JOHN CROUCH AND WIFE
Convicted for offering to sell, on the Royal Exchange, a Young Girl, 12th of May, 1766
ON the 15th of January, 1766, an elderly man and woman were observed on the Royal Exchange, London, with a fine young girl, apparently fourteen years of age, but thinly and shabbily clothed, and consequently shivering with cold in that inclement season of the year. It was first conceived that they were asking charity, as the man had addressed two or three gentlemen, from whom he received a contemptuous denial. At length he accosted an honest captain of a ship, who instantly made known the base proposal which had been made to him, which was to purchase the unfortunate and innocent girl.
The parties were immediately taken into custody by the beadles of the Exchange, and carried before the sitting magistrate at Guildhall, who committed the man and woman to prison, as vagrants, and ordered the girl to be taken care of in the London Workhouse. On their examination they persisted that the girl was their own child; but it appeared so unnatural that parents in Britain should offer for sale their offspring that an inquiry into the transaction was set on foot.
At the general sessions of the peace, held at Guildhall aforesaid, on the 12th of May following, this unnatural man and woman were brought to the bar. It appeared that the man was named John Crouch, and that his residence was at Bodmin, in Cornwall. The woman was his wife, and the unfortunate girl his niece; and having heard "that young maidens were very scarce in London, and that they sold for a good price," he took her out of the poorhouse there and, accompanied by his wife, had set off, and travelled on foot from Bodmin to London, two hundred and thirty- two miles, in order to mend their fortune by her sale.
The jury found the man guilty on an indictment presented against him for an offence far short of his crime; but considering the woman under his influence acquitted her. The husband was sentenced to six months' imprisonment in Newgate, and to pay a fine of one shilling.