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Old Bailey Proceedings - Trial Accounts
London's Central Criminal Court


3rd June 1767

John Preston, Charles Williams

Theft - extortion divider

319, 320. (M.) John Preston and Charles Williams were indicted for unlawfully, knowingly, and designedly sending a letter, with the name Charles Preston thereunto subscribed, to the Marquis of Carnarvon, threatening to accuse him with the crime of Sodomy, with intention to extort money from his Lordship, against the form of the statute in that case made and provided, April 12. +

William Marsden. I am clerk to Sir John Fielding. This letter (holding one in his hand) was read before Sir John on the 13th of April last; it was shewed to the prisoner Preston, who voluntarily confessed that he wrote it, and sent it by Martha Quin.

It is read to this purport:

April 11.
"My Lord,
"If ever pity touched your generous breast,
"(as sure it has) let that pity move in compassion
"towards me, a poor distressed creature, that am
"indebted to your Lordship for all the favours
"you have been graciously pleased to bestow upon
"me, and for which I humbly thank your
"Lordship; and I hope, from your former goodness
"to me, you will lend this once a gracious
"ear to what I will relate, which is as follows:
"My Lord, it pleased God before the honour
"of knowing your Lordship, that I fell down
"and cut the main artery of my right-arm, which
"has almost deprived me of the use of it, so that
"I am unable to perform any place of service,
"for I have tried and could not; but I have married
"a woman that is a black milliner, that is,
"one that makes hats and bonnets; so that if
"you please to give us money to set us up in our
"business, I never will trouble your Lordship
"again; I have sent this petition by my wife,
"for I have sent several before, and could not
"get any answer from your Lordship, for I suppose
"your servants have kept them, and you
"have not seen them, so by that means I have
"made my wife privy with that unnatural freedom
"which your Lordship has taken with me;
"and your Lordship knows, such freedom makes
"persons take such impertinent liberty; for I am
"sure of this, if you had not taken such freedom
"with me, I had not taken such liberty in sending
"any petition to your Lordship. But I verily
"believe, that as God thought good to deprive
"me of the use of my hand in manner he
"has, so he, in the dark abyss of his providence,
"brought it about that I should come to you in
"the manner I did; and I hope, that as God
"has blessed you with abundance of this world's
"goods, I hope your Lordship will incline your
"ear to pity the distressed condition of your Lordship's
"Most humble servant,
" Charles Preston."

Martha Quin. (She takes the letter in her hand) Mr. Preston was to give me a guinea to carry this letter to Southgate.

Q. Where did you receive this letter?

M. Quin. He gave it me in my own house, and he brought me a gown to go in: he said I should have a guinea if I would carry this to the Marquis, and he shewed me the way to Southgate.

Q. When did you go?

M. Quin. It was on a Sunday morning; Williams the prisoner went along with us; Preston shewed me the door; they put up at an alehouse after he had shewed me the door, and I left them there and went to my Lord's house. I offered to deliver the letter, the gentleman would not take it in, and I came back to them, and told them the letter would not be accepted, and delivered it to him again. He made a riot and a disturbance, and said he would write another.

Q. Did you hear any conversation between Preston and Williams there?

M. Quin. They had some conversation, but I am thick of hearing, and could not hear what was said. Williams helped me up upon a post to see the garden, while Preston was writing in the alehouse.

Q. Was Williams there when Preston made the riot?

M. Quin. He was. Preston said he would write another letter; I had not seen Williams above six or seven times, I asked him if he would go instead of me; he said a woman might do it better.

Q. Did Preston and Williams seem to be acquainted?

M. Quin. Yes; I asked Preston if there was any danger in going with that letter; he said, no, none at all. Williams was by, and he said there was no danger at all. After they had both assured me there was no danger, I carried the letter.

Q. Are you Preston's wife?

M. Quin. No, I am not; I don't know whether he is a man or a woman.

Joseph Brown. I was sent for in the month of April, I cannot tell what day of the month, but I know it was Palm Sunday.

Q. What are you?

Brown. I am a constable. I was sent for to the Cherry-tree at Southgate, and charged with Williams and Preston; Preston said he received four letters from Lord Carnarvon, when he was in the coach coming to town, and he had a 10 £. bank note in each of them, and he would not be his secret-keeper no longer, for he was a sodomite, and d----d him.

He said he had wrote to my Lord several times, and he would again. I asked Mrs. Quin what she came for; she said she came for profit, and so did Williams; Williams said he came for a country walk, (I knew nothing of the design they came upon then.) Said Preston to Williams, you persuaded me to write a letter over night, and you put words into my mouth; Williams said to him, you have brought me into a fine premunire here.

Q. Did Williams deny what Quin said of his coming for profit?

Brown. No, he did not.

Q. What are the prisoners?

Brown. They are both quite strangers to me, I do not know what business they are of.

Mr. Lambeth and Stephen Lyon being shewed a paper writing, both deposed they heard Preston acknowledge it to be his hand-writing.

It is read in court, to this purport:

"I Charles Preston, who was last April taken
"into custody at the Lord Carnarvon's, where I
"came to extort money under false pretences, and
"which I was most unfortunately led into by a
"woman and a man, that joined me in the same,
"hoping to put that violent intention into execution;
"do solemnly declare I was an utter
"stranger to his Lordship, and to the unnatural
"crime charged against him, for which I am most
"heartily sorry, and most humbly beg the honourable
"Marquis's pardon for the same,
" Charles Preston."

Preston's defence. I submit myself to the mercy of this honourable Court.

Williams's defence. Preston drew me into it, and made me go along with him.

[Verdict: Both Guilty - Punishment: Transportation]



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