A Well-Dressed Pickpocket who "worked" in Churches and the Houses of Parliament, and was convicted on 15th of March, 1773
BARRINGTON was convicted of stealing a watch from a lady in the pit of one of the theatres, and sentenced to labour three years on the Thames. When about a year of the time had expired he procured a petition to be presented to the Court, praying that the remaining part of his sentence might be remitted; and the officers of the Justitia hulk made so favourable a report of his behaviour that, some time after, an order was sent to Mr Campbell for his release.
A few days after Barrington's release he went to St Sepulchre's Church, where Doctor Mylne was to preach a sermon for the benefit of the Society for the Recovery of Persons apparently Drowned. William Payne, a constable, saw him put his hand into a lady's pocket, in the south aisle, and presently after followed him out of the church and took him into custody, near the end of Cock Lane, upon Snow Hill. Having taken the prisoner to St Sepulchre's watch house, and found a gold watch and some other articles in his possession, Payne returned to the church and spoke to the lady whom he had seen the prisoner attempt to rob; and she informed him that she had lost nothing, for, expecting the church to be much crowded, she had taken the precaution of emptying her pockets before leaving her house.
Upon Payne's return to the watch-house a gentleman advised that the prisoner should be more strictly searched. He was desired to take off his hat, and, raising his left arm, he cautiously removed his hat from his head, when a metal watch dropped upon the floor, He was now obliged to pull off the greatest part of his clothes. He wore three pairs of breeches, in one of the pockets of which was found a purse, containing thirteen guineas and a bank- note for ten pounds made payable to himself.
In consequence of an advertisement inserted the next day in the newspapers a Mrs Ironmonger came to Payne's house and described a watch she had lost, and it proved to be that which had been concealed in Barrington's hair and had dropped on the floor when he took off his hat. She attended the examination of the prisoner, and, having sworn that the watch produced by Payne was her property, was bound over to prosecute.
Upon his trial Barrington made a long, artful and plausible defence. He said that, upon leaving the church, he perceived the watch mentioned in the indictment lying upon the ground, and picked it up, intending to advertise it the next day; that he was followed to Snow Hill by Payne and another constable, who apprehended him, and had in all probability seen him pick up the watch. "I reflected," said he, "that how innocently soever I might have obtained the article in question, yet it might cause some censure; and no man would wonder, considering the unhappy predicament I stood in, [alluding to a former conviction] that I should conceal it as much as possible."
The jury having pronounced the prisoner guilty, he addressed the Court, and earnestly supplicated that he might be permitted to enter into his Majesty's service, and promised to discharge his trust with fidelity and attention; or, if he could not be indulged in that request, that his sentence might be banishment for life from his Majesty's dominions. The Court informed him that by an application to the Throne he might obtain a mitigation of his sentence, if his case was attended by such circumstances of extenuation as would justify him in humbly petitioning to be considered as an object of the Royal favour. He requested that the money and bank-note be returned. Thereupon the Court observed that, in consequence of his conviction, the property found on him when he was apprehended became vested in the hands of the sheriffs of the City of London, who had discretionary power either to comply with or reject his request.
He was convicted to labour on the Thames for the space of five years, on Tuesday, the 5th of April, 1778. He was by profession a surgeon; and his education, abilities and address were such as, had they been properly employed, would certainly have introduced him to a genteel competency, and a reputable station in life. He seems to have had a natural taste for dress, in which particular he was never beneath gentility, but frequently bordering upon elegance. His appearance gained him ready admission to the most respectable public assemblies; and he was a frequent visitor in the galleries of both Houses of Parliament.
Count Orlow, the Russian Minister, when in one of the boxes of Drury Lane playhouse, was robbed of a gold snuff box set with diamonds, estimated to be worth an immense sum; and one of the Count's attendants, suspecting Barrington, seized him, and found the snuff-box in his possession. He was examined by Sir John Fielding; but the Count, being in a foreign country, was influenced by motives of delicacy to decline a prosecution.
Some time after the above circumstance a gentleman observed Barrington in the House of Lords, and pointed him out to Philip Quarme, Esq., Deputy Usher of the Black Rod, who insisted upon his immediately quitting the House, assuring him that his attendance in Parliament would, for the future, be dispensed with.