Have you ever wondered God’s opinion on you? Whether you would go to heaven or be sent to hell? Experiencing yourself in life threatening situation will escalate these wonders. For Julian Brown, being wrongful in the eyes of God is worse than being guilty of a crime.
Perjury, bribery, framing, and most importantly, repentance caused Julian Brown to bring the names of six other men involved in the previous trial of Thomas Maccray to the attention of Dr. Lancaster, and the court.
In a previous trial, Thomas Maccray was found the only guilty member of a highway robbery act against Dr. Lancaster on King’s Road near Bloody Bridge. Months later, Julian Brown decides to confess his wrong doings to clear his conscience, but in doing so the court finds William Wreathock , Peter Chamberlain, James Russet, George Bird, and Gilbert Campbell all guilty of both highway robbery and perjury.
On the evening of the 11th of June 1735 (Day of the year, which George I died) a holyday, William Wreathock gathered men to rob the coach that Dr. Lancaster was riding in. Though seven men set out to accompany one another, only Maccray approached the coach by hurtling out of the hedges and remaining unseen. Dr. Lancaster confessed that he never seen the man that robbed him, and was slow to get out of the coach because it was too slow coming to a halt. However, he recalls seeing three, four, or five men in the distance heading towards London, but the burglar was headed the opposite way towards Fulham.
The date of the robbery is important because as Wreathock says, it is a Holyday. He uses this claim, along with witnesses: William Ray, Abraham Brookshank, John Totteridge, and company at King’s Head (still remains today). Nonetheless, Wreathock had documents passed to gain a second mortgage that couldn’t be interfered with by the first mortgagee because of the Holyday; he also had Totteridge remove some goods from the property. Along with this statement, Wreathock also had men at the court to claim he was “a good man.”
Other men involved in the robbery also had men state their good character. The accused men all had people stating they were good men. This leads me to believe that it would have been considered testimonial evidence. But as we see and hear about news stories today, good people are capable of doing awful things.
Brown however, told a different story of the location of Wreathock and company around nine in the evening on the 11th of June. He claimed Wreathock was the “general” of robbery because he was the one who had assigned everyone their tasks. Maccray was to interrogate the coach at gunpoint.He was able to steal from Dr. Lancaster: a gold-watch, two iron keys, six pieces of foreign silver-coin, three pieces of foreign gold-coin, and one shilling and six pence. Brown claimed that Maccray then went towards London as to give the stolen goods to Wreathock, whom pocketed them. But, Lancaster argued previous, and acted as if the robber going the other way. During this time Chamberlain is raged that Maccray didn’t kill the doctor. Chamberlain’s rage hints to me that he had different motives and desires than Worthock.
The men split up once Wreathock receive the goods. Bird, Campbell, and Maccray all went with him towards London (likely the group of men Lancaster seen, but did not help him). Chamberlain and Russet went another way to leave the scene. Most importantly, Brown was ordered to go “that way”, which is unclear in the trial, but I suggest he passes the coach and heads towards Fulham and took a left on the turnpike to head back to London, since he arrived there about an hour later than the robbery.
Google Maps suggests it would take approximately 50 minutes to travel (by bicycle) between London and Fulham; his horse “missed no gallop,” so Brown would have been traveling at a faster speed. He also had to travel further than the direct route given. It seems logical that it would have taken Brown about an hour to travel this distance.
Though a young boy saw the man that robbed Dr. Lancaster, he had only fallowed him to Bloody-Bridge (going the opposite way than to London) because that is where he lived. The Doctor then offered two men to pursue the man on horse that had fled the scene of the robbery, but he was never caught. The thief was never found that night.
Brown had not received his share of money from the stolen goods because Wreathock had yet to sell them. Upon discovering Maccray was accused of the robbery, Wreathock gathered Brown and others at the tavern; offering five genius to swear Maccrays innocence, and threatened to murder Brown if he failed to do so. Later in the trial, it’s discovered that Chamberlain perjured Maccray guilty at his trial (the previous one) by claiming he still had the keys, leading me to believe that he had alternative motives at the scene of the robbery. Along with Brown’s confession, Chamberlain provided another source to prove Maccray was only one of a group of guilty men.
Now that the gist of the trial is laid out, I would like to address the importance of perjury, bribery, framing, and repentance in 18th Century England.
There are two separate reasons for the prisoners to commit perjury. Firstly, the more obvious reason, Wreathock wanted to free his friend, Maccray from going to prison and facing execution. Brown confesses that he, along with five others accepted Wreathocks bribe of five guineas to help Maccray. He also notifies us that Wreathock violently threating him to death. The second account of perjury happened later in the trial, when Chamberlain confessed he perjured against Maccray. During the Maccray trial, the court, surprisingly, accepted this as valid evidence. Even though Chamberlain said there was three keys, not two, and had no explanation for the use, the court accepted it. Recalling from Brown’s explanation, Chamberlain was upset that Maccray didn’t murder Dr. Lancaster. Chamberlain didn’t seem as interested in the stolen goods as he did about Lancaster life. He wanted him dead.
Perjury was common in the 1730s. Some used it to get themselves out of trouble; others used it to get other people in trouble. Courts did not want to leave trials open-ended, so someone had to be to blame for the injustice. Therefor, the rule of thumb, “Innocent until proven guilty” didn’t apply to trials in the 1700s. Society seemed to be more pleased by having “a guilty prisoner” than “the guilty prisoner.”
If Wreathock wanted either money, or the two keys as I would suggest, and Chamberlain wanted him dead, the rest of the men must have been bribed to contribute to the robbery. Though Wreathock claimed he was doing legal business on the 11th of June, it is in his nature to bribe and threaten people to do as he wishes. Along with Brown’s experience at the tavern after Maccray was arrested, Wreathock used bribery to get himself out of jail (here and here).
Wreathock likely had the men lie about Wreathock’s whereabouts on the evening of June 11th. It is quite possible he bribed them. Some details the witnesses gave did not line up. For example, it is unclear if it were Tollridge or Whitman that came into King’s Head Tavern dirty. Though it is possible the witness forgot which one, or did know who was who, but in every case there is only one man, not two. The men all say the supped together, so one would assume they would have at least introduce themselves; known one another. Brown also confesses that Wreathock bribed him 100 guineas to kill Lancaster. However, he does not have Brown directly involved in the robbery.
I would argue that Wreathock was planning to frame Brown for the murder and thievery of Mr. Lancaster. Brown was given two pistols, and was told to run the other way after the robbery. More importantly, Wreathock had just met Brown recently. His friend, Campbell had introduced them. Brown had earlier been found guilty in court for rape, so he has a criminal history. He also seems to be in need of money to accept the bribe offered from Wreathock, leading me to assume he does not have any financial support, as most common folks didn’t at the time. From the trial transcript his words read as if he has a strong foreign accent. All of these shape Brown to be an ideal scapegoat.
Brown was not the one to commit the robbery because Wreathock didn’t have trust in him. Since Wreathock only promised Brown a portion of the stolen goods, he didn’t want him to have possession of all the goods at anytime. Brown did not say whether the pistols were loaded or not, but if they were he was to fire the shots to kill the Doctor. If they weren’t, remembering that Maccray also had a gun, he would still be able to be framed. Wreathock was aware that people were near by, and the gun-sound would alarm them. This is why the coachman was asked to travel slowly by Maccray.
Repentance is the true reason this trial exists because Dr. Lancaster believed Maccray to be the only man involved, until Brown’s confession. It is interesting how the fear of death changes Brown’s loyalty to Wreathock to seeking salvation. The idea still lasts today that one needs to repent to reach salvation.
The remaining question still stands: Why did Wreathock want to rob Dr. Lancaster? Was it a personal reason? Does Lancaster have connections to either mortgage? And, what were the two keys for? My theory is the keys are what Wreathock wanted, Chamberlain wanted him dead, the other men were there to reinforce Maccrays efforts, and Brown was to be framed for all of it.