Crime, the Welsh and the Old Bailey
On 6 April 1752, between the hours of one and two in the morning, George Basset, with his accomplice, George Hall, broke into and entered the dwelling house of Samuel Sumpshon and stole forty-six handkerchiefs to the value of seven pounds. Both were found guilty of burglary and sentenced to death.1
This case is just one of numerous examples of burglary that occurred in London, and were heard and indicted at the Old Bailey in the mid-eighteenth century. But what is of significance, especially to this study, is that George Basset was a ‘London- Welsh’. George Basset, aged twenty-one, a needle-maker apprentice in the city, ‘was born in the Parish of St. James’s Clerkenwell, of industrious poor Parents; and he had his Education in the School upon Clerkenwell-Green, commonly called the Welch School’. However, although being given a good education at the London- Welsh Charity School, ‘he was too early initiated into bad Company’ and soon became:
…a very wicked Youth, Swearing, Profaneness, and Sabbath- breaking, being Vices he was too early, and too much addicted to… He was a Pick-pocket almost from his Cradle, and never expected any other Fate, but to be hanged. Though he never was before detected, yet he had often industriously deserv’d Punishment, and could not but own the Justice of his Sentence… He says, he had always an Itch at Thieving, and tho’ he never went any further than picking a Pocket, or some little low Piece of Thievery, he confessed he had been a very wicked Youth.