The Newgate Calendar - RODERICK AUDREY

RODERICK AUDREY

With the Assistance of a Sparrow he committed many Robberies, and was executed at Tyburn in 1714 at the age of Sixteen

 THIS malefactor was so dexterous in thieving that he seemed to have come an acute villain into the world. He could scarcely speak plain when he began to practise the taking of what was not his own; and so improved himself in the art and mystery of thieving that he was hanged a little after he had turned his teens. He would go to Chelsea, or Hampstead, or Bow, or Lambeth —- east, west, north or south —- for he was never out of his road, and, carrying a sparrow along with him, would play about a house where he saw a sideboard of plate in the parlour, or any other movable, teaching the bird to climb the ladder or fly to hat. If the sashes were open, or the street door, he would throw in his sparrow, then, following to catch it again, would steal away the plate, and leave the sparrow to answer for his master's conduct. But if he was seen by anybody in the house before he had finished his work, it was a very plausible pretence that his design was no other than running after his bird, as honest children will do in such cases.

 Whenever his money was gone he went upon fresh exploits, till all the country towns and villages within ten miles of London were sensible that the boy who played with the sparrow was a thief. Yet though he was often sent to New Prison and the Gatehouse at Westminster, the justices took so much pity on his tender years as not to commit him to Newgate, for fear of his being spoiled, though he was already spoiled to their hands. This favour still encouraged Roderick in his villainy, till at last he was committed to Newgate, whither he went twenty times afterwards, and being tried upon a matter of petty larceny, for which the jury found him guilty of tenpence, he flung from the bar a shilling to the judge, desiring his Lordship to give him twopence for his change; which piece of impudence caused him to be so well flogged that he never valued whipping at the cart's tail ever after.

 As he was one day, about dinner time, walking with another through Soho Square, espying a great parcel of plate in a remote room of a person of quality's house, his mouth so watered at the glittering sight that he could not pass by it with a safe conscience; and holding counsel with his comrade about it, he thought it impracticable to attempt the taking of it. However, young Audrey would not acquiesce to his opinion: have it he would. So desiring his faint hearted comrade, who wore a green apron, to lend it him, he presently steps to an oil shop, buys two or three balls of whiting, returns to the house he was resolved to attack, and, getting upon the rails, falls to cleaning the windows with the whiting and a foul handkerchief with as good an assurance as if he had been the butler, or some other servant belonging to the family. He was mighty handy about his work, lifting the sashes up and down, and going in and out to clean them without any suspicion of people going by, who could have no mistrust of his not dwelling there; till at last he cleaned the sideboard of all the plate, which he brought away in his apron, to the value of eighty pounds.

 After stealing a box, and plate, and money out of a house in Red Lion Square, he was taken in the fact, and committed to Newgate; and when brought on his trial for the same was burned in the hand, and ordered to hard labour for two years in Bridewell in Clerkenwell. Here he had not been above six months of his time before Richard Keele, William Lowther and Charles Houghton were also committed for two years, and being shown by young Audrey where the keeper's arms were, the three abovesaid persons attempted to break into the room where they lay, but were prevented in their design. Nevertheless they made a riot, in which Charles Houghton was killed on the spot, Keele lost one of his eyes, and Lowther was desperately wounded in the back. On the keeper's side, one Perry, his turnkey, and sutler to the prison, was stabbed through the heart with a penknife. Whilst this engagement lasted, young Audrey broke into the deceased turnkey's chamber, from whence he stole twenty pounds, and then found a way to break out of Bridewell, making way also for eighteen or twenty more, who followed their leader; but were as soon retaken, except him, who skulked about four or five months before he was apprehended, and that upon acting a fresh piece of villainy. Being now committed to Newgate for his last time, his thoughts were employed how to break out there too, using some few stratagems, but he was unsuccessful in all his attempts.

 When he came before the bench again they knew him very well by his impudence, of which he had a good stock; and being found guilty of stealing, after his late breaking out of Bridewell, a great quantity of plate, sentence of death was passed on him. He owned the sentence passed upon him was just, and confessed above a hundred robberies in particular that he had committed, besides acknowledging his commission of as many more, which he could not call to mind where. What he stole was (as above said) plate and money, to the value of two thousand pounds at times; but so profuse had he been with it that he had scarce money enough to buy a coffin.

 At last the fatal day came, in the year 1714, when he was to go from hence and be no more seen. Being conveyed in a cart, unpitied by all honest people, to Tyburn, he seemed very loath to die; but no reprieve coming, which he expected to the last, in consideration of his youth, he departed to the tune of a penitential psalm, being no more than sixteen years of age. We must needs say he went very decently to the gallows, being in a white waistcoat, clean napkin, white gloves, and having an orange in one hand.

Previous Next