of the crime, Old Bailey convicts were invariably hanged at one of two fixed sites – Tyburn (until November 1783), then immediately outside Newgate Prison (from December 1783 onwards). Whether they were hanged at Tyburn or Newgate, the basic Mode of Execution for almost all convicts is defined here as “SimpleHanging”.

By the time when this database begins, both genders were allowed a measure of mitigation in the punishments for treason. Just as male traitors did not have any of the once conventional bodily “tortures” imposed upon them until after death by hanging, women were now hanged before their bodies were committed to the flames.

Four modes of aggravated execution appear in the database, all but the first associated with punishment for treason.


Unusually, for a practice which might sensibly be associated with primitive beliefs about setting a curse upon the site of a particularly infamous crime, this practice appears to have been more common after the mid-eighteenth century than before.


All six of the Old Bailey convicts subjected to this practice had been convicted of High Treason, and the decapitation of all six of them was carried out after they had been killed by conventional hanging.


Where men convicted of treason were disembowelled and quartered, women convicted of treason were burned at the stake. (The formal rationale for this dubious distinction was that women’s bodies should be spared the indignity of public exposure during the course of disembowelment!) Burning at the stake was abolished in 1790 (by 30 Geo. III, c48). In part this reflected the growing reverence, during an era of increasingly self-conscious “sensibility” amongst England’s propertied elites, attributed both to women’s bodies and to women’s unique spiritual capacities.


This was the most persistently enforced of the modes of execution that were imposed upon traitors during the era covered by the database. Everyone (save one) subjected to this ritual humiliation prior to death had been convicted of treason.

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Disposition of body after execution

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The execution of particularly heinous offenders could be further aggravated by subjecting their bodies to public indignities after death. Such treatment of convicts’ corpses sought to enhance the deterrent horrors of execution by tapping into the enduring popular belief that a person’s soul might remain lodged in their body for an unknown period of time immediately after physical death. Four such post-mortem aggravations were imposed upon some of the convicts in this database:


The only two apparent instances of this practice are the coiners William Tinman and Philip Murray, who were hanged at Tyburn on 26 May 1738 after having been drawn there on a sledge (see above for a discussion of the Modes of Execution associated with treason and their general disuse by this era). If their bodies were quartered (as some periodicals state), it must have been in a purely ceremonial fashion at the place of execution: the Ordinary of Newgate (who does not mention their being quartered at all) reports that both men were buried soon afterwards (OA 26 May 1738 OA17380526).


Until the practice was abolished by statute in 1823 (by 4 Geo. IV, c52), it was common for people who committed suicide to be ceremonially buried at a crossroads with a stake driven through their chest. Since considerably more than four people in the database are known to have killed themselves at some point during the legal process before Execution or Pardon (ten, all but one of them before the statute of 1823), I may yet find evidence in contemporary periodicals of some of these other convicts having been subjected to the same post-mortem indignity.


The practice of gibbeting (hanging in chains) the corpse of an executed felon was more common in the first half of the eighteenth century: 27 of the 46 instances of it in the database pre-date 1750. That figure is the more striking given that here it covers only two decades, the 1730s and 1740s. If the as-yet-unknown figures for 1700-1729 were included, the predominance of the first half of the century would probably be even more pronounced.

From the mid-eighteenth century onward, gibbeting appears to have been particularly used in the case of violent attacks on government authority. Of the 26 men gibbetted from 1747 onwards, smugglers account for seven cases and men who robbed the mail another four. No Old Bailey convict was hung in chains after 1799, when John Haines and Thomas Clark were gibbeted on Hounslow Heath for having attempted to shoot and kill a Bow Street officer.


Dissection of the corpse was by far the most common mode of post-mortem aggravation, though authorities did not explicitly treat it as a form of aggravation until after passage of the Murder Act in 1752 (25 Geo. II, c37). By the early eighteenth century, London surgeons were legally entitled to receive up to ten bodies of executed criminals per annum in furtherance of anatomical instruction and research. The bodies they received could be those of a person convicted of any capital crime.

The situation changed following passage of the Murder Act in 1752, which stated that the bodies of all convicted murderers should be either dissected or hung in chains after execution. Although the language of the Act did not explicitly preclude the possibility of turning over the bodies of other felons for dissection, its central purpose – to impose a special mark of horror upon murderers above all other classes of capital convicts – logically dictated that such an exclusion should follow. Nevertheless, the bodies of at least a dozen other non-murderers were obtained by the surgeons after the Murder Act was passed.

Because I have relied solely upon newspaper accounts, and because those accounts do not always specify the particular person whose body was turned over to the surgeons, the total number of people identified in the database as having been “Dissected” is only a minimum figure.

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