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CAPTAIN EDWARD STERRY, 14 YR OLD LONDON PICKPOCKET

 

Lately at Guildhall, five boys and three girls have been charged with being part of a numerous gang of pick-pockets; as was also James Perfect, with being received. A young lad, named Grey, an apprentice to a weaver, having frequently quitted his master's service for several days, and being called to an account for it, disclosed the following circumstances to him.

He said he had been enticed by a girl named Caroline, and a boy named Wilks, both about his own age, (eleven years), to go with them to Camberwell fair, where they introduced him to a boy named Edward Sterry, alias Charwick, who had been at sea, and who prevailed on him to enrol himself in a gang of pickpockets, of which he (Sterry) was Captain.

He was introduced to a great number of boys and young girls, whom Sterry formed into companies, and allotted to each the ground which they were to occupy at the different fairs; they had attended at Peckham, Greenwich, and indeed all the fairs round London, where they stole watches, handkerchiefs, shawls, toys, &c. all of which were placed under the superintendance of their Captain Sterry.

He disposed of them to Perfect, who supplied them with money in return.

He kept likewise a small booth, in which he sold sausages, and concealed the ill-gotten property.

Captain Sterry's residence was a hole in the roof of the shambles in Fleet market, where he constantly slept, and where he was apprehended on Tuesday morning by Mr. Nalder, the City Marshall, to whom Grey's master communicated the affair. He also dispatched constables to those residences of the gang that were known to Grey, who took Perfect and the seven others into custody.

Perfect was immediately searched; several handkerchiefs were found in his bosom, and about seventy concealed in different parts of his booth. Caroline was one of the three females taken; a pawnbroker's duplicate was found on her; she is a fine-looking girl; the other two girls, and all the boys except Sterry, Wilks and Grey, are miserable objects. There were about eight more in the gang, whose residences are unknown to Grey, and whose friends, he thinks, live in repute.

The Magistrates committed Perfect and Sterry to the Poultry Compter, to be confined separately. The other boys were committed to Bridewell, and the girls to the care of their friends. Perfect is about 25 years old, Sterry about 14, and nearly all the rest of the gang under 12. Every exertion is making to find some of the owners of the handkerchiefs, that Perfect may be prosecuted for receiving stolen goods. It appeared that he and Sterry allowed the youthful fry little more than a few halfpence, and an occasional taste from the sausage pan, as the reward of their depredations. [Saturday 19 September 1807, Staffordshire Advertiser: The British Newspaper Archive]

Several other regional newspapers also carried this story. The Salisbury and Winchester Journal [Wiltshire] published Monday 14 Sep 1807 adds some additional information:

The four boys in custody, belonging to the young gang of pickpockets, were yesterday re-examined at Guildhall. One of them declared that he has seen Sterry with a handful of Bank notes, which he had sold to a man in Hatton-Garden, but he did not know the name of the man, nor from whom the notes were stolen. Sterry refuses to make any confession; and hence it is feared that Perfect will escape punishment. Several persons who had lost handkerchiefs examined Perfect's stock, but no one could swear to any of them. Three more of the infantine gang are in custody: two of them surrendered at the Compter, and the third was seized in the street.

Note: Poultry Compter (also sometimes known as Poultry Counter) was a small compter, or prison, run by a Sheriff of the City of London from medieval times until 1815. It took its name from its location on a section of Cheapside called Poultry, from the produce that was once sold in street markets along the thoroughfare. [Wikipedia]