Feb 24th, 2007 by Andy Funnell
Martha Griffiths must have cursed the day she set eyes on a Funnell. Worse, she must have grown to hate our family name.
Martha was only eighteen and already obliged to make commerce of her virtues, when in 1825 William Funnell stumbled across her path.
Martha was plying her charms in the infamous Whitechapel area of London.
William, master of a coastal vessel, was in town probably looking for a good time after a mission on sea. William had had a few drinks. The Old Bailey proceedings tell the rest…
MARTHA GRIFFITHS was indicted for stealing, on the 25th of January, a purse, value tuppence (2d); a guinea, and sixteen shillings, the property of William Funnell, from his person.
WILLIAM FUNNELL. “I live at Blackley, in Norfolk, and am master of a coasting vessel. I was in London on the 25th of January, between one and two o’clock in the day, looking in at a shop window in Whitechapel – the prisoner and another woman came up to me, and we got into conversation; I went home with the prisoner, but I cannot tell where to – we went to an upper room, where I staid about ten minutes: her companion was gone away. I am quite sure that when I went with her I had a purse in my pocket, containing a guinea and sixteen shillings; I had been taking a friendly glass, but was perfectly collected. I missed the purse while I was on the bed with the prisoner – I charged her with having taken it, and said I would not leave her till she gave it to me. She got off the bed, and opened the door – two other women made their appearance; I still kept hold of her, and would not let her go. All the women then made use of very bad language to me; I told them I would not let her go, but they got her from me. I pursued her – she fell at the bottom of the stairs, and I took hold of her again, and said if she would return my purse I would give her 5 s., but if she did not I would call an officer. I had given her 1 s. 6 d. before. She did not return the purse, and I gave charge of her to the beadle, who was passing. I have not seen the purse since. I am certain it was in my right hand trowsers pocket”.
JOHN PARTRIDGE. “I am the beadle of Whitechapel. I was coming down Wentworth-street, between one and two o’clock – I saw five or six women, and the prosecutor with them. I took the prisoner into custody; she made no answer to the charge. I searched her, and found two shillings and two sixpences upon her, but no purse. – The prosecutor had been drinking, but was quite collected”.
(Martha) Prisoner’s Defence. “I am perfectly innocent. He had been with another young woman before me”.
WILLIAM FUNNELL. “I swear I had not. I gave her the 1s. 6d. out of the purse”.
The Court judged Martha Griffiths GUILTY of stealing, but not from the person (!). She was sentenced to transportation for seven years.
Before the decimal system was introduced in the 1970’s, £1 sterling was composed of 20 shillings. Each shilling was composed of 12 pence. A Guinea was equal to 21 shillings. Abbreviations… 1s = 1 shilling, 1d = 1 penny, 5d = 5 pence.
Source. This case was tried on the 17th of February 1825 Ref: t18250217-16.
A sentence to transportation was generally to the antipodes, ie. at this time, to Australia. The convicts generally never found the means to return to their homeland. If she was actually transported, Martha spent more than a year at sea in confined quarters on a convict ship and was later either affected to a female factory, to a hard labour camp, as maid to a rich family, or implicitly worse.
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