A true NARRATIVE Of the PROCEEDINGS AT THE HERTFORD-ASSIZES, This Instant July 1676. SETTING FORTH The Tryal of the person that attempted to Fire the Town of HODSDON; with the Punishment inflicted on him. The Tryal, Examination, and Confes­sion of two High-way-men, and one Pick-pocket, there Condemned to die. And all other remarkable Occurrences.

Published for general satisfaction.


Ro. L'Estrange:

London: Printed for D. M. 1676.


WHereas Narratives of the chief Proceedings at several Assi­zes, have of late been pub­lish [...]d, and well received by divers ingenious inquisitive men, as tending not onely to divertise Readers with the novelty of the Relations, but like­wise to forewarn innocent people of the subtile practices of Villains, that they may be fore­arm'd against them; and especially to present Vice in its natural destructive Colours, and create a just abhorrency against it in all mens minds, seeing dayly how i [...] brings those that follow it, to sad, untimely, and ignominious ends: I have therefore (pursuant to such lau­dible intentions) thought it might prove a ser­vice [Page 3] neither improper nor unwelcome, to pre­sent the world with the following Account or Abstract of the s [...]eral notorious Malefactors Tryals, at the Assizes holden for the County of Hertford, July the 15th and 16th, 1676.

And first I may take notice of two young men here indicted and condemned for robbing on the High way: One of them had been an old Practitioner in that kind, said to be one of those that about a quarter of a year since, had the impudence to rob a Traveller of Sevenscore pounds, or there abouts, in the day-time, just at Hemsted Towns-end, and in the view of se­veral people. The other was but a fresh-man, lately listed in the Gang, living in London, by Trade a Last-maker, and newly set up in that Imployment with a Partner, being lookt upon as a very civil hopeful fellow, onely a little too much given to Company, and especially to the haunting of Fencing Schools, Prizes, and such robustious Exercises. That day the Rob­bery was committed, going forth in the morn­ing, he told his Partner he was walking but to Islington, and should be back again about noon; but meeting (whether by chance or appointment, I cannot say) with this other fa­tal Companion, he inticed him to ride out with him upon the Pad, it being, as he protests, th [...] first time he was ever abroad on any such d [...] signe. When he objected the want of Horse for that purpose, the other told him, he knew where some fit for the work were to be let, and [Page 4] that two House-keepers, (which he named) should be security for them: All which was done accordingly, and they m [...]unted to scow­er the Roads of Hertfordshire, but without success; for they met with no prize till to­wards night, when they came up with an Inne­keeper of Bishops Strafford, who by chance had not above twelve shillings in his pocket; so that they treated him very untowardly for not riding better furnish'd; which perhaps might more provoke and invigorate his search and prosecution after them, though no extra­ordinary diligence was required: For after they had robb'd him, they rode not above four miles, but took up their lodging as unconcern­edly as might be, at a publick Inne at Ware, where they were the same night taken in their b [...]ds upon the Hue and Cry sent after them; and thereupon sent to Hertford Goal, and now condemned to die. 'Tis said, they were after Condemnation very penitent (especially the Last maker) and that they have made a disco­very of, and impeach'd several persons in Lon­don that used to infest the Roads, particularly the two persons that now sent them out, and engaged for their Horses; who are privately retired thereupon, and do for the present ab­scond themselves.

Another person was here Arraigned, convi­cted, and Condemned for picking a pocket at Hemsted fair: He was taken in the very Act, [Page 5] and had very little to say for himself, nor we of him.

But that which made the most Noise and Discourse at this Assizes, was the Trial of a person for wilfully attempting to set the Town of Hodsdon on Fire, that he and some thievish Confederates of his might thereby have the fitter opportunity to steal and pilfer distressed peoples Goods, in that lamentable distraction. The Prisoner was born and bred for the most part in St. Martins le Grand, Lon­don; but by reason of an ill Education and bad Examples, became very loose and extra vagant in his Conversation, and fit (it seems) for any enterprise of mischief. Upon the 20 of June last past he came down to the said Town of Hodsdon in this County, and took up his Quarters at the Black Lion Inne there, where he continued likewise the next day, and eat and drank very plentifully, waiting for, as 'tis believed, the arrival of his Associates; but they not coming all day, it seems he was resolved to go about his wicked designe, al­though he were all alone. For the next Eve­ning, June 21. taking up a live Fire brand out of the Kitchen, under pretence of lighting his Pipe of Tobacco, he went with it out into the back side, and so directly into the Stable, and there put the Brand, fresh and burning as it was, into the Rack full of Hay. But as he went through the Yard thither, a young Maid [Page 6] at the next door saw him out at the window, and perceiving him to go with fire into the Stable, called to him after he was in there, and asked what he did there: Who answered, No harm, no harm. However the Maid, fearing the worst, presently called her Father, who with another Neighbour went immediately into the Stable, and there found part of the Fire-brand burning in the Rack: But the Pri­soner, at the Alarm given by the Maid, and hearing them come, had endeavoured to pull the Firebrand out of the Rack again, and so had broken it, and what was left had only burnt a little Hay; but not proceeded so far as to flame, when these two men came in and prevented it, so that no part of the Stable was burnt, or any further mischief done; which must be attributed to the wonderful Mercy of Providence, directing so seasonable a discovery of it; which otherwise possibly (nay very probably, considering the scitua­tion of this Inne, and the Wind and Weather at that time) might have destroyed the great­est part of the Town.

Being thus taken in the Fact, he was carried and examined before two of his Majesties Ju­stices of the Peace for this County, June the 22th 1676. where he confessed he did design to set the aforesaid Stable, and consequently as far as in him lay, the whole Town on Fire: That he was hired for that purpose by two idle persons, whose Names and Lodgings in [Page 7] London he declared, with description of their Habits and Persons (of whom one is since ta­ken, and at present in the Gatehouse, but ab­solutely denies what is charged upon him; the other has been strictly searched for, but cannot be found:) From these Fellows, he said, he had received the summe of Thirty Shillings on Thursday, June the 15 on condi­tion to come down, and set this Town of Hodsdon on fire, that they (who promised to follow) might have the advantage to Steal and plunder; and that they had treated fur­ther about his going afterwards to fire the Town of Hertford, for which he was to have Five Pounds. At his Trial he pleaded, Not Guilty, for forms sake, yet did not in reality disown the Fact; but when the Firebrand and some Hay-ashes were produced in Court, he cri­ed out with an horrid Imprecation, What do you bring that for, do I deny it? And still per­sisted to affirm all that he had declared before the Justice: However, it being only an inten­tion (though a most wicked and cruel one) and no part of the House or Stable actually burnt, it could not be adjudged Felony within the Statute, but a misdeameanour of the highest rate imaginable; and accordingly for his pu­nishment he received Sentence. To stand two several Market days in the Pillory, and is fined Three Hundred Pounds, and never to be released out of Prison till he hath not only paid the same, but also given such good Secu­rity [Page 8] as two Justices of Peace of this County of Hertford shall approve, to be of the good be­haviour for the future, during the term of his life. In pursuance whereof, as I am informed, he stood on Wednesday the 20th of July, in the Pillory at Hodsdon, and on the Saturday following suffered the same punishment at Hertford; and so was reconvey'd to the Goal, thereto lie till he can discharge his Fine; of which there is no great probability.


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