Valentines at the Old Bailey

By | 13 February 2014

 License Attribution Noncommercial No Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Swiv

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913, also known as Old Bailey Online, is a fascinating free resource offering insight into the lives of ordinary people through 197745 reports of criminal proceedings heard in London’s central criminal court. It contains some terrifying and heart rending stories, however since it’s the time of year for romance, “Valentine” was typed into the search box. 623 results were listed, too many to go into in detail, so as a taster here are the first ten:

First was Valentine Williams who in 1685 was found not guilty of stealing money due to lack of evidence.

The next, Valentine Crosbey, was a victim. His feather-filled coach seat was stolen in 1686 by two men who were found with their spoils drunk in a field, one wearing the fabric from another man’s coach seat as a waistcoat. One of the men was sentenced to branding: “to be burnt in the hand”.

Valentine Acton ran a pub in Castle Baynard, one of the wards of the City of London, and in 1688 a silver mug went missing. The last man in the room when the mug disappeared was tried, but acquitted as there was no proof.

The next five results belong to Valentine Cogswell, albeit spelt in a variety of ways. He was part of a group charged for coining offences in 1688. Thomas and Stephen Bayley had already been sent to Newgate prison for clipping and they testified that they had seen John Collet and Cogswell making counterfeit money at the press. Cogswell argued that the Bayleys had been pardoned twice before and were trying to save their skin, but he was convicted of High Treason and sentenced to death.

NPG 366; King James II by Unknown artist

King James II by Unknown artist
oil on canvas, circa 1690, NPG 366

Fortunately for him, it would appear that almost everyone in Newgate on the day he was sentenced, the 10th October 1688, was pardoned by the King,  so he got away with his life and a lecture:  “AFter His Majesties Most Gracious PARDON was Read, the Court advised all those who were Pardoned, to consider how exceeding Merciful and Gracious His Majesty had shewed himself unto them; even to Save them Alive, and take them as it were out of the Jaws of a deserved Death; wishing every one of them to take good heed for the future how they spend their Precious Time; and bid them beware of falling into any the like Errors again: And urged them all to let the King’s Clemency Influence them to live and lead a better Life than ever they had don before, &c.” A further search online turns up this letter held by the Bodleian, suggesting Mr Cogswell was himself no stranger to the King’s pardon.

The last two results relate to Valentine Knight. In 1690 he was seen jumping out of a bedroom window and throwing a nappy towards three people. He received the King’s pardon on this occasion. In 1691 he was less fortunate; he was caught red handed going out of another man’s house with a coat, silk hood and scarf. This time he was ordered to be whipped.

If you are interested in library collections of Old Bailey cases, the Bodleian Law Library has a collection of Minutes of Evidence from the Central Criminal Court in print dating between 1835 and 1913, also available digitally, click this link for details, as well as 38 reels of microfilm showing The Old Bailey proceedings 1714-1834 which you can find out about here.

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